Over the years training different martial arts (boxing and muay thai), I realized that elite level athletes in combat sports possess a mindset with many parallelisms to that of a doctor/businessman/lawyer/engineer. Many characteristics that are used to describe highly educated or successful individuals are shared by these level athletes. Beyond the work ethic, sacrifices and dedication that athletes must possess, martial artists possess something more. I believe this lies in the fundamental fact that one can not play “fighting”. This level of seriousness separates the cadence of training and preparation of martial arts than with any other sport.
Here are 5 ways becoming a martial artist will make you a better person.
1. Self Perception
When you hit something, whether it’s a heavy bag, focus mitt, thai pad, or even someone’s face. The feeling of hitting something hard feels good. As you train more, you can feel how the contact with the bag/mitt changes and gets harder. You will feel amazing because with every punch/kick you can feel that your growing. This sensation lets you feel strong, and builds you mentally.
No matter what you do in life, how rich you are, how smart you are, how athletic you are, the heavy bag doesn't judge you. When you train, and put in the "work", you will get stronger. This is inevitable, and you will start to feel stronger. The more you train, the stronger you will feel, day by day, your confidence will grow, and you will begin to develop this perception of “if I work hard, I can achieve results”.
As you continue to grow, your new mindset will slowly transition and percolate outside of the gym into other parts of your life. What many people don’t realize is that this is actually the start of the positive feedback loop.
You (and everyone else) have unlimited potential, the only difference that separates you from unleashing your full potential is your self belief. With a powerful self-belief, you will put in powerful actions, which will yield powerful results, and when you see results, this fuels your original belief to put in more work that will trigger more results. This is the positive feedback loop. On the other hand, if you have a weak belief, you will say what’s the point, I can’t do it anyways; so you put in no action.
What happens when you take no action? You will inevitably produce zero results! When you see no results, you say to yourself "you see, there’s no point to even try." This is the negative feedback loop.
2. Learn to Do something you don’t like to do, like something you love to do.
One of the most frequently repeated activities when you are fight training is roadwork; you have to do it 6 days a week. I can tell you from personal experience, I don’t think I ever met someone who said that they genuinely enjoy running 5 - 6 km a day, 6 days a week for pre-warm up. It is really boring, and remember this is only the pre-warm up.
You still have your entire workout left, and if your training muay thai, you probably have to knee the bag 300 times (still pre-warm up).
Regardless of how you feel, when you are fight training you do it, and you do it like you love to do it because you understand that road work is critical to success. Not having sufficient cardio is like entering a Formula 1 race car into a race, without fuel.
“We are what we repeatedly do therefore, excellence is not an act but a habit” - Aristotle
Therefore, sometimes when you need to practice one move 100, 200 maybe even 300 times a day. It might mean you stand there doing that one move for 30 minutes straight.
Is it boring? Yes, but do you do it like you love it? Yes you do!!
In other areas of life, you are going to come across situations where you don’t really want to do it but you know you should. At this point it is up to you to make sure you do it, regardless of how much you dislike it, and you will do it like you love it. The thing that separates the successful person and the unsuccessful person doesn’t lie in the emotions that they feel but rather in how they respond. They will both get bored, tired, but the person that is going to be successful is the one that chooses to do what he needs to do instead of what he feels like doing.
3. Improved Self Control
Elite level athletes must control their emotions in order to be successful. A match draws many resemblances from chess, where there is always one move that can trump another. Therefore, if one fighter gets irritated quickly, and resorts to their favourite weapon, they become predictable. The other fighter can selectively pick the correct technique and effortlessly win the exchange and possibly the match.
You must control your emotions and know when and where to place an attack. This can be applied into everyday life, especially in business where the right time to strike may not always be the earliest or after a major loss.
“When the ferocious strike of an eagle breaks the body of its prey, it is because of the timing of the strike.” Art of War
In addition, when you become a senior athlete, you often coach younger athletes. You will quickly learn that everyone has a different body type, and learns differently. One person may respond better to being shown a move, while another student learn faster if they hear you describe it and relate it to something they are aware of. By understanding that everyone is different, and learns differently, it will teach you to have more patience in dealing with people. This patience will transfer over into other areas in your life such as at work, dealing with people, etc.
4. Get Punched in the Face
"There is nothing to fear but fear itself." - Unknown
If you were to ask someone who has never trained a day in their life “What are your thoughts on getting punched in the face”. They would probably threaten to call the police on you. However, if you were to ask a trained athlete they would probably tell you 10 different ways to deal with your punch, as dealing with a punch is quite simple.
“Getting punched in the face” is a metaphor for the other fears that we put up. We think something like “getting punched in the face” is horrible. However, as a fighter will attest, there are so many ways to deal with it. When you finally get punched, you think wow that is actually not bad. You become a more free individual as you no longer fear the “punch” anymore.
You obviously want to avoid it, but you don’t fear it. In your life, how often do you not try something because you are afraid to fail?
5. Become Humble
When you train in a sport like muay thai/boxing/mma. You realize that there are so many terribly dangerous people in this world. You also realize that whatever you thought you knew about fighting is probably wrong. When you watch the elite athletes train, you realize how dangerous and scary some people are. The uncertainty of a match also humbles you, it’s very tough to think that you can train for weeks or maybe months and might lose the match in a few minutes. It teaches you a lot about how not to take life too seriously, how to relax and take a deep breathe every once in awhile.
Photo Credit: Michael White, Muay Thai Photography.
Michael Rao is a key contributor at Driven Fighters. He is passionate about the fighters mentality and motivating other people. He has associated walking into the boxing gym as the day his life changed. His story shows that with hard work anything is possible. Having taken himself from being labeled by his high school teachers as a failure and almost dropping out to opening numerous businesses and graduating with his Master Degree in Engineering (University of Toronto). At 18 years old, he was featured on CH News, and awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award. His passion and desire to help others made him a perfect example of what a driven fighter is. He has 20+ fights including a national amateur tournament belt.