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To Judge Nature
Of Naked Exercises: 5
© 2022 James LaFond
MAR/8/23
[The qualities and duties of the trainer, at this point in the written lecture, begin to focus on the qualities of the athlete himself. 29 of 50 pages in, we are yet to discuss method.]
25. However, since an abundance of such cases comes to mind when we add the new to the old, let us rather fix our attention on the gymnast himself, what sort he must be and what he must know, in order to be able to have superintendence of the athlete. The gymnast ought to be neither talkative nor unskilled in speech, that the efficacy of his art may neither be injured by garrulity, nor appear too crude, from being unaccompanied by good speech. And he ought to be thoroughly acquainted with the whole science of physiognomy.
[The reading of facial structure and skull shape is still important to boxing coaches to determine the durability of the fighter.]
This I require for the following reason. The Hellanodik, or the Amphiktyon,1 has to examine a boy athlete on the following points: whether he has a tribe and a native land, a father and a family, whether he belongs to the free citizens and is not a bastard, and, finally, whether he is young and not past boyhood.
But whether he is temperate or immoderate, a drinker or a gourmet, and whether he is courageous or cowardly, about that their regulations say nothing, even if they understand it. The gymnast, however, must understand this exactly, since, to a certain extent, he has to judge nature.
[The following is beautifully written.]
He should, therefore, know all the signs of character which are in the eyes, by which the sluggish and also the violent betray themselves, as do the inactive, the less enduring, and the immoderate. For the character of the black-eyed is different from that of those who have bright, blue, or blood-shot eyes; different, too, is that of those whose eyes are yellow, flecked, bulging, or sunken; for nature has indicated the seasons of the year by the constellations, and character by the eyes.
The nature of the parts of the body, on the contrary, is to be considered, in the following manner, as in sculpture. The ankle must correspond with the wrist, the forearm with the shin, and the thigh with the upper arm; the buttocks must be in harmony with the shoulders, the back with the belly; and, in the same way, the breast should form an arch, like the region below the hips; and the head, the pattern of the whole, ought to be in correct proportion to all the rest.
[The following is an excellent discourse on the foundation of civilization, namely domestication of the human and his specialization as a type of productive beast suitable to its assigned task.]
26. After the close of this exposition, training is not to follow directly, as some might suppose; but the one to be trained is to be stripped and brought forth for an examination of his natural ability, how it is constituted and to what end. For, indeed, how is it seemly, that huntsmen and horse-fanciers take such pains with dogs and horses, that they do not employ dogs for any purpose they like, or the same breed for every sort of game, but some for this and others for that; and that of horses they train some for hunting, others for war-steeds, and still others for the race or chariot, and even these last not indiscriminately, but according as each is intended for a particular side of the chariot-tongue, or for the lines; but that of men, those who are to be entered at Olympia or Delphi, as contestants for the prize of victory that Herakles himself desired, are left without examination? I demand, therefore, that the gymnast know the correct proportions of which I spoke, and still more the properties of humors.
[In the following, the author reinforces his two main points of subtext: that the athlete himself is merely and active object, and that the thinker’s real goal is to form a bridge with the thinkers of antiquity, rather than with the actors of his own proximity.]
27. Moreover, there is something more important than this, which also seemed weighty to Spartan Lycurgus. In striving, for instance, to provide Laconia with athletes capable in war, he specified that “maidens take up physical exercises and be admitted to the public foot-races.” Naturally, for the sake of the children, and that, as a result of powerful bodily constitution, they might bear vigorous offspring. Then, too, when she comes to the house of her husband, she will not avoid carrying water, or grinding meal, because of exercise from youth up; and, moreover, if she be united with a youth who has participated in exercises, the offspring she bears will be especially excellent—that is, slender, powerful, and healthy. And Laconia became so great in war, because they proceeded in this manner with respect to marriage among them.
[Below the trainer is placed on the front lines of Eugenics, as the examiner of parental traits and the filter placed to winnow out those athletes of less then excellent potential. My coach, Mister Frank Gilbert, would do this at the Loch Raven Boxing Team gym, by glancing at a person’s body and declaring often, “You’re fat! Leave, just go!”]
28. Since one must begin, therefore, with the birth of man, the gymnast ought to approach the boy athlete and consider him first of all with respect to his parents; whether, when they married, they were young, strong, and free from diseases, such as those which affect the nerves and the eye-sockets and attack the ears or internal organs; for, occasionally, these diseases may disappear with natural development, and in childhood they are latent and unrecognizable, but on advancing to the ephebic age, at the transition to manhood, and when the best years begin to decline, they become evident and discernible, since, at the change of life, the blood undergoes a change. The youthfulness of the parents, if we assume no blemish on either side at marriage, imparts to the athlete power, untainted blood, strength of bone, fresh humors, and a symmetrical physique—indeed, I would maintain that it gives him beauty. Granted that they are unknown, and are not present at the examination of the youth, how then shall we examine his parentage? For our procedure would degenerate into absurdity, were we to put aside the athlete, who literally stands ready to enter the racecourse to strive for the olive or laurel crown, for an investigation of his father and mother, who perhaps died in his tender youth. Instead, a method is required, by which, by looking at the nude athlete, we may be clearly confident as to the nature of his parents. The conclusion a posteriori is laborious and by no means easy, but it is not beyond the limits of science. Therefore, I call it to attention.
29. I have pointed out what kind of offspring the procreation of faultless youthful parents will produce; that of those who are advanced in age is to be determined as follows. The skin of such people is tender, the collar bones form cavities, the veins stand out, as after hard work, the hips are clumsy and the muscular system weak. When at exercise, these indications increase. They are, for instance, listless on account of coldness, and their blood is crude; their perspiration is superficial rather than springing from the curves and hollows of the body, and they also gain no color from exertion, if we cannot bring out the perspiration; they are also incapable of lifting anything, but have to pause for rest; moreover, their recuperation after exertion is not in proportion to their performance. I judge these unfit for all contests—for manliness is not their forte—but, especially, for the pancration and boxing; for such persons, who do not even have a firm skin, succumb easily to blows and wounds.
[Coaches in combat sports today take this same winnowing process, of separating out the weak for remedial training and improvement and the strong for competition.]
Nevertheless they are to be trained, but handled with more caution on the part of the trainer, since they are in need of it in exercise and in training. If, in the case of such people, it is merely in respect to a single part that procreation appears to have been at an advanced age, then the defects will be similar, but less evident.
30. The tendency to disease, however, will show in the blood; for it must certainly appear turbid and flooded with gall. And, even if such blood be invigorated by the gymnast, it changes again and becomes turbid; for that which is not of good heredity causes many difficulties. The prominence of the larynx and shoulder-blades may also be a sign, as, likewise a long neck, too much sunken at the jointure of the collar bones. And truly also those with narrow or excessively extended chests exhibit a strong tendency to ill health; for the former, naturally, have the inner organs compressed, do not breathe easily, are not well when exerting themselves, and are plagued endlessly with poor digestion of food; the latter, however, will have heavy, pendulous organs, their breathing will be sluggish, restraining them even when in movement; and food will do them less good, since it goes to the belly more than to the nourishment of the body. So much concerning the heredity of the future contestant; fitness for each sort of contest, however, must be tested in the following manner.
[The ancient Eugenics and body typing lesson over, we will hopefully turn to some method of execution concerning the physical arts under discussion.]
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