Punch First, Ask Questions Later.

Via on Aug 31, 2011

Modern Gladiator, Human Cockfighting, Emotional Instability?

Ultimate fighting, cage fighting, mixed martial arts, whatever you call it, is brutal and its most prominent feature is what seems to be America’ s entertainment drug of choice: violence.

For those of you who don’t know much about it, ultimate fighting is a one-on-one full contact combat sport from a mix of traditional and non-traditional fighting techniques. Opponents are put into a ring or a ‘cage’ and fight until one of them either gets knocked out, submits or time runs out.

No blood lusting audience, no sport? According to Wikipedia, the first season of the reality show Ultimate Fighter drew millions of viewers. And well, sure, if you don’t like it, you simply don’t watch it, but isn’t there something that feels pretty scary knowing that our species of millions enjoys watching two men beat each other to a pulp?

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So, why is it scary? Is it because blood sports are a sign of cultural decay or a decline of American moral? Both? Crime rates are rising, senseless acts of violence are everywhere, brutal and irrational force is prevalent in every media source on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s everywhere, even on sitcoms that look innocent at first until someone gets punched, slapped, scratched, clocked or jabbed – first, before questions are asked.

I can’t help but to think that this sport (and the rest of the violence-driven entertainment industry) isn’t helping to balance out the imbalance that so obviously exists on our planet.

The truth of the matter is, violence is horrifying and REAL. It’s more than just a hypnotizing box that breaks for fast food commercials. It’s war, it’s abuse, it’s rape, it’s neglect, it’s bullying and sadly enough, this list goes on and on. Why would we also need to be entertained by it? 

So why does it exist?

I read that there here was an estimated 36 million acts of violence reported in 2007 in the United States.

There are many reasons, influences and explanations, but one idea is that we are feeling devices that think. We often feel first, think later. So, in a world of suppression and violence of every degree, it is no surprise that most of the feelings we have and experience are those of attachment, anger and fear (how do you feel after watching the news?). All of these feelings (or emotional states) are associated with our response pattern to fight or flightand our entertainment industry reflects precisely this state.

Fight of flight is important, but even more so is rest and digest (and this does not mean sitting on the couch finishing off a large cheese pizza). Fight or flight is helpful if we’re running away from a hungry bear, a dangerous spider or an ominous situation, but not necessarily when confronted with another human being at the gas station or grocery store. We’re exhausting fight or flight on every level (road rage, impatience, self deprecation, etc, etc) and not even coming close to tapping into the benefits of rest and digest (maintaining blood pressure, heart rate, optimal digestion, breathing rate and an overall ability to cope).

So do we want to be known as ‘America the Violent’? Or should we start considering that being exposed to unnecessary violence is perhaps over-stimulating our instinct to fight or flight? Perhaps it is time to hone the instinct to rest and digest for a while and only fight or flight when it is truly required.

Photo credit: Cartoon couple; Ultimate fighting

About Tanya Lee Markul

Yoga Editor, Elephant Journal. I yoga, write, take photos and I investigate existentially. I got a thing for those who have found expression through some form of mastery or artistic fashion, and sincerity. (You set me free I set you). I adore anything that is equally cute and creepy. The most special ingredient you can find, be and put into anything is: yourself. Remember, everything you want, you already have and are. Look within. The more you use it, the more it will grow. For more randomness and love, visit me at Rebelle Lotus and, you don't want to miss the creative rebellion at Rebelle Society. Join us.

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16 Responses to “Punch First, Ask Questions Later.”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Hi hkoren. I appreciate your views and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. By no means was I placing character judgment on the MMA fighters – I'm sure some of them are like you say, humble and likeable and I am sure they are quite skilled (and I am sure many are recruited for the pay check). I'm just not sure watching this sort of violence is an outlet for as you say, a suppressed killer instinct, but perhaps a suppression of something else (things like truth, creativity, love, finding one's self, etc). Sure, I'm sure the guys that are fighting are indeed releasing some sort of pent up energy, but this shouldn't set an example for how the audience should deal with their own ‘suppression’, should it?

    On that note, and I suppose there are many different opinions on this, but I don't agree with you about this killer instinct. I think it's something that has been used to actually justify acts of violence not only toward nature and animals but toward ourselves. I don't believe humans have this innate killer instinct, not in that way. I, in fact, believe that after years upon years upon years of suppression we've lost touch with who we truly are – wise, peaceful, creative beings and have therefore in a way, downgraded ourselves to this fight or flight mentality. I simply don't have it in me to believe we are untamed forces of destruction and violence that desire violent outlets , well, only perhaps if we are living in a constant state of fight or flight.

    I am just wondering – why do I not feel the way that you do? Why do I not have a desire to kill things? What is it that makes us different?

