Primal Sports: Athletic Events that Showcase Human History

Humans have been around for a very long time. Our history goes back well beyond written historical record, including artistic and architectural expressions of cultural history and heritage. Times have changed, but the human form is very much today as it was when it first appeared on Earth. By analyzing human anatomy and contrasting it with behaviors observed in nature, basic innate functions of the human body’s design is well suited for. In the fitness industry, we call these behaviors Basic Human Movements.

Knowing the basic human movements as well as natural behaviors allows us to find activities that require and even celebrate exceptional skills in these movements. These basic movements include the:

  1. Squat
  2. Hinge
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Rotation / Anti-rotation
  6. Locomotion

Athletics are a fantastic tradition of human history that challenge competitors to improve both their movement and skill competency to achieve peak peformance. Here are some sports of today that celebrate the same primal movements and behaviors thousands of generations before us could relate to and appreciate!

Rock Climbing

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Most people today wouldn’t think of climbing as being a survival skill. Our ancestors, however, relied on their ability to climb both trees and rock to escape predators, scout for food or threats, and even play! Speaking from personal experience, the feeling you get from climbing a challenging route on the side of a steep rock face is quite sensational. Much like the feeling of reaching a new level of strength for the first time, a primal sense of belonging sweeps over me when I ascend a rock that I was not entirely sure I could do.

Weightlifting

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Feats of strength have been a part of human nature since, well, before humans were even around! The animal kingdom thrives on being stronger than those around you, because otherwise can easily mean death. It is no surprise then that humans exercising their ability to out-lift other humans has been a crowd-pleasure since the dawn of time (our time, that is).  The Snatch and the Clean and Jerk are the two weightlifting movements recognized in the International Olympics. These movements showcase one’s ability to lift weight from the floor over their head in either one fluid movement (Snatch) or two movements (Clean and Jerk). Getting heavy weight over your head and holding it there is arguably the hardest thing a human can do as far as showcasing their strength is concerned, so watching these masters of movement and strength in the Olympics is a beautiful thing when you learn how to appreciate the level of difficulty their job entails. Exceptional physical benefits of learning how to perform and excel at each weightlifting movement on your own aside, everyone should spend even just a little bit of time practicing these movements so they can connect to one of human history’s most intrinsic athletic abilities.

Wrestling / Fighting

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Taking competitive strength to a more personal and violent level, combat sports like wrestling, boxing and martial arts are not only examples of showcasing one’s strength relative to another, but their skill at applying that strength to take down any threat posed by another through hand-to-hand combat. Again, the animal kingdom is brimming with examples of violent displays of dominance, so it only makes sense that humans would have the same fascination with inner-species violence. When it comes to primal behaviors that are truly vital to survival, it is hard to argue that being able to neutralize a critical threat should not be one of those skills. Combat challenges your ability to respond quickly to the actions of something outside your control, protect yourself and subdue the opponent(s), all while avoiding fatigue and life-threatening injury, possibly while already injured. It’s a battle of wits just as much as fists, as not letting emotion distract you from what is happening around you is just as important as being prepared for such an event in the first place. I’m certainly not condoning violent behaviors, but the reality is that violence happens and being able to defend yourself against it can literally be a life-saving skill. Combat sports therefore are celebrations of surviving the animal kingdom and symbols of man-kinds’ ability to protect his own life and when necessary, take control over another.

Track and Field

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Man’s ability to run, jump and launch projectiles by hand are all forms of survival skills our ancestors needed at multiple points in time. More rugged obstacle courses like a Tough Mudder or other military style competition might serve as a more accurate test of survival well-roundedness, but track and field events like sprints, hurdles, high jumps, long jumps, javelin throws, long distance runs, etc. are pure sporting events that showcase the limits humans can push themselves to in order to be the best.

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