THE EVER-AWESOME, EVER-BLOGGING Lindsay Robertson notes the divided response to last night's discussion of MIXED MARTIAL ARTS on television.
INDEED, Lindsay cites Ryan "Rambling" Rhodes's comment that "...if you've ever grappled, you'd know it's about as 'homoerotic' as getting hit in the face with a rake and is, in fact, exhausting, fierce and competitive combat."
SETTING ASIDE FOR THE MOMENT the thriving, erotic "rake-face-hitting" subculture, I concede that Ryan raises A FAIR POINT.*
THE GRAPPLING SPORTS have a long history, and "THE GROUND GAME," as it's called, is indeed a kind of mental and phsyical chess.
(Or at least, I know this from my research. Ryan is correct in presuming my own fisticuff history is limited: I was ONCE ELBOWED IN THE CHEST on the subway, and then I GRABBED THAT GUY'S NECK once in college.)
HOWEVER, I want to clarify that the footage was not shown in slo-mo for comedic effect. Nor did I or the staff of television have to search hard for these examples.
Indeed, if you watch MMA (and I have done, and I enjoyed it, and I will do so again), this is where pretty much every bout ends up: GUYS ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR.
I CERTAINLY DO NOT MEAN THESE FIGHTERS OR THEIR CRAFT ANY DISRESPECT, and not just because I do not want them to break my forehead in half.
Some of the fighters I watched were incredibly skilled, and Karo "The Heat" Parisyan in particular KICKS ASS.
Some of them, though, seemed to be merely artless brawlers ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR HALF NAKED.
EITHER WAY, IT WOULD BE A VIOLATION OF COMEDY if I were to avoid pointing out just how prevalent this aspect of the sport is, and how it would look to a space alien, or a non-fighter, or even, I daresay, to a portion of the MMA audience who do not know about the long history of the grappling arts: THE FIGHTERS SOMETIMES LOOK LIKE THEY ARE LOVING EACH OTHER.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Nothing, I suspect, that Ryan does not already know.
FIGHTING IS INTIMATE. I know that just from grabbing a guy's neck.** You're up close, often closer than you are when actually having sex with someone. In real life, it's scary and exhilirating and awful all at once. In a sporting situation, I can see how that potent mix of violence and bonding can also be joyful and awesome.
At the end of one of the bouts I watched CHRIS "THE CRIPPLER" LEBEN, still electric-eyed with excitement even though he lost, kiss his opponent in congratulations on the cheek. He didn't do it because some comedy writer told him to do it so he could write a joke about it later.
He did it spontaneously, genuinely, BECAUSE THERE IS A NATURAL, AUTHENTIC, AWESOME INTIMACY TO KICKING ASS--and competition in general--and that's part of its appeal.
THAT SAID, RYAN AND I CAN AGREE ON ONE FACT: I am a pasty, doughy gonad.
THAT IS ALL.
*Albeit, I realize now, one that relies on the ludicrous fallacy that "homo-erotic" is a synonym for "sissified."
**He deserved it.