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bring on brad pitt.
i'm breaking the first rule of fight club.
by matt morin
1.15.03
sports


It's amazing how clear things get when someone's fist is flying at your face.

Four shirtless guys watch from my left. I doubt they expect a good fight. At the same time, I'm wondering how I got here: facing a guy who outweighs me by 30 pounds and plans to beat the shit out of me in this cinder block basement.

But mostly I'm hoping he won't break my nose.

Then suddenly, like a car accident, a fist crashes into my ribs. In a strange way it's somewhat comforting. But only for a moment, because then...

...no wait. Back up. Let me start over here.

I'm your average Joe. Not tall, not short. Could be in better shape, could be worse. I'm not a cop or an ER doctor or some other profession that's exciting enough to merit a TV show. And while I hadn't fully become a slave to the Ikea Nesting Instinct, I do admit to once flipping through a catalog and wondering what kind of dining set defines me as a person. My life was becoming stagnant, like gutter water.

I am Jack's atrophying muscles.

Then, on a Website for activities in San Francisco, I came across this:

Fight Club SF. Trying to generate some more interest here! Last three fight clubs were great, we will be doing it again on December 30th. Please do not respond if you don't intend to show up. Serious inquiries only although questions will be answered happily.

All you need are grappling gloves, a mouth guard and a willingness to fight. Fighters are matched up according to weight. Everyone who shows up must fight. Everyone who shows up must behave themselves; no gloating, no victory dances, no silly comments. Those who are interested should email their height, weight and level of experience.

No Experience necessary.


I was intrigued. No, more than that. Interested. I hadn’t thrown a real punch in more than a decade. But if this was for real, I had to try it. Why? Well, as Brad Pitt famously said, "I don't know why. How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?"

A few e-mails and weeks later, I'm holding a mouth guard as Harry* meets me at the door. He's a small, bald 50 year-old with seemingly 0% body fat. Despite outweighing him by 45 pounds, I note that his handshake suggests he would kick my ass within 10 seconds. Harry started Fight Club SF 11 years ago because it "affords a bunch of men, most of whom have nothing in common except a love of fighting, to get together and be men."

Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club.

I'm introduced to four other guys and instantly feel welcome, which kind of surprises me. I expected this to feel more like a drug deal - a little on edge, a little seedy. Instead, it feels like I've been invited to a friend's house to watch a bowl game. It's evident these guys know each other. They talk about mutual friends and life in general. But mostly they talk about fighting. And it's completely natural. It's like me talking to my friends about the holidays, or how the Lakers suck this year.

Fast forward 30 minutes and we're in a locked basement throwing blows.

I'm standing shirtless and barefoot in a 15'x10' makeshift ring. Walls make up three sides, and the forth side has four ring ropes bolted into the concrete. The floor is covered with padded mats and the walls are covered with fighting posters. Brad Pitt and Ed Norton stare at me.

The rules are simple: Fight until someone gives up or gets knocked out. No low blows, no eye gouging, no biting. Everything else is fair game. I put in my mouthpiece and don grappling gloves (think weightlifting gloves with minor padding on the knuckles). I remind myself that I don't want to die without any scars.

OK, I think this is about where we came in.

I am Jack's insanity.

...the second and third body blows slam into me. I need to do something. I snap off a left that connects with his stomach. It feels good in the way hitting a home run feels good. The next thing I know, I have my opponent around the waist and I’m taking him down to the mat - except he has me in a headlock and is choking off my air. He rolls on top of me, trying to lock his hands. After 30 seconds that seem like hours, I break free. I feebly attempt to lock him up. He pounds his knee into my ribs repeatedly. I'm trying to pry his arm off my neck and get my own arm around his windpipe. Nothing's working. My biceps are burning. All I can do is punch the back of his head and elbow his kidneys. Then he's on top of me again, covering my mouth with one hand, my nose with the other.

Unable to breath, I tap out. It's over.

The entire thing lasted two minutes tops, but I'm spent. My muscles are quivering. I'm gasping for breath. I'm shaking.

I feel like a pussy.

I feel like a stud.

Grabbing a folding chair I watch the next particularly brutal match. It lasts for 15 minutes and one guy’s taking an incredible pounding - massive body blows, sharp shots to the face. I can see the swelling already. But he doesn't give up. And after an unnatural amount of punishment, it's the other guy who concedes, completely spent of energy. I suddenly feel like a fraud knowing I would have given up two minutes in.

The next thing I know, I’m called out for a second fight. While obviously a Fight Club veteran, this guy is smaller than I am. However, five seconds into the match I’m in a headlock, flipping head over heels. It feels like being thrown down a flight of stairs. He rolls me over again but I slip free. Somehow I twist on top and apply a serious choke hold. As he struggles to free himself, the left side of his face opens up. Swing now! My fist connects with a surprisingly solid thwack and he yells out...

There's an interesting thought process that goes through your head when you're fighting. Do something to him, or he'll do something to you. Keep attacking and he can’t attack you.

