Josh Rosenblatt was 33 years old when he first realized he wanted to fight. A lifelong pacifist with a philosopher’s hatred of violence and a dandy’s aversion to exercise, he drank to excess, smoked passionately, ate indifferently, and mocked physical activity that didn’t involve nudity. But deep down there was always a part of him that was dying to know what it was like to hit and get hit, to harm and be harmed. He sensed that to fight would be to live life deeply.
An insightful and moving rumination on the nature of fighting, Why We Fight takes us on his journey from the bleachers to the ring. Using his own training as an opportunity to understand how the sport illuminates basic human impulses, Rosenblatt weaves together cultural history, criticism, biology, and anthropology to understand what happens to the human body and mind when under attack, and to explore why he, a self-described “cowardly boy from the suburbs,” discovered so much meaning in putting his body, and others’, at risk.
From the psychology of fear to the physiology of pain, from Ukrainian shtetls to Brooklyn boxing gyms, from Lord Byron to George Plimpton, Why We Fight is a fierce inquiry into the abiding appeal of our most conflicted and controversial fixation, interwoven with a firsthand account of what happens when a mild-mannered intellectual decides to step into the ring for his first real showdown.