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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Helpful Guide to Becoming a Fighter (Part One)

This post may take on certain rant-like qualities. In fact, it may turn into a full-blown rant, as it’s in response to a certain type of person who seems drawn to combat sports. However, behind the ranting is actually some very sincere advice. If you are interested in competing in a combat sport, please, please, read this and take it to heart. It may not save your life, but it might make your life a bit easier.

Do Not Try To Impress Me with Tales of Your Street Fights

First of all, when most people say “street fight”, what they mean is “bar fight”. Which means, if you aren’t’ lying, that you’ve successfully beaten up some untrained drunks, when you yourself were either drunk or sober. Congratulations. Unfortunately for you, fighting in a competitive arena, against a fit, well-trained, sober opponent bears almost no resemblance to a drunken brawl that was only initiated because you drank enough “liquid courage” to get yourself going.

Do Not Try To Impress Me with Tales of Your Prior Training

Unless your prior training is a combat sport similar to the one you’re trying to prep for (i.e., you’re a boxer who wants to compete in Muay Thai), I really don’t care that much about it. I mean, it’s nice if you have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, or that you spent three years doing Shotokan Karate, or whatever, but you aren’t training in those arts now.

Of course, it’s helpful to me as a coach to know what you’ve done previously. But there’s a line between saying “yeah, I studied Xing Yi for five years before coming here”, and saying “Yeah, man, I like, trained with this superbadass Xing Yi master, and he was like, all invincible and stuff, and he said I was really tough, blah, blah, blah.”

Do Not Try To Impress Me by Telling Me How Tough You Are

I’ll be the judge of how tough you are thanks. That’s my job as a coach. Frankly, if you have to spend this much energy telling me how tough you are, I’m guessing you’re not quite as tough as you think.

Do Not Try To Impress Me by Telling Me How Tough Your Friends Say You Are

Again, I’ll judge for myself. Friends, being friends, often either overestimate your abilities, or simply are being nice to you.

I’ll be honest; many of my non-martial arts friends think I’m a lot better at the martial arts than I am. This is a perspective thing [and I’ll write more about this, at some point]. Your friends may be perfectly sincere when they tell you that you’re the baddest dude on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.

Do Not Tell Me about How You’re Going to Help Improve Our Training Methods

Look, you came to us to learn. If we wanted your knowledge, we’d come seek you out. If we decide or discover that you have something we’d like to you to teach us, we’ll let you know.

Do Not Think You’re Going to Walk in the First Day and Spar with Some of Our Fighters

Yeah, look. It’s great that you’re enthusiastic and all, but this isn’t medieval china, or a Bruce lee movie. Just come and train. We’ll decide when you’re ready to spar, and who you’re ready to spar with. You aren’t going to walk in off the street and beat up a professional fighter, no matter how many kung fu movies you’ve watched.

Do Not Give Me Back Talk When I Tell You to Do (Or Not To Do) Something

Here’s what it comes down to: good fighters are made, not born. The only way to make a good fighter is to train them. And the only fighters who can be trained are the ones that friggin’ listen.

If you think you know so damn much about fighting, training, and so on that you don’t have to listen to me, then go set up your own gym. Train in your backyard with your buddies. Go punch trees. I don’t care.

For that matter, I don’t care if your prior training taught you to do things that way. This is not your old school. We may not do things the same way you do. If you prefer their way of doing things, you should have stayed there.

I have a gym full of students who actively want to learn something. Who will do the drills I ask them to do, who, if they have questions, will ask those questions in a respectful manner. There is no reason for me to waste my time and energy trying to convince you to listen to me when I can go talk to the people who I already know will listen to me.

If you don’t think that what I have to say is worthwhile, don’t train with me. There are plenty of other schools in the area. Go find one that will stroke your ego or put up with your bullshit.

Let me end this rant with couple of examples of people who did things right. In the interest of preserving their anonymity (if they want it preserved), I’ll leave their names out of it, but…

Fighter Number One: Came to the school with, apparently, a little bit of prior Muay Thai training. I didn’t know it. I’m not sure who else did. Spent some time doing the beginner classes. Eventually was moved up to the intermediate class, at the discretion of the instructors. At some point, when fight opportunities arose, he was asked to fight. He said “okay”. Trained hard, fought, won. Continues to train, get better, and fight. Shows up for practice, trains hard, does the drills, keeps his mouth shut except when asking questions.

Fighter Number Two: Came to the school and did the beginner trial lesson. Turns out to have multiple DECADES of Judo experience, a fact which is thrown out in a sort of casual conversation. Happily and willingly participates in some beginner classes, before moving into the intermediate classes and prepping for an MMA fight. Ends up winning his first MMA fight by TKO.

Those are just a couple of examples, but the examples fit the general rule. Successful fighters are the guys who show up, work hard, listen to their coaches, and keep their mouths shut.

Kru Eric Armington used to say “everyone wants to be a fighter, but no one wants to train like a fighter.” In fact, next time, I’ll talk about exactly what you have to do to become a fighter, and let you consider whether or not it’s something you really want to go through.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I enjoyed your rant. Like you I train people (grappling) and hear all sorts of 'horror' stories. I have 1 more fighters for u;

Fighter 3: skinny kid who slouches (130lbs wet) with ZERO experience in ANYTHING. Came to practice relatively regularly for 6months, pretty innocuous never stood out. On my last class had him ground fighting a 230lbs guy (with 2 months practice). Skinny boy was all over him~ was manhandling that 230lbs guy like he was a toddler!

I was shocked (and happy to see him do well)!!!

The more u train the better you get (sometimes despite yourself).

c u soon!