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July 30, 2021


Sports and competition are another overlapping set of complex and competing motivations. Sports/competition can be:

*A way of testing, challenging and bettering oneself.

*A marker for the limits of human capabilities.

*A collective, goal-oriented interaction that lets people feel a part of something.

*Training for leadership and team-building.

*A substitute venue for tribal dominance.

*A spectacle, evoking drama and awe, that people find compelling...

*...which can be packaged as a comodity.

*An opportunity for gambling.

Any particular sport or competition can end up dealing with a mix of these things, depending on the nature of the activity.

I've been thinking a lot about ultramarathoning because it is one of the few contests in which, at the upper extreme, a particular female physiology has a competitive advantage and those who have that physiology are starting to exercise that advantage. But given that the sport is small and the courses are remote and the competitions are long and not particularly varied in their moments, it's not high on the list of candidates for big media contracts and has a very small societal footprint.

We talk a lot about the value of sports for building character, but the organization of how sports get done on a large, collective scale prioritizes records and "eliteness" and spectacle, and commodification over character building.

I find myself less and less drawn to sports beyond the two things I listed first.

(I have a lot of thoughts about the martial arts/sports side of things, too, but those really don't lend themselves to wider discussion, so I'll hold off on them, even if I did enjoy reading your deeper thoughts here, lj.)

* a way to earn bragging rights

* a way to earn bragging rights

Yes. Dominance, but not necessarily tribal.

So much of this is also mixed in with our views of animal behavior and of masculinity, and we dance between both in our attempts to police what is "nature" and "natural."

-5 minute matches (4 mins for women)

Linking back to our conversation on the other thread, one might ask: Why? Why the difference?

* a way to earn bragging rights

Possibly connected:

* a way to attract sexual partners.

As the famously gawky, not necessarily conventionally attractive Peter Crouch answered, when asked what he would have been if he hadn't been a footballer, he replied:

"A virgin"

Linking back to our conversation on the other thread, one might ask: Why? Why the difference?

I can't say for certain, but here is another interesting tidbit. When women's judo was added to the Olympics as a demonstration sport in 1988, the Japanese women got trounced. Out of a total of 28 possible medals, Japanese only took 5 (1 gold/1 silver/3 bronze). When it became a regular sport in 1992, it was again 5 medals, but worse because there were no gold medals (2 slivers/3 bronze)

This led to a societal gnashing of teeth and pushing up Ryoko Tamura as the wonder girl. Previously, Kaori Yamaguchi was world champion, so it wasn't like there were no competitive female judoka, but for Japan not to sweep was a national tragedy. (I see the same thing for England and soccer)

I'm not sure what the deliberations were, but I believe that the Japanese had a large say in how these competitions were set up, so it would just be 'natural' that women would have a shorter time than men.

I don't think China is into the whole transgender thing. But they are into winning.

A Chinese womens relay team.

Pick the item that isn't like the others...

More thoughts related to nous observation about ultra-marathons. One of the problems/challenges is that in most sports (thinking about the entire range of sports), there are women who could participate at the top level. This article is related

The problem is that if they were to participate in a unisex competition, there would be so few of them that it would be difficult for them to create the kind of social atmosphere that would be needed as identifed by these suggestions by nous (edited)
*A way of testing, challenging and bettering oneself.
*A collective, goal-oriented interaction that lets people feel a part of something.
*Training for leadership and team-building.

Take those out of the mix of what a sport is and the sport itself is crippled.

It's interesting that you have similar problems with elite military groups, firefighting and police. For both of those, women have abilities that may be important additions to the mix. But if they can't develop the social framework within such endeavors, it actually could detract from what they are trying to do. There has been progress, but it seems like a parallel.

Yes Charles, China is very concerned about sporting success to validate their national identity, just like East Germany and the Soviet Union, so it is possible. But an unsourced photo seems to be more indicative of homophobia on your part than some meaningful contribution to the conversation.

Here's a bit more detail

And looking at the source
I wonder if you think this is the sort of resource that is actually interested in presenting nuanced understandings. I think you could do better.

But an unsourced photo seems to be more indicative of homophobia on your part than some meaningful contribution to the conversation.

Who said anything about gay people.

I would guess that Yang is female though she looks a bit masculine in some of the images.

