I went over to my mom's house a while back and she wanted to show me some MMA fights since I had never seen any. Yep. I've been practicing Martial Arts for several years now and I've never watched a boxing match or MMA match at all. My mom and step dad are pretty supportive of my Martial Arts goals and they link me all kinds of stuff, keep an eye out for articles, etc. and my mom is actually (and surprisingly) really big into MMA. She knows a lot of the fighters names and styles etc.
Well, my mom was telling me about some of the MMA fighters and how the Brazillian JuJutsu guys were pretty hard core, especially when they 'ground and pound'. She was also trying to explain how good this one guy was and how he just toyed with his opponents. I THINK it was Anderson Silva, but it's 11pm and too late to call my mom and double check.
ANYWAY, so my mom pulled up the episodes she had recorded and was having me watch some. I got to thinking, as my mom was getting all excited and yelling at the T.V. and I was watching through my fingers over my eyes...
"Isn't this just a little bit fucked up?"
Pardon my language. But seriously: what is so wonderful and exciting about watching two guys get into the octagon and beat each other till they are bloody and broken? I mean... if you REALLY think about... that's kind of messed up. They beat the other guy till he gives up or can't continue anymore, and they stand up covered in blood with huge bruises already forming, black eyes, and the crowd goes totally wild. Woah.
And we've been doing it pretty much since the beginning of recorded history.
We have rules to protect our fighters now, but gladiators competed in the Colosseum and fought to the death. Think about it... Two or more people got up in front of a crowd of thousands of cheering people and fought each other until all but one of them DIED. For ENTERTAINMENT.
All I can think is "Why?"
I'm about to open a huge can of worms with this, but I'm going to do it anyway and I'll try to be brief:
Violence is part of human nature. We can't escape it. It's part of who we are.
I'm not saying we're not capable of mercy and compassion and love, but I don't think it's our first instinct or our natural tendency. When we don't understand something or we're afraid, humans generally react with violence. "What is that?" "I don't know.." "Kill it!"
In a perfect world, we wouldn't have things like Martial Arts, because everything would be love and rainbows and sunshine. No one would hurt each other or hate each other and things like rape and murder and theft wouldn't happen. But we don't live in that kind of world, so it's a moot point. Sorry hippies, you can't escape your programming no matter how much you try and you can't change anyone else either.
I would wager that, for whatever reason (religion/original sin, evolution, instinct, etc.) violence is in our nature. We can't escape it. During the time when there was no law and we had to defend ourselves, or abide by laws such as Hammurabi's code "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" being violent kept us alive, fed and our families safe.
In today's 1st world countries, there is no need for that type of violence. We have police officers and a legal system to take care of the bad guys for us. So how do we get these primal urges out? Watching MMA, boxing, and wrestling, and if we can't satisfy our need for violence though those channels, or feel that the justice system fails us (bullies in school for example and teachers/principles who won't do anything) we have cases of monkey dances in bars, road rage, school shootings, etc.
I would almost argue that sport fights, or in the past, sport killings, are/were necessary to appease our darker sides and keep a greater peace. It keeps the real beast lurking inside content, keeping the rage and our violent natures at bay.
The caveat being, real violence rocks us to our core. It touches and twists us in ways we cannot understand until we have experienced it first hand. Soldiers coming back from war, rape victims, people who have suffered gang beatings, people in the law enforcement industry. I have read stories about and talked to some people who have experienced real violence, and having to actually hurt someone, having to kill someone, being violated by someone, these are things that are utterly shattering to a person. They can take years to come to terms with and to get over. Some people never get over it.
If going through these things is so devastating to our psyche, then why do we crave violence and often react with violence first? Why is violence is such an integral part of our nature if it is so damaging to us?
Finding the answers will involve a great deal of research looking through piles and piles of information regarding history, culture, violence, psychology and philosophy. Even then I'm not sure there is one single right answer. I think most of Miller's work is going to be a good place to start, and following his sources. Reading work by other experts on the topic will help, so I will probably read some of Marc MacYoung's work as well.
Still.... it's a big question... probably one with many answers.