I get this a lot. People keep asking me about kung fu and MMA. I have traditional martial arts background, not only kung fu, but also karate. However, kung fu does define me and creates a big part of who I am. I got many messages from kung fu practitioners and also coaches, being very positive about both my wins and losses in MMA, and I am very grateful for them. I also got several comments, mainly from people here in Asia, about how MMA full-contact fighting is opposite of kung fu, too violent, etc. This makes me usually quite angry, not only because kung fu is fighting, but also because MMA is a rules-based sport, as opposite to often mentioned and promoted self-defense by kung fu practitioners, which is in fact much more violent than MMA. But that is a different topic. Transitioning to MMA with kung fu background is specific. I do not hesitate to start from scratch and get lots of beating, because I understand that forms and fighting are not connected naturally, the bridge needs to be built. And that is what I am doing. Kung fu definitely gives me many positive aspects for my MMA training, but today I would like to talk about one single thing, that I believe we do not talk about it enough.
In the last months, I have realized that a simple decision is often all that is needed. I would look at a fight card, no matter how pro or amateur level, and think: Oh, these people! They are special. They are strong, and they are not scared, and they are conditioned. They are not me. I am not them.
I would draw a line between they and I myself. It was my unconscious decision.
Now this: I spent 10 years not fighting. Because I felt I am fragile, and I was afraid, and simply I thought that those people must have done something special that made them superhumans, so they could fight; and I didn’t.
In 2018 and 2019 I finally got some fights, even though very green and very amateur, but there is a huge step between amateur fight and no fight at all. And I was shocked, when I realized that nothing changed about me at all. It is still me, with my fears and it is still my own body.
In my PhD thesis call Psychological Collectivism and Mental Toughness in Traditional Wushu (kung fu), I asked among others what makes people mentally tough. You know, being able to face stress and still push forward. And to my surprise and against all the theories so far, my sample size was not getting mentally tougher because of the number of competitions they joined. Not even because of how long they have trained. The difference was in a single variable, which was “what do you think your level is”. I could not measure their level, because there are no belts in wushu, etc. So, I simply based it on the subjective opinion of “what is your level”. And this subjectivity came out to be very important. Because the key was, if you believe you are of a higher level, no matter the real numbers of years spent training or the number of competitions joined, the higher will be your mental toughness.
I remembered that when I was thinking about this magical line that I drew in between me and them, the real fighters on the fight cards, so distant from me. I need to do something first, so I am not afraid, I thought. Or so I am OK to be hit. Last week I had my second fight, still very amateur, but it was a big deal for me because I was for the first time in a cage and without helmet. Some of my friends told me: “You are so brave! You were not scared at all! I could not do this.” And it hit me, that they saw me not as me, but as one of them. And I thought it is very funny, because I was very scared and definitely felt more like me than like them. But it was my decision to erase that line I drew in my head. It was just a single decision. Once, while training at Tiger in Thailand, I sit on the mat, totally happy after training, and I thought: Hey, maybe I too could do this?
Meanwhile it is still me, with my fears. Hopefully, the magical transformation will appear somewhen on the way?
I have been practicing martial arts since 1999. It became the reason for moving to Hong Kong and it guided many of my life decisions. I am addicted to hung kuen kung fu and MMA. Further blog posts are sharing of an enthusiast.
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