Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter 3. Battle - the ultimate human sport.

When you watch animals in the wild, what is the 'sport' you most often see? 

In nature, sports seems to be an activity in preparation of only two things - SURVIVAL and MATING. 
Mating games and play fighting seem to be the only two forms of 'sport' in the wild. Often it becomes applicable to two things - a real fight or flight situation, or the acquisition of a mate. And they all actually leads only to ONE SINGLE GOAL. Survival - of the self, or the kind (species). 

Now extrapolate that to humans. The oldest known ways of proving one's superiority over another, was to demonstrate skills that would provide for a better living. Even artistic skills initially included only arts like making of stone weapons and spears. But the very first ones were demonstrations of practices that would lead to a livelihood and a safe and secure life. FIGHTING, HUNTING, FISHING, RUNNING, ARCHERY, SPEAR THROWING and so on.

The oldest records of sport in cave paintings depict exactly this. 

And when man got even more social, the only things that changed is the brutality of these demonstrations. And they named it 'SPORT'. They were still demonstrating the same capabilities, but without the severe outcomes of death, starvation or permanent damage (well, sometimes not).
These 'Sports' were practiced and developed as activities and arts, in groups and alone, directly in contact against others or by time or distance. Anything more brutal was slowly termed illegal or criminal. But these very brutal arts are still practiced in the armed forces, for situations of 'carnal sport' that nations today call BATTLE or WAR.

The ultimate athlete in the stone age was the one who could use all his physical and mental resources to survive against all odds - human, beastly and geographic. The ultimate athlete in the roman era was the olympian who showed proficiency at all physical activities - but even greater than him was the athlete known as the gladiator - who fought and survived against brutal odds. 

No athlete in all of the roman empire was more reknowned than the gladiator. Infact, not just rome, but across the world, in the history of sports, the most reknowned sport has been the martial art of the country/time. Whether its archery and swordsmanship in the time of genghis khan, or pankration in greece or wrestling in iran, or kalaripayattu in ancient india.

Today, yes, we have a zillion sports and even the olympics, and we have outlawed arenas of gladiators(apart from World Wrestling Entertainment and UFC which still make tons of money and draw audiences from all over the world). BUT still, if we were to be honest, there is no greater athlete than the one trained to survive the worst of all mankind - WAR. 
Infact, war has BRED sport all through civillization. War messengers led to marathons and parkour, archers to archery, cavalry to horse riding, naval warfare to rowing, battle formations and timed strategies to modern day contact sports like rugby and field sports like hockey and football. Not just that but even war training sessions that are simulations of real war, are called WAR GAMES. 

If you notice, it is only the wealthy who had a reason to discourage physical development who promoted inactive sports like croquet, golf and cricket - especially to their colonized parts. Infact, the minute they realised martial potential of any sport that could help in a revolution, they banned it - eg: kalaripayattu was banned in kerela(south-india) by the inaders, capoeira developed because martial arts were banned in brazil, practice of kung fu and archery was banned in certain chinese provinces. 

The crossovers between WAR/BATTLE and SPORT are obvious - whether its the colors, the strategy, the war paint, the psyche, the training, the approach. Its literally parallel.

It may be grammatically wrong to say so but at its best,

Survival may not officially be a SPORT today, but it is the one physical and mental activity worth training for. In an open survival situation - whether a war or  a street fight - The ultimate athlete would not be the one who is stronger, faster or bigger alone. Because like a true sport, it also requires mental conditioning and preparedness. A presence of mind and a general preparedness of the body in a measure that will ensure survival. and THAT, no matter what 'sports' you play or what gym routine you follow or what books you read, is worth training for. For that is what can one day truly decide whether you live or die.



ADRENALINE is the hormone that rushes through your body when you face fear or are trying to push yourself extremely hard. It is also the hormone that drives almost every major sport. It is for this reason that it becomes a key in understanding the nature of SPORT.
Adrenaline when released, triggers a unique FIGHT OR FLIGHT response. It gives the person an elevated level of activity on the CNS - either to run away and evade the fear causing situation, or to fight against it.
It gives your strength, paralyses you, alerts your senses, desensitizes you, fires up your muscular memories, numbs your injuries, and a lot more - depending on the way your body reacts - and more importantly, on the way YOU have conditioned your body.
And can there be any greater FEAR than death itself? Whether from starvation for the paleolithic hunting-gathering man or from battle for the civilized soldier or from a skirmish for the caveman? Survival is the most primal instinct of man. A creature will instinctively do everything in its capacity - physical and mental, voluntary and involuntary, to survive.
So if Sport refers to 'a competitive physical activity based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity.' And adrenaline is the key hormone influencing these two factors biologically, we can say that since facing, surviving , fighting or fleeing the fear of death from an opponent raises it to the highest levels, it must be the greatest sport of all - aka: BATTLE.
(ofcourse this does not comply by the strict modern definition of sport which includes the fact that no participant must get hurt - but we are going down to the stripped basis. So we'll consider the older definition of sport.)
Whether its in the battlefield or in the jungle, ages ago or even today, in an arena or on the streets. By challenging survival, BATTLE is the greatest ADRENALINE exciter of all.

For the answer to this, you'll again have to go back to the initial notes on the history of sports. Archery evolved as a sport directly from hunting (for survival) and battle (again for survival). And whether through war or hunger, the fear of death is again the best known manipulator of adrenaline. So though the sport today may not depend on directly harnessing adrenaline, its origins still do.
[Note: Actually, this evolution of concentration dependant sports that have directly grown from the battlefield is quite interesting. Both archery and shooting require a drop in heart rate and intense control which is the opposite of the usual effect of adrenaline. So to keep calm in these situations, people had to learn to counteract adrenaline by teaching the mind to control it. It is simpler to understand that when you know that archers use valium and other depressants before competitions to make them steadier. (i'll cover it in detail on the chapter on weapon skills). So though it originated driven by adrenaline, it has evolved into a sport that is defined by controlling adrenaline.]


On the playground, we have the luxury of rules and divisions. Age groups, weight classes, pro and novice categories, gender, region, one on one or tag team or teams etc. But in real life, when challenged in the battlefield or in a streetfight, there are none of these safety lines. Your size doesn't matter, your speed doesn't matter, your training doesn't matter - or all of  it matters - DEPENDING on how you make the most of it. Its not just your body, but also the conditioning and presence of your mind. And that is what makes survival skills, general preparedness and combat readiness the most essential of all skills in the sport of battle. 
That is what makes being BattleReady being the closest you can be to a universal athlete. 

And that is what I'm aiming for. 

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