Why Jorge Luis Borges Hated Soccer: “Soccer is Popular Because Stupidity is Popular”

Image by Grete Stern, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

I will admit it: I’m one of those oft-maligned non-sports peo­ple who becomes a foot­ball (okay, soc­cer) enthu­si­ast every four years, seduced by the col­or­ful pageantry, cos­mopoli­tan air, nos­tal­gia for a game I played as a kid, and an embar­rass­ing­ly sen­ti­men­tal pride in my home coun­try’s team. I don’t lose all my crit­i­cal fac­ul­ties, but I can’t help but love the World Cup even while rec­og­niz­ing the cor­rup­tion, deep­en­ing pover­ty and exploita­tion, and host of oth­er seri­ous sociopo­lit­i­cal issues sur­round­ing it. And as an Amer­i­can, it’s sim­ply much eas­i­er to put some dis­tance between the sport itself and the jin­go­is­tic big­otry and violence—“sentimental hooli­gan­ism,” to use Franklin Foer’s phrase—that very often attend the game in var­i­ous parts of the world.

In Argenti­na, as in many soc­cer-mad coun­tries with deep social divides, gang vio­lence is a rou­tine part of fut­bol, part of what Argen­tine writer Jorge Luis Borges termed a hor­ri­ble “idea of suprema­cy.” Borges found it impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate the fan cul­ture from the game itself, once declar­ing, “soc­cer is pop­u­lar because stu­pid­i­ty is pop­u­lar.” As Shaj Math­ew writes in The New Repub­lic, the author asso­ci­at­ed the mass mania of soc­cer fan­dom with the mass fer­vor of fas­cism or dog­mat­ic nation­al­ism. “Nation­al­ism,” he wrote, “only allows for affir­ma­tions, and every doc­trine that dis­cards doubt, nega­tion, is a form of fanati­cism and stu­pid­i­ty.” As Math­ews points out, nation­al soc­cer teams and stars do often become the tools of author­i­tar­i­an regimes that “take advan­tage of the bond that fans share with their nation­al teams to drum up pop­u­lar sup­port [….] This is what Borges feared—and resented—about the sport.”

There is cer­tain­ly a sense in which Borges’ hatred of soc­cer is also indica­tive of his well-known cul­tur­al elit­ism (despite his roman­ti­ciz­ing of low­er-class gau­cho life and the once-demi­monde tan­go). Out­side of the huge­ly expen­sive World Cup, the class dynam­ics of soc­cer fan­dom in most every coun­try but the U.S. are fair­ly uncom­pli­cat­ed. New Repub­lic edi­tor Foer summed it up suc­cinct­ly in How Soc­cer Explains the World: “In every oth­er part of the world, soccer’s soci­ol­o­gy varies lit­tle: it is the province of the work­ing class.” (The inver­sion of this soc­cer class divide in the U.S., Foer writes, explains Amer­i­cans’ dis­dain for the game in gen­er­al and for elit­ist soc­cer dilet­tantes in par­tic­u­lar, though those atti­tudes are rapid­ly chang­ing). If Borges had been a North, rather than South, Amer­i­can, I imag­ine he would have had sim­i­lar things to say about the NFL, NBA, NHL, or NASCAR.

Nonethe­less, being Jorge Luis Borges, the writer did not sim­ply lodge cranky com­plaints, how­ev­er polit­i­cal­ly astute, about the game. He wrote a spec­u­la­tive sto­ry about it with his close friend and some­time writ­ing part­ner Adol­fo Bioy Casares. In “Esse Est Per­cipi” (“to be is to be per­ceived”), we learn that soc­cer has “ceased to be a sport and entered the realm of spec­ta­cle,” writes Math­ews: “rep­re­sen­ta­tion of sport has replaced actu­al sport.” The phys­i­cal sta­di­ums crum­ble, while the games are per­formed by “a sin­gle man in a booth or by actors in jer­seys before the TV cam­eras.” An eas­i­ly duped pop­u­lace fol­lows “nonex­is­tent games on TV and the radio with­out ques­tion­ing a thing.”

