Runner by heart and philosopher in his head, Emanuel Hurych arouses awe and incomprehension wherever he goes. For your interest, he is also a winner of 11 general knowledge quiz shows with a total value of 1.5 million CZK, an associate professor at the Faculty of Sports Studies, a teacher of logics at the grammar school in Jihlava and a participant in running, triathlon and Steel Man competitions. Simply a polymath by body and soul.
PHILOSOPHY OF SPORT
You teach a course called Philosophy of sports at the Masaryk University. What is it about?
It is a philosophical reflection of human’s motion. I study victory and defeat in sport. I have a theory that defeat motivates while victory lulls. If one only concentrates on victory, he is always waiting to be defeated. The defeat motivates because it leads oneself to a constant improvement. But two conditions must be met: one must not constantly lose and seek defeat on purpose.
That sounds interesting. I did not know that somebody expertly studied this topic.
There are 6 people who systematically study this phenomenon in the Czech Republic. The world’s community of philosophers of sport is small; hence we all know each other. I sometimes feel as if I was standing between two worlds. When I speak with sportsmen, they tell me: “Don’t bring that here. What nonsense!” When I mention it among philosophers, suddenly I am too concrete.
People are not used to seeing an overlap and you do not fall into their box.
People have prejudices that one can be good either physically or mentally. Some sportsmen think that every philosopher has just one leg, one eye and sits in the pub drinking a beer. The philosophers sometimes see sportsmen as the sun-tanned nerds who run around the city with a big sports bag. People see the world in black and white.
VERSATILITY AND EDUCATION
You are an exception because you do sports, study philosophy, read literature and sing. There are but a few versatile people.
It is because of that fact that today we produce specialists instead of people with a general overview. Amateurism is perceived negatively. The society prefers professionalism and performance instead of people who sometimes do things with love and even for free. And that’s how it works in sports, arts and in the field of work.
It is hard to maintain a general overview when we are overwhelmed with information and activities.
The education has become a knowledge competition like a multiple choice test. Since I have taken part in many general knowledge competitions I have experience with this. In these competitions, it is more important to know facts than context. Philosophy slowed me down in this mechanical learning. It is slow and every word makes sense. Our time is contrarily very fast and the majority of people lose the capability to use language. When a Facebook post has three sentences, nobody reads it anymore. People only want to give it a thumbs up.
There is just too much of everything.
Professor Bělohradský argues that we are sick from this overwhelming amount of information, properties, and just everything. I wrote a book called Fausts and gladiators of the Internet age which talks about the fact that sports celebrities still have to show something to be successful but there are many pseudocelebrities who do not do anything interesting (cf. reality shows and Youtubers). Barry Schwartz shows that too big of a choice paralyzes us.
What do you think could help people to be more versatile?
In my opinion, the bachelor degree should be a continuation of the general knowledge education and only the master’s degree should teach expertise. Today the universities are licensed courses that make students a somehow perspective employee but the erudition has been disappearing. When we will keep on simplifying the education just because something might not be practical in life, we will eventually (that´s hyperbole) not learn how to count to 20, because counting to 10 will be enough for us.
RUNNING AND SPORTS COMPETITIONS
When I go back to sports, you write about the spiritual dimension of classical sports. What do you mean by that?
In my habilitation work, I have come to the conclusion that besides classical motives to do sport (competition, health, lifestyle, and experience) there is spirituality. I perceive it as an inner voice. When I go running, I immerse myself in a spiritual state where I ponder about problems and it can even to lead something similar to mantra or prayer. This spiritual aspect can be seen in long distance runners, however, I must emphasize that it does not need to have a religious context.
You have been running for the past 40 years and taking part in many competitions. Have you been noticing any phenomenon?
The system leads young people to quickly gain a medal but it does not care about the fact that after a few years they will stop for good. I have brought six generations of students to run. While they won Championship of the Czech Republic and then stopped, I have kept on running. It is not about canceling competitions and seeing the focus on performance as something bad, but it is important to see a long-term purpose. Take the example of the marathon runner who is carrying something from the older generations.
You were organizing a competition called Univerzál in the Jihlava grammar school. What was it about?
It was a competition which ran successfully for 20 years and it combined individual sports, sports games and mental activities. One could basically not prepare for the competition because it had many disciplines and hence it required versatility. Taking into account that I left the grammar school and also that some disciplines lost attraction in comparison with today’s adrenaline sports, the competition does not take place anymore.
But you did not stop and you have been participating in a similar competition called Steel Man. What do you like about it?
It is a good challenge because it combines strength and endurance activities. I like the fact that it takes place four times a year and only two competitions are required for qualification. One can continuously do sport, go for the competition from time to time and he does not need to dedicate every weekend to it. Another advantage is that when one has some health issues, he can always focus on improving in another discipline. If you cannot run, you can cycle.
Who takes part in the competition?
There is a community of nice people which regularly meets and supports each other. There are very interesting and thoughtful people. We would like to attract younger participants and show them that this competition is accessible to everyone.
Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you many defeats and some victories. 🙂
Copyright: Emanuel Hurych