    • Joe Sparks says:

      We're told,"males are aggressive and violent by nature". Although aggressive or violent behavior is really a sign of how males have been hurt and then pressured into acting out their hurts towards others, the culture treats this as evidence that males are sub-human and therefore appropriate subjects for killing or being killed in war. Boys are encouraged to "play war" or play with guns and are then assumed to be acting out their "natural aggressive inclinations" rather than what they are really doing, that is, trying to prepare themselves for and resolve their feelings about the lives they see themselves being " programmed for". Instead of being listened to and helped with their difficulties, boys are often punished and criticized for having difficulties and then left alone to deal with their problems.

      • Tanya Lee Markul says:

        Thanks for your comment Joe! I couldn't agree with you more. Perhaps suppressing men makes it easier for them to be controlled – controlled and encouraged to fight, go to war, own guns, be cold-hearted, etc.

  2. Ryd says:

    Great article. I have to agree with the author although I can relate to being fascinated with the sport myself. I think that people are watching increasingly more violence on TV and I also think it can have an unfortunate effect on people – at the very least it is numbing us and tearing us away from what really happens in the world around us. I certainly don’t like when rock bands or violent sports or computer games are blamed for the atrocious acts of troubled individuals, who obviously had issues to begin with. But I also believe that we are affected by most things we choose to see or do in however small a way.

    I can fully understand that practising MMA or boxing can represent a great outlet for aggression (as hkoren says in his response) but I don’t believe that ‘watching’ it live or on TV represents the same outlet. Soccer represents a great energy outlet, when you practise it yourself, but that doesn’t make hooligans refrain from beating each other up after the game.

    Whether we have a killer instinct that needs and outlet, I am not sure. Killing for food or status in a tribe – as I imagine was normal before civilization – seems to me a necessity to survive or to carry on your genes (like we see it among many animal species) more than an inevitable instinct. And I have to point out that most people are able to control this instinct… or simply lack it.

    I don’t believe that violence on TV should be censored. People should be able to choose for themselves. Let’s just hope they choose wisely :)

  3. Dario.Jovovic says:

    The only cure is in ultimate laughing.

  4. toddtheyogi says:

    this article sounds alot like yogis moralizing about the path of martial artists. am i misreading? i admire fighters like G.St-Pierre who shows respect for the art and his opponents, no matter how disrespectful his opponents become. similar to the code of the samurai.
    the larger question for me is whether the yogis believe in satyagraha (for everyone at all times) or whether there are indeed things worth fighting for? if there are, is it only then that we require the warriors? and until then we will discuss how they ought to behave?
    this goes right to the root of the questions Arjuna asked, in a sense, doesn't it? the question i suppose is whether there actually is a "warrior dharma" and if so, how do they fit into this picture?
    these are my honest reflections… my beliefs on this subject are not well formed. but i do look forward to hearing what you think…

    • Tanya Lee Markul says:

      Hi toddtheyogi, I don't think I'm necessarily moralizing about the path of martial artists (although I can see how you could interpret that). From what I understand, and I don't have a strong background of it, Ultimate Fighting is pretty much the extreme of what you see in terms of mixed martial arts (at least what is televised in the US). My question is, does the desire to watch violence and brutality on television/movies/etc reflect our unstable emotional states? Sure, there are definitely things worth fighting for, but perhaps it's not necessary to fight violently. What do you think?

      • hkoren says:

        A bit more education about the background of the sport would help you to understand more about its ruleset.

        The name of the sport is not, "Ultimate Fighting", but "Mixed Martial Arts". Ultimate Fighting is a term coined by the promoters of the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" (UFC), whose first show was 1992 in Colorado. The sport was as a sensationalized "No Holds Barred" blood fest in order to get a maximum viewership, no doubt including a bunch of bloodthirsty rednecks.

        In 1992 the sport was much different than what you see today. The rules excluded biting, spitting, eye-pokes and and fish-hooking, but everything else was fair game. That means head-butting, groin strikes and kicks to the head of a downed opponent. Also there was no time limits or rounds. The sport was was known before this as "Vale Tudo", which translates in Portuguese to "anything goes". Not too many rules were in the sport then, there were no time limits or weight classes, it was a tournament so the combatants fought up to three fights in a night.

        Now all of this is changed, the rule sets can be distinguished by Japanese and and American rules.
        What they have in common is no strikes to the groin, spine or the back of the head, no manipulation of small joints (fingers/toes), no head butts, biting, scratching or pinching.

        What is different: Japanese rules allow strikes to the head of a grounded opponent (including stomps and soccer kicks), but forbid elbow strikes on the ground. American rules do not allow you to strike a grounded opponent in the head, but you can throw elbows.