Oftentimes, it is not what you say, but what you don't say. Is there any reason why you just shared the picture and not the article that went with it? You've acknowledged that you can be too brief, I think this is one of those times.

But that would run counter to the spirit of shitposting.

"in most sports (thinking about the entire range of sports), there are women who could participate at the top level."

Since the OP is "Competition from a Japanese Perspective", that leads to thoughts of Sumo wrestling.

No way are women going to break into Sumo, although they might be able to handle the horrible health consequences a *bit* better, I'd bet that the overall reaction by fans is DO NOT WANT.

Am I despicable for even bring it up? Of course.


5'7", 98 kilos

Actually, when he started, he was 5'3" and a doctor injected silcone into his scalp.


The bigger problem is that women are not allowed in the dojo because they are unpure.

I've been thinking about this topic a bit, and decided to come at the question of competition not from the sex/gender angle, but from a rules angle - how do the rules of the sport influence what qualities an athlete must have to succeed.

For the sake of de-centering sex/gender, let's consider something like fencing. Fencing has been in the news a bit this Olympics due to a recent rules change in the sport: the "Unwillingness to Fight" rule that penalizes fencers who do not engage: https://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/new-unwillingness-to-fight-rule-in-fencing/
One minute of tactical assessment without attacking and fencers get penalized.

This change will change the sport. It will push competitors to attack more and to defend and counter less. It will put pressure on a tactical approach aimed at drawing out an opponent and trying to provoke a series of attacks to set up a counter. It will privilege explosiveness and/or reach over control of distance. This adds to the drama and spectacle, but it also takes the sport farther from its historical roots in combat. It's even more a sport now and less a martial art.

Likewise in fencing and in other martial arts, how the contest is scored matters. If the contest is predicated on the idea of symbolic killing or wounding, then points get awarded for touching the opponent or performing recognized forms of attack. Does the sport also give points for escapes and reversals? Do those actions count as much as an attack? Again, this changes the nature of success and the kinds of skills that get rewarded.

How big is the field of "combat?" Is it linear like a fencing piste or circular like a wrestling mat? Does overcoming an opponent require great strength, as in wrestling, or is it a weapon sport that operates under the idea that the weapon can be wielded with deadly purpose even without greater strength?

Historical fencing generally takes place in an open space with greater latitude of movement and the competitors do not race to get a strike in first, but to get a strike in "cleanly" - it only scores if you can strike a significant target with your weapon and disengage without being struck in return.

I've sparred with padded knives before, and also with "shock knives" that deliver a non-dangerous, but unpleasant shock when you are "cut." Switching from the training knife to the shock knife quickly turns that sparring into a defensive contest.

One last permutation for thought. In our eskrima classes we used to do a drill where one person would start in a corner and be attacked by multiple opponents. The "room" was limited in size and could contain obstacles that limited the ways that one could attack or defend. There was a single exit on the far side of the "room" behind the attackers. It was the defender's job to escape the room with the fewest injuries they could manage. It might take place unarmed, or armed (empty hand, training knife, padded stick/blade) - differentially or similarly armed. If that were to be turned into a sport, how would it be scored? What would the "field" look like? What sorts of strikes would be allowed? Would there be a time limit? How would these rules decisions affect whehter it could be sex/gender neutral and still remain "fair?"

Put a 200-lb weight limit on American football players and get rid of all illegal formation penalties and restrictions on who can catch or carry the ball. What would that look like?

Sledging, at least in the modern game, is of Australian rather than English origin.

Nigel, that's interesting and I am no cricket historian, but in that wikipedia article, it has this

Despite the relatively recent coining of the term, the practice is as old as cricket itself, with historical accounts of witty banter between players being quite common. W. G. Grace and his brother E. M. were noted throughout their careers for being "noisy and boisterous" on the field. W. G. admitted that they used to "chaff" (i.e., tease) opponents, and this is seen as part of the gamesmanship for which E. M. and W. G. were always controversial.

Aussies did seem to sharpen it and they take a bit of joy in being exponents of it

This is from theSun, so take it with a grain of salt but

Maxibon's research revealed hitting a six was the most exciting element of cricket.

But a fifth of fans said watching the players sledging each other was their favourite part.

That reflects life off the cricket pitch with over half that were polled admitting to regularly joking around with friends and family.

The banter isn't avoided in the workplace either showing it's not just the cricketers who like to get digs in at their colleagues.

