Monday, June 6, 2016

In Defense of Combat Sports

In the wake of the passing of Muhammad Ali, I saw quite a few comments condemning the very existence of boxing and combat sports such as MMA.

While I can certainly understand if it's not your cup of tea - it really isn't mine except on a complete intellectual level - statements such as "it should be banned" bother me.

Of course, that's partially because of my personal beliefs.  I'm a pretty tolerant and laid-back kinda chick.  I'm not a huge fan of using the power of legislation to enforce my personal tastes, even if what other folks are doing could be dangerous.  If there's no coercion or fraud involved, I'm pretty good with consenting adults doing what they want to do, even if I think it's stupid.

I do not view combat sports as stupid, obviously.  I can appreciate what they do as athletes and the skill. It's just not something I have ever enjoyed watching on a regular basis. myself.

Going by some of the comments I've seen, though, lots of folks outside our community view combat sports as barbaric.  References to the gladiators giving their lives in the arena - never mind that our modern notion of what that was is probably very different than the reality - are quickly given, and the leap is then made that such things will lead to the fall of civilization.

The nerd in me wants to point out that the Romans couldn't, by definition, be "barbaric".
Image found here.

I think this is an outgrowth of the attitude that all violence is bad in all situations (which I've written about before, here).   Some of these folks who think all violence is wrong will reluctantly grant that violence in certain situations, such as in self defense or by the police enforcing laws, is sorta okay.

But god forbid we engage in violence for entertainment.

These are the same people who probably think what we martial artists do is insane.  They might notwatch American football, or rugby, or hockey, either.  Nor should they enjoy martial arts films or action films or TV series like "Daredevil".

Heck, professional MMA fighting just became legal in New York.  MMA got a reputation for a while there as being somehow more dangerous and brutal than boxing thanks to one of those periodic media panics they love to engage in from time to time ("MMA is more brutal than anything ever!!" "Bath Salt Cannibals!" "Crack Baby Epidemic!!" ).

Sometimes the implication in the impulse to ban combat sports is the claim that it encourages violence - especially criminal violence -  in society in general.

Incidents of violent crime have been on the decline for well over 20 years now - coincidentally, that correlates with the rise of MMA as a big thing in the combat sports world.

So I'm not buying that argument, even with the (sketchy) studies in the social sciences that suggest that maybe there could possibly be some link if you manipulate the data just the right way. Ditto violence in other sports, tv and movies, video games, comic books...

So, you may not enjoy combat sports - and that's cool, you don't have to enjoy it.

But for those of us who enjoy combat sports - either as a participant or as a spectator - should have the right to engage in it.  It won't lead to the doom of modern civilization.

Do you think combat sports have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on society?  I want to know what you think - let me know in the comments!