        What is really amazing about the sport… Even looking back to when it began in 1992, although it was billed as a bloodsport, the guy who ended up winning the first UFC was Royce Gracie did so with inferior size and inferior strength, but superior technique. He dominated the "brawlers", taking them down, smothering them, confusing them, then choking them unconscious. He put some of them to sleep without even hurting them. This is the essence of beauty that exists within Mixed Martial Arts: that intelligent technique can usurp raw aggression.

  5. warriorsaint says:

    I've read this post a couple of time to try to get it's salient points. Does the writer see MMA as bad because it's "violent, horrifying and REAL?" I certainly agree with YogaForCynics that the media in this country (and many others) have sensationalized crime for the sake of cultivating a culture of fear. My neighborhood here in the New York area was a war zone until a few years ago, along with many other urban areas around the country.
    With a screename of warriorsaint it is no that secret that I am a martial artist. As a strong woman there are few situations more thrilling then the controlled battle of sparring another in the capoeira roda (circle). After 17 years of capoeiraI feel I have better control of my emotions. Martial arts are not random bouts of angry violence. Maybe it's the raw competitiveness that scares you?

    • Tanya Lee Markul says:

      Hi warriorsaint, thank you so much for your comments. I suppose it's not necessarily the raw competition that scares me so to speak, but the brutality. I don't know very much about Ultimate Fighting (only what I have seen on television), but it seems very sensationalized and honestly, pretty violent. In your opinion, are these fighters highly skilled in martial arts? I have to say, to the untrained eye, I am sure it simply looks like fighting and I am not sure just how many spectators are knowledgeable about technique. My friend's brother did a local try-out for Ultimate Fighting – he had no martial art experience and went pretty far. From my limited knowledge, I don't believe that Martial arts are about random bouts of angry violence (but by all means can be, given the individual, circumstances, etc) — I never thought that that is what was taught, but on the contrary. I could not agree more about the culture of fear – this was more my point of this article. I feel once again the media exploits something that perhaps stemmed from a lineage of a respected art and turned it into a violent portrayal of 'mixed fighting technique' for entertainment.

  6. This is not to say that violence isn't a problem in our society–it is, and has been for a long time. Remember that, back in the "good old days," in much of America, families–fathers, mothers, and little children–would pack picnic baskets to go and watch lynchings, in which black men, often guilty of little more than looking at a white woman the wrong way, if that, were whipped, tortured, and burned before finally being hung. For that matter, laws against, dog-fighting, cock-fighting, bear-baiting, etc. are still relatively new, and it's not because these "sports" are new. As with most "signs of cultural decay or decline in morals," current violent entertainment simply shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same, much as our nostalgic desires for past "innocence" might want to tell us otherwise.

  7. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Hi YogaforCynics, thanks so much for your comments! I really appreciate your point of views and think they make for a good discussion!! The idea that no more free time is a myth is interesting to me, especially if you take into consideration that for example both parents are now working outside of the home, people seem to work more hours per week, sleep less, have little to no vacation time and spend on average 2.7 hours per evening in front of the tube. Perhaps the notion of 'free time' has always been a myth taking into consideration the amount of time people use just to 'survive' – school, work maintaining the household and family. So, what is 'free time' really? Interesting as well about crime actually decreasing – perhaps this is depending on one's point of view (and perhaps not taking into consideration the global situation) or perhaps it is just that people are living in more FEAR than ever before. I believe the ways to which we are violent is also changing. Things like drug addiction, substance abuse, the development of weapons of mass destruction, factory farming, animal testing, etc – all of which are by no means decreasing.

  8. I wrote an article about the free time thing a little while ago: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/theres-no-… .
    As for violent crime, I'm talking about the United States (though, contrary to the romantic fantasies of most people in the yoga community, the rest of the world has never been all that peaceful, either), where, yes, people are living in fear more than ever, largely because of the way the media and politicians have stoked that fear through the myth of ever-increasing violent crime, leading to the arming of the population, the growth of prisons, etc.

  9. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you – I will look forward to reading your article! And, I could not agree with you more regarding the media and politicians and their hands in driving fear.

  10. jay says:

    Thoughtful commentary hkoren. I practice yoga and have a background in martial arts. Different types of people gravitate towards MMA just as different types, for different reasons, gravitate towards yoga. My experience has been similar to yours: martial arts is a technical pursuit, more akin to physical chess and, depending on the person, provides an avenue towards spirituality as well. I'm always appalled at the people that cheer excessive finishes in MMA fights, or boo the more cerebral matches. In the same token, I'm often surprised by many of the yogis I meet that bring a strong dose of judgement and critique to their practice and their lives. The real lesson that seems to get lost in the blood, occasional broken bones and bright lights of fight promotions is the air of mutual respect, diligence and discipline and humility that most martial artists embrace. I find my yoga practice and my martial arts practice to be complementary, and fulfilling.

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