The Caged Type

A home for Craig Thomas Boyle's writing and life.

Category: Articles

Journalism, creative non-fiction, articles about Mixed Martial Arts and fitness.

Do We Still Have Compassion?

2016 has been a horrific year for planet Earth. Regardless of your political views, personal position in life or your attitude towards others, we’ve all read some horrific storylines in the media – from the deaths of much loved actors to an unparalleled refugee crisis.

But wait, I hear you say, what about our own homeless? What about Kim Kardashian?  When I first started writing, I always told myself I’d avoid putting my personal opinions out on a soapbox. Instead, I’d stick to sports journalism and fiction with some inspiration from our own reality. But sadly, it’s time I spoke some truth to anyone who reads the things I pen: It’s time to stop focusing on emptiness and start having some compassion.

We live in a world where more people care about themselves than they do others. This is understandable. We all want to go home to our families and see our own lives progress. We all want a nice, comfortable life. Unfortunately, the reality is so unbelievably far removed from that ideal that we must all now confront some of the crisis erupting around us.

But what is compassion, really? I’ve recently turned vegetarian after learning about the plight of animals in slaughterhouses, yet any time I tell people about it I get the same reaction: “I don’t want to know about the slaughterhouses. I just want to eat meat.” To me, that’s the symptom of our entire worldview and how we lack compassion. We watch the news, shake our heads, then we switch it off.  But really, that’s not good enough. We need empathy.

Syrian Migrants ARE NOT taking your job

This year has witnessed one of the greatest humanitarian crises  of our time unfold on the news. The refugee and migrant situation across Europe has spiralled out of control. And yet, a quick glance at the comment section of any national newspaper and you’ll see people furiously attacking these so called ‘economic migrants’ for wanting, how dare they, the free healthcare and good standard of living we have in the UK. The same free healthcare we are all entitled too, and didn’t pay a penny towards until we were 18+

These people are human beings. They come from a country that is involved in a complex power struggle, but they themselves only want the same thing as all of us. Food, shelter, warmth and a chance to succeed at life. Whatever country they flee too, who are we to judge while we sit in our homes and sip tea and coffee. Have we lost our ability to empathise?  Imagine you and your children suddenly had bombs falling on your home, a war on your doorstep and killers in your neighbourhood. What would you do?

It is not ‘Us vs Them’ – it doesn’t matter if they’re children, male or female. We are human beings. They are human beings. Nobody chooses where they are born – so why feel you’re entitled to more than they are?

People on benefits are not the enemy

I’m lucky. I’ve got a university education, thousands of pounds of debt and a rental flat that costs way more than it should because I can’t get anywhere near affording a mortgage. Despite this, I am healthy, happy and live in relative peace. The worst threat of violence in my life is getting chinned at the chip shop if I’m out drinking.

Some people are not so lucky – and the media is beginning to demonise the lower working class and those on benefits in a sickening fashion. Whether they’re immigrants, those who have fallen through the gaps or even voluntarily on benefits, the fault lies with the system. We live in a world where the 1% have more than the 99% – and yet somehow we focus on the poor? Open your eyes.

Be kinder to others (and yourself)

In this world, you’re branded a ‘leftie’ or a hippy if you preach compassion. However, even the most flagrant racists I’ve met have some good in them. I strongly believe that people are, against all media portrayals to the contrary, inherently good. Almost all of us have kindness in us, excluding a few complete bad eggs. Whether this kindness manifests as holding the door for someone, making someone a cup of tea or just being polite – it’s there.

This has all been spurred by watching Ken Loach’s incredible film: I, Daniel Blake. In it, a good man makes a big impact in a struggling family’s life – but finds himself a victim of our merciless benefit system. Despite that, the film for me was a strong reminder of the kindness of the human spirit. The sense that, if people try, we can really change things for people.

I’m writing this, unlike the stories and poetry I produce, for no real reason. I may be shouting into the darkness – preaching my ‘leftie’ views to people who won’t even consider this message. But, like a ship in a storm, I’m pressing on with it. Human beings, each and every one of us, has a story or a struggle. Whether it’s mental health, poverty, homelessness, seeking refuge or just feeling down – we all have our cross to bear. But it’s time to stop burying our heads in the sand, or placing our fingers in our ears. Each and every person can make an impact – whether it’s buying some food for a food bank, volunteering in some way or just being kinder to people.

