The thought of standing across the ring, mat or cage and sizing up an opponent is one of the more obvious "hell no" experiences most of us could imagine. The concept of the fight is a nebulous one. What is a fight? Who is a fighter? And do the times dictate those answers?
Let’s explore the dynamic of building a fighter, joining a fight and participating in combat for the correct reasons.
Hundreds of prospects had come into his office with that same fire. Undoubtedly, hundreds more were yet to come. And the kid before him today didn’t seem to be anything special. In fact, he was a bit naive to what his skills really were.
Managing and training dozens at a time was never easy and over the course of the last few years he’d walk through introductions and pleasantries with decreasing vigor. Mostly just outlining the opportunities that present themselves when one fully engrosses themselves in the process.
But, 2017 reared itself in ways that no one could have imagined. Times were critical. And for someone who had made their living orchestrating his craft at the highest levels, he found himself with a new energy. And today, banalities would be given with an urgency that the present dictated.
He got off his chair, circled the old desk and put his back against the wall. Looking down at the young prospect he knew his words were more important than ever before.
"You’re dead set on this?" he asked.
"I know I’ve got great work to put out," the prospect responded eagerly.
"Yeah? Thinking ‘bout the end result is inconsequential. There’s so much of it out there. It’s the process that needs to be top of mind now son."
He peeled his back off the wall and sat down behind his desk.
"The process. Everyone has their own. But I’ve been in the game a long time, and I can only tell you what’s worked for me."
"I’m all ears, sir."
"One. From the get-go, from the very beginning, at your rawest, you must be reckless. Willing to take risks you aren’t even aware are possible. When you start, you cannot think. You can only do. Flow, without a second thought.
"Two. Once you’ve identified the condition of your own recklessness you must continue to visit that place as often as possible. Dare yourself to feel horrible. Put yourself in the most uncomfortable positions imaginable and work through them.
"Three. Ask questions. All the time ask questions. Never stop asking questions. Me, the people around you, yourself. Continue to ask. Yearn. Seek.
"Four. Lose all sense of ego. Allow yourself to be small, while the process of creation takes over.
"Five. Embrace failure. We all fail. Everyone fails. You’ll lose more than you will win. You’ll be rejected more than you will be accepted. Failure is development. Winning is easy. It’s a god damn ego stroke.
"Six. Never be satisfied. Never, never, ever be satisfied. See yourself as second-rate, always open for enhancement.
"Seven. Adulation only comes at the highest level. You will never get the recognition that you feel you deserve. But you are a writer. We do not write for validation. And now more than ever, what you are doing is critical to what this world will become in 20 or 30 years. Do not let yourself be blocked, censored, or thrown aside. Do not be intimidated by the rich and powerful. Sacrifice everything for the words. Today’s writer will construct the narrative of present for future generations to dissect. You have a massive responsibility. Do not take it lightly."
The duality of writing and fighting has always been a strong draw for me. Whether it’s training Jiu Jitsu, coaching wrestling, writing fiction or working the sports beat, both activities personally feed into each other in so many ways.
The more I write, the better I train; the more I train, the better I write. The process for each is so similar. The end result is no end result. As writers or fighters, there is never an end. We will die as we live, and that is as experiencing or, better yet, desiring another day to improve. Just one more day. One more chance.
And these days, the act of fighting has taken on a deeper importance. The truth, the distribution of the truth and the exchange of ideas is more important now than it ever has been in my 41 years on this planet. Journalists and writers are risking, at best, reputation and, at worst, their lives to keep our minds fed, and our nation secure.
Existentially, the activity of the fight will always be with fists, but metaphorically, and of the utmost importance, it is our writers that are truly giving themselves up in ways that extend far beyond the ring, mat, or cage.
News and notes
I’ve received quite a few questions on the incident involving Texas high school transgender wrestler and now state champion Mack Beggs (which, by the way, is an awesome wrestling name; see also Chaz, Dallas, Turner and Trevor). His quest to compete as a boy was dismissed this year as the state of Texas forced Mack to wrestle girls since that was his gender at birth.
First off, good on the sport of wrestling for continuing to grow its girls divisions and good on you girls for competing! As with anything, once the women get involved things tend to get better.
But bad, very bad, on you, Texas, for screwing this whole thing up because you have the heebie-jeebies.
According to what I have read, Mack has been on testosterone for more than two years and, again, let’s be clear here folks: HE REQUESTED TO COMPETE AGAINST BOYS. If his request was granted, he would have assuredly had a much more difficult time obtaining a spot in the state tournament, let alone winning his division.