The sto­ry effec­tive­ly illus­trates Borges’ cri­tique of soc­cer as an intrin­sic part of a mass cul­ture that, Math­ews says, “leaves itself open to dem­a­goguery and manip­u­la­tion.” Borges’ own snob­beries aside, his res­olute sus­pi­cion of mass media spec­ta­cle and the coopt­ing of pop­u­lar cul­ture by polit­i­cal forces seems to me still, as it was in his day, a healthy atti­tude. You can read the full sto­ry here, and an excel­lent crit­i­cal essay on Borges’ polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy here.  For those inter­est­ed in explor­ing Franklin Foer’s book, see How Soc­cer Explains the World: An Unlike­ly The­o­ry of Glob­al­iza­tion.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

via The New Repub­lic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Video: Bob Mar­ley Plays a Soc­cer Match in Brazil, 1980

Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967–8 Nor­ton Lec­tures On Poet­ry (And Every­thing Else Lit­er­ary)

Jorge Luis Borges Draws a Self-Por­trait After Going Blind

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Watch Awesome Human Choreography That Reproduces the Murmurations of Starling Flocks

A num­ber of chore­o­g­ra­phers have tak­en inspi­ra­tion from the move­ment of birds.

Sadek Waff, cre­ator of thrilling­ly pre­cise “mur­mu­ra­tions” such as the one above, is also inspired by street dance — par­tic­u­lar­ly the pop­ping hip hop moves known as Tut­ting and Toy­Man.

The nature lover and founder of the dance troupe Géométrie Vari­able uses both to excel­lent effect, chan­nel­ing a star­ling flock­’s hive mind with human dancers, whose low­er halves remain firm­ly root­ed. It’s all about the hands and arms, punc­tu­at­ed with the occa­sion­al neck flex.

As he observes on his Insta­gram pro­file:

There is mag­ic every­where, the key is know­ing how to look and lis­ten in silence. Like a cloud of birds form­ing waves in the sky, each indi­vid­ual has their own iden­ti­ty but also has an irre­place­able place in the whole.

To achieve these kalei­do­scop­ic mur­mu­ra­tions, Waff’s dancers drill for hours, count­ing aloud in uni­son, refin­ing their ges­tures to the point where the indi­vid­ual is sub­sumed by the group.

The use of mir­rors can height­en the illu­sion:

The reflec­tion brings a sym­met­ri­cal dimen­sion, like a calm body of water con­tem­plat­ing the spec­ta­cle from anoth­er point of view, adding an addi­tion­al dimen­sion, an exten­sion of the image.

The larg­er the group, the more daz­zling the effect, though a video fea­tur­ing a small­er than usu­al group of dancers — 20 in total — is help­ful for iso­lat­ing the com­po­nents Waff brings to bear in his avian-inspired work.

We’re par­tic­u­lar­ly enthralled by the mur­mu­ra­tion Waff cre­at­ed for the 2020 Par­a­lympic Games’ clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny in Tokyo, using both pro­fes­sion­als and ama­teurs in match­ing black COVID-pre­cau­tion masks to embody the event’s themes of “har­mo­nious cacoph­o­ny” and “mov­ing for­ward.” (Notice that the front row of dancers are wheel­chair users.)

See more of Sadek Waff’s mur­mu­ra­tions on his YouTube chan­nel and on Insta­gram.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Dancer Pays a Grav­i­ty-Defy­ing Trib­ute to Claude Debussy

The Evo­lu­tion of Dance from 1950 to 2019: A 7‑Decade Joy Ride in 6 Min­utes

The Icon­ic Dance Scene from Hel­lza­pop­pin’ Pre­sent­ed in Liv­ing Col­or with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (1941)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­maol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medievalist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

If you’ve ever run a marathon in cos­tume, or for that mat­ter, board­ed pub­lic trans­porta­tion with a large musi­cal instru­ment or a bulky bag of ath­let­ic equip­ment, you know that gear can be a bur­den best shed.

