MMA versus Marathon: Two shades of crazy

Marathon outfit If you practice JiuJitsu for a while, one of the most common questions you’re likely to get is “Why?” — second only to “Is that like Karate?”  Since I don’t have any visible tatoos, I’m over 35, and don’t wear Ed Hardy regularly, this question is usually accompanied by a look and tone that implies that up until that point they thought I was normal, but now am something akin to a strange dog that may or may not be rabid.

Recently, I was asked this during a conversation with a group of collegues after one of them had just finished telling us how they were training for a marathon. Now, they didn’t ask him ‘why’ with furrowed brows and winces. In my opinion, willingly running 26 miles is an equally ‘abnormal’ activity that appeals to only a small subset of the general population. So, why does telling people about training for a marathon elicit, “Wow” and “That’s great.” but training for a JuiJitsu competiton gets, “Really?” and “Is that like Karate?”.

I’ve read a few books and articles that philosophize on ‘Why fighters fight?” . I read Sam Sheridan’s, A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey Through the World of Fighting a while ago. (See my ‘review’). I like his term Gameness – the willingness to push oneself and test the limits of your ability. In a fight, your opponent is trying to reduce that willingness while maintaining his own. It’s a nice theory but not specific to fighting in my opinion — I would imagine that in a marathon your Gameness is similarly eroded by your ‘opponents’; time and distance.

In her column, Bitchslap: A Column About Women and Fighting, Susan Schorn puts a feminine and a much more humorous slant on her response to this question during a visit to the emergency room. I guess I’m lucky that when I tell people I fight that they’re only suspcious about my sanity rather than my sanity and which team I’m playing for.

In the same internet publication, Rory Douglas’ column, Notes From an Amateur Specator at Amatuer Mixed Martial Arts, starts with an article that pokes fun at the inabilty of fighters to articulate their reason for fighting. Now perhaps its unfair expect people to articulate their rationale for doing an activity that they enjoy, when that rationale is best expressed by their performance. They are articulate during that expression in a way that doesn’t necessarily translate into other forms of expression. You wouldn’t ask a writer to express his love for writing in an interpretive dance. Maybe that’s why a lot of interviews with athletes, singers, actors, and even writers can end up sounding like a beauty queen postulating on maps and such. It’s probably why you’re scratching your head as you read this.

Given how frequently I get this question, I should probably have a ready elevator pitch. Instead, I gave the group my rationale on why I like fighting in the context of why it’s preferable alternative to a marathon.

Requires Long Hours of Grueling Training:

Fight: Yes
Marathon: Yes

Potential for bodily harm

Fight: High
Marathon: High (The Runner’s World website has a whole section devoted to injuries)

Odds of Victory :

Fight: 1 in 2
Marathon: (Kenyan nationals) 1 in 20, (All Others) 1 in 44,000+

There you have it. I like to win. I’m not Kenyan. So if I’m putting in the long hours and risking injury, MMA offers an overall greater potential return on my investment.

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