Furthermore, Mack’s season was evidently showered with boos, and the girls he competed against were clearly at a disadvantage. The kid was on testosterone. That’s a banned substance in most professional sports – in the Olympics.
What is it about sex and gender and the roles they play that get us all so hot and bothered? Religion? Abuse? Sugar? Red meat? I mean, I’m asking here.
Let’s all just take a deep breath and relax. Thirty years from now, our kids are going to look back at the ridiculousness of gender identity in politics much like we make fun of our grandparents’ stand on interracial marriage.
Whether it is in bathrooms or on the wrestling mat, the trans community is NOT using this as a platform for perversion or to gain an advantage. I’m willing to bet that if the non-LGBT community were more understanding and less judgmental, we’d learn much more about ourselves.
And just thank the insecure sky friend you worship that you aren’t saddled with the stigma and pain of being born trans. Hopefully in the future that goes away.
On both a lighter and much more enjoyable topic, the great George St. Pierre has officially announced his return to the sport. Often maligned toward the end of his career for his tendency to fight safe and avoid his opponent’s strengths (I know, crazy, right?), he reappears in a new mixed martial arts age. Where drug testing is the norm, Reebok dominates the sponsor space, and his former division (170 pounds) is as brutal as it ever has been.
It sounds like his first fight back will be for the 185-pound belt, as he will face current middle weight champion Michael Bisping. Frankly I hate this fight for many reasons, the most of which is that there is a stable of fighters far more deserving of a crack at that strap.
That said, we are in the age of new ownership. They have a massive debt to manage, and this provides GSP with the easiest avenue to a championship win.
GSP should win that fight, launching Bisping into retirement. But there will be no rest for the Canadian at that point. He should have an extremely angry Cuban and Brazilian, not to mention a certain California model surfer dude, all up in his grill.
The welterweight strap is on the line this Saturday, as the rematch between the two-time Mizzou wrestling All-American Tyron Woodley (16-3) squares knuckles against Stephen Thompson (13-1).
Their last fight was a draw and I expect this one to be no less competitive.
Thompson is the foremost of a new crop of fighters reengaging with combat’s karate lineage. It’s been a fascinating process to watch, as karate at one point was thought to have been completely negated by strong wrestling and heavy hands. However, fighters like Thompson have added takedown defense and modified angles and footwork to meet the needs of the sport and, once again, the traditional martial art of karate is making itself known.
Spring is in the air, guys, and with that comes the hope and possibility of Opening Day. We are now well over 20 years removed from George Petak placing the deciding vote in the construction of Miler Park.
Although completed with a large amount of public financing and handwringing, only the most spoiled of spoilsports would venture out today and exclaim that the investment was not worth it.
From Prince Fielder to Paul McCartney, the city and stage have enjoyed the hell out of that place, and I still contend it is by far one of the best family entertainment values that the area has to offer.
That said, as we roll into another year of the greatest game God ever blessed us with, it is of great civic pride that we should also shine a spotlight on another team and organization that has built itself up to be of great value to the community.
Team Roufusport – Duke Roufus, in particular – has been building his local mixed martial arts program for well over three decades. The team, coaches and facilities are now world-renowned, as fighters from all over the globe make their trek to Milwaukee.
Their roster throughout the years is a who’s who of MMA talent. The team has been crucial in building local fighters like Anthony and Sergio Pettis. It’s played a strong role in the dominance of still-undefeated local wrestling stand out Ben Askren. And it’s applied science to the games of fighters as diverse as Pat Barry, Marcin Held, Rick Glenn and aforementioned current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Duke was even able to provide a fertile pasture for the late arrival of now part-time transplant Phil "CM Punk" Brooks to Milwaukee.
And all of this was done with a very DIY nature that MMA tends to dictate even still today. Duke’s dedication to the area and loyalty to his community should not be discounted; Roufusport could have been placed anywhere.
He probably could have made a lot more money moving the facilities to Florida or Texas, where the weather and economic environment would be much better suited to running a small business. But he kept it here, despite no large public funding or tax payer-supported package that I’m aware of.
And today our city stands as a mecca for martial arts, a destination for fighters of all nationalities and creeds. Additional academies in the area have benefited from the Roufusport name, as well, thus making Milwaukee truly an elite fighting city.
Red Schaefer, Pura Vida, 360 BJJ, there are fantastic places for people to train both professionally and as a hobby. The business is competitive and, after all, we are talking combat sports here. But that said, a tip of the cap to you, Duke. Thanks for keeping it local.
Enjoy the fights!