By Joel Hall
When Clayton State University student, Michael Hobgood, shared his research during the school's recent Southeast Philosophy Conference, he stood out from all the other presenters.
At the conference Saturday, the McDonough senior's nose was broken, an eye was swollen shut, and several of his toes were broken.
Saturday, he was presenting "Boots on the (Philosophical) Ground: Human Nature According to a Solider." A day earlier, Hobgood was in Washington, D.C., taking first place in the National Combat Sports Amateur Association (NCSAA) Muay Thai Kickboxing National Champions.
Currently serving as a national guardsman in Decatur, the philosophy major took first place in the national competition on Feb. 15, after winning the state and regional competitions earlier this year in Atlanta and Shreveport, La., respectively. In his first attempt, Hobgood took third place in the national competition last year.
"I was pretty banged up," during the speech, Hobgood said. "People didn't know what to make of it."
After joining the Army in 1999, Hobgood became interested in fighting sports while stationed at Fort Benning. When a fellow soldier needed a sparing partner for mixed martial arts (MMA), Hobgood was one of the only people willing to take the risk.
"He needed somebody else to spar with and nobody else wanted to do it because they were afraid of getting hurt," said Hobgood. "I figured ... at least I would learn something."
Eventually, Hobgood started studying Muay Thai boxing and began fighting in MMA tournaments in 2005. Between 2005 and 2007, Hobgood fought 76 MMA matches and began fighting in Muay Thai tournaments in February of 2007.
Hobgood used his experience in competitive fighting to present his finding on human nature at the Southeast Philosophy Conference.
"I was looking at a lot of my friends [in the military] who were coming back from oversees and how to help them deal with it," said Hobgood. "I came down to the conclusion that combat has shown me that there is no set human nature. Whatever we are, is what we make of ourselves."
"Combat affects everybody differently," Hobgood continued. "Some people come back saying the world sucks and some people come back saying there is hope."
Hobgood, who started taking history and philosophy classes at Clayton State University in the fall of 2004, said what he has learned in the classroom has helped in his fighting.
"I think the best thing, that I apply to every part of my life, is that you should never panic," said Hobgood. "In my experience, fighting is a fifty-fifty of physical and mental. It is usually the guys who are overly aggressive that get torn up immediately."
"If you are deficient on the physical side, you can fix that," Hobgood continued. "If you are deficient on the mental side ... you will fail every time."
Ron Jackson, a Clayton State University philosophy professor, said there is a "stereotypical assumption" philosophy and fighting are mutually exclusive. However, he pointed out, many of the early philosophers, including Socrates were also warriors.
"The idea of a warrior-philosopher was certainly apt in the ancient world," said Jackson. "Philosophy helps people determine what is really important. It helps you determine what is worth fighting for."
"They both go hand in hand," said Hobgood. "Emotions aren't what you need," in a fight. "You need reasoning."