...so I continue punching over and over - out of aggression or fear I’m not sure. But my arm keeps pulling back as far as it’ll go, then down hard, crashing into the side of his head. Four, five, six in a row. When he finally covers the side of his face I switch to the back of his head. More yelling. I’m throwing punches as fast as I can with my left, my right cranked down hard around his neck. Outside the ring I vaguely hear guys ooohing as I throw more punches. He keeps trying to find a hand position that protects both his face and the back of his head, but when he covers one place, I smash my fist into another.

I am Jack's left hook.

And then he taps out. It’s over.

I feel like I just beat the world.

After a few other guys fight, that’s it. We change back into out regular clothes and go back upstairs to nurse wounds. In all the time Fight Club SF has been around, there's never been an injury more serious than a bruise or a black eye. That was the case this night - no broken skin, no blood, no loose teeth. A day later I have my share of bruises. I admire them in the mirror. They're my trophies.

Other than internal bleeding, the one thing I took away from Fight Club is how much guys who fight respect each other. Not the way you respect a coworker, but the way you respect your buddy from Nam. There were no hard feelings - just the unequaled camaraderie that two guys have after going mano a mano. It reminded me a lot of my football playing days. Every play you tried to hit the ball carrier as hard as you could. You didn't hate (or even dislike) that opposing player. It was just the game. And that's the way it was here. That old saying about hurting the one you love? Well, it works both ways.

The friends I told in advance all suggested I was crazy, at best, to try Fight Club. But it did what I needed it to do - shake things up a bit and push me a little farther outside my comfort zone. And for those of you who still can't believe I did it? Just know this: You've met me at a very strange time in my life.


ABOUT MATT MORIN

Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.

more about matt morin

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

a swinging good time
how i learned to fly
by matt morin
topic: sports
published: 11.17.03


a pro prospect
i don't want to be an athlete, just act like one.
by matt morin
topic: sports
published: 8.28.02





COMMENTS

jack bradley
1.15.03 @ 12:39a

Holy shit.

I mean that. Holy. Shit.


(And I found the repeated use of my name a bit disturbing here...just as I did when watching the movie...)


heath kraynak
1.15.03 @ 1:24a

OK Matt, is this like your AIDS piece. Are you having us on?

My friend went to see the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Vegas. Maybe you can work your way up.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 1:27a

No joke this time. I really fought two times.

I haven't developed them yet, but there are pictures of the damage.

robert melos
1.15.03 @ 1:50a

Matt, I respect the curiosity in you that drove you to this experience. I would question your sanity, but then I'm a pacifist. I'm also a chicken when it comes to fighting, so I don't really understand the desire in human beings to fight in this manner. That's why a gun is my weapon of choice.

Just don't get killed in your process of self-dicsovery. Other than that, have fun, go kick some ass, and make sure you have good medical coverage.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 2:25a

Honestly Robert, I think the desire to fight is the same desire people have to compete at anything - it's the desire to go up against another person, match your skills, and see if you come out on top.

At its essence, it's no different than platform diving, the World Championships of Poker, or a serious game of Scrabble.

hank trout
1.15.03 @ 3:55a

Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club SF! I am "Harry" from Matt's article. As a fellow writer, as well as a fellow fighter, I must say, Matt nailed this one - the camaraderie, the need to compete in some physical way, the safety and sanity of it all (despite what others may fear), the freedom to shed those 9-to-5 expectations and shackles; the intense release of primal man2man sanity. I am Jack's pent-up bile. Fight Club SF keeps us all sane. Pics will be posted soon!

michelle von euw
1.15.03 @ 9:20a

What's the first rule of Fight Club?

sarah ficke
1.15.03 @ 9:25a

Wow.

That's not the first rule of Fight Club, just my reaction.

[edited]

erik myers
1.15.03 @ 9:33a

The first rule of Fight Club is: THERE IS NO BRAD PITT!

adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 10:07a

And yet I still want to punch Matt in the throat.

russ carr
1.15.03 @ 10:11a

Matt, you really are as stupid as you look. And really damned lucky. "Other than internal bleeding," he says. It's all in good fun 'til someone ruptures his spleen after week upon week of knuckle-borne abuse.

That said -- I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous. The visceral thrill of hammering someone (albeit psychologically lessened somewhat by the realization that they've agreed to be pummelled) is an insatiable temptation. Someone cut you off in traffic? Boss being an asshole? Work out your frustrations the way you really want to -- with carnal violence!

brian anderson
1.15.03 @ 10:11a

Matt, kudos to you for going through it. I don't know if I'd have the guts.

I have to admit that I had an emotional reaction to this column -- which, of course, is part of the point of both writing and the Fight Club idea. However, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the use of the name/concept "Fight Club." To me, the point of Palahniuk's book -- and the film -- was that FC was the destructive symptom of a culture that doesn't allow visceral feeling and experience in other contexts. The use of violence against others/selves to achieve that end seems far from the best option, and sits uneasily with me (as do military re-enacters who want all the fun of war without having to deal with the actual consequences).

Did you feel that there were any less violent options -- Zen meditation, martial arts, rock climbing -- that might also come close to the visceral feeling of FC? Have you ever experienced the same feeling from a barroom brawl?