If just one person reading this watches a news story about migrants, or beggars, or people on benefits and rather than instantly condemn them, thinks a little harder about the situation – then I’ve done a good job.

We are all human beings. We all come from our mothers. We all share this planet, for better or worse.

Think a little harder, care a little more, hate a lot less.

 

 

 

 

Mental health awareness week – When you can’t “man up”

It’s another one of those days. Sat with my head in my hands, worrying constantly about what my future holds. Scratching my fingers through my hair, biting my nails to the point of bleeding. Feeling like I’m drowning in an ocean of self-doubt, unsure what the hell I can do to dig myself out of my hopeless situation. The cause? Someone has said one bad thing to me. 

There is an alarming habit among males in the North East of England and probably the whole world: the idea of “manning up” and getting on with life whenever you’re down. Unfortunately, this attitude masks the real pain that many people in this region feel inside their minds. It is Mental Health Awareness week, and I feel compelled to spill a little bit of truth about depression and anxiety to hopefully encourage anyone suffering in silence to find help.

I know that my blog is public, so I’m prepared to bare my soul a little bit to try to explain what suffering from anxiety and bouts of depression is really like. I have a lot of friends who have heard me out in the past but haven’t been able to understand, which is totally fine. But I feel like if I can get through to anyone reading this who also suffers, it’ll be worth it.

Anxiety for me started in school. I was bullied verbally every day, and made to feel insecure and inferior by girls and other boys alike. I was never the real victim of the school, there were other kids who had it far worse. However, the foundation of constant unease that this daily abuse caused has lived with me ever since. If someone says something negative to me, I think about it relentlessly. I expand on the situation in my head, going over and over until it reaches a scenario where the imagined version of me has to kill himself to escape. Over and over again, day after day, I think like this. Every scenario becomes a doomsday situation.

Depression is the natural result of this anxiety. When your worry reaches critical mass, your mood dips. You begin to sink. For a long time, depression was the constant for me. I spent my younger teenage years buried in video games to escape the sheer apathy for life I felt. Nothing anyone can say will lift you out of depression. “There’s always someone worse off.” “Cheer up it’s not that bad.” “You’ve got it good compared to others.” All of these phrases fall on deaf ears. I felt like I was drowning and I couldn’t get my head above water.  Another problem is that you almost welcome it. You stop going to see friends, you stop attending events, you withdraw into your own misery.

Thankfully, forcing myself into activity helped. Parkour and then Mixed Martial Arts let me distract me from myself. Diving into these physical pursuits helped lift my spirits and give me the tools to fight back from depression. I’d recommend anyone who suffers to take up a sport, even if it’s a bit of gentle exercise in the home.

Unfortunately, during my last job I reached what I felt was my lowest point. I was living away from home, in a job that felt like it was going nowhere and worrying about everything possible. Was I going to lose my job at any point because they could ‘tell’ I was so worried? Would my girlfriend leave me because of my anxiety? Would I harm myself? These are all the sort of questions that fly through your brain when you’re anxious. Even when you’re out in public, you’re constantly guessing what others think of you or what they might do.

Thankfully, I sought help. I’ve recently completed a course of Cognitive behaviour therapy and couldn’t feel happier. I’ve found a new job full of great people, with great prospects. I’m the best I’ve ever been – but I know fine well it could strike again. So I continue to exercise, spend time socialising and generally do what I can to recognise any negative thoughts I might be having and stop them in my track. Positive thinking has never worked for me, but thankfully CBT helps you recognise your own thoughts and combat them. It’s practical, even for a sceptic like myself.

If you struggle in silence, find help. There is a silent pain that rages in your mind and it will never go away unless you deal with it head-on. It’s easier to hide from it, or to wallow in your own pity – but it won’t get you anywhere. Mental health is a battle and you have to fight it. Even when fighting is the hardest thing to do – don’t let anyone tell you that your problems aren’t huge because they can’t see the wound in your soul like they could see a broken arm or leg.

Remember: we all have a right to be happy.  Life is too beautiful to waste.

Losing A Fight: Is it so bad?

“All my life, I’ve been fearful of defeat. But now that is has come…it’s not near as terrible as I’d expected. The sun still shines. Water still tastes good. Glory is…all well and good but…life is enough, nay?”  – Mark Antony, Rome, (c)HBO.

