adventure and risk

Lance Cpl. George R. Lockhart (right), radio r...
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I found an interesting article titled MMA, The Sense Of Adventure, Risk & The Decent Of The Authentic Male Spirit. The author touches on many points that I agree with and that match much of my philosophy on the subject that is the focus of this blog. He has also authored many other well written posts on the topic of martial arts and warriorship. While he subscribes to the “anybody can be a warrior..warriorship comes from within” model that I differ from here, he makes many well thought and well worded points.

Here is an excerpt:

Contrasting this to an example. Nathaniel Fick, an Ivy League College Graduate who went from the halls of Dartmouth University to the grueling Marine Officers Candidates School and later found himself in combat both in Afghanistan and Iraq. What was an Ivy League Graduate doing in the Marines? He seemingly had everything going for him, a great education and great prospects for a mainstream future. Yet he chose to give that mainstream future up, for another future in the Marines.

In an interview with Jeffrey Brown on PBS, he was asked to read a passage from his book, One Bullet Away. This passage I believe explains in a nutshell what I believe to be the irresistible pull of MMA for most men today.

“Throughout my life, I had always had some sense of what was coming next. People build continuity into their life: Places, friends and goals. We go to work on Monday with plans for Friday night, enroll as freshmen intending to be seniors and save money for retirement. We try to control what comes next and shape it to meet our will. This was too big for me to shape [talking about his role in the Marines on the front]. I was absolved of the responsibility for my future. It was replaced with responsibility for 22 other futures. Nothing in my history seemed to matter beyond that line on the map. I didn’t know what to expect; could not even imagine what might come next.”

In a further interview covered in the Enlightened Next Magazine, he succinctly sums his entire reason up for joining the Marines,

“I wanted something that might kill me- or leave me better, stronger, more capable. I wanted to be a warrior.”

I believe this is exactly the reason for the rise of popularity of MMA today. Most Men and interestingly young men (The predominant group doing MMA is likely 18yrs to 26yrs old) are searching for risk. In doing so they believe that it will as Fick outlines, make them stronger and more capable in life. As Author and Counselor Bret Stephenson has pointed out in his book, From Boys To Men, “Risk is so inherent in boys”. In a way men are gravitating to MMA because they see it as a way to become what they perceive as real men. The perceived risk in a way answers the call to manhood. Instinctively these men know, while possibly not conscious of it, that risk is required to experience a genuine transformation into manhood. Society however, especially in the West has left men without time honored, tried and true practices for working with the masculine energy. We are told to observe control, that aggression is bad (Unless it is conveniently disguised in sport) and that we should be in touch with our feminine side. For all the hard work of the feminists groups and the attempts to get men to become more in touch with their anima qualities, men still believe physical prowess is the mark of a real man.

For most men physical prowess since childhood has always seemed necessary to feel competent, stronger and capable as a man. No matter how hard the Feminist Lobbyists have tried to eradicate the gender separation and bring about a gender-neutral society, men still firmly believe that in order to be a man, physical prowess is required. If a productive way is disallowed in a society to express a mans physical prowess, men will naturally seek out other alternatives- no wonder that MMA is a reasonable choice for many men.

Take a moment to read the entire article, it will be worth your time.

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8 thoughts on “adventure and risk”

  1. I’m reminded of an article I read about differences in gender and how society uses men. Excerpt:

    “When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually ‘How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?’ This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth — these are mostly men.

    Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men.

    The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who’s in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who’s homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men. Likewise, who gets killed in battle? Even in today’s American army, which has made much of integrating the sexes and putting women into combat, the risks aren’t equal. This year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.

    One can imagine an ancient battle in which the enemy was driven off and the city saved, and the returning soldiers are showered with gold coins. An early feminist might protest that hey, all those men are getting gold coins, half of those coins should go to women. But remember, while the men you see are getting gold coins, there are other men you don’t see, who are still bleeding to death on the battlefield from spear wounds.

    That’s an important first clue to how culture uses men. Culture has plenty of trade-offs, in which it needs people to do dangerous or risky things, and so it offers big rewards to motivate people to take those risks. Most cultures have tended to use men for these high-risk, high-payoff slots much more than women. I shall propose there are important pragmatic reasons for this. The result is that some men reap big rewards while others have their lives ruined or even cut short. Most cultures shield their women from the risk and therefore also don’t give them the big rewards. I’m not saying this is what cultures ought to do, morally, but cultures aren’t moral beings. They do what they do for pragmatic reasons driven by competition against other systems and other groups.”