But what if that gear is your first, nay, best line of defense against a fel­low knight fix­ing to smite you in the name of their liege?

Such gear is non-option­al.

Curi­ous about the degree to which 15th-cen­tu­ry knights were encum­bered by their pro­tec­tive plat­ing, medieval­ist Daniel Jaquet com­mis­sioned a top armor spe­cial­ist from the Czech Repub­lic to make a suit spe­cif­ic to his own per­son­al mea­sure­ments. The result is based on a 15th cen­tu­ry spec­i­men in Vien­na that has been stud­ied by the Wal­lace Col­lec­tion’s archaeomet­al­lur­gist Alan Williams. As Jaquet recalled in Sci­ences et Avenir:

We had to make com­pro­mis­es in the copy­ing process, of course, because what inter­est­ed me above all was to be able to do a behav­ioral study, to see how one moved with this equip­ment on the back rather than attach­ing myself to the num­ber of exact rivets…we knew the com­po­si­tion and the hard­ness of the parts that we could com­pare to our repli­ca.

The accom­plished mar­tial artist test­ed his mobil­i­ty in the suit with a vari­ety of high­ly pub­lic, mod­ern activ­i­ties: reach­ing for items on the high­est super­mar­ket shelves, jog­ging in the park, scal­ing a wall at a climb­ing gym, tak­ing the Metro …

It may look like show­boat­ing, but these move­ments helped him assess how he’d per­form in com­bat, as well as low­er stress activ­i­ties involv­ing sit­ting down or stand­ing up.

Out of his met­al suit, Jaquet has been known to amuse him­self by ana­lyz­ing the verisimil­i­tude of Game of Thrones’ com­bat scenes. (Con­clu­sion: some lib­er­ties were tak­en, armor-wise, in that grue­some face off between the Moun­tain and the Viper.)

An invi­ta­tion to trav­el to New York City to present at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art offered an unex­pect­ed test­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty, com­pli­ments of the airline’s bag­gage restric­tions:

For rea­sons of weight, space and cost, the solu­tion to wear the armor over me was con­sid­ered the best.

(The TSA offi­cers at Newark were not amused...)

His armored expe­ri­ence sheds light on those of ear­ly 15th-cen­tu­ry knight Jean le Main­gre, aka Bouci­caut, whose impres­sive career was cut short in 1415, when he was cap­tured by the Eng­lish at the Bat­tle of Agin­court.

Bouci­caut kept him­self in tip top phys­i­cal con­di­tion with a reg­u­lar armored fit­ness reg­i­men. His chival­ric biog­ra­phy details gear­ing up for exer­cis­es that include run­ning, chop­ping wood, vault­ing onto a horse, and work­ing his way up a lad­der from the under­side, with­out using his feet.

Jaquet dupli­cates them all in the above video.

(Reminder to those who would try this at home, make sure you’re capa­ble of per­form­ing these exer­cis­es in light­weight shorts and t‑shirt before attempt­ing to do them in armor.)

Like Boucicault’s, Jaquet’s armor is bespoke. Those who’ve strug­gled to lift their arms in an off-the-rack jack­et will appre­ci­ate the trade off. It’s worth spend­ing more to ensure suf­fi­cient range of move­ment.

In Boucicault’s day, ready-made pieces of less­er qual­i­ty could be pro­cured at mar­kets, trad­ing fairs, and shops in pop­u­lous areas. You could also try your luck after bat­tle, by strip­ping the cap­tive and the dead of theirs. Size was always an issue. Too small and your move­ment would be restrict­ed. Too big, and you’d be haul­ing around unnec­es­sary weight.

Jaquet describes his load as being on par with the weight 21st-cen­tu­ry sol­diers are required to car­ry. Body armor is a life­saver, accord­ing to a 2018 study by the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty, but it also reduces mobil­i­ty, increas­es fatigue, and reduces mis­sion per­for­mance.