(Oh, and my emotional reaction? What Russ said.)

[edited]

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 11:25a

I'm really interested in why people see this as different from...say...playing tackle football in the park, like Joe once wrote about?

In one, you're slamming body into body into the ground at high speed with absolutely no padding or protection.

In the other, we had some hand protection, mouthguards, a padded ring, and medical supplies on hand.

So why the emotional and dangerous reaction to fighting and not to football? Is it all because of the social stigma of fighting? Would you have had a different reaction if I said I was taking a boxing class at the YMCA?

sarah ficke
1.15.03 @ 11:36a

I think the difference is that in football your ultimate goal isn't to knock the other guy out, it's to score a goal. Violence in sports like football, soccer, and ice hockey, seems more acceptable because there is a pretext for it.

mike julianelle
1.15.03 @ 11:49a

"Is that your blood?"
"Some of it."

Big props to Matt, and Harry. The first rule of Fight Club is: Do NOT talk about Fight Club.

I definitely understand the urge to do something like that, I mean, Fight Club didn't speak to me, but it certainly makes a lot of sense to me, and was dead on with a lot of its points. Maybe their are other outlets, but, while I'm not totally at ease with the football/fight club comparison, it's close enough for me to be okay with it. No hard feelings, no major injuries, and everyone gets their ya-ya's out. It's all good.

But, I suspect Matt may not have done FC if not for IM. Was this all for the article, Matt? Would you have done it anyway?



brian anderson
1.15.03 @ 11:53a

Good points both, Sarah and Matt, and ones that I've been mulling over myself. Why *should* I have this reaction? Certainly padded and in a safe environment, this sounds more like a boxing class or a judo match than anything else.

However, even in violent sports, "particularly brutal" and "an unnatural amount of punishment" are not phrases that get bandied about -- if it ever gets to that point, the game is stopped. American college and professional football players wear pads not because they're any less tough than rugby players but because it became traditional after several players died in the early 1900s.

In general, I have the same reaction to boxing as I did to this column. Which hasn't stopped me from considering trying it (boxing) in a safe environment. But once you know you're in a safe environment, it comes back to Russ's point: doesn't that take away from the experience? Why this instead of aikido?

[edited]

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 11:57a

Well, my first thought was, "Hey, I'll do a story on it." But when I read that everyone who shows up must fight, I figured why not? I mean, I'm one of those people who will try just about anything at least once. I find that by doing that, you change a lot of preconceived notions. And the Fight Club people seemed like good guys doing it for the right reasons (i.e. - not to injure anyone, but because they love fighting).

michelle von euw
1.15.03 @ 11:59a

So, no one bit. The first rule of Fight Club is: Do not talk about Fight Club. Since it appears that Matt has only one experience with SF Fight Club, I'm willing to overlook his breaking of this rule. But since we are lucky enough to have Hank here, founder of SFFC, I'll direct my question to him: according to Palahniuk & Fincher's visions of Fight Club, secrecy was a major piece of the concept. Have you always been open about Fight Club, or only since 1999, or 1996, when the movie/book gave people an entry into this world?

michelle von euw
1.15.03 @ 12:00p

heh. That's what I get for taking so long to write my posts. Thanks, Mike.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 12:03p

Brian, to your point: Sure, I could have gone and taken an Aikido class instead of this. But what I liked about this was the freedom - no set moves, no one telling you what to do and no cost (this is 100% free). I just climbed in the ring with a guy way bigger than I was and started throwing punches.

As far as being in a safe environment, well, the point isn't to be dangerous. The point is to fight. The two can be mutually exclusive.

heather millen
1.15.03 @ 12:04p

The friends I told in advance all suggested I was crazy, at best, to try Fight Club.

That was my reaction beforehand...and I still think you're crazy. I also don't understand the little piece of the male mind that drives an event like fight club.

But great column.

[edited]

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 12:06p

Michelle, I can answer that question for you. (Although if Hank's still around, he can definitely add to it). Fight Club SF started 11 years ago - long before the book. Mostly the club gets its members from word of mouth, but occasionally they post a message on different activity boards - that's where I found out about it.

They still kinda lay low, but there's not the total secrecy like in the movie.

mike julianelle
1.15.03 @ 12:09p

I am not one to go looking for brawls, but that line in the movie, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?" rings pretty damn true to me. In order to know your limits, you need to test them. I wouldn't have pegged Matt for one to actually do it (Mr. Black-and-White, but I definitely gained some respect for him because of it. Ballsy.

So, if you're keeping score, Matt is now almost on the plus side of my "Total Joke/Worthy human being" respect scale.

emily rhoads
1.15.03 @ 12:17p

Matt, I hereby take back that female companionship crack I made about you last week.

I'll go ahead and admit that as a woman, I'm glad this goes on in the world. You live in San Francisco for awhile, and you start to wonder if any real men are left. They all have too many hair products and know how to make creme brulee.



lee anne ramsey
1.15.03 @ 12:39p

I'm in Heather's camp. I could barely stand to read this. I hate violence in movies, nevermind the thought of one of my friends kicking the shit out of/ getting their shit kicked...

Emily, I don't know where you live in SF but there are many men in the city who refuse to use hair products.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 12:56p

Then back to my original question - how is this different from football (which, Lee Anne, I'm sure you watch on TV), or boxing or rugby, etc?

And I'm not talking superficially. I'm talking at a base level. Those have concussions, broken bones, plenty of blood, torn muscles and ligaments, lifelong injuries. As I said in the column, Fight Club has never had anything worse than bruises.

So why the strong negative reaction to fighting?

heather millen
1.15.03 @ 1:01p

Lee Anne, I definately flinched a couple times. The same way I flinch at excessive fight scenes in movies or detailed war depictions.

And I think Brian made a valid point stating that in the book/movie, FC was a symptom of a culture gone awry, a misguided exertion of emotion. And yet here (and among many males) it is depicted as a healthy male desire.

I think it is different from typical sports. What Hank cites as "the intense release of primal man2man sanity" is what sets it apart and makes it much more than just competition.

sarah ficke
1.15.03 @ 1:02p

I think people have a strong negative reaction to fighting because so often we see it as motivated by hatred. I know that most of the time when I want to kick the shit out of people it's because I'm pissed off, not because I like the act of fighting. The concept of fighting for fun - not "boxing" or "wrestling", just fighting - takes some getting used to.

adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 1:04p

I think the point is that in this case the violence is the end in itself, rather than the means. Even in boxing, there are judges awarding points to the fighters.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 1:08p

Sarah wins the prize. We've always been taught that fighting = hatred. But that's not always the case.

And Adam, the violence isn't an end. It's the competition that's the ends here. No, we don't have judges giving artifical scores. The fighters themselves determine who wins and who loses by their ability to quit any time they want.

heather millen
1.15.03 @ 1:12p

Oh, I don’t think hatred is always the case. My assertion against it here (and in the movie) is that it’s some inane preoccupation with the dominant male psyche; the male mind in its natural and neanderthalic state.

[edited]

adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 1:13p

What I'm saying is that the violence is the point. Otherwise it would be "chess club."

brian anderson
1.15.03 @ 1:18p

Heather brings up some interesting thoughts in the realm of male gender bias towards violence, but I'm going to stick close to the topic and not address them right now.

The more I think about it, the better I understand Matt's point-of-view, here.

However, I also get the feeling that one of the reasons a Fight Club appeals to the participants is because the fighting is looked down upon by society. It seems some of the thrill is from doing something discouraged as well as the adrenaline and freedom itself. Matt, does that come into play for you?

[edited]

jael mchenry
1.15.03 @ 1:44p

Ooh, Brian makes a good point. This has a certain illicit appeal. Wonder how many girlfight clubs are out there? I'd give it a try.

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 1:49p

Well, admittedly I love learning about underground, fringe stuff that most people don't know about. I find it fascinating. So there was that aspect to it. I don't know if it's the illicit appeal so much as it is that discovery of something I never knew even existed. But yeah, that's there.

tracey kelley
1.15.03 @ 1:54p

Jello, baby! Sparkling lime jello!

heather millen
1.15.03 @ 1:54p

And for that I give kudos.

I, for one, completely appreciate and embrace anything that is considered outside the expected norm. And I understand the thrill of being a part of such things. It's just the mindset that goes behind this particular situation where I lack the ability to completely identify.

[edited]

tracey kelley
1.15.03 @ 2:01p

That being said, I have no real desire to fight anyone.

But I've bitch-slapped a few. Mostly men.

ian ferguson
1.15.03 @ 2:07p

Matt, great piece. Everyone else, I like the discussion.

I'm one of the guys from the long and torturous 15-minute fight. I made it to my first fight club after my room mate saw an ad for it on craigslist. He forwarded me the ad as a joke, but, as a few people said, if it's there I've got to try it.

I'm 22, just out of college, and stuck in a cubicle all day. All in all, I'm a very happy individual...I like my job (though not my cubicle), I love the place I live, I'm very active, and I love my friends.

I've done zen meditation for years, I backpack regularly and commune with nature, I climb (heavily...it's basically an addiction), and I've never found anything quite like fighting.

The beauty of Fight Club SF isn't the competition...it's that we can fight, and fight to win, with absolutely nothing to lose: we don't have anything to prove; there is no shame in losing; there is no prize; there is no loser, no winner, no gloating.

We fight because we can, for the pure, unobstructed release of it; for the comraderie; for the personal satisfaction. Simply to let off steam. And in that, it is a beautiful thing.

That being said, there is another fight next monday or wednesday evening, yet to be decided. Any serious inquiries should contact us.

[edited]

[edited]

heather millen
1.15.03 @ 2:10p

So, Matt, will you go back?

hank trout
1.15.03 @ 2:12p

(to continue...)
No one is being "violated"; no one is being forced or even urged to do anything he doesn't want to do. It's very rough, it's very physical, it's very primal, and it can look downright ugly some times - but it is NOT "violence."
Finally, my thanks to Matt for such a great article. Matt and I are both writers as well as fighters - I admire his skill at both.

