The Merits of a Good Fight: Why Fighting is Healthy.

By Josh Rueff on Oct 25, 2013

I was 10, a bony little urchin covered in dirt, fresh bloody scrapes and a shiny black eye.

My teacher was not amused.

“Fighting is a unacceptable Joshua – it’s foolish, tasteless, BARBARIC – UN-acceptable.”

Two frothy-white flecks of spittle flung from her mouth, and I had a turkey-day moment of pilgrim thankfulness, because they hadn’t splatted on my unsuspecting face, or into my open mouth.

I was still out of breath and panting through bloody lips, my teeth grinding the sandy grit still stuck on my molars.  I wasn’t sure if I’d won or lost, but my teacher seemed to think we’d both lost.

He had some solid points, delivered in a series of rapid-fire rhetoricals:

“What exactly did you accomplish anyway? You’re bruised. Bloody. Your shirt’s ruined. What do you think Joshua? Worth it? Was it?”

I’ve often asked myself that question, because I could never shake the appeal.

So I would like to offer an explanation for those of us who enjoy a good fight. Truth is, I think fighting isn’t just unavoidable. It’s healthy.

It’s natural and essential to our survival and it’s a vital element for living a fulfilling life. 

Why Fighting is Healthy

Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what I mean by fighting. I’m not talking about drunken bar brawls, or picking random fights on the street. There may be merit in those things as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about. When I say fighting, I mean the controlled sport of fighting. MMA, boxing, muay thai, kickboxing, judo, jujitsu, wrestling — these disciplines all represent a form of fighting.

When I talk about fighting, I’m usually thinking MMA style fights, but to each his own.

Back to the merits of fighting.

Socrates said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

This understanding is the foundation of the merits of fighting – pretty much everyone you meet is in a fight, no matter what way you look at it. Spouses are fighting to keep their marriage together. People are fighting to maintain their version of the pursuit of happiness. Some are fighting for recognition in a low-recognition society. Many people are fighting to simply survive.

We’re all in a constant state of decay, a ticking time bomb of atrophy and death. Sounds pessimistic I know, but let’s face reality and  get on with living. (If you believe in an afterlife I suppose you can make the argument that the closer to death you are, the closer you are to eternity.)

Because all things in this world naturally proceed from order to chaos, we are all in a fight of some sort.

Gardens will rot without care. Unattended budgets will collapse. Relationships left alone will decay – they take work!

Everything you have has been fought for, and if you want to hold onto what you have, you need to continue to fight for it.

So every aspect of life involves a good fight of some sort, and every type of fight requires these things:

1. Courage

2. Discipline

3. Self Control

4. Sacrifice

Out of these four items, I think sacrifice is the only one in need of further explanation. When I say sacrifice I’m not talking about a blood drained goat on an alter – I’m referring to the fact that personal gain always requires that we give something up.

If you want a healthier body you have to sacrifice time, effort, and money (gym and/or fuel for energy, that is, food and supplements).

If you want a better marriage, you have to give up time in other areas to pursue your wife or husband.

If you want to learn a new language, you dedicate not only a large chunk of time (and probably money), but a number of brain cells to the task as well.

There’s few things in life that teach us courage, discipline, self control, and sacrifice more than fighting.

Everything you do effects everything else that you do.

A child that learns confidence through sports will have a certain level of muscle memory that can be used later on when confidence needs to be built in another area. The more areas of confidence the child gains, the more able he or she is to quickly gain confidence in other areas.

A note on confidence:

One famous example of confidence comes from the time of the invasion of Philip II of Macedon. According to Plutarch, after the king forced the Greek city-states in submission, he turned his attention to Sparta and sent a message:

“If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.”

According to both accounts, the Spartan ephors sent back a one word reply: “If”

Would the Spartans have been able to display this level of courage if they had not earned it to begin with?

This “overlap” concept can be applied to many disciplines and activities, but fighting holds a higher degree of importance for these reasons:

1. It builds more courage than most activities – getting punched in the face can be scary – it takes a lot of courage to step into the ring, and you earn a landslide of courage when you step out the winner.

2. What task requires more discipline than training for a fight?

3. What sport demands more self control?

4. Sacrificing your personal comfort is a regular part of both training for the fight and the fight itself. 

When Julius Caesar won the Battle of Zela in 47 BC, he sent this message:

“I came. I saw. I conquered.”

There’s a an astounding variety of mindsets and attitudes we can take on life. Modesty and humility are wise virtues, but without the ability to fight and conquer,  who (what) are we?