Giz­mo­do’s Jen­nifer Ouel­lette finds that medieval knights faced sim­i­lar chal­lenges:

The legs alone were car­ry­ing an extra 15 to 18 pounds, so the mus­cles had to work that much hard­er to over­come iner­tia to set the legs in motion. There is also evi­dence that the thin slits in the face mask, and tight chest plate, restrict­ed oxy­gen flow even fur­ther.

Read a detailed, schol­ar­ly account of Jaquet’s armor exper­i­ment in His­tor­i­cal Meth­ods: A Jour­nal of Quan­ti­ta­tive and Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary His­to­ry.

For those look­ing for a lighter read, here is Jaque­t’s account of tak­ing a com­mer­cial flight in armor (and some best prac­tice tips for those attempt­ing the same.)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

Watch Accu­rate Recre­ations of Medieval Ital­ian Longsword Fight­ing Tech­niques, All Based on a Man­u­script from 1404

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

Archaeologists Discover 1300-Year-Old Pair of Skis, the Best-Preserved Ancient Skis in Existence

Surf­ing is gen­er­al­ly believed to have orig­i­nat­ed in Hawaii and will be for­ev­er asso­ci­at­ed with the Poly­ne­sian islands. Yet anthro­pol­o­gists have found evi­dence of some­thing like surf­ing wher­ev­er humans have encoun­tered a beach — on the coasts of West Africa, in the Caribbean, India, Syr­ia, and Japan. Surf­ing his­to­ri­an Matt War­shaw sums up the prob­lem with locat­ing the ori­gins of this human activ­i­ty: “Rid­ing waves sim­ply for plea­sure most like­ly devel­oped in one form or anoth­er among any coastal peo­ple liv­ing near warm ocean water.” Could one make a sim­i­lar point about ski­ing?

It seems that wher­ev­er humans have set­tled in places cov­ered with snow for much of the year, they’ve impro­vised all kinds of ways to trav­el across it. Who did so with the first skis, and when? Ski-like objects dat­ing from 6300–5000 BC have been found in north­ern Rus­sia. A New York Times arti­cle recent­ly described evi­dence of Stone Age skiers in Chi­na. “If ski­ing, as it seems pos­si­ble,” Nils Larsen writes at the Inter­na­tion­al Ski­ing His­to­ry Asso­ci­a­tion, “dates back 10,000 years or more, iden­ti­fy­ing a point of ori­gin (or ori­gins) will be dif­fi­cult at best.” Such dis­cus­sions tend to get “bogged down in pol­i­tics and nation­al pride,” Larsen writes. For exam­ple, “since the emer­gence of ski­ing in greater Europe in the late 1800s” — as a sport and pure­ly recre­ation­al activ­i­ty — “Nor­way has often been con­sid­ered the birth­place of ski­ing. Nor­way has pro­mot­ed this view and it is a point of nation­al pride.”

Despite its ear­li­est records of ski­ing dat­ing mil­len­nia lat­er than oth­er regions, Nor­way has some claim. The word ski is, after all, Nor­we­gian, derived from Old Norse skíð, mean­ing “cleft wood” or “stick.” And the best-pre­served ancient skis ever found have been dis­cov­ered in a Nor­we­gian ice field. “Even the bind­ings are most­ly intact,” notes Kot­tke. The first ski, believed to be 1300 years old, turned up in 2014, found by the Glac­i­er Arche­ol­o­gy Pro­gram (GAP) in the moun­tains of Inn­lan­det Coun­ty, Nor­way. The archae­ol­o­gists decid­ed to wait, let the ice melt, and see if the oth­er ski would appear. It did, just recent­ly, and in the video above, you can watch the researchers pull it from the ice.