This seems to parallel another bit of cricket history, which is the infamous bodyline bowling.


You get, on the sports field, the whole stench of colonialism, where the mother country pulls some shit and then is shocked that it gets called on it. But a lot of people (I think) believe it was the Aussies that did it as opposed to the English.

I read (and laughed) a lot at sledges I had read, but my view changed quite a bit when I learned the back story of one famous sledge

Glenn McGrath v Ramnaresh Sarwan
After Glen McGrath’s wife Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer, Australia were hosting a Test against the Windies.

The circumstances didn’t deter McGrath from verbally tormenting Sarwan at the crease, however:

“Sarwan, what does Brian Lara’s d**k taste like?” the Aussie asked. “Why don’t you ask your wife?” Sarwan responded.

“If you ever mention my wife again I’ll rip your f**king throat out,” McGrath threw back. Both players looked like A1-class idiots.

A longer story

You would imagine that because the toxicity of the sledge has become known, people might take it off the list, or at least give the background. But I don't think that is the case, it is often pulled up as one of the 'greatests sledges ever!' and often stopping at what Sarwan says.

Put a 200-lb weight limit on American football players and get rid of all illegal formation penalties and restrictions on who can catch or carry the ball. What would that look like?


Australian Rules Football?

Wrong and wrong. Still set downs with a line of scrimmage, overhand forward passing, no kicking except on special teams, etc., etc., etc.

Put a 200-lb weight limit


Re: football, initially it would look mostly like current football because no one will have any experience playing under the new rules. Sacks would be reduced because every blocker that gets beat becomes a safety valve receiver, so defenders would have to mark them. It would be faster, in that every player on the field will be sub 5.0 40-yard dash speed.

A book I read some years ago and some of whose crucial ideas seem somehow relevant, at least with respect to the ways cultural philosophy can be expressed in the choices of how a sport is played and governed, is E. Digby Baltzell's _Sporting Gentlemen_. It's a history of tennis, and the most salient point Baltzell makes was that until the rise of professional tennis, the point of the game was that it was a contest both against another and against oneself: e.g. you generally called out in or in for balls on your side of the court, and making the painful calls that fell against yourself correctly was part of the contest -- it wasn't worth giving yourself the lie in order to win. Playing fields of Eton and all that. Despite my love of all the traditional American team sports, it pained me for many years to see that the assumption the players were expected to make was that, if you get away with it, it isn't cheating. The point is to win. I recognize the classism that is the foundation of what Baltzell is talking about: those who don't have to play for money can afford to lose, or be willing to lose, in a way that professionals can't. But I still wish I lived in a world where sportsmanship was better treasured. (Pace Jack Nicklaus, Arthur Ashe, etc. etc.)

Jake's comment reminds me of Huizinga" Homo Ludens


I could not find an electronic text, but *cough*library genesis*cough* It might be right
in the wheelhouse of some folks here.

nous, I'm wondering, with escrima, is there any kind of ranking system? And are there any tournaments? (I don't believe there are, but I'd be very interested in how they establish credentials)

Fair point about WG Grace and the long history of banter, lj.
But in the modern game sledging definitely came in the 1970s, as I'm old enough to recall the (quite possibly confected) outrage that the Aussies provoked at the time.

And WG himself was an outlier in just about every respect - and pretty well single handedly responsible for the existence of the game as a national sport.

Some of those links, lj....
...After a number of holds by the Japanese, including kesa-gatame, sankaku-jime and do-jime, the Brazilian looked unable to breathe under Kimura, but he persevered until he tried to switch position by pushing with his arm. At that moment, Kimura seized the limb and executed gyaku-ude-garami. Hélio did not surrender, and Kimura rotated the arm until it broke. As Gracie still refused to give up, Masahiko twisted the arm further and broke it again. Finally, when the judoka was about to twist it a third time, Gracie's corner threw the towel, and Kimura was declared winner....

Hey all you sporty types, can we also have a new Open Thread? I just had to go through several pages of Different Skill Sets to check what the latest comment was....

nous, I'm wondering, with escrima, is there any kind of ranking system? And are there any tournaments? (I don't believe there are, but I'd be very interested in how they establish credentials)

I really don't have a lot of experience with either of these topics. All my training was old school. I trained in the garage of the person who had inherited a personal system (third generation direct descent from a WWII bolo man commando. We had levels for training, but no rank system per se. Those who were motivated could push to "graduate" and test on the entire system, otherwise it was just showing up and praciticing. The only tournament we ever had was with students of another old school instructor who had known the founder, and it was organized mostly to get some cross-training in with people who fought in a different style.

