Sparring & Thymos

1. What follows will make more sense if you spar.

The analysis of ethical concepts is of greater use to those who already have a practical education in ethics.

What follows applies in general. Use your judgment.

2. Numerous cultures have developed their own styles of wrestling and boxing.

Ancient Greece being a famous example. As Plato wrote: strip or leave. The Greeks knew boxing, wresting, and pankration, ie mma. Competitive combat sports were part of the fundamental backgound of culture, and presented themselves as a natural basis for analogies applied to the abstract domain of dialectics, ie philosophical or analytical debating.

Some cultures vigorously explore abstract domains but fail to cultivate their pugilistic side. This can be seen on the level of language. In French, it is hard to convey the meaning of the simple word knuckle. The word translates as ‘articulation’, or ‘jointure’, which are very general terms that apply to all joints in the body. If you desire precision you could say ‘jointure du métacarpe et des phalanges’.

Latin [‘articulationes metacarpophalangeae’, abbreviated as ‘MCP’] does not seem to help much here. However, there is a Greek word that also exists in French and Latin: ‘condyle’; ‘condylus’, from the Greek ‘κόνδυλος’. One should always return to the Greeks, who knew there is greatness in fighting.

3. Sparring brings health benefits. It also gets you high on endorphines.

Spar and eat what you want. You’ll be fit and even strong from training with bigger guys.

Because of the cardio effort inherent in sparring, and because of the strikes you absorb, your body releases powerful natural opiates.

4. Ethics of Fear and Courage.

In sports it is common to say of those who overpower their opponent and taste victory that they wanted it more, or that they were hungrier. In combat sports, success factors include focus and fight IQ. Defeat results from fixating on single paths to victory, head-hunting for the KO, destroying stamina by attempting to overrun the opponent, letting emotions such as pride and anger substitute themselves for strategy, succumbing to the opponent’s hypnosis. These are not physical causes.

Contrast this position with the one expressed by Joseph Conrad: “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force — nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.”

Can you spot the fallacy of the rationalist nerd in Conrad’s proposition?

The main problem with Conrad’s, or his character Marlow’s spatial idea of conquest ist that physical strength is itself a product of will and cultivation applied over time to brute force. In general brute force is not enough to conquer systematically. Overcoming Facing a succession of opponents generally makes you stronger. What might perhaps have been due to luck initially elevates itself to the status of a non-random outcome. The difference of strength will then only bear superficial resemblance to an accident. Roman conquest was no accident.

Factual equality between men is a valid first approximation of life. Only with time, through work and selection, can superiority emerge, recognized or not. To see this one must consider not just the random aspect of the spatial encounter of individuals here and now, but indeed the whole temporal line of individuals they belong to in time, accross a series of generations.

Yet the principle is already apparent on the temporal scale of the individual. One does not know the value of one’s relative strength before testing it. Testing it requires courage, because the outcome is uncertain. Courage implies fear. X-phobia means: X requires courage to face.

This temporal origin of strength is thus hidden from our immediate perception. What we see is actual strength and confidence, here and now. The nerd will choose to nurture the illusion in him that courage can exist without fear. But the fear was there, originally, even if the educated man of weak fibre refuses to infer its necessary existence. He confuses courage in exploration and its product: confidence in exploitation, which arises naturally from the state of post-test reduced uncertainty. In general the confident fearless man derives his confidence from mix of stupidity, self-deception, faith and knowledge earned through past courage, and thus past fear.

5. The Principle of Balance.

In combat sports, as in all sports, as in most important things, balance is key. Balance on your feet, in the clinch, on the ground. Balance between offence and defense, opening up and shutting down, drawing in and thrusting back. Balance between intensity and stamina, economy and victory, pushing on and halting, measure and fury, deception and going for it with all you’ve got. The list goes on.

Come spar to prove yourself, stay for the balance.