    It’s kind of long, but a very interesting read if you’ve got about 10 minutes.

    (returning to the article you re-posted)
    There is a vast difference, though, between Nathanial Fick’s example and MMA. Officer Fick wanted to be a warrior, so he took the risk of being killed to obtain his goal. He is participating in war.
    Conversely, there is really no risk of being killed in MMA sports. That’s why they call them sports; they are a shell of what is real, a game where people can play at battle without taking the risks associated with battle.
    It’s very entertaining and takes great skill. But if someone doesn’t die at the end (or at least is not presented with a very good chance of dying), it’s not war; therefore, by default, no warriorship is contained therein and anything resembling it can only ‘play’ at reality.

  2. Dear tgace,
    I am always leery of these gender-based discussions. For one thing, I am not sure the author of MMA, or the feminist cadre, are actually speaking for the bulk of us on either side of the gender divide. I know more about the feminist school than the MMA one, however, I mostly wish to talk about the argumentation. Then I will add my opinion to the rest.

    The points made in most gender arguments rarely go forward with a dispassionate look at either side. The man who is immersed in MMA is generally going to run into men who say they need combat, physicality, and risk. He is not generally going to sit with the beer-bellied nerd or ultra-thin poet and discuss active goals.

    The woman who likes to deconstruct Roman satirists for anti-female phrases will find plenty of ammunition. How does that translate? Not very far past ‘there is a tradition of X’. Today is today.

    Personally, I think many women make fine warriors, will embrace risk, set physical goals to meet it. But we are just past the ‘token’ period and emerging into a greater front. Generations from now, an MMPI or other personality test might tell us more than gender will.

    Gender will still tell us something about plumbing (it’s not reproduction, but excretion that is the problem–solved by clothing, partly) and upper body strength. It will modify training somewhat at all the academies. Then we’ll see for sure–about warriors, leaders, and prison populations.

    Just my take. I think my take is less important than removing the specious argumentation on both sides.

    Ann T.

  3. As to women being warriors/combat arms soldiers, I agree Ann. I have seen examples of females who were far better examples of the caste than some examples of men I have seen. I gave an example of one in this blog:

    The issue as I see it though is in an “institutional” sense. “In general” you are going to find more men that possess the physical traits necessary to being a successful infantryman than you are women. That is due to a combination of physical and social factors. I went through a co-ed basic and while there were many females who could “hang” with the guys physically, there were far too many (IMO) who dropped out of things like road marches only to be picked up by the trail vehicles.

    If a female soldier can pass the EXACT same standards expected of the males than they are welcome to serve in the job slot in my opinion. Unfortunately there are different standards. I think that as long as this is the case there is going to be difficulty being accepted into the “warrior” clique.

  4. As to this article, I also think that it is important to look at what the writer is saying as referring to specifically “male” needs that things like military service or MMA are being used to fill.

    I don’t think that the author is equating MMA to military service in anything other than it’s fulfilling some sort of “masculine” need.

    And on the issue of male vs female traits, there is pretty solid scientific evidence that our physiology and psychology ARE different based on hormonal influence, evolutionary development and social adaptation.,9171,942519,00.html

    Throughout the animal kingdom you will find that the male of the species tends towards the more “martial”/territorial/protector end of the spectrum. We tend to be more physically aggressive, territorial and prone to take up activities that this author is discussing.

    Not to imply that these differences make any one sex BETTER than the other..only different.

    And that is also not to imply that there are not women who are physically superior to some men. I will readily admit that I have ran into some females that I refused to physically tangle with because they out sized and out strengthed me. However, I do tend to agree that these differences come with different “urges” and “needs” that we need psychologically to feel “whole”. I don’t know how anybody could think that our physiology is NOT enmeshed with our psychology. Its the socially influenced belief that these differences make one sex SUPERIOR to the other that gets us in trouble. Eons of “might makes right” has led the bigger and stronger of us to believe that we as males were “superior”. While that is an error in thinking, it does not change the physiological fact that males are bigger and stronger.

