How many people do you know that have been dedicated to something for more than three decades? Hell, most marriages don’t even last a year these days. But that is how long I have been involved in martial arts in one shape or form. Clearly my role in martial arts has little to do with getting rich, because if that was the case, I chose the wrong profession. No, and as I have noted elsewhere martial arts is an integral part of my life, for many reasons, but most importantly because the experience on the mat has helped me work through a lot of trauma from my childhood. In other words, money or not, I would do it anyway.
In 2012 I embarked on a formal educational journey (i.e., my PhD), which I now realise was in fact a culmination of years of informal study. You see, as far back as a decade ago, I began to realise that my personal performance in the ‘fight game’ was largely predicated on what was happening on the inside. Said another way, if I stepped onto the mat filled with self-doubt, anxiety, and self defeating thoughts, it would invariably impact my game. While my research as an academic has been specifically focused on the inner game of leadership, with a specific attention to mindfulness in action — my realisation has been, that these tools expand to all areas of one’s life.
If one could go back to the dawn of modern man one would be struck by two perennial truths. In the one sense humans would seek to propagate and continue the species, and secondly there would be a need to survive. Building off that need to survive would be the leveraging of both self, and environment as means to seek personal, and collective (i.e., family, tribe) protection.
It is hard for many of us to imagine this, especially those of us who live in the relative safety and ease of the modern world. But for our ancestors, life was unimaginably harsh, filled with danger, both real and imagined. It’s not surprising then, that earliest man sought to find the best possible ways, including strategies and tactics to defend himself, and those he cared deeply about (or simply other people he needed to help him fight off the dangers he could not survive alone),
Over the past couple of years, it seems, that many MMA athletes are starting to wake up to the pitfalls of constantly sparring hard. Not only is there a physical price to pay, but also a mental one. We know now, unequivocally, that even mild trauma to the head can be detrimental over time. Nowhere is this more evident than in combat sports, where often, trauma to the head is a sustained occupation for years. Going light then in training sparring, and leaving the big fight to the fight night, seems like the most logical, health saving thing to do. But what these fighters don’t understand,is that it may be to little to late. If you are one of the unlucky ones to sustain head trauma in your professional or amateur fights, sparring light in training may not make much of a difference.
I may be an enigma to some. In fact, I know that most people who fixated on the world of the martial, find me somewhat of an anomaly. My philosophy confuses them. In their world, the only reason to practice modern forms of martial arts is to know first and foremost how to fight. Being able to do so either on the street, or in competition is the ultimate pinnacle of success for them. And to be honest, I am perfectly fine with that. Each of us, have to travel our own path. I just know for myself, especially in the past few years, I am no longer interested in beating external opponents anymore. The only fight I am interested in, is beating the opponent inside. It’s not that I have lost my passion for martial arts, but rather, I have lost the desire to fight others simply as a measure of outdoing them with physical skill.