Pho­to: Andreas Christof­fer Nils­son, secretsoftheice.com

“Mea­sur­ing about 74 inch­es long and 7 inch­es wide,” notes Livia Ger­shon at Smith­son­ian, “the sec­ond ski is slight­ly larg­er than its mate. Both fea­ture raised footholds. Leather straps and twist­ed birch bark bind­ings found with the skis would have been attached through holes in the footholds. The new ski shows signs of heavy wear and even­tu­al repairs.” The two skis are not iden­ti­cal, “but we should not expect them to be,” says archae­ol­o­gist Lars Pilø. “The skis are hand­made, not mass-pro­duced. They have a long and indi­vid­ual his­to­ry of wear and repair before an Iron Age ski­er used them togeth­er and they end­ed up in the ice.”

The new ski answered ques­tions the researchers had about the first dis­cov­ery, such as how the ancient skis might have main­tained for­ward motion uphill. “A fur­row on the under­side along the length of the ski, as you find on oth­er pre­his­toric skis (and on mod­ern cross-coun­try skis), would solve the ques­tion,” they write, and the sec­ond ski con­tained such a fur­row. While they may nev­er prove that Nor­way invent­ed ski­ing, as glac­i­er ice melts and new arti­facts appear each year, the team will learn much more about ancient Nor­we­gian skiers and their way of life. See their cur­rent dis­cov­er­ies and fol­low their future progress at the Secrets of the Ice web­site and on their YouTube chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Archae­ol­o­gists Find the Ear­li­est Work of “Abstract Art,” Dat­ing Back 73,000 Years

Watch an Archae­ol­o­gist Play the “Litho­phone,” a Pre­his­toric Instru­ment That Let Ancient Musi­cians Play Real Clas­sic Rock

Medieval Ten­nis: A Short His­to­ry and Demon­stra­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Medieval Tennis: A Short History and Demonstration

British You Tuber Niko­las “Lindy­biege” Lloyd is a man of many, many inter­ests.

Wing Chun style kung fu…

Children’s tele­vi­sion pro­duced in the UK between 1965 and 1975…

Ancient weapon­rychain­mail, and his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate WWII mod­el minia­tures

Actress Celia John­son, star of the 1945 roman­tic dra­ma Brief Encounter

Evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gy

…and it would appear, ten­nis.

But not the sort you’ll find played on the grass courts of Wim­ble­don, or for that mat­ter, the hard courts of the US Open.

Lloyd is one of a select few who grav­i­tate toward the ver­sion of the game that was known as the sport of kings.

It was, accord­ing to a 1553 guide, cre­at­ed, “to keep our bod­ies healthy, to make our young men stronger and more robust, chas­ing idle­ness, virtue’s mor­tal ene­my, far from them and thus mak­ing them of a stronger and more excel­lent nature.”

Hen­ry VIII was a tal­ent­ed and enthu­si­as­tic play­er in his youth, caus­ing the Venet­ian Ambas­sador to rhap­sodize, “it was the pret­ti­est thing in the world to see him play; his fair skin glow­ing through a shirt of the finest tex­ture.”

Henry’s sec­ond wife, the ill-fat­ed Anne Boleyn, was also a fan of the sport, with mon­ey rid­ing on the match she was watch­ing when she was sum­moned to the Privy Coun­cil “by order of the King,” the first stop on her very swift jour­ney to the Tow­er of Lon­don.

The sport’s roots reach all the way to the 11th and 12th cen­turies when monks and vil­lagers in south­ern France were mad for jeu de paume, a ten­nis-like game pre­dat­ing the use of rac­quets, whose pop­u­lar­i­ty even­tu­al­ly spread to the roy­als and aris­to­crats of Paris.

The game Lloyd tries his hand at above is now known as Real Ten­nis, a term invent­ed in the 19th-cen­tu­ry to dis­tin­guish it from the then-new craze for lawn ten­nis.

Men­tion “the sport of kings” these days and most folks will assume you’re refer­ring to fox hunt­ing or horse-rac­ing.