    Even in elite Olympic athletes where a female could best 99% of the “average males” in her sport, the Olympic males in the same sport will post better times/numbers. We are different. And thank God for it. And thank the passing of time for societies who treat the sexes fairly and equitably. While just treatment of Women may not be at 100%, we are leaps and bounds ahead of 100-200 years ago. However, I would hesitate to confuse the differences between the sexes with politically correct thought. From a practical “right tool for the job” mindset rather than any “sexual political/we are superior” frame of mind.

  5. Dear tgace,
    As I said, I hate these kinds of discussions b/c everyone gets so worried when they have them.

    You can’t legislate a state of mind, right? You either have it or you don’t. Whoever is a warrior is a warrior, regardless of sex. Because much of it is physical, having a warrior vocation is based on physical performance as well as mental aptitude.

    For me, I would hope that getting up a hill in x seconds would be the standard, (for instance) and that the standard include (where possible) more than one approved way of getting up there under your own power, without mollycoddling from anybody else. The difference for a big but fit man or a lithe but fit man is taken into account, but all must perform. Same for the women. There’s a strategy involved, depending on what body you have.

    Mostly I was concerned with the self-referential, pre-mediated sample in the article standing as a random or universal set. Not to worry about the rest.

    And I never feel unwelcome here, so don’t worry about the gender argument per se. I always feel challenged here, and that’s a different matter altogether. It keeps me coming back, either to learn by listening, or drop my two cents in. I always appreciate my time here.

    Ann T.

    1. You make a good point. It is a shame when people are afraid to discuss politically sensitive issues because they are afraid of being labeled a bigot, sexist, etc. It equally distressing that some people are so quick to throw out those accusations to shut down conversation as well.

      A refuse to do either, and I know that you refuse to as well….no worries. 🙂

      1. Ann,

        There is a difference between ‘physical courage’ and ‘moral courage’ as we were taught by the Big Green Machine…

        Kudos to your recognition of the ‘Wile Coyote’ quality that is essential to a good ‘warrior’ as well.

        Some of the so called ‘warriors’ out there who practice martial arts regularly seem to confuse your point about strategy AND your demonstrated ‘moral courage’ point about discussing tough topics.

        Not all risk taking will cost you a boot to the head…

  6. I think it’s only fair to recognize that the ‘institution’ as we know it (society, culture, nations, religion) help define what particular rights of passage and/or ‘risks’ we are suppose to seek as acceptable or ‘right.’

    Before all of our fine technology and social stability in first world nations, I’m sure that gender roles were defined and encouraged based more on successful survival of the culture. So, women were encouraged to face the challenges of childbirth and nurturing/protecting a child until it became a contributing member of society. Men were encouraged to take more physical risks since the lose of a man didn’t necessarily mean the lose of a child bearing member of society… It’s not PC by our standards, but it makes sense if you consider the dangers of life before we had it so good.

    Were there (and are there) “Women warriors?” Abso-freaking- lutely and, as has been mentioned before, if they can accomplish the mission and hold of their part of the load in a team, no problem from me at all. It wasn’t too long ago in our own ‘modern views’ that Black soldiers/servicemen/women were considered genetically inferior and were assigned to maintenance roles like cooks, laborers/drivers and the like. Kudos to units like the Tuskegee Pilots who busted that particular myth.

    I’m interested in any studies on aggression/gender and so on out of countries like Israel (where men and women both serve compulsory military duty and probably have more potential to see direct action than most US servicemen or servicewomen.

    I’m reminded of the pride that historians credit Spartan men for their roles as trained warriors and Spartan women as fit and ready to bear and raise Spartans. Neither role was seen as superior/inferior because both were essential to that culture.

    Same with the local Hodenashonee (sp?) or Iroquois Indians where the women were the central authority because they ‘owned’ the farmlands and were involved in all vital decisions for the tribe.

    As ‘modern people’ sometimes we automatically assume that ‘gender roles’ is synonymous with ‘superior/inferior’ roles with women (or men in some cases) as being denied equality. I DEFINITELY see that as a historical truth in modern western history with issues like careers, voting, education….

    But, I think in the global sense of time, “gender roles” evolved socially as a necessary survival mechanism for cultures who were living closer to nature.

    Do modern people (men and women) need more clearly defined ‘rights of passage’ that challenge them? Sure, but that will put us in direct conflict with gender equality in a lot of cases IMO.

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