07 April 2011

Fisticuffs

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I like to fight. When I was younger, I fought verbally. Since that gets kind of obnoxious and tends to alienate your nearest and dearest, I've learned another outlet for my bellicose desires: sparring. I train with a martial arts master several times a week. Technically, it's an internal martial arts class with a focus on tai chi, but we get to fight from time to time. (Well, generally speaking, I take shots at my teacher and he tries not to wipe the floor with me too hard...it's fun times.)

In the west, before eastern martial arts masters decided to open schools in Europe and North America, bare knuckle boxing was the most popular form of hand to hand combat. Also known as fisticuffs or pugilism, this manly art was a primary means of solving conflict between gentlemen.

The rules of boxing were formalized in the late 1800s by John Sholto Douglas, Lord Queensberry, a Scottish nobleman. Although he didn't write the rules himself, he put his name on them, which I guess makes them sort of his.

John Sholto Douglas
The "Marquess of Queensberry Rules" exclude wrestling or clinches from possible moves in the boxing ring. They also dictate how to deal with it when someone gets K.O.'d, and introduce the wearing of gloves.

With these rules, boxing became a sport, and quite a bit of the vim and vigour went out of the act of fighting, in my opinion. John Sholto Douglas was in general a big downer, though: this is the same guy who brought Oscar Wilde to trial after he found out that his son was having an affair with Wilde.

I love the idea of trying to structure a short story around one protracted fight scene.

There's a basic observation in the theatre world that all you need to establish conflict is for one character to hit another. Instant motivation, characterization, and plot, right there!

The idea of bare knuckle fisticuffs as the heart of a story really intrigues me. I've done some stage combat training, so I'm hoping I could make it interesting. The one thing I did learn in stage combat class, however, is that a fight scene shouldn't be too long. Audiences tend to perceive them as being much longer than they are. So maybe this idea is better suited to a piece of flash fiction: perfect for Story A Day in May.

I'll leave you with two alternative definitions of fisticuffs, which are just perfect and possibly timeless, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary:


Fisticuffs are a favourite pastime for the Victorian Gentleman, as well as a way to sort out minor scuffles and souffles. Unlike modern boxers, the Victorian Gentlemen were not layabouts nor lollygaggers; they required neither padding nor special equipment. Bare knuckle fighting was the order of the day, and some experts believe it was the special of the day. This mano-a-mano competition could continue for anything up to 45 days, both combatants circling each other slowly, weighing up the strengths and weakenesses of their opponent and smoking fine cigars. During fisticuffs, the jacket is always taken off, braces are unhooked from the shoulder and sleeves are rolled up. 
Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles, did you see Johnathan over there challenge the Duke of York to throw down in fisticuffs?
Victorian Gentleman 2: Dear Lord, I daresay this could turn out to be a proper flogging! That pompus French bastard needs a good lashing
Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles! Right-O!


And alternatively:


A primitive dance usually done by 2 males late at night initiated by a slur or a pretty girl. Who clench both their hands and together, and move them up and down over their face (elbows down) while jumping from side to side in front of each other. The dance rarely ends with both parties impressed with their own or their partner's performance. 
Alex: Wow that girl is hot
Joe: I done seen her first!
Alex: Let us dance in the manner of fisticuffs.
Joe: Agreed!

5 comments:

Laura Josephsen said...

That is awesome that you train with a martial arts teacher. :D

And that second definition made me giggle.

Bz said...

Nice to meet you through the A-Z challenge :) Hope to see you around!

L.G.Smith said...

I love that you train like that. I've heard before that fight scenes always go on way too long and should be trimmed. Makes sense.

And I, too, had to laugh after reading the second definition.

Ju Dimello said...

LOL! I never knew what fisticuffs was ;) But I am raring to go at it now..oops, only guys do it right? Not girls??

Not fair!!! ;) But well.. no harm in doing it anyway ;)

Great meeting you :)

Following you from A-Z challenge!

vbtremper said...

My bellicose nature came out after having kids - maybe it's a Mama Lion kind of thing. I rely on Wii with the kids as an occasional outlet.

Cool that you get to spar!
-Vicki

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