Mind you, real ten­nis is just as rar­i­fied. You won’t find it being played on any old (which is to say new) indoor court. It requires four irreg­u­lar­ly sized walls, an asym­met­ri­cal lay­out, and a slop­ing pent­house roof. Behold the lay­out of a Real Ten­nis court by Ateth­nekos, com­pli­ments of  Eng­lish Wikipedia:

Com­pared to that, the Ten­nis Depart­ment’s dia­gram of the famil­iar mod­ern set up seems like child’s play:

Oth­er cog­ni­tive chal­lenges for those whose ver­sion of ten­nis does­n’t extend back to medieval days:  a slack net; lop­sided, tight­ly strung, small raque­ts; and a gallery of waist-high screened “haz­ards,” that are spir­i­tu­al­ly akin to pin­ball tar­gets, espe­cial­ly the one with the bell.

The hand­made balls may look sim­i­lar to your aver­age mass-pro­duced Penn or Wil­son, but expect that each will be “unique in its par­tic­u­lar quirks”:

They are not per­fect­ly spher­i­cal and these seams stick out a lit­tle bit more here and there, which means that the bounce can be rather unpre­dictable. Because these are heav­ier and hard­er, they don’t swerve when you spin them in the air very much, but when they hit a wall and get a decent grip, the swerve can send them zing­ing off along the wall to great effect.

Once Lloyd has ori­ent­ed view­ers and him­self to the court and equip­ment, Real Ten­nis pro Zak Eadle walks him through serv­ing, scor­ing, and strat­e­gy in the form of chas­es.

Quoth Shake­speare’s Hen­ry V:

His present, and your pains, we thank you for:
When we have match’d our rack­ets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God’s grace play a set,
Shall strike his father’s crown into the Haz­ard:
Tell him, he made a match with such a wran­gler, 
That all the Courts of France will be disturb’d with chas­es.

Even non-ath­let­ic types could find them­selves fas­ci­nat­ed by the his­tor­i­cal con­text Lindy­beige pro­vides.

If you’re moved to take rac­quet in hand, there are a hand­ful of Real Ten­nis courts in the USA, UK, Aus­tralia, and France where you might be able to try your luck.

The sport could use you. Esti­mates indi­cate that the num­ber of play­ers has dwin­dled to a mere 10,000. Sure­ly some­one is des­per­ate for a part­ner.

Delve fur­ther into the world of Real Ten­nis on the Inter­na­tion­al Real Ten­nis Pro­fes­sion­als Association’s web­site.

Check out some of Lindybeige’s oth­er inter­ests on his YouTube chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch Accu­rate Recre­ations of Medieval Ital­ian Longsword Fight­ing Tech­niques, All Based on a Man­u­script from 1404

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

The Rules of 100 Sports Clear­ly Explained in Short Videos: Base­ball, Foot­ball, Jai Alai, Sumo Wrestling, Crick­et, Pétanque & Much More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

What It’s Like to Actually Fight in Medieval Armor

Ever won­der what it was like to real­ly fight while wear­ing a full suit of armor? We’ve fea­tured a few his­tor­i­cal recon­struc­tions here on Open Cul­ture, includ­ing a demon­stra­tion of the var­i­ous ways com­bat­ants would van­quish their foe—includ­ing a sword right between the eyes. We’ve also shown you how long it took to cre­ate a suit of armor and the clever flex­i­bil­i­ty built into them. But real­ly, don’t we want to see what it would be like in a full melee? In the above Vice doc­u­men­tary, you can final­ly sate your blood­lust.

Not that any­one dies in the MMA-like sword-and-chain­mail brawls. In these pub­lic com­pe­ti­tions, the weapons are blunt­ed and con­tes­tants fight “not to the death, just until they fall over,” as the nar­ra­tor some­what sad­ly explains. It is just a legit sport as any oth­er fight­ing chal­lenge, and the injuries are real. There’s no fool­ing around with these peo­ple. They are seri­ous, and a nation’s hon­or is still at stake.

This mini-doc fol­lows the Amer­i­can team to the Inter­na­tion­al Medieval Com­bat Fed­er­a­tion World Cham­pi­onships in Mon­te­mor-o-Vel­ho in Por­tu­gal. What looks like a reg­u­lar Renais­sance faire is only the dec­o­ra­tions around the main, incred­i­bly vio­lent event. We see bat­tles with longswords, short axes, shields used offen­sive­ly and defen­sive­ly, and a lot of push­ing and shov­ing. Con­tes­tants go head-to-head, or five against five, or twelve against twelve.

