"The will to win compares little to the will to prepare to win." ~ Bear Bryant
This went up on the PDR Facebook Group for discussion. I figured I'd throw my two cents in, but it ran long, so I figured I'd share it here too.
This is one of those quotes that I've seen/known for years, but somehow, it never entirely clicked until just now.
Along with my PDR coaching, I coach Muay Thai at Sityodtong Muay Thai in Boston, which has afforded me the opportunity to work with an amazing number of aspiring competitors, and quite a few amateur and professional fighters to boot. Bear Bryant's quote gets to the heart of what often separates the successful competitor from the unsuccessful one.
The will to win is, in my opinion, cheap. Everyone wants to win, and a reasonable number of people have (or can muster up) the will to do so (to a point...I'll get there). Many aspiring fighters walk through Sityodtong's doors, talking about how they want to dominate this weight class, or beat this fighter, or whatever. Some of them are very, very, tough. Some are not quite as tough as they think.
I see the same thing happen when discussing self-defense. While there is a part of the population that will admit to fear or uncertainty about self-defense, there is also a part of the population that will (despite lacking any training or experience) pontificate about their willingness to do whatever it takes to survive. On one of the S&C related podcasts I listen to (I've been scouring iTunes for them), I recently heard one of the hosts swear that they were willing to "do whatever it takes" if the situation warranted it. I don't know if this person has ever trained or not, but I get the impression they haven't.
The will to win is a one-time event. It must be found DURING the contest (assault, whatever), but that's the only time it's there.
The will to prepare to win, by contrast, is much rarer, which is the reason that most of the people who say they want to be a fighter never make it. Kru Eric Armington, a Sityodtong trainer who passed away several years ago, often observed that "Everyone Wants To Be A Fighter, But No One Wants To Train Like One." In Easy Strength, Dan John notes that very few people have the courage to actually follow a workout program through to the end (I think this truth ties into some of the power and success of Crossfit, but that's for another post).
John Connors and I often talked about how students would come and ask about how to improve a particular aspect of their game (BJJ for him, Muay Thai for me), but when they were told what to do, would ask for something else. Another way. A shortcut.
Kru Mark Dellagrotte once told me that his first day in Thailand, he spent HOURS just throwing a jab on the bag. His instructor simply brought him to the heavy bag, told him to start jabbing, and walked away. Many students would have left the bag, quit, or sought a different coach. Kru Mark stayed there and jabbed. His jab got a lot better.
Preparing to win requires CONSTANT effort. It requires CONSTANT willpower. It requires the willingness to work on a single tool for hours at a time. To keep grinding out reps of fundamental drills, instead of chasing after shiny new toys. I'm always shocked when I see someone come back for a second PDR cert and complain about having to review the basic drills. Imagine Mike Tyson complaining about having to work the hook again, or Royce Gracie whining because he doesn't feel like working the triangle choke again.
Those people who are successful competitors are those who muster the will to prepare to win. To show up, day after day, and work on the things they NEED to work on, not the things they WANT to work on (jeez, I sound like a Batman movie). I have seen fighters from other gyms who were clearly just thrown in because they wanted to compete, but didn't have the will to prepare. They usually do quite poorly.
Self-defense is different from competition, but the same principle applies. How many people choose to stay at home, believing that bad things happen to other people, rather than actually seeking out some knowledge and information that might make them safer? How many avoid doing scenarios, putting on high gear, or doing drills where they really get pushed because it's "too hard." Hell, a huge part of the self-defense industry is catered towards those who don't want to authentically prepare to win, but want to think they are.
The Will to Win is a one shot deal. The Will to Prepare is constant preparation. Harder, but it leads to more results.