It is a truism of psychoanalysis that depression is anger introjected against the self. The psychoanalysts are right. When at last you are in a social context where it is permissible, indeed encouraged, to haul off and slug something as hard as you fucking can, you realize quickly how much aggression you carry around with you, every minute of the day, how much energy you have spent repressing it, and how remarkably well you feel when you don’t. When you feel your fist make contact with a punching bag or a focus pad, and when you have put all your force, all your anger, all your energy behind the punch, and you fondly imagine that you've just hit that thing hard enough that had it been someone's head it would have exploded like a grapefruit on the business end of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, there is really an astonishing rightness with the world.
If you find this thought unpalatable, congratulations: Your socialization has been successful. But what I'm saying is true, alas. Primal violence is just below the surface in us all, in even the most mouselike of accountants. We just repress it, all the time, and thank God we do.
Let us speak frankly now, among friends. Hitting things feels great. We are not just talking about the familiar endorphin cascade of exercise. I used to be a distance runner. I know enough about exercise-induced endorphins to recognize what is and isn't their effect. I do yoga, too—I am very familiar with the rewards of pious non-violent exertion. This is different. Aggression offers a unique pleasure of its own. The point is unacknowledged by hand-wringing sociologists who lament the problem of violence among feral youths. They seem genuinely to have persuaded themselves that if only these hoodlums were loved enough by society, if only they had ample economic opportunities, they would lose their desire to attack people.
Forget it: They’d still want to. Perhaps they wouldn’t do it, but they would still want to. They’re doing it because they like it. And you’d like it too.
Obviously, there are other reasons to do this sort of thing, but this is certainly one of them.