Friday, March 23, 2012

Life Lessons Learned Fighting

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

A lot of people ask why I fight. It's a difficult question to answer and there are many, nuances and levels to the fight game and why we do it.
There is the aspect of the challenge. All sport is combat by proxy. All sport is combat with various rules applied.
Fighting arts in that respect could be argued to be amongst the purest of sports, and if you disagree then perhaps you'd agree that at the very least they are the most primal, the most visceral.
This primal nature often causes people to think that fighting is brutal and brutish and that fighters are thugs. But my experience is exactly the opposite.
Any sport can provide for a microcosm of life in general, and fighting is no different. Sure you'll find the odd narcissist and the odd bully. But they are rarer than you'd think, because fighting has a way of weeding those types out. The people that I have met along the way, and continue to train and spar with, are amongst some of the most reflective, caring and compassionate people I know.
Standing toe to toe with someone in the ring, in the cage or on the mat has a way of confronting you in a way that other sport (and few experiences in life) can, and in moments of reflection many of us realise that we aren't fighting any body else, but instead by fighting, we are transcending our own internal challenges.

When You Get Knocked Down...Get Back Up 

"It's hard to identify one single lesson I've learned from nearly twenty years of competitive martial arts. 
Fighting in general is a huge and fantastic analogy for life. The majority of the time, you get out what you put in. And if you learn to invest in the process and do your very best behind the scenes then you should be happy and proud of yourself regardless of the outcome. That's hard to apply in a culture of meritocracy and success but I think it's important to try and apply it. 

One of the best lessons a life fighting has taught me is the importance of perseverance. Simply don't quit, try everything to succeed. Just like in life, when you fight, one day you will get knocked down,but getting knocked down teaches you how to get up and try again. If you persevere and don't quit in the face of adversity, regardless of the outcome you will grow in spirit and mana and that's something you can carry with you long after you hang up the gloves."
~ Richie Hardcore (Professional Muay Thai fighter)

Never Judge a Book by it's Cover

I was watching some amateur fights many years ago at the Auckland Boxing Association, where I first began training for boxing.
At these events there are often kids fights. I remember this one gangly, effeminate, skinny white boy walking out to face his opponent: a tough looking, athletic, young Maori boy with a gangster like swagger and a grimace to match. Now I know as well as anyone that looks can be deceiving (and that often the toughest looking guys are merely projecting that image because in reality they are pretty damn soft!) but in this case it just looked like too much of a mismatch. I said to my friend sitting with me: "This poor kid is gonna get killed!"...
And you know of those kids did get destroyed...The tough looking kid got taken apart with a brutal and technical display of boxing!

Never Underestimate an Opponent

"A life lesson I've learnt in the ring and especially from a very recent fight is to never underestimate somebody else's will to want the big W at the end."
~ 'Southpaw' Joe Hopkins (Professional Muay Thai fighter)

You Can Always Give One Last Effort...

Nothing has shown me this more than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of the hardest things anyone joining the sport quickly realises is that you have to keep working, and that you have to keep moving. And in almost every case there is always a little energy, somewhere deep within that you can muster to bridge and sweep, or to give that final squeeze to a choke that will finish the fight, or to posture up and pass the  guard when there is a little voice saying that you have nothing left. You always do.

No Matter How Hard You Train, and No Matter How Good You Are, You Never Know Everything...

"From fighting I have learned that no matter how hard you train, no matter how good you are, you never know everything. 
So it is an eternal learning process where you must keep yourself humble and attentive to learn from anyone, even a white belt."
~ Fernando Junior (BJJ Black Belt, Founder Au Capoeira NZ and MMA fighter)

Being Happy and Being Comfortable are Two Different Things

Nowadays I think that people equate happiness with 'comfort'. But to my mind these are quite distinct. When we predicate our happiness on seeking comfort at the expense of all else we take the path of least resistance and deny ourselves many amazing opportunities and experiences that may encompass a degree of discomfort in their process.
Nowhere is this more true than in the fighting arts. The sports I have trained for (boxing, weightlifting and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) have provided some of the most physically exhausting, arduous and at times down right uncomfortable experiences of my life. But through it all I can't remember ever not being happy doing these things. The greater benefit of going through transient discomfort and 'becoming comfortable with discomfort' (as my friend and mentor strength coach Carmen Bott puts it) has been that I have experienced greater physical health, improved self worth, confidence and camaraderie with my fighting mates. All of which had one big side effect: one hell of a smile.

Be Patient

"I have learned many things fighting! JiuJitsu made me the man I am! The most important thing I believe is to be patient. Patient to endure an uncomfortable situation waiting for the right time to react.
Be patient and persistent to endure the long process that is learning, and be disciplined to get out of bed on those cold wet mornings and go training!"

~ Pedro Pacheco Fernandes (BJJ Black Belt, Pan-Pacific Champion, Founder: Tu Kaha BJJ)

Losing a Fight Doesn't Make You a Loser 

People often equate a loss with a greater sense of total failure. But that is self-limiting and unrealistic. None of us, no matter how good we are can win all the time. Our losses provide for our greatest learnings, and when we choose to take these learnings and grow and evolve, not just as fighters but as people, we reap a far greater reward. Insecurity and a poor sense of one's own self-worth drives many people to not risk losing. And not risking losing means that they won't even try or start, and so miss out on the great things that can be achieved when we risk losing, in order to gain so much more.

Adversity Builds Character 

"The coolest people i know do Jiu-Jitsu...
I don't think its so much the sport attracting good people as much as it is the sport building good character in people. On the mats you are being humbled every day, often by unassuming and maybe even smaller, less athletic training partners. Egos aren't big fans of environments where their ass is kicked daily. So you either: start to lose the ego, keep training with the ego but never improve due to never putting yourself at risk, or you quit.
You meet a wide range of people of every walk of life in Jiu-Jitsu. But on the mats your profession, your house, your car, your social status, none of it matters. All that matters is your ability. Both your ability to do Jiu-Jitsu and your ability to help others in their Jiu-Jitsu. The struggle you face on the mats every day with others teaches you you many things. It teaches you to overcome, to strive, to be confident, to have respect, to read people, to have empathy, to have self awareness, to be thankful, to be a student, and to be a teacher.
Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art created for self defense, but the best quality about it is not the teaching of its awesome techniques, it is the building of the character within the people who practice and live it."
~ Wilf Betz (professional MMA fighter and Jiu-Jitsu fighter)

Thanks to my brothers Richie, Joe, Junior, Pedro and Wilf for contributing some of their thoughts. 

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