Posts Tagged Aggression

Boxing Day

I have been learning Krav Maga, a system of self-defence developed by the Israel Defence Force, for over a year. Krav Maga is very practical, designed to finish a fight as soon as possible using whatever is necessary to protect yourself from harm. Part of the system involves mastering a series of punches and kicks, which we then try out on each other while wearing boxing gloves and shin pads in an activity euphemistically termed sparring.

Each round lasts for two minutes and involves protecting yourself from your opponent’s blows while at the same time trying to land some of your own. It is free flowing, mentally demanding and thoroughly exhausting. For me, it has also been quite a novel experience. I do not consider myself particularly aggressive and have not been in any kind of fight since I was in school, so I was considerably surprised at the emotions these sparring bouts stirred within me.

The people I sparred with were not my enemies. Some of them I knew reasonably well, having trained with them for some months and have, under normal circumstances, no desire to do them harm. However, in this sparring environment it is almost like someone has flipped a switch in my brain releasing something ancient and primal.

Nothing teaches you to duck or protect your face more than someone hitting it. As well as pain this also releases an intense burst of adrenaline along with an enhanced need to hit back. The whole thing quickly escalates in both speed and intensity and it becomes a real force of will to keep it somewhat contained. As we are not wearing helmets we are instructed to hit with only half our maximum power. This still ends up with combatants battered and bruised and, in one case, in definite need of a sit down.

It is an odd mix of fear of being hit, anger at being hit and aggression to hit back. Oddly, at the end of the round, I feel eager to head back into the fray, mentally armed with a new series of tactics designed to lay my opponents low. I find these alien feelings to be quite disturbing (and exhilarating) especially because, as soon as the class is over, everyone rapidly returns to normal. It is a bit like a real life Fight Club.

I now have a new appreciation for how a crowd of normal, rational people can metamorphose into a frenzied mob capable of untold destruction. It is not too dissimilar to a dog or cat fight where normally placid Fido or Puss will rapidly whirl around to sink his teeth into your hand, should you try and drag him away from his adversary. He too has flipped the switch and become lost in the heat of battle.

Dr. F. Bunny

 

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Be A Sport

Imagine being paid a six figure sum each year to roll around in the mud and chase a piece of leather. This is how former AFL footballer Justin Madden described his career. Never mind six figures. What about all those guys being paid millions to chase bits of rubber and leather about? This madness reaches its pinnacle with Cristiano Ronaldo, who is paid twelve million euros per year to follow a ball around and occasionally kick it into a net. Have these people spent years studying at university? Do they hold the lives of millions, or even one person, in their hands every time they perform their jobs? They are paid more than orthopaedic surgeons, politicians and nuclear physicists to do what the rest of us do for fun and for free. And why? Because we love to watch them do it.

Why do we even care if one arbitrarily chosen team scores more points or goals or whatever than another arbitrarily chosen team? Why do our moods and sometimes our entire lives hinge on these sporting results which, if they go the wrong way, can provoke us into immediate and insane violence? There is absolutely nothing depending on the outcome of these contests or even if these contests occur (we all seemed to survive the recent NHL lockout). And yet, even I am not immune. One of the greatest days of my life (falling just behind the birth of my children) came many years ago when my football team scored an upset one point victory against a rival much more highly fancied team. I lost my voice and nearly exploded with excitement when the siren went. Why? As Bear Grylls said, “If you have to ask, you will never understand” (Mud, Sweat and Tears).

When I think about it objectively I really can’t explain it. I know, deep down, that it doesn’t matter but I still can’t help feeling devastated when things go wrong and gloat mercilessly when they go right. I assume it is some kind of tribalism, some kind of group bonding pitting my group against your group. I felt the same thing while playing. Suddenly guys you wouldn’t give the time of day to if you met them on the street were your best mates, to be defended and supported to the death. Bizarre, but it generated an incredible sense of camaraderie, in supporters as well as players, which just wouldn’t exist if you didn’t have a common enemy.

Many people denigrate sport because it generates a primitive tribal aggression amongst its adherents. And they would be right. Most sports are, after all, played by males. However, isn’t this kind of ritual aggression better than the real thing? In this day and age when, thankfully, fewer and fewer of us are called upon to go to war to defend our tribe all those evolutionarily hard wired traits are still there, and they need some kind of outlet. If men cannot indulge in the whimsy of sport then all that testosterone will spill onto the streets outside pubs after closing time.

Until the last of my testosterone leaks out of my testicles I will continue to convince myself that the support of my football club is essential to the existence of the world and that nothing could be better than to defeat the hated enemy. Go Blues!!

Dr. F. Bunny

All that whingeing about the weather must have worked. We just had an entire month’s rainfall in two days. At least the water tanks are full.

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