I spent the first two years of my competitive amateur MMA career undefeated. Every fight went more or less the same way, with me shooting takedowns and securing chokes to finish my opponents in the first round. I never had to pummel anyone, never knocked someone down or finished them with ground and pound. In fact, I never even got hit cleanly in any of those bouts.

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Pre-Fight Jitters: The Nerves and The Fury

A Month To Go.

I’m currently one month out from an amateur four man tournament for a title belt. My life has become a mixture of emotion, effort and exercise as I float between my day job and training hard in the gym as well as cleaning up my diet. I’m already starting to daydream about my opponents at work, wondering what tools they might have or how my game plan and strategy will go. I’m starting to visualise it all positively – but I can’t stop the creeping sensation of nerves that blister across the back of my neck when I think of the day.

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Managing Fear: Fighting Calm or Fighting Angry?

Apologies for my long absence. I’ve been too busy with full time work and occasionally freelancing for the North East’s biggest promotion, Made4thecage. For anyone curious I won my fight after a last minute replacement popped up. I’m left a little hollow after the short bout – I took him down and submitted him fairly quick and again didn’t learn too much about myself. But when he was the only person to step up so my camp wasn’t wasted, I took the fight. Story over.

Recently, an interviewee I talked to set the seed of a topic I’ve had on my mind. He’s one of the North East’s biggest grapplers and admitted to me: “I don’t enjoy competing.”

This made me think about how odd I find competition as a whole. I’m a fairly placid, calm individual and fighting isn’t really in my nature. So I began wondering about the two main dispositions fighters seem to have. Continue reading

The big debut: Advice for your first MMA fight

The cage door closes. You hear it lock shut with a solid metal clang. Suddenly the baying of the crowd dims to a murmur. The only noise you clearly hear now are the doubts in your own head, eating away at you:

What’s going to happen?

Am I going to win?

Will I get hurt?

With your feet exploring the unfamiliar canvas, inexplicably different to the mats in your gym, you find yourself looking over at your opponent. This is a guy you have trained to beat. A guy you have sweat, bled and strived towards facing for weeks. But now that he is in front of you, you’re terrified. He looks just as well-prepared as you, just as ready. Can I win? Will I win? In what feels like an instant, the referee is calling you to the centre of the cage. You lock eyes with your opponent and something clicks. He is just as scared as I am. The referee tells you to separate and come out fighting. Here you go, this is it. No more time to think.

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Why do we fight? An amateur MMA competitor’s perspective

It’s the third week of fight camp for my sixth amateur MMA bout. I am beyond tired – my body already feels broken, with bruises picked up in places I didn’t even know existed, my sleep schedule is messed up and I’m short and ill-tempered with everyone at work and at home. I’m flitting between a 9-5 job, through an hour long queue of traffic to the gym I train at then back to my girlfriend’s flat for maybe an hour to ourselves a night. Put simply: I am completely exhausted.

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The 5 most entertaining UFC fighters in history

Great fights are a thing of beauty. Watching Jon Jones and Gustaffson locked in a battle of skill, witnessing Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua push the limits of human endurance and seeing Fedor and Cro Cop deciding who the best heavyweight of their era was – MMA as a whole thrives on these battles.

But a great battle requires two men to last through the rounds, elevating it to legendary status. Sometimes, the stars do not align and a quick KO, Sub or injury robs an audience of the spectacle. But that is the nature of MMA: Random chance.

Yet, if MMA is so capricious, then what do we have to rely on when it comes to entertainment? The answer: entertaining fighters. I’m talking about fighters you could watch a thousand times and not get bored. Fighters who, win or lose, put their hearts and bodies on the line for their family, fans and the love of the sport. Presented below is my list of 5 of the most entertaining UFC fighters to have ever graced the cage with their blood-soaked, battle-worn bodies.

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The Taste of Victory: Winning my MMA debut

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog: The Caged Type. I’m Craig Boyle, an active MMA fighter and general fighting and gaming enthusiast from the north-east of England. As well as starting this blog, I also contribute to fightstorepro.com. To start this whole site off I thought I’d showcase my highest graded assignment for University, a piece of creative non-fiction about my first fight. It’s lengthy and I do not expect everyone to read it to the end, but for those who are wondering what it is like to fight for the first time, or people who want some insight into me as a person it’s the best way to ‘step through the looking glass’. Without further adieu, please enjoy the story of  my MMA debut, a tale about a guy who spent the majority of his teenage years being bullied stepping into a cage to fight someone. 

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