[edited]

ian ferguson
1.15.03 @ 2:14p

Hank, I agree. That pretty much sums it up.


matt morin
1.15.03 @ 3:31p

I had to look it up, but:

Violence, n. 1. Swift and great force causing damage or injury. 2. Great force, as of feeling. 3. Damage or injury. 4. Rough, brutal force.

So I guess Fight Club does kinda fit the definition of violence. (Although it depends on what you consider "injury" too. Some people wouldn't consider a bruise an injury.)

But back to Sarah's point, there's definitely no hatred involved.

To Heather's question about why I did it? Well, it's interesting to know your limits. I find some satisfaction in the fact that I could do this and fare decently. I think it's the same satisfaction that someone who runs a marathon for the first time has.

adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 3:46p

I got into a fight with my little brother this past summer. It's the first time we've actually ever taken swings at each other, and the first punch I've personally thrown in probably 20 years. And I have to admit, it felt good (though some of that was probably that he's just been asking for it for a long time).
But I don't know that I would have to bruise myself regularly in order to feel "alive" or even to prove anything to myself. I'm doing enough damage to my liver on a weekly basis; I don't need to additionally damage other internal organs or bruise my windpipe or jar my brain around a lot.

lee anne ramsey
1.15.03 @ 4:02p

Okay, I know I'm the dissenting voice here and I'm going to get a lot of flack for saying this... but I cannot help myself.

It feels almost as if Fight Club is interesting simply because it goes against what we agree in a civilized society as being "acceptable." Yes, there is fighting in a civilized society (war, for example) but usually it is for a reason. The fight clubbers seem to revel in the fact that they are fighting without a real reason - without malice for the person they are fighting. They fight because they can, for the comraderie (eyebrow raise here), and for the adrenaline rush.

I'm sorry, but this just makes my stomach turn.

Matt, it's a great piece for sure. Well-written and inspires thought, commentary, and discussion. Kudos for writing it. But you never answered the question if you're going to go back.

erich richter
1.15.03 @ 4:07p

Violence isn't necessarily defined by the use of force, the term implies impropriety at some level so I don't agree that fighting for sport is in itself a symptom of a culture gone awry. People didn't just recently acquire the desire to fight and nature has very definitely built us a body and a will for it. In my Darwinian view of the world this is not unnatural but defining it in rational terms it's equivalent to having a philosphical conversation with a hard-on.

It's about confronting what we are. I think most people reject and bury this baser part of themselves, allowing it to manifest itself in unexpected and uncontrolled ways, usually at someone else's expense. What is most important is to exercise the instinct in a manner which teaches both self-respect and humility. I shudder when I think of the artificial constructs in our culture which fail to provide reasonable bondaries for the ego*. By my definition those behaviors are a form of violence too but it doesn't seem to get people's ire up nearly as much as fighting.

I spot peoples' strengths and weaknesses much faster than I used to, and I am not refering to just big arms or a skinny neck. In a fight it's just me and him. There is no-one to back me up, no rules to fall back on. And whether I win or lose I learn something about both of us that could only reveal itself under rare circumstances.

* See: Ally McBeal, divorce, litigation, parking


[edited]

matt morin
1.15.03 @ 4:11p

For me a lot of it was for the personal competition. Personally, I saw it a lot like the AIDS Ride - can I make my body do something I'm not sure I can really do. Whether it's bike 575 miles or beat a guy in a fight, it's the same.

I enjoy being in situations that are a little scary, where I don't know the outcome, and where I have the opportunity to push myself. That's definitely what this was for me.

Will I go back? Well, we'll see. There's another one on Monday that I can't make. And I'm out of town a lot through mid-Feb. After that? I guess I'll see if I'm up for another one or not.

mike julianelle
1.15.03 @ 5:19p

It feels almost as if Fight Club is interesting simply because it goes against what we agree in a civilized society as being "acceptable."

I think this is true, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it if it is. That is a valid reason to do fight club, especially since you only hurt people who want to get hurt.

I don't fight, but I've scuffled, and while I am not a big pro-violence guy, I think fighting in a fight club way is a-ok. I think it's got benefits, as Hank and Ian and others have said. Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction...

adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 5:36p

Violence isn't necessarily defined by the use of force, the term implies impropriety at some level...

Ummm...actually, it is defined by use of force - specifically in the dictionary. Websters says: physical force designed to injure. Now, I do agree that there's more going on with fight club than just beating each other up for no reason. But the argument that it isn't violent is even less valid than the argument that golf is exercise.

david damsker
1.15.03 @ 5:45p

I wouldn't mind a wrestling club...at least that way I'm not risking breaking my hand on someone's face, which is actually pretty easy to do if you don't know how to punch correctly.

john ransom
1.15.03 @ 9:09p

"For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother"- W. Shakespeare. This feeling of brotherhood and bond that comes with combat and tests of one's metal has been around forever. I have and still do feel the bond with people I have trained with. If it were for just that, it would be worth it. Besides the bond you create, there are many other things that come from it, such as self-respect, Confidence, respect for others, and so much more. I commend Matt for taking the chance and not prejudging the idea of full contact fighting.

