Cameron Conaway believes peace grew with each thrown punch
Combat sport has long been a uniter. The fear of being on the receiving end of honed violent aggression fuels athletes perhaps more than anything else to unite with their own bodies. From this often grows a mutual respect for competitors and for those engaging in similar endeavors of body, mind or both. Historically, few exemplify this idea more than Plato. Philosopher Damon Young writes extensively about the intersection of intellectualism and combat. Here’s an excerpt from his piece titled: Fighting can nurture the soul – just ask Plato.
‘Plato’ was not actually his name. In ancient Greek, Platon meant ‘broad’; Plato was the philosopher’s wrestling nickname. So, one of Western civilisation’s founding scholars was a martial artist. For all his love of ethereal beauty and truth, Plato was intimately familiar with gritty, bloody violence. Indeed, he recommended wrestling for the ‘masters and scholars’ in his theoretical state.
This is a helpful reminder: fighting is not always the province of the dim-witted, vulgar yob. Screaming ultimate fight fans might look bloodthirsty, but the competitors can be restrained, thoughtful and courteous in daily life – chivalrous if not philosophical.
Plato’s esteem for wrestling flags a more important possibility: fighting arts can be edifying and illuminating. We need not automatically see all violence as negative: managed well, it can be a positive force.
The “positive force” was in Afghanistan yesterday when – after a nearly two-year battle of trying to unite the World Boxing Organization, the Afghan government and the International Security Assistance Force – Afghan-German boxer Hamid Rahimi’s “Fight 4 Peace” project took place in Kabul. It was the first professional boxing bout in Afghanistan’s history, and he was the featured pugilist.
Because the Taliban banned boxing, many spectators risked their lives just to attend the bout. What’s the big deal? Sabrina Saqib, a former Afghan MP and volleyball player, told this to the BBC: ”The world always sees Afghanistan through the window of war. So this game changes that. Although this was a fight, this was a fight for peace.”
Rahimi defeated Said Mbelwa of Tanzania via TKO in the seventh round and improved his record to 21-1, but even he will admit that the real fight was in the uniting. As he told RFERL:
“I want to bring peace to my hometown in Afghanistan. I think sport has the magic to bring all the people and all religions together.”
Witness history. Round 1:
—AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus