Thursday, February 24, 2011

Martial Arts and a Blunt Instrument

The controversial Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is again heading Down Under.

At UFC 127, several Australian fighters - including George Sotiropoulos, Anthony Perosh and Kyle Noke (pictured left) - will fight in the UFC octagon.  Some of you will recognise Kyle's name from the blurbs of Martial Arts & Philosophy: Beating and Nothingness.

It promises to be a big night of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), with all the virtue and beauty this entails.

On his always-compelling 'Blunt Instrument' column, today author John Birmingham gives a solid defence of MMA.  In particular, he takes the time to highlight the intense, immense effort of professional MMA fighters - they deserve esteem, not blithe dismissal as thugs, gorillas.  This is the stand-out passage:
Granted, there's enormous volumes of hype and faff that attend every bout, as anyone who's ever had to endure ten minutes of the free-to-air version of UFC can attest. But sure enough, once these guys finally bring out the biff, it's like watching the most brutal street brawl you've ever seen. It is much, much more than street brawl, however. I can't emphasize this enough. I know a lot of readers will just dismiss it out of hand, but the top MMA fighters are elite athletes. Their training and prep for a bout can last many weeks, if not months, and involves working with coaches in multi discipline regimes from all over the world. They deserve respect for their skills and warrior spirit.


danielsmith said...

G'day Day,

I'm not convinced by the arguments here. I think it's a consistent position to detest the sport while admiring (or at least acknowledging) the athleticism of the competitors. Their fitness and discipline doesn't sell me on the brutality of the sport though, any more than I welcome war because there are some cool tactics.

I realise it's controlled and not (barring accidents, like any sport) a life or death struggle, but as a spectacle I find it tasteless, ugly and thuggish.

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Dan.

Athleticism and skill are important to rebut the knee-jerk response of many: that it's just a nasty free-for-all. Clearly it's not.

You're not making this particular claim, so this rebuttal shouldn't convince you.

I think the war analogy is misleading though. We'd look askance at someone who found war 'cool' (although its imagery in films and video games is sexed up) because it's so often morally abhorrent. MMA has a very different ethical status (e.g. it's consensual, the danger is only to the fighters, etc).

Now, does this mean you ought to enjoy it? No, not at all. I'm just not sure the war analogy is fair.