[edited]

robert melos
1.15.03 @ 10:09p

I'm not sure if this really does differ all that much from football. I've never felt to the need to prove myself to myself or others. In that sense I've always been happy and secure with who I was, even when I wasn't sure who I was. That's probably why I have little to no interest in the competitive nature of most sports. As a game most of them are fine, but when it gets to the personal level of proving to myself I can do something, I lose interest. If I do something it's not for anything other than the experience of the journey, so to speak.

I don't think you're nuts for doing it. If this is something you're doing there must be a reason for it, whether or not you are conscious of the reason. Good luck, don't get killed and don't kill anyone. Now go kick some ass.

gene dermody
1.16.03 @ 1:01a

Regardless of how society tries to 'contain' our basic evolutionary male instincts, it can only succeed in making matters worse. Nothing perverts the EGO more than subverting the ID. Genetics are still destiny for the vast majority. Male Bonding is still 'The Force' that civilizes a dangerous world like medieval chivalry did. Fighting in its various forms has always been the preferred (and oldest) of sports. Matt has finally gotten a glimpse of his real but socially repressed 'Y' chromosome. Welcome to the club, and use your new power wisely.

[edited]

erich richter
1.16.03 @ 1:25a

Touche Adam
It's only a word and I realize we are in agreement about the validity of the activity itself but it makes a very big difference. The origin of the word violence (not because I am literate but because I asked a latin teacher I was working out with tonight) is actually "rape". I can't call what goes on at Fight Club rape by any stretch. That suggests that people are acting in ways that are in violation of another person's wishes. Some of Webster's interpretations of the word brutality were a little more to the point.

1. grossly ruthless or unfeeling
2. unpleasantly accurate and incisive
...base appetites, and in behavior based on instinct. (it's supposed to be wrong to feel these things)

The latter definition seems to fit nicely and is usually about where people start to find their real objections to fighting.


[edited]

natasha lee
1.16.03 @ 3:03a

Okay Matt, let me make you a real mouthguard. I want to be the underground dentist for the SF Fight Club. I promise not to talk about Fight Club! Oh yeah, and Emily, I bet my brother can make one hell of a creme brulee!

hank trout
1.16.03 @ 4:54a

Matt, Erich, Ian, Gene - I'm very proud to see my fellow fighters articulating so clearly why we do this.

I know that many people hear "fight club" and immediately imagine a bunch of drunken toothless hillbillies beating each other senseless in a mudpit out behind the trailer. That's far from the truth about us fighters. We are not violent, sadistic neanderthals. We are writers and artists and computer techies and environmental engineers and physicians and schoolteachers and attorneys and musicians and business owners and waiters and childcare professionals and.... The thing that unites us is our refusal to let our female-centric culture program out of us the urge to fight. Fighting is, as Gene would agree, the most primal, elemental urge in all men, embedded in that "Y" chromosome. Unfortunately, our culture considers anything that primal, that real, to be base or gross and does all it can to shame us into repressing that urge. Part of what another writer once called "the feminization of American culture." In other countries, skilled fighting is revered (Brazil and Thailand come to mind immediately); here, it's discouraged as somehow barbaric or "violent" or "beneath us" or "disgusting," and if you actually enjoy fighting, you must be psychotic.

I'm just glad that so many of us have kept our brains and our "Y" chromosomes in good working order.


erik myers
1.16.03 @ 8:50a

The thing that unites us is our refusal to let our female-centric culture program out of us the urge to fight.

Wow. Female-centric culture? Holy hell. When did our culture become female-centric?

Honestly: Yesterday, I was okay with this concept. But now, after reading some of these testimonials it starts to sound a little more sketchy. You guys seem really defensive about this topic without anybody actually even attacking you about it. What's all this "being kept down by The Woman" stuff? Have you noticed that we live in a largely patriarchal society?

[edited]

michelle von euw
1.16.03 @ 10:17a

Female-centric culture? Really? Must be that woman president we have. Or, no, all those women in Congress. Maybe it's the female CEOs you're referring to, or those $10 million/year professional athletes we all admire.

I was with this argument until Hank's last post. Our culture holds a pretty high esteem for people who can "fight" -- military, firefighters, the man who punches out the jerk harassing the pretty girl at the bar. As far as hand-to-hand combat goes, look at the attendance at boxing matches. What, exactly, about our culture disuades fighting?

