The Boxing as Medicine for Alienation

  • Boxing as Medicine from clinical cases

    It’s interesting when one notices that a perfect way to bring an angry person back to reason is to touch him. It is linked to the principle of the “courtesy of the touching hand”, that makes them realise that what is feeding the anger is not real. An angry person is mentally absent.


    In these conditions, only a kind hand laid on the short-tempered person has the power to soothe the soul. This is so true that we find back in the field of psychiatry those strategies under three forms:

    1. The first one is the technique of the massage: at the same time as keeping in touch with reality, the patient (perhaps a schizophrenic, for example) is able to regain awareness of the limits of their body.
    2. More violent than a massage, the technique of the water jet has the same function.
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    4. Still used nowadays, but with specific protocols in place to prevent that the technique becoming torture, electroshock therapy. Electricity has the effect of revitalizing the sick person and helping them find a way back to their lost individuality.
      Of course, anger in and of itself is not craziness in the truest sense of the word, but it is one of its benign forms. Its difference with craziness is a matter of degree rather than essence.
    The Convivial Threat

    In the 1995 movie “Tokyo Fist” by Shinya Tsukamoto (the movie “Fight Club” comes 4 years later), the boxer Kojima teaches an important lesson to salesman Tsuda who is going to the dogs and who has the feeling of disappearing in a society which regards him as a machine: that is through the fight and the pain which follows that he will finally get the feeling of being alive. The phrase “It hurts, but at least I am alive,” encapsulates the main thrust of the film. In the end, the uniformity of society leads to an alienation which flies in the face of reality itself, a kind of craziness from the perspective of this film. The fighting (it works as a clinical massage) is a reaction to the alienation, and in some ways a cure for it.


    EPSON MFP image

    EPSON MFP image

    The artist Tatsumi Orimoto prefers to look at the fight as an opportunity for alterity (Boxing Partner with Boys, 2003). His concept is a boxing match which increases the usual number of boxer from two to five, translating the animal solitude of the original into the cooperative collectivity of humanity: the sport which pits single fighters against one another becomes a team sport.

    The four male artists (Yuya Tsukahara, Keigo Mikajiri, Takuya Matsumi and Masakazu Kobayashi) from the troupe “Contact Gonzo” are aptly termed as such. With them, the fight becomes a dance, but with no tricks to it- the beatings are real. The contacts of each blow they throw have full force behind them… for them, it would appear, it’s all about building their health!
    It is possible to interpret all that violence as the celebration of the animal part of the human. That’s not the case, however, the violence reported here is no mere bestial fury. On the contrary, it is the fighters’ humanity which is highlighted through the failure of their domestication.