On fighting

13 January 2017

Recently one of my favorite pastimes has been filling my Netflix queue with martial arts movies. It began as an unconscious impulse. Traditionally, I’ve never been attached to the genre, although I’d never been opposed to it, either. It just happened that, as 2016 faded into 2017, I was drawn to watching people beat other people up. Elegantly, if at all possible.

I am uniquely unqualified to give any substantive opinion on the art of fighting, cinematically or not, but I’m currently attracted to its mythos. To the idea of being strong, being capable, being unafraid—or, alternatively, afraid but able to act anyway. Being in command of oneself enough to learn how to overcome an enemy. Being equal to any situation of daunting scope and uncertainty. And being so elegantly, if at all possible.

I find it interesting that in many stories about ordinary people becoming fighters or one sort or another, the majority of the story is about preparation and discipline. It’s less about violence or physical superiority in the moment as it is about the establishment of daily habits aimed at strengthening and growing. About making smart decisions in terms of self-care—not what’s easiest or feels good at the time, but what is truly best for the person in the long-term, which is sometimes difficult in the short-term.

It’s all about the long-term. It’s about lying in wait and making oneself ready.

All of this is an inelegant metaphor, and yet it’s useful to me now. I am not looking for a fight, but I wonder how many of those who have trained themselves to be fighters really are. More often, the fight comes to you, and the only choice you have is to stand or not. If my newfound movie obsession seems to point to any practical lesson, it’s that the smartest way to fight is to first conquer yourself, so that you can apply the best strategy available without the pressure of incapability, weakness or contradictory desire—and that would seem to apply whether or not the fight you are facing requires you to raise fists or raise ideas. Elegantly, if at all possible. But such questions of style, and necessity, are left up to each fighter, and even to ordinary people who are learning to be.


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