[edited]

adam kraemer
1.16.03 @ 11:48a

I also think it's necessary to point out that in general, the camaraderie that comes form fighting, is usually borne of being on the same team. That Shakespeare quote that John mentioned is in (I believe) reference to men defending one another, not men kicking the piss out of one another. Now I have no problem with the fight club concept, and I think that you have every right to beat each other up if you want. But don't pretend you're doing it for some higher ideal. And don't liken it to fighting alongside other men. You might be bonding, but you're not teammates.

gene dermody
1.16.03 @ 1:02p

John/Adam: That Shakespeare quote....
It is from Henry V at AginCourt:
"...We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."....
http://www.stevedenning.com/Shakespeare_Henry.html
The distinction Adam draws between the male bonding intra team vs. inter team is a temporary, almost contrived difference, and misses the point by focusing on the details of the fight instead of the results.
We are being very unPC by debating the basic differences in the 'hard wiring' of the male-female brain, in their approach to 'conflict resolution', whether internal or external. Six minutes on the mat will do more than prozac or a session with your shrink. But obviously this is not the solution for everyone.


matt morin
1.16.03 @ 1:09p

Yeah, I definitely don't think this is for everyone. But I think a lot of people would have many preconceived notions dispelled by trying it.

That said, even after trying it, it still won't be for everyone.

Hell, some people find knitting therapeutic, and great for them. But that too, isn't for everyone.

adam kraemer
1.16.03 @ 1:39p

The distinction Adam draws between the male bonding intra team vs. inter team is a temporary, almost contrived difference, and misses the point by focusing on the details of the fight instead of the results.

Okay, so you're claiming that a) a good way to foster a spirit of brotherhood in, say, the Army is to have the members of any given unit fight each other, and b) it's understandable for the American GIs in WWII to have bonded with the Nazis.

I'm sorry, but while I understand what you're talking about, I don't believe you can draw direct parallels. Bottom line is you're fighting each other. It's in the name of the club, for Christ's sake. And it might make you feel good and it might foster a healthy spirit of competition, but you're fighting each other. Teamwork, it ain't.

john ransom
1.16.03 @ 2:54p

>b) it's understandable for >the American GIs in WWII to >have bonded with the Nazis


There is a difference when you are fighting someone for the possible fate of the world, or some major moral conflict, which we saw with WWII.

>but you're fighting each >other. Teamwork, it ain't.

If a football team (club) scrimmages itself, and plays its first string offense/defense against it's second string offense/defense all the time, are they still considered a team? If they are, then you can say that the SF Fight club is the same. A club that scrimmages within itself and enjoys it very much.

[edited]

john ransom
1.16.03 @ 2:58p

Natasha Lee,

Where is your practise located?

matt morin
1.16.03 @ 2:58p

The big difference being, Fight Club isn't working towards some greater team goal. While there is a lot of comraderie based on the respect fighters have for each other, there's no singular team goal. It still comes back to one person against another.

michelle von euw
1.16.03 @ 3:04p

OK, I'm backing out of the philosophical debate, I'll ask you to indulge me for a minute. Here's a question I really want answered:

Ian, you mentioned working in a cubicle. How do you explain/hide the bruises?

[edited]

adam kraemer
1.16.03 @ 3:28p

It's a very small cubicle that no one ever visits?

heather millen
1.16.03 @ 3:58p

Now that I've cooled down from the "feminization of American culture" comment, I'll step away from the philosophical issue as well.

Michelle poses a good question. That's exactly what everyone asked me when I told them about it. (That and "Will he actually go back?)

In Matt's case, I can see the leniency to get away with it, but I have to imagine that if I showed up at work with a black eye, questions would be raised.

[edited]

matt morin
1.16.03 @ 4:03p

Yeah for me, I work for myself, and I walked away with only bruises and mat burns on my body. Nothing a shirt didn't easily cover up.

tracey kelley
1.16.03 @ 5:04p

Wait a minute. I'm just now picking up on the "female-centric" culture comment.

One - how do you figure? 'Cause we be the ones birthin' babies?

Two - While I understand the base primal instinct of this activity, and the complete understanding by which the partners get involved in it, it still doesn't change the fact that this practice as a form of "anger management" doesn't have dangers of carryover into out-of-the-basement society.

The power, the control - it's intoxicating. So the drug parallel fits: if Fight Club is used as a release, it can also be a gateway to more violent behavior.

matt morin
1.16.03 @ 5:16p

Yeah, but that could be argued for anything like that. TV, movies, video games, football, Rock'em Sock'em Robots, toy guns, etc.

For me, it wasn't intoxicating, it was exhausting - just like a regular gym workout. All I wanted to do when I was done was take a hot shower and go to sleep.

adam kraemer
1.16.03 @ 5:33p

Yeah, but you feel that way when you have to do math or read words with more than three syllables.

Kidding. I would actually probably argue that it's not that the agression from fighting would carry over into the "real world," but rather that the guys who do this already have agression in the real world, but this is a way to let it out without attacking "innocents." Maybe.

heather millen
1.16.03 @ 5:45p

I agree. I wouldn’t assume that one who participates in FC is more likely to lash out at “innocents.” But I may be weary of their temperament in general.

salvatore russo
1.16.03 @ 8:48p

I was Matts first contact with fight club, I place the ads in Craiglist and try to weed through the nuts and looky loos. My first impression of Matt was that he was an honest straight shooter. When he first asked to write an article about the club I was a bit leary; we had gotten burned with a poorly written article and was hesitant to have people write about us who have no talent. I asked Matt to send me some of his recent articles and he did, he was good, actually he was great. I gotta say I love his article, not because his content was extremely complimentary but because it was genuinely well written.