The people I trained with were adamant that arnis/eskrima was a sword art and that those who trained as if it was "stickfighting" had lost the soul of the art. What we did was much closer to the sort of fencing you see described in the Spanish sword manuals from the 1600s, modified for use with agricultural blades.

I know that there has been a concerted effort in the Philippines to try to make Arnis/Eskrima/Kali a national martial art on the model of Tae Kwon Do for Korea, and a push for more standardization, but this is mostly the work of the last 40 years or so.

And like TKD, there is a tension between the schools that grew in the Philippines and the ones that are Filipino-American. It's the latter that ended up becoming an integral part of the whole Bruce Lee/Jeet Kune Do training through Guro Dan Inosanto.

That last paragraph, the comparison is between Eskrima in the Philippines and TKD in Korea, and the transplanting of those arts via a combination of immigration and of military veterans returning from service at US bases in those countries.

you generally called out in or in for balls on your side of the court, and making the painful calls that fell against yourself correctly was part of the contest -- it wasn't worth giving yourself the lie in order to win.

Not an entirely dead approach. In my youth, I was involved for some years in a historical recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism. One of its activities involves combat with (wooden!) broadswords. Blows are counted (would that be sufficient to cause injury? would that be sufficient to be fatal?) by the person struck.

Nobody ever gets to say "I won." Just "I lost." While there are social sanctions against someone who fails to acknowledge blows, the results of tournaments remain. And it works. Perhaps due, in part, to the lack of monetary rewards. But then, I know lots of people who do things entirely for non-monetary rewards.

wj - the SCA mindset is still a large part of the Historical European Martial Arts community, even though the techniques of the combat have shifted a great deal due to historical work and cross-pollination with other weapon martial arts.

I've been dabbling in German longsword training since I left my eskrima group. There's a lot of overlap in the technique and footwork. It's easier for me to pick up than is the sword and board fighting that reverses the stance (though sword and buckler is closer, can't hide behind a tiny shield).

sword and buckler is closer, can't hide behind a tiny shield.

In my experience, anyone who assumes he (or she) can hide behind a big shield is going to lose. I've even seen a couple guys try to get ahead with a full size Roman scutum. Didn't work -- actually, counterproductive; too heavy to move quickly.

Large shields are for fights in formation not duelling.

The main thing with a shield is that the footwork usually puts the shield out ahead of the weapon (weak side forward - what I think of as "hiding behind") ahead of the exchange, where fencing and longsword tend to treat the weapon as both attack and defense and put strong side forward more often. Buckler is often weak side forward, but given how easy it is to cut around, the mindset stays more focused on controlling the opponent's blade rather than block-and-counter.

weak side forward - what I think of as "hiding behind"

Ah, misunderstood your terminology.

Ah, misunderstood your terminology.

I wasn't being very clear, so...

The viking sword and shield training I've done, the shield is held in the hand via central crosspiece rather than strapped to the arm and is used edge-on to meet the attack. That gives you about a foot of plywood to go through rather than a half inch, and keeps your vision less obstructed to watch for leg shots or short edge attacks over the top.

Also, wj, given your vintage and location, was that the early SCA when Diana Paxson was still putting things together?

nous, I didn't get involved until about 5 years in (circa 1970). Diana was still actively involved, but not actually running things, From then, I was quite active for a quarter of a century or so.

Mostly the shields were worn strapped across the left (for right handed fighters) forearm, which was held diagonally. When you were looking over the top, the bottom was about waist to hip level -- guarding the head or the thigh required rotation. Hence the inability to literally hide behind it.

Nigel, yes, and a lot of people like to juxtapose that kind of stuff with judo being the 'gentle way'.

There is another post lurking about how judo became Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the Japanese diaspora, but maybe much much later.

Don't know if anyone is still (or ever) interested but I found this apropros


Great kick, but you kicked him too hard!

Spectators who are not aficionados might not appreciate the subtleties of karate. But is that a reason to reject it for the Olympics? After all, can most of us appreciate the nuances of dressage? I sure can't.

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