Fighters of all the different styles out there; from K1 to Thai boxing, to kickboxing, mma and regular western boxing, are subject to many stereotypes and judgements brought about by television, film, media and perhaps a few well known cases that fit the bill. My goal today is to help clear the air and inform you lovely people that there is a lot more to those who practice martial arts than a snarling face and an athletic build.
So here are a few myths or fallacies I would like to dispel.
1- When we are out and about, we are the first to join in a scrap or even look to instigate them...
I have suffered this stereotype many a time having been present when alcohol fueled arguments and fights begin. "Oh yeah i bet you're awesome at street fighting, you do all that ufc don't you, what would you do if someone started with you? Blah blah blah. What people should understand is that we, like most people do not enjoy being in situations full of hate, pain and anger. Another way of looking at it could be that our lifestyles are full of violence by choice, we choose to be involved in sports that are violent. There's no way around this fact. Now every fighter is different but I think my attraction to the sport is because I feel most alive when fighting/sparring. I can observe more in a small amount of time and my body enters a higher state almost, like time is slowed for all but me. Of course in reality it is the hormones like adrenaline and other chemical reactions happening inside me, all to helping me survive and avoid death. For many, the fight or flight reaction/state is short lived, unpleasant and irregular. But fighters are not only used to the way the body acts when under threat, they crave the feeling. The senses are enhanced, the mind is quiet, the body is having a very potent experience. This is what draws me in, not the damage I am able to do to my fellow man. So if opportunities for fighting outside of the sport arise I will usually be the first to remove myself from the situation. I will avoid, for want of a better word, 'real' fighting at all costs; yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir I'm sure you would beat me to a pulp. Saying sorry in situations when you are clearly the one who has been wronged is an attribute many think is synonymous with the weak. But just what if I decided to participate in this petty brawl? People will get injured, I could get injured, police, hospitals all unnecessary hardship... Whereas I could have made a friend out of this person/people by backing down and letting them have their ego boost.
Notice after competitive fights, the combatants hug and shake hands and show nothing but love and respect for each other? There is a lot of love flowing round that ring or cage, friends. Whereas out in your bars, down back allies and on streets there is nothing but hate pain and suffering. Two very different types of fighting.
2 - We enjoy hurting people
As before, I can not speak on behalf of every fighter who has ever lived but from my experience I can tell you that inflicting maximum pain is not our goal. The techniques we use in the sport cause physical pain to the opponent a lot of the time, but this is just the nature of the sport. So when I am asked why I didn't enjoy that video on youtube where the kid gets beaten to a pulp, or why I do not care for the armed forces and armies that we spend billions of dollars/pounds on; it's because I am repulsed by man's inhumanity to man. How can people justify killing each other? This is not a post about my opinions on war and politics, I'll save that rant for another time, but my point is that the main objective of fighters is to prove themselves better than their former self, this has nothing at all to do with inflicting pain.
3 - We are not clever enough to invest our time elsewhere
I am always slightly disappointed when people who have come to know me as a fighter are taken aback by my interest in learning. I invest my time in training because I want to become stronger and because I feel attracted to the sport. I consider myself very lucky to have many opportunities open to me. Some boxers are left with barely another option to survive other than to make it big in the fight world. So it becomes a prison rather than a passion. I am grateful that the decisions I make are mine, some do not have the luxury of being truly in charge if their lives. So while we enjoy our sport, please do not mistake us for people who can't learn, or that we performed poorly at school. How very surprised people seem when I introduce them to the books I read, the websites I frequent. This all seem so complicated! I didn't know you were clever! To which I would answer that cleverness is the individual' ability to approach problems, more than it is the amount of complicated information they remember, but yes I know shit! And yes enjoy learning new and interesting shit!
4 - We fight because we just need to let out all our uncommonly high levels of aggression and anger
Everybody builds up aggression and anger. It's not wrong or right, it is simply how we are, because expressing how we feel at EVERY single moment can prove un-resourceful sometimes. The urge to fling that insult, the urge to have sex with another girl when you are in a relationship, that random erection you only just managed to hide. All these things are natural occurrences but we have to stuff them down and not fully express them because it will not benefit us to do so. This leads to a build up of unexpressed energy.
It is important then, that we find a way to release this pent up emotion. There are a great many things you can pour your energy into, running, athletics, football, riding bikes, playing music, lifting heavy stuff, jumping out of planes! People like myself are drawn to fighting competitively. This is because when we bottle up emotion, regardless of what emotion it was at the time, stuffing it down causes resentment inside us because we were not able to express it. So yes, physical activity can be used to release our built up energy. Yet this build up of energy is true of everyone, athletes have just found that their sport helps with its release. I ask you to consider that people who make no effort, conscious or otherwise to release their built up energy are usually very unhappy, aggressive individuals, people who use their passion partly as a tool to let out all these things that happen inside of them are gentle and calm.
5 - We despise and wish to inflict maximum pain and suffering on our opponents.
In spite of what many people think, fighters have more respect for the opponent they have known for all of half an hour than they probably have for some people they have known for years. How can you have anything but love and respect for a person who not only shares some of your interests but also who allows you to test your skill and pushes you to your limits. When someone gets knocked out for example, there is empathy from the winner because they would not want to be in that situation, there is gratitude for both being able to win and for the opponent for forcing them to take it to the next level. This is more than can be said for so called fans of the sport who offer nothing but jeers and laughter and lesser opinions. My heart goes out to all the fighters who put everything they have into training and competing and still suffering agony of loosing. Do not mistake that for pity, we never really loose, we only learn how to get better.
The stereotype that fighters hate their opponents is quite simply wrong. Apart from the fact that we have no reason whatsoever to dislike them, our opponents are just people we play with at the end of the day, new opponent, new friend.