This post is a combination of anthropological theories and concepts for fictional elements.
The edge of the knife
I’d just finished sharpening and aligning my eight inch chopping knife and I touched the leading edge of the blade with my thumb; I could feel the steel slightly biting into my flesh and the hairs on the back my neck seemed to stand up.
—Man, that thing is sharp, I thought as I looked down the edge and tried to imagine being involved in a close quarters, hand to hand combat situation using knives as the principal weapons. —Would I emerge victorious or would I be cut to pieces in a few seconds?
When I was young I enjoyed watching professional wrestling on television. The colorful characters had the ability to invoke an emotional response from deep within me. I saw some wrestlers as good and others as evil and it seemed natural for a violent conflict to take place between the two concepts.
Eventually, I read an article that gave a detailed explanation of the probable injuries that could be inflicted in a wrestling match. I came to the realization that it was all fake and I lost interest. I don’t know why, but, I somehow felt cheated; I’d been deceived and robbed of the primitive pleasure of watching combatants actually trying to inflict pain.
I became interested in the sport of boxing; the extensive training and conditioning, the scientific aspect of the match and the legitimacy of the sport attracted me. I appreciated the skill and courage of the combatants as opposed to the theatrics and choreography of the professional wrestlers.
I learned that even though the sport was real; the fighters could be controlled and manipulated by unscrupulous managers, promoters or gamblers. The Sweet Science, despite being a grueling test of strength, speed and stamina between two opponents, was not a pure form of personal combat.
The purist form
Thousands of years ago, at the dawn of civilization, when people began to turn to agriculture and domesticating livestock as their principal methods of maintaining a food supply, there was always the probability of one group of people desiring the belongings of another group of people. This behavior led to an early form of aggression that is based on the instinct to survive. If your family’s life is threatened by starvation due to crop failures, attack someone who has an abundance of food and take what they have. If your family is being attacked defend them with your life.
At the time these events took place their may have been women and children watching—the early version of the spectator sport—the spectators had free admission but the losers were usually killed or forced into slavery.
The need to win
Perhaps, the desire to watch a simulated form of combat and have a favored team or individual emerge victorious is genetically hardwired into us. We feel joy when our team wins and we feel sadness when our team loses. Our ancestors must have felt such a profound sense of well-being when their group or tribe was victorious that we may not be able to understand it. They either lived or died and the desire to live is what makes us what we are.
All this has led to a concept for a story. It is set in Ancient Rome and is primarily about gladiatorial combat. It describes various recruiting and training methods as well as what goes on behind the scenes. Can a contest be predetermined by gambling interests and are the gladiatorial games the ultimate choreography that involves expert weapon handling designed to inflict non lethal wounds?