Twen­ty-six coun­tries take part, and I have to say for all the jin­go­is­tic hoo-hah I try to ignore, the Amer­i­can team’s very nice­ly designed stars and stripes bat­tle gear looked pret­ty damn cool. The Vice team also dis­cov­er an inter­est­ing cast of char­ac­ters, like the Tex­an who wears his cow­boy hat when he’s not wear­ing his com­bat hel­met; the man who describes his fight­ing style as “nerd rage”; and the cou­ple on their hon­ey­moon who met while bru­tal­ly beat­ing each oth­er in an ear­li­er com­pe­ti­tion. (No, the knights here are not all men.).

There are injuries, sprains, bro­ken bones. There’s also the mad­ness of inhal­ing too much of your own CO2 inside the hel­met; and smelling the ozone when a spark of met­al-upon-met­al flies into the hel­met.

Thank­ful­ly nobody is fight­ing to the death or for King/Queen and Coun­try. Just for the fun of adren­a­lin-based com­pe­ti­tion and brag­ging rights.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Accu­rate Recre­ations of Medieval Ital­ian Longsword Fight­ing Tech­niques, All Based on a Man­u­script from 1404

A Hyp­not­ic Look at How Japan­ese Samu­rai Swords Are Made

Renais­sance Knives Had Music Engraved on the Blades; Now Hear the Songs Per­formed by Mod­ern Singers

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Only Footage of Bruce Lee Fighting for Real (1967)

Two years after the release of Quentin Taran­ti­no’s Once Upon a Time in Hol­ly­wood, peo­ple are still argu­ing about its brief por­tray­al of Bruce Lee. Whether it accu­rate­ly rep­re­sent­ed his per­son­al­i­ty is one debate, but much more impor­tant for mar­tial-arts enthu­si­asts is whether it accu­rate­ly rep­re­sent­ed his fight­ing skills. This could eas­i­ly be deter­mined by hold­ing the scene in ques­tion up against footage of the real Bruce Lee in action, but almost no such footage exists. While Lee’s per­for­mances in films like Enter the Drag­on and Game of Death con­tin­ue to win him fans 48 years after his death, their fights — how­ev­er phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing — are, of course, thor­ough­ly chore­o­graphed and rehearsed per­for­mances.

Hence the way, in Once Upon a Time in Hol­ly­wood, Brad Pit­t’s rough-hewn stunt­man Cliff Booth dis­miss­es screen mar­tial artists like Lee as “dancers.” Those are fight­ing words, and indeed a fight ensues, though one meant to get laughs (and to illu­mi­nate the char­ac­ters’ oppos­ing phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al natures) rather than seri­ous­ly to recre­ate a con­test between trained mar­tial artist and sim­ple bruis­er.

As for how Lee han­dled him­self in actu­al fights, we have no sur­viv­ing visu­al evi­dence but the clips above, shot dur­ing a cou­ple of match­es in 1967. The event was the Long Beach Inter­na­tion­al Karate Cham­pi­onships, where three years ear­li­er Lee’s demon­stra­tion of such improb­a­ble phys­i­cal feats as two-fin­ger push-ups and one-inch punch­es got him the atten­tion in the U.S. that led to the role of Kato on The Green Hor­net.

