A physical and philosophical mediation on why we are drawn to fight each other for sport, what happens to our bodies and brains when we do, and what it all means.
Anyone with guts or madness in him can get hit by someone who knows how; it takes a different kind of madness, a more persistent kind, to stick around long enough to be one of the people who does the knowing.
Josh Rosenblatt was thirty-three years old when he first realized he wanted to fight. A lifelong pacifist with a philosopher’s hatred of violence and a dandy’s aversion to exercise, he drank to excess, smoked passionately, ate indifferently, and mocked physical activity that didn’t involve nudity. But deep down inside there was always some part of him that was attracted to the idea of fighting. So, after studying Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and boxing, he decided, at age forty, that it was finally time to fight his first—and only—mixed martial arts match: all in the name of experience and transcending ancient fears.
An insightful and moving rumination on the nature of fighting, Why We Fight takes us on his journey from the bleachers to the ring. Using his own training as an opportunity to understand how the sport illuminates basic human impulses, Rosenblatt weaves together cultural history, criticism, biology, and anthropology to understand what happens to the human body and mind when under attack, and to explore why he, a self-described “cowardly boy from the suburbs,” discovered so much meaning in putting his body, and others’, at risk.
From the psychology of fear to the physiology of pain, from Ukrainian shtetls to Brooklyn boxing gyms, from Lord Byron to George Plimpton, Why We Fight is a fierce inquiry into the abiding appeal of our most conflicted and controversial fixation, interwoven with a firsthand account of what happens when a mild-mannered intellectual decides to step into the ring for his first real showdown.
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