Hagiography

Global-Fighting-Championship-29-May-2014

“What a night. What can I say? Badr Hari is an animal. I was just too banged up to keep going. To my loving wife Silvia, my now-two little girls; you keep me strong.
“To my friends who have always been there for me, thank-you as you are all awesome. To my students at IMC Prospect: train hard and always do your best. Last, but not least, my fans; from the Kyokushin and Kempo karate people and the BJJ, MMA, Boxing And kickboxing fans who follow me and even the ones who do not or cannot, thank-you from the bottom of my heart.

“You are all part of who I am.”

Post-fight dedication from Peter Graham, taken from facebook, 30/05/14

I logged a post about Ben Edwards previously to this. I was assigned to interview him for the most recent International Kickboxer Magazine and, towards the end of our conversation, he came out with something profound. I had seen the Glory 16 video clip from which I knocked off the two photos, top and bottom, and they span a three second interval which illustrates the moment Ben went from fear to resolution, prompted by the camera that rolled past his dressing room. I didn’t know how to explain it exactly, but real art isn’t about giving readers an answer; it’s often about provoking the right questions. I quoted him, took the photos and left it at that.

I’ve been wondering what it was that snagged me about Ben’s comments and reading Peter’s post bought it leaping out of the box.

A friend and I have a long-running argument about sport versus art. He’s the heavy hitter, and he claims that sport is not art because it doesn’t communicate. He is probably a genius, and I found myself without an answer in my mouth at the time. However, it was burning away in my guts like a case of indigestion and, after some thought, I found that I could bring it out.

I’ve said before that sport generally – and fighting specifically – is about the communication of values. It demonstrates discipline, skill, courage and the will to pursue an ideological objective so urgent that it compels a fighter to leave the boundaries of comfort and physical safety a very long way behind.

There are two things essentially wrong with the way Australians view sport. One is the artificial dichotomy constructed between the sporting and artistic communities; they have far more in common than either of them realize. The other is that sportsmen are lauded as great human beings, but you don’t have to spend too long surveying the football codes to be disabused of that notion.

One of my favorite parts of fighting was having my gloves taped on. Once your hands are wrapped and taped, you can’t write a letter, or hold a baby, or even go to the toilet. You attain the purity of a wild animal; bent towards one thing only. In the same way, once you take the field, you are singular. It’s not that we forgive Wayne Carey for beating women or being a megalomaniac; it’s just that when he plays football, he becomes so much more.

I once came across the following quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

When Edwards is seen in the dressing room, enduring the terrible wait for the contest, we see the moment his fear and doubt are transformed into resolved courage. When Peter Graham takes on Badr Hari, we see the hours of training and focused, structured suffering written in discipline, courage and skill. And no matter how far we are from that dedication or suffering ourselves, it presents to us a simple, tangible drama of our own more abstract daily struggles, however mundane and secret.

Peter’s facebook post – and Ben’s wait – are statements that contain an implicit question of their own. And the answer from those who watch is that when those fighters step through the ropes, they are a part of us.

Possibly one of the best parts.

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