In these 1967 bouts, the now-famous Lee uses the tech­niques of Jeet Kune Do, his own hybrid mar­tial-arts phi­los­o­phy empha­siz­ing use­ful­ness in real-life com­bat. “First he fights Ted Wong, one of his top Jeet Kune Do stu­dents,” says Twist­ed Sifter. “They are alleged­ly wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear because they weren’t allowed to fight with­out them as per Cal­i­for­nia state reg­u­la­tions.” Lee is the one wear­ing the gear with white straps — as if he weren’t iden­ti­fi­able by sheer speed and con­trol alone. Seen today, his fight­ing style in this footage reminds many of mod­ern-day mixed mar­tial arts, a sport that might not come into exis­tence had Lee nev­er pop­u­lar­ized the prac­ti­cal com­bi­na­tion of ele­ments drawn from all fight­ing styles. Whether the man him­self was as arro­gant as Taran­ti­no made him out to be, he must have sus­pect­ed that mar­tial-arts would only be catch­ing up with him half a cen­tu­ry lat­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bruce Lee’s Only Sur­viv­ing TV Inter­view, 1971: Lost and Now Found

Bruce Lee Audi­tions for The Green Hor­net (1964)

The Phi­los­o­phy of Bruce Lee Gets Explored in a New Pod­cast

The Poet­ry of Bruce Lee: Dis­cov­er the Artis­tic Life of the Mar­tial Arts Icon

Watch 10-Year-Old Bruce Lee in His First Star­ring Role (1950)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Tony Hawk Breaks Down Skateboarding Into 21 Levels of Difficulty: From Easy to Complex

Thir­ty or so Christ­mases ago, I received my first skate­board. Alas, it was also my last skate­board: not long after I got the hang of bal­anc­ing on the thing, it was run over and snapped in half by a mail truck. There went my last chance at Olympic ath­leti­cism, though I could­n’t have known it at the time: it debuted as an event at the Sum­mer Olympics just this year, and its com­pe­ti­tions are under­way even now in Tokyo. This is, in any case, a bit late for me, giv­en the rel­a­tive… matu­ri­ty of my years as against those of the aver­age Olympic skate­board­er. But then, Tony Hawk is in his fifties, and some­thing tells me he could still show those kids a thing or two.

Hawk, the most famous skate­board­er in the world, shows us 21 things in the Wired video above— specif­i­cal­ly, 21 skate­board­ing moves, each one rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a high­er dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el than the last. At lev­el one, we have the “flat-ground ollie,” which involves “using one foot to snap the tail of the board down­ward, and then you have the board sort of aim­ing up, and then slid­ing your front foot at the right time in order to bring that board up and lev­el it out in the air.”

To the untrained eye, a well-exe­cut­ed ollie projects the image of skater and board are “jump­ing” as a whole. But it can only be mas­tered by those will­ing to keep their feet on the board, rather than obey­ing the instinct to put one foot off to the side. “Peo­ple do that for years,” laments Hawk.

Lev­el ten finds Hawk on the half-pipe doing a “360 aer­i­al.” He describes the action as we watch him per­form it: “I’m going up the ramp, I’m turn­ing in the frontside direc­tion a full 360, and I’m com­ing down back­wards” — but not yet flip­ping the board while in the air, a slight­ly more advanced move. The final lev­els enter “the realm of unre­al­i­ty,” cov­er­ing the NBD (Nev­er Been Done) tricks that skaters nev­er­the­less believe pos­si­ble. For Lev­el 21 he choos­es the “1260 spin” — “three and a half rota­tions” — which he’s nev­er even seen attempt­ed. Or at least he had­n’t at the time of this video’s shoot in 2019; Mitchie Brus­co land­ed one at the X Games just two days lat­er. Even now, giv­en the seem­ing­ly infi­nite poten­tial vari­a­tions of and expan­sions on every trick, skate­board­ing is unlike­ly to have hit its phys­i­cal lim­its. Just imag­ine what the kids who suc­cess­ful­ly dodge their mail­man now will be able to pull off when they grow up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tony Hawk & Archi­tec­tur­al His­to­ri­an Iain Bor­den Tell the Sto­ry of How Skate­board­ing Found a New Use for Cities & Archi­tec­ture

Wern­er Her­zog Dis­cov­ers the Ecsta­sy of Skate­board­ing: “That’s Kind of My Peo­ple”

The Tony Alva Sto­ry

Ful­ly Flared

The Piano Played with 16 Increas­ing Lev­els of Com­plex­i­ty: From Easy to Very Com­plex

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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