What’s the most important attribute of a skilled fighter? It’s one of the biggest questions martial artists, commentators, and trainers have posed throughout the years. You’ll see a million different opinions on the matter. Some believe that striking power makes all the difference. Others believe speed, agility, and dexterity make the opponent’s strength obsolete. Still more favor endurance and stamina, saying that the fighter who can “go the distance” is the fighter that will succeed.
I don’t know if there’s a right answer. When it comes to fighting (or, really, anything in life) it’s all about how you play to your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.
As far as fighting goes, I’m not the strongest or the fastest. My trainers never marveled at how long I could train, spar, or fight. I’m not a standout. If I was, I’d be a world champion right now rather than a writer/blogger. But, I know for sure that I have one skill a lot of fighters-to-be (and even some professionals) lack completely.
I can take a punch and keep on going.
In fact, I can take a lot of punches. Early in my muay thai training, I was facing down a much stronger, much faster, more experienced opponent. The guy had fifty pounds on me, and he could flow through strikes like he knew what I was thinking. His footwork was phenomenal, his strength terrifying, and his level of experience far exceeded my entire training career.
He happened to be training for a major fight. He was looking to capture a local title in his weight class, and it was the duty of every skilled fighter in the gym to ensure he was prepared. So, he fought us all. I pulled no punches… but I didn’t really have the luxury of doing that. It took everything I had to keep up with him. Every hit I landed, he answered with three. I could feel my lungs burn, my muscles ache, my head pound. He’d been smacking me around with well-timed shots for about two minutes. I was doing okay.
Then, he hit me square with a solid hook. I felt my nose break. Blood poured out of it. We finished the round and I took to the bathroom, where I inspected my crooked, swollen nose. Yeah, it was definitely broken. Whether it was out of foolish stubbornness or simple determination, I kept on training. I made a decision in that bathroom to not let that left hook finish me off.
Why does any of this matter? Why am I putting this on a writing blog?
Because the ability to take punches, I think, is overlooked. Not only by fighters and fight-analysts looking to answer the fighting world’s greatest question, but by everyone else. When you enter into a fight (or a new career, or are raising a child, or building a new life, etc ad infinitum), you have to expect that you’ll get knocked down. No matter how great you are at slipping punches, you’re going to get hit eventually. One day, a hook will come out of nowhere and knock your nose clean.
You’ve gotta be able to take that hit, shake it off, and get back to what’s important. Sure, it’s going to hurt. Sure, you might never breathe right again. But if you let one hard shot keep you from finishing the fight, you’ll never win. That’s just how it is. The greatest warriors aren’t known for how many punches they avoided. They’re known for what punches they took and kept on coming.
I write this today nearly a week after a car accident threatened to derail my entire way of life. I’d sold everything I owned to buy a van and travel the country with my girlfriend. Everything we had was in that van. It’s where we slept, ate, showered. It’s often where I worked. It’s how we got to see the world and where we nestled in at night. That van was the bolt that held our lives in place, and we did everything we could to keep it protected and road-ready at all times.
Guess what? A random truck blew a tire and ran us off the highway. No amount of preparation, training, or planning could have prevented it from happening. Sometimes, you just get punched.
Instead of “walking out of the ring” or “throwing in the white towel”, we decided to keep fighting. We shook it off, took stock of the situation, and pressed forward. We’re not out of the fight just yet, but we aren’t going to let this one hard knock decide everything. We chose to keep fighting, and we’re more prepared to take a hit now than ever before.
As you move throughout your life, keep this lesson in mind. Do your very best to be the fastest and the strongest and the most durable. It’ll only help you in the later rounds. But, know that you’re going to get hit. When it happens: stay calm, get your head clear, and put your gloves back up.
There’s still a fight to finish.
I’ll leave you with an old piece of samurai wisdom: Go into battle expecting to die and you will survive. Go into battle hoping to live and you surely will not.
Ronin is just okay as a fighter, but he’s pretty damn good with words. Check out his writings on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress. Subscribe to his YouTube channel to see his videos every Friday.
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