Fighting as Storytelling

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Photo via Showtime Boxing

I’ve been watching lots of fights lately. Boxing, UFC, and even the bare-knuckle stuff (which I enjoy, but also can’t believe it’s legal). People often ask me why an intelligent, literate dude like me enjoys watching people beat the crap out of each other. They say my love of combat sports runs in contradiction to my personality. An easy answer would be to simply say people are full of contradictions, and then just put it to bed, but this is a blog, so let’s dig a little deeper.

I’m both a storytelling enthusiast and a storyteller myself.

A fight is the oldest and most primal type of story there is.

Before I dive into this further, I want to clarify a couple of things. First, I’m not a meathead. I don’t fancy myself a tough guy, by any means. Second, I think fighting outside of a sanctioned, sporting event is almost always foolish and unnecessary.

With that out of the way, what is a fight, really?

Two combatants who want the same thing (a win, sometimes a championship). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

So, what’s a story?

Two characters who want the same thing (a win, usually some form of self-fulfillment). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

Here are some random examples off the top of my head:

In MOANA, the lead character hopes to restore the world to its previously balanced state. The lava monster Te Kā, a heartless shell of the goddess Te Fiti, also wants to balance the world. Their methods are different (much like each fighter has their own style). Moana seeks restoration. Te Kā seeks the eradication of humanity.

In STAR WARS, the rebels and their Jedi allies seek balance to the galaxy. They believe restoring the Republic is the way to do so. The Empire and their Sith allies also seek that balance, but by contrast, they believe domination and the destruction of the Jedi is the key to achieving this goal.

In my book SAINT SADIST, the protagonist sets out on the road, not just to escape an abusive environment, but to become herself. The multiple antagonists she faces aim to mold her into who they believe is the most perfect version of herself. Their methods are abusive and their visions for her are skewed because they aren’t her.

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In a mystery, the criminal wishes to get away with their crime, while the detective hopes to solve the crime. While their goals are different, they, like fighters, aim to outdo the other in their achievement of their goal.

In a romance, the hero and the heroine, are both looking for love. They often find themselves at odds with each other, because their own damage prevents them from seeing how perfectly matched they are. “Love is a battlefield,” as Pat Benatar said, and like fighters with good sportsmanship, the battle ends when the combatants, no matter how bloody, embrace each other.

I could go on and on.

Perhaps, I’m simplifying things, but I don’t think so.

 

 

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