Now if I could speak to some of the pacifist, pseudo and otherwise. You know that your Peace marching left leaning politics are the means to an end in you getting laid. Just kidding. I fight, you dont, fine "cant we all just get along?"

robert melos
1.17.03 @ 1:57a

The mere fact we call it the "Feminization of American Culture" proves it's still a male dominated society. If it weren't male dominated it would've been referred to as the "Female Domination of American Culture."

And I agree with Salvatore when he asks "can't we all just get along?"

The aggressive behavior of fighting in the scenario Matt painted is much more honest than what I imagine any military type bonding would be. Yes, the soldiers of all wars have a common bond in combat, but what Matt wrote about is much different.

Even as a pacifist (and being one didn't help me get laid) I understand the difference between a bonding out of choice and one out of necessity. In some ways Fight Club is no different than any other group of like-minded individuals who get together to share their common interests. In that way it's very much like Intrepid Media itself. Everyone here can bond over the fact they are or wish to be writers. Albeit we don't beat the hell out of each other, physically, but we do encourage growth and support of each other mentally.

Matt simply took another step in his life on several levels at one time, and I applaud that. We all do what we have to in life to increase the experience.

I definitely respect what matt did, and the other men from the fight club who've posted comments here. They've proven they are not barbarians, but a segment of society who have a need for fighting. I

robert melos
1.17.03 @ 2:01a

To continue...

I would much rather see this form of aggression than seeing someone snap on a street corner, or back alley or parking lot because there was no other way of releasing that energy.

And Matt, I'm pretty sure you could take Brad Pitt.

adam kraemer
1.17.03 @ 9:46a

Personally, I think the reason Matt won his second fight was just that he didn't sustain enough punches to the throat.

mike julianelle
1.17.03 @ 1:29p

I don't think Fight Clubs are necessarily un-pacifist (what?). it's all in the motivation. I could be a pacifist and still like fighting people, it just depends on why I'm fighting them. If it's for fun, I don't think that necessarily contradicts pacifism.

Also, is there anyway I can join Fight Club just to fight Matt? Or Walker?

heather millen
1.17.03 @ 1:40p

I'd be in a co-ed Intrepid Fight Club. And I'd beat Mike's ass. No doubt with the assistance of sneaky WWF-style antics, but still.

adam kraemer
1.17.03 @ 2:56p

Heather Millen, the Harlam Globetrotters of Fight Club.

eloise young
1.17.03 @ 6:15p

Matt, keep doing this out-of-the-box stuff, and keep writing about it for the rest of us, could ya? Even though every time you do something else you outstrip the coolness factor of the rest of us by another percentage point...

Wow, what a read.

robert melos
1.18.03 @ 12:58a

This morning, around 1 PM afternoon my time, I got up and thought how much I envied Matt. Not the fighting part, but the feeling alive part. The exhilaration of feeling alive. I've got to get more of that into my life. As soon as I come out of my winter hibernation, I'm gonna seek out that which makes me feel more alive. I have to say Matt inspired me to think like this.

matt morin
1.18.03 @ 2:45p

Wow, Robert and Eloise, those are quite some compliments. I'm honored.

Really, I can't say enough how happy I am that everyone liked this column so much. You guys are the best.

daniel castro
1.19.03 @ 1:28p

We liked it because it's good. Plus, what better than reading about kicking the shit out of someone (because some of wish it was us who kicked the shit out of somone).

claudia russo
5.6.03 @ 3:10p

Anyone who critiques fighters in the Fight Club are really fearful of what is lacking in their own lives. Yes, I fear being beaten up, and I fear being rape but these things do happen and life does go on. Fighting in the ring is mimicking life, the struggles, the hurt, you fall and get up and when the going gets really hard, you struggle even harder because you are fighting for survival but in the end when you face your opponent, you have gained a new respect for your self and the person facing you.I use to think marathon runners were crazy until I ran a marathon myself and finished. I gained a healthy respect for the training, lifestyle changes, and discipline required to finish. These fighters also train, have fears, dreams, and hopes but they are a respectful, decent, bunch of guys who are actively participating in their own lives and proud of it. It's a lesson for all of us about following our dreams, and not being afraid of the black eye or broken nose, it's the badge of courage for not being afraid, of pushing your body and mind to the limit. When I see my husband's black eye, I do flinch because I hate to see him in pain but a surge of pride races in my heart because it takes courage to face that fear in in ring and he is strong and noble.

Claudia Russo
5/6/03

robert melos
5.6.03 @ 10:13p

Claudia, I can't entirely agree you. I'm very much the pacifist. I have always considered looking for the non-violent way of settling any dispute. I also don't get pleasure out of competition or struggling to best someone. If my life truly depended on my actions, in a less civilized society or a New York subway, then maybe I would be more violent, but just for sport, or a game of some type, I don't have the interest. I think part of me has little to no interest in many things because I am so self-centered. I also feel no need to prove anything to myself or others. I'm an accept me as I am person. I don't consider anything lacking in my life. Other people may think my life lacks because of my disinterest, but I don't care what others think.



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