Saturday, 11 December 2004

Lefty Violence

Not a Political post, a Brain article.

From the New Scientist ( via A Voyage to Arcturus) :
Left-handed people may be better equipped for close range mortal combat than those who rely on their right hands, according to researchers.

Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond of the University of Montpellier in France examined the number of left-handed people in unindustrialised cultures as well as the homicide levels within each culture.

They discovered a correlation between levels of violence and the proportion of the left-handed population – the more violent a culture, the higher the relative proportion of left-handers. The cause for this, the researchers suggest, is that left-handers are more likely to survive hand-to-hand combat.
Left-handed people are more prone to some health problems, suggesting the trait ought to disappear naturally over many generations through natural selection. But left-handers continue to make up a small proportion of the human population, hinting there could also be some evolutionary advantage to being left-handed.

And the ratio of left-handers to right-handers is higher in successful sportspeople than it is in the general population, suggesting there is definite advantage to favouring the left hand or foot in competitive games, such as tennis.

"Because of the advantage in sports we thought there could be a similar advantage in fights," Faurie told New Scientist. The theory is that right-handed competitors are less accustomed to facing left-handers, making them a more difficult proposition.
The strong correlation between the proportion of left-handers and the number of homicides in each culture suggests that left-handers are more likely to survive a fight, they say. "It could be one of the reasons left-handedness has survived," Faurie says. "Though there may be other reasons too."
However, Chris McManus at University College London, who has researched handedness, is more sceptical about the link. "I'm far from convinced," he told New Scientist. "I don't think it is anything as simple as this."
He believes the success of left-handers may be largely due to differences in the brain. "It may be that sometimes their brains assemble themselves in combinations that work better for certain tasks," he says.
Based on my own experience, my bet's on the Faurie hypothesis.

Let me explain. In the dim distant past, a quarter of a century ago, I was involved with the beginnings of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) here in Australia. In fact, it was before the local SCA-inspired group actually became a part of the SCA, first as a Principality of the Kingdom of the West, then a Kingdom in its own right.

One of the best fighters of the time was James "The Lefty" Sinister - who later on became a Knight of the West (an award which required - amongst other things - truly expert close combat ability with medieval weaponry.) As his name would indicate, a Left-hander.

When I used my usual fighting method, right-handed, he creamed me (like he did pretty much everyone else). I wasn't particularly good, even at age 20. When I switched to fighting left-handed (I'm somewhat ambidextrous), I was able to beat him consistently. In fact, and much to my chagrin, I gave him some very painful bruises, as no matter what I did, he always left the same area open, or dodged just wrong so I hit the bruised area rather than the one I was aiming at. Right-handers, used to fighting an opponent of the calibre of James the Sinister, often beat me when I tried the same trick on them, but I still did better against them when fighting left handed rather than right.

Of course, that was long ago and far away, and it's been nearly two decades since someone who I'd taught the basics of combat to did his painful duty as Marshall and withdrew my authorisation to fight - too slow with the shield work.

Actually, although this isn't a political post, it's certainly a Politarchopolitan one. And yes, I'm responsible for the name, though it was originally spelt "Politikopolis" when I organised the group as a Shire. That reminds me, I must get my own SCA name and arms registered.

The Burly Griffin of Politarchopolis
All Hail, The Burly Griffon of Politarchopolis! (Yes, that one's my fault too...)

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