The 8 harsh realities that I’ve learned through martial arts.

Throughout my years of existence in the martial arts community since 2009, I’ve learned some pretty tough lessons that correlate to life as a practitioner, and coach. I could list the cliche, obvious traits such as discipline, respect, integrity, and grit, but on a deeper level here’s what really slapped me in the face and taught me the harsh realities of life through my experiences.

1. Practice Makes Permanent, not perfect.
This contradicts the old saying of practice makes perfect. Whatever habits you’re establishing and repetitions you’re drilling will be the ultimate product of your practice regardless of being perfect or not. This correlates to life in such a way that whatever habits you establish in life will ultimately be the result of your future.

2. If you want different results, you’ll need to change your process.
The same process will oftentimes result in the same outcome. The habits that we build are crucial to the results we seek. If you’re not receiving the outcome you expect but continue the process that gave you that result, you’ll always indefinitely receive the same results over and over again. Instead, adapt and focus on the granular details needed to make the proper adjustments to attain the results you expect.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
- Albert Einstein

3. Don’t FAKE it till you make it, FACE it till you make it.
I understand that the intention of the classic “fake it till you make it” mindset could be used for some good to counter issues such as imposter syndrome. However, this starts to become toxic when the person's ego is way above their heads. Instead of being fake, focus on your craft, and put in the work in order to get to the level of experience that you want to be.

4. Sometimes being really good, isn’t good enough.
I use to have this mindset of “putting in the work, and the results will come to fruition” oftentimes we hear this a lot, it’s told to us by influencers on a surface level — that if we put our heads down, grind, work hard and have faith, that we’ll get what we want and we’ll get what we deserve.

Even with this mentality in mind, sometimes the end result is not what we wanted regardless of how hard we work. The silver lining in this is to learn from the experience by reflecting on the people we’ve met and friends we’ve made on the journey to the end result that we weren't expecting.

5. We all hate to lose, but losing is sometimes a necessity for improvement.
I haven’t forgotten the day I was knocked out in a sparring session, I failed to keep my hands up and ate a fat spinning back fist to the dome(a.k.a head). From then on I’ve decided to do my very best to keep my hands up. I even started to teach the spinning back fist in my kickboxing classes because of it. Our losses tend to haunt us the most, sometimes they act as demons in our heads that live rent-free.

Like any loss or unfortunate event, it can either hurt you or help you. It’s okay to sit and dwell on an unfortunate event for a brief moment, but reflecting on the loss with no active goal to improve will only do more harm than good. This speaks true to real-life events such as being fired from a job or denied an opportunity.

These are some questions I ask myself when an unfortunate event such as a loss at a competition or life happens:

  • Clearly define what you did wrong (if the fault was yours)
  • What you’ve learned from the experience
  • What you will do in the future to prevent this mistake from happening again.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
- Michael Jordan

6. There are superheroes and there are supervillains.
When there are superheroes, there are bound to be supervillains. When it boils down to martial arts, there’s this misconception that anyone and everyone that trains martial arts is a good person. The shocking reality is that this isn’t always the case.

Teach a person with bad intentions about martial arts, and that person will use it for bad. Teach a person with good intentions about martial arts and that person will use it for good. Throughout my experiences, in martial arts, I’ve met some really cool people that strive to be the best that they could be on a daily basis. I’ve also met some pretty big a**holes in my life that make the martial arts community look bad in general.

7. Quitting is okay, stopping is unacceptable.
The bold statements above may trigger some people, but I solely believe that quitting is okay. The cliche quote of winners never quit is a flawed one in my opinion. Consider smokers — that actually win in life if they quit.

Sometimes it's okay to quit in order to realize if that thing you were trying to pursue was really worth the effort, time, and struggle. Walking away will really help you determine if it was worth the time and effort to continue, or veer off into another path in your life. If you end up missing those nostalgic experiences, maybe it was worth the time after all. It’s important to remember that anything difficult is a marathon, not a sprint.

8. Be honest with yourself.
This is a tough one to really take in. I’ve learned to accept who I am and accept who I won’t be. Some of us are born with different attributes, some of us are taller with a long reach advantage, and others (such as me) are short and stocky.

Each body type plays to a certain advantage in a person’s style of fighting whether it’d be Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, or wrestling. This correlates to life in the sense that you have to play the cards you were dealt. Hence make the best of your abilities and traits.

Every person's perspective on martial arts is different, these are just short reflections of my interpretation of what martial arts have taught me. I hope you’ve gained some insight as a reader of the life lessons martial arts portray in a certain viewpoint. If you want reasons as to why you should train martial arts through my lens feel free to check out my previous article here.

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adam lee

adam lee

Software Engineer, and Martial Artist. I enjoy writing about topics related to technology, martial arts, finance, and personal development.