In 588 BC, a young man from Samos made his way to the Olympic Games with the goal of winning the youth division in boxing. However, when registering, the officials told the young man that he was too old to compete amongst the boys. Spectators and competitors began to mock the Samian for his long hair and purple robes, accusing him of effeminacy for attempting to compete with the younger boys. Undeterred, the young man signed to fight with the adult boxers. Despite the derision which he had suffered from the crowd, Pythagoras won bout after bout, and was crowned victorious at the 48th Olympiad.
According to the ancient historian Diogenes Laertius, this was the self-same Pythagoras of Samos who would go on to found the Brotherhood, a unique school of philosophers in Greek history. The Pythagoreans were incredibly well-respected, and their work influenced that of all the great philosophers who would follow them– including the famous trio of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Music and mathematics played especially important roles, to the Pythagoreans. These fields informed their philosophy, while their philosophy simultaneously inspired their musical and mathematical discoveries.
Boxing and Philosophy share much more in common than the average person realizes. Both endeavors require years of training. Both pit men against one another, each vying to defeat the other. And both require one to spar against other combatants in order to truly better themselves.
That is the purpose of my writing, here. In philosophy, as in boxing, maneuvering oneself into proper angles of attack, and minimizing the holes in one’s own defense, is essential to finding oneself victorious. And whereas Pythagoras’ victory in the 48th Olympiad earned him an olive laurel, victory in the arena of philosophy vies for a far greater reward: knowledge of the truth.
Hail the questers for knowledge! I had never considered an analogy between philosophy and the martial arts before, but now that you have explained it, I can’t unsee it.
Thanks! I have honestly been very (pleasantly) surprised, over the years, at just how greatly my martial arts has influenced my philosophical inquiry, and how my philosophy has shaped my martial arts training.