Putrid Modern Hell #23

by HST UK on December 14, 2011

“Nothing was solved when the fight was over, but nothing mattered.”
– ‘Narrator’ Fight Club

When I attended my first UFC Event at London’s 02 Arena late last year, I was taken aback by the thousands of men in the 18-30 age group who had been taken in by the cult of Mixed Martial Arts. Men with Dan Hardy-like red mohawk’s, men with steroid enhanced muscles, men with sleeves of poorly thought out tribal tattoos, men who had reclaimed masculinity from the Metrosexual Marketing Campaign that has long threatened mankind, by turning up unshaven in a black t-shirt and ill-fitting baggy jeans.

It was a proper bro fest.

For those who’ve never been to the 02 Arena, formerly known as the ‘Millennium Dome’, the odd futuristic building houses an indoor multi-purpose stadium surrounded by various eateries, a music history exhibition and a nightclub. Outside the nightclub, was a line of several hundred men and women who had spent hours getting ready for what will basically amount to a dour night of ego bruising and dry humping to ‘toot toot’ ‘beep beep’ repetitive dance music. Those people, waiting outside the club to be scanned by burly door supervisors with metal detectors on the surface appeared vain, and self-obsessed, and they soon turned their noses up at the mass rank of bro’s who walked past at the end of the UFC event, a majority of shark-intense men that’d just sat through six hours of fighting, and were amped up on a vicariously gathered adrenaline kick.

Six months before attending UFC 120 I started training in Martial Arts. One of the main reasons for this was because I realized that my job as a Security Officer could at its worst be quite dangerous. I mean, a couple of years before I got into the Industry a guy doing a Security Job in the Retail Sector was killed in my city, and that incident meant that people within my area now take the risk factor very seriously. So, in order to protect myself and others, and because my company had not provided any basic self-defence training I took classes in Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Wing Chun

To put it succinctly, I wanted to learn how to fight because I didn’t feel much of a man.

This reminded me of the first chunk of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, a popular cautionary tale about the decline of masculinity; Palahniuk intended that Fight Club be the antidote to chick lit. His novel and the David Fincher directed movie adaptation unwittingly predicted a new wave of masculinity, which flew in the face of the rise of the metrosexual. We readers and watchers all wanted to be Tyler Durden, even if that image was something self-created. We aspired to be more dangerous, deadly versions of ourselves; even if that image became a contradictory one.

Fight Club Trailer

The film version of Fight Club, after doing poorly initially at the box office went on to become a cult corporate franchise, and in light of that success and influence – during the last decade, through Mixed Martial Arts we have seen that millions of men around the world are aspiring to attain a fighting lifestyle, keenly reminiscent of Palahniuk’s flawed brotherhood of real men. These practitioners of Mixed Martial Arts proudly show their cauliflowed ears, black eyes and blooded lips; men who desire to fight each other in a cage, and then embrace afterwards in a display of solidarity, and affection for fellow man. I realize there are numerous talent female Martial Arts practitioners around the world, but for the purpose of this piece, they don’t exist.

Lifestyle is a damning word, in Fight Club Palahniuk offers an erratic, clumsy critique of the consumerist society we live in, one which attacks those individuals who lose their identity in favour of buying a series of items and products that they use to create a warped self-image; such as the Narrator who lives through an IKEA catalogue before he encounters Tyler. The UFC, the biggest game in town in MMA, is currently creating a fighting lifestyle, using skilled poster boys like Georges St. Pierre and Jon ‘Bones’ Jones to present the image of a successful fighter as clean cut, conservative and almost military like in their training efficiency, and tactical game planning.

The UFC is also selling video games, clothing, and associating with various other companies to create a new brand of man. The fighting element is becoming almost secondary. To recently get a television deal with FOX certain compromises have had to be made. The negative stereotypes of cage fighting, and those dark early days of the UFC have had to be carefully swept under the carpet.

This secondary element of fighting is crucial, it is packaged violence, unashamedly macho and grotesque, in the UFC the typical reaction from the fans to the spectacle is infantile and offensive to the art of fighting and also to the sport, for example a fighter who stands and bangs with his opponent is strongly favoured, where as a fighter who uses skill and technique to avoid damage and wins cautiously via the judge’s decision is roundly booed and criticised.

Modern man is evolving into a multi-faceted creature complete with an identity crisis. Canoeing along a stream of Liquid Modernity, he moves from job to job, he trains in several martial arts, possibly starting out as a kid in karate classes after watching Mr Miyagi mentor Daniel on the cinema screen and then after stuttering through college, he picks up the baton again in his late teens or twenties, he revels in uncertainty, forever pondering his options, even if those options are flights of fancy or unrealistic expectations.

This man is muddled, even when writing this piece I have no idea what I’m hoping to accomplish. In fact, as I sit typing I’m worrying about getting a new flat, concerned about my work career, and lack of options. I’m concerned about how my abdominal muscles aren’t pronounced enough, and how my hair is beginning to recede. I’m an indecisive frog hopping from one unstable lily pad to the next.

In terms of my current career, I at least think I’m doing a masculine blue collar job. Yes, I know that the soldiers and constructors are manlier; they fight and build for a living. At least I’m no longer one of those customer service advisors who operates in call centres up and down the country, wearing salmon pink shirts, spraying on fragrances and using facial moisturizer, chatting gormlessly on their Blackberrys.

I work in a fake industry, one step down from insurance in terms of scamming the public, I’m really not needed, therefore it makes sense therefore that I have become interested in a lifestyle that can add an extra slice of beef to my curvy, feminine frame; confidence and self-respect are clawed back after the cheese grater of the ten hour shift strips away my identity. Martial Arts has become a religion and a refuge for me; a place underground where I go through a belated rites of passage, finally becoming a man.

-RJW

Previous post:

Next post: