While I was standing by the sidelines in Jacksonville (see post directly below for the details) I constantly heard people whisper in shock, "Why would anyone do that," after each crushing run or tackle. All I could think was, how could anyone not want to do that?
I stood on the side of the pitch that rainy afternoon, the smell of freshly cut grass- the organic sweetness of Mother Earth manicured and lined for display- filling my nose. The touch line was three steps away. The air was electric with the coming of battle. It reminded me of the time before one of those thick, black summer storms, when all nature's creatures seek shelter and the Earth seems deafeningly still. My legs loosened up on their own. My shoulders tightened in anticipation. I must've thought I was still playing.
As the match drew on, the smacking sounds of flesh colliding with flesh filled the stadium. "Oooohs", "Aaahhs" and gasps went through the crowd after each splendid display of courage, strength or daring. That's about when the people around me began muttering, between cheers and gasps, "Why would anyone want to do that?"
I can't say for sure. And what I enjoy about rugby doesn't hold true for each man or woman that enters into violent contests. For me, I enjoy the test. I want to see if I can do it. I want to see if I have what it takes in a realm where other people are also asking themselves the same questions and setting out to prove it. For me, it's a personal search, nothing more.
I have never enjoyed being in a street fight. I hate losing my temper. But I enjoy contests with rules that can be just as violent. Rugby is the best team sport I've ever played. Skin to skin, bone to bone, fitness level to fitness level, technique to technique, I enjoy seeing if my team and myself have put in what it takes to win. I enjoy the camaraderie of the game- it's amazing how personal (even intimate) contests become when opponents and comrades are not separated by equipment, helmets or nets. The bonds one forms on the pitch are the strongest I have ever been a part of in team sports.
I do not enjoy violence per se (although tackling a man cleanly- feeling the power rifle down your entire body from your shoulder to your toes- and standing over him is not without its adrenaline induced pleasure) but I do enjoy the kinetic chess of violent contests. Can I remain proactive and not panic when I'm about to be hit as hard as someone can hit me? Can I get up again? Do I want to? Can I play hurt when others would quit? Can I perform under pressure? Can I win?
This is what I enjoy about rugby. This is what I enjoy about MMA. This is what I enjoy about surfing waves that I'm not entirely sure I can handle.
My MMA school moved to Savannah. There hasn't been a decent swell in two months. It's rugby season and, to be entirely honest, I miss those guys. So, yesterday I put my boots on again, jogging happily out into the fray. I might get hurt, but maybe that's what's supposed to happen when we are truly enjoying life. I could get hurt walking my dog too.
I'm not getting any younger. I'm going to be 33 in a little over a month. For now, I want to take my philosophies out into the yard. I want to nurture my animal side so I can better understand myself. Such things will evolve as I evolve, but my need to understand is why I need to take risks. I look forward to the day when my life revolves around surfing, jiu-jitsu, family, friends and my writing. For now, while I can, I'll take flesh to flesh, bone to bone, fitness level to fitness level, technique to technique on the poetry that is a rugby pitch.
It's simple, in that complicated sort of way.