I have been training in various forms of martial arts for the past eight years, and seriously for the past three, or so. In that time I’ve competed in muay Thai, submissions grappling and mixed martial arts (MMA).
I lost my sole Thai fight by decision, took a gold medal in my only grappling tournament to date and have a semi-professional MMA record of 2-0-1; that’s 2 wins and 1 draw, by the way.
I consider myself to be a martial artist and not a ‘fighter’; except when I’m chatting up a girl, in which case I am a ‘cage fighter’. (That’s a joke…honest…)
I also very much consider myself a novice, and probably always will, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the years that I think you could apply to your life in order to help you reach your fitness and physique-related goals.
Here are some of those lessons:
1. Keep moving forward.
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa
Skill is important (like, vitally important) but a combination of skill and will always trump skill on its own. When you’ve got two skilled guys squaring off, it’s most commonly the guy with the will to win who gets his hand raised.
In terms of your body transformation, you must first set goals and educate yourself on how to achieve them. Then make the necessary changes to your lifestyle that’ll ensure you’re starting to work towards your goals. After that, you have to always keep your goals at the forefront of your mind in order to make certain that your daily decisions are going to help you achieve them.
2. A knockdown is different to a knockout.
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” – Japanese Proverb
A knockout is devastating; the fight is over and you’ve lost. A knockdown, however, you can recover from.
I remember a time one of my coaches ‘dropped’ me (knocked me down) with a body shot. I couldn’t breathe and felt as if I may die before oxygen was able to get from the air to my lungs again.
I was in a crumpled heap on the canvas when my coach looked over me and said: “Get up and finish the round.” At the time I felt like he was victimising me but, looking back, he was building my character; instilling it into my psyche that no matter how much pain I’m in I have to continue.
Look at going off the rails at weekends, family gatherings, social events and holidays as knockdowns and look at giving up and reverting back to your previous lifestyle as a knockout.
The latter will ensure that your body never changes and your goals will never be reached. And the former are small set-backs that could ruin your hopes of success…unless you put them behind you, immediately, move on and refer back to lesson #1.
3. Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?” – Lance Armstrong (who is still one of my heroes. Drugs or no drugs.)
When training for a fight my social life (which isn’t exactly rock’n’roll at the best of times) takes a back seat.
Weekends become time to get some extra sleep and let my body recover from the rigours of the week’s training. Alcohol, which I’m never really big on, is totally out of the equation. And the odd cake, cookie or pastry that I may allow myself with my coffee from time to time is a definite ‘no go’. I’m totally ‘in the zone’ and focused on getting the victory. No time for distractions, no room for slip ups.
This is something you have to understand: if you want to change your physique you must make sacrifices.
Be it cake, pizza, alcohol or a night out on the tiles, you have to recognise that in order to achieve your goals the things that you may enjoy must go if they’re going to decrease your chances of success.
4. Keep your guard up.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve spoken about it in previous posts but it’s worth repeating: when you decide to make positive changes to your lifestyle, you will be met with some negativity from those around you; friends, family members, colleagues, the lot. You have to keep your guard up, so to speak, and block, slip and roll this negativity.
Letting it penetrate your defence will have a detrimental effect on your chances of success. Ignore it and concentrate on what’s important; i.e. achieving yo’ goals, mothertruckers.
5. Leave some gas in the tank for the later rounds.
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill
Charging out of the corner and swinging for the fences is a strategy some guys adopt. It’s great if it works out and they get an early KO. However, if they don’t score that early KO they generally tire quickly and spend the rest of the fight breathing out of their backside, hanging on and getting beaten up.
I experienced this in a Thai boxing fight where I dropped my opponent twice in the first two rounds and went ballistic, chasing him around the ring trying to land that final knockout blow. Unfortunately, for me, he managed to weather the storm, I got tired (an adrenaline dump, they call it) and my opponent rallied back to win the final three rounds and secured a majority decision victory.
The moral of that story is that pacing yourself and exhibiting patience are the keys to your success.
Too many people focus on being perfect straight away and can’t deal with the magnitude of the change. If you’re not comfortable making huge changes straight off the bat, make small changes and gradually build upon them over a period of time. It’s a far superior strategy to being perfect right away and throwing the towel in after a couple of days. That being said, if you can change holistically from the get go, do so.
6. Work hard, insanely hard.
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is that I’m not afraid to DIE on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on a treadmill together, there are two things: 1. You’re getting off first OR 2. I’m gonna DIE. It’s really that simple.” – Will Smith
There has been times during training I’ve had to stand over a bin for fear of projectile vomiting all over the gym. There’s been other times I’ve been very, very close to a total emotional breakdown because I’ve pushed my body to a level of exertion that my brain simply didn’t understand. And, of course, I have taken many, many beatings
It’s these times that give me confidence going into a fight. I know that regardless of how hard the fight is, it’ll never be as hard as what I’ve gone through in the gym.
Now, let’s be crystal clear: changing your physique is hard work. Brutally hard work. If it was easy, everyone would be walking around with six-packs and ‘She Squats, Bro’ bodies. You’re going to have to work – in the gym and also in the kitchen; cooking and preparing meals – at levels out with your current comfort zone.
Just remember: it’ll be worth it.
7. Don’t give up.
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” – Vince Lombardi
No more words, just this:
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