Groups cohere around sexual practices: The first action of any cult worthy of the name is the implementation of its own set of distinctive sexual mores. These may be more permissive than the country-at-large (the Oneida Community), or more stringent (the Shakers), but they are, importantly, instantly apparent.
Each culture, historically, has had its own accepted method of interpersonal unarmed combat.
For one man to kick another in the head in a bar brawl would be frowned upon in America, but considered traditional in France. They have Savate, we have boxers.
American sentiment has, in the last century, and with some exceptions, endorsed prize fighting as legitimate sport. It is less dangerous to the individual not only than grand prix racing, but than professional football -- but the specter of men drawing and shedding blood, understandably, has its detractors.
What about Mixed Martial Arts?
Here we find at work that Epicureanism beloved by National Public Radio: Take what is best from each culture, and, in this instance, also endorsed by the Navy SEALs. (Find out what works and use it.)
Mixed Martial Arts is the proving ground of the otherwise interminable debate of the different fighting forms. Here one must bring his best game, free to adopt the haymaker of the US, the head kick of the French, the grappling of the Brazilians and the Japanese, the elbows and knees of the Thais and so on.
It is, statistically, less harmful than boxing, as boxing’s major and frequent injuries are trauma to the brain, resulting from that same haymaker sung in story and song as the decider in the barroom brawl.
Mixed Martial Arts employs the (non-traumatic) submission of jiu jitsu (the defeated signals his unwillingness to continue) and the victory-through-points. But some people don’t like it.
Opponents of Mixed Martial Arts in New York state have enacted a statute to ban the exhibition its proponents hold is protected under the First Amendment as “artistic expression.”
Now, as a longtime student and fan of mixed martial arts, I hope these opponents fail.
Is the practice of MMA an expression of free speech? Sure, if the beloved First Amendment protects not only the burning of the flag, but the government funding of “Piss Christ,” a crucifix immersed in the “artist’s” urine.
John Stuart Mill said Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seem good to themselves than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
It might be argued that Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” did not abrade the neighbors’ bodies, it merely offended their sensibilities -- but if that is the test, the comparison to the injury rate of skiing and the above-named sports would exonerate MMA from the label of egregiousness.
In our transformation into a country of maiden aunts, we have forgotten that phrase concurrent to The Greatest Generation, “Mind your own business.”
The purpose of law, our Constitution teaches, is to allow people to interact free from government intervention.
To criminalize or otherwise sanction now this, now that, at the whim of a vocal minority is, retail, wearisome folly. Wholesale, it is the road to serfdom.
David Mamet wrote and directed the 2008 film “Redbelt,” about the world of mixed martial arts.