In spring 2017 I, for the first time stepped in an MMA gym. For all reasons one can have for starting MMA, I actually just liked the open gloves, thinking that may be great for my kung fu. I didn’t give grappling even a single thought. Well, I guess I should have done more research on YouTube, but that’s a different story.
So, I started, and while the coach shouted at me being on top of a lying person: “Hit him in the head! You will get more points!”, I was thinking: Wait hell no, I am never gonna compete in this, I have really zero interest. Then, during a second class, I sprained my ankle badly, which put me away from training for 2 months and then my kung fu World Championships came, so I again started in another gym in January 2018. (And actually competed for the first time in June 2018.) I kind of have an anniversary of one year behind me, training at Shooto Gym and also having 3 camps at Tiger Muay Thai. I got absolutely hooked. So as much as I perceive myself green, there are some changes that I noticed already. I guess they are worth telling, especially for people who consider starting too.
What did I learn from MMA?
To slow down
This may sound funny, but being pinned under somebody on the ground for the first time, panicking and not being able to breathe, that is a great lesson. Also, position before submission, so I learned that rushing is not smart. MMA really made me to learn how to relax and be more patient (until that guy on top finally lets me breath in again).
What is a team sport
MMA is by no chance an individual sport. I thought I understood this. Martial art is my home since 1999, I know all this family, training brothers and stuff, right? Well, no. I spent most of my recent competitive years in kung fu being alone at the competition, with my sifu (master, coach) being in Hong Kong, and me being a coach as well as psychologist to myself. I am used to have the other Czech people around me, but really I focus on my own thing, as they do, and it brought me some good achievements. But suddenly, I needed a team. I needed a corner, who would help my mind not to slip into dark places during a fight, and who would see the gaps in my opponent that I didn’t. I needed a coach for BJJ, coach for kickboxing, coach for wrestling… I needed a whole army of my training partners, who help me build up my psychology leading to a fight (and it is freaking scary). I needed people across the world that I could text anytime, asking: “Hey, so this morning I was 62.4 kg, what should I do? Can I eat this?” You cannot do this alone. I never understood this before.
How to rest smart
I now have a part time job, plus some hours of coaching. It’s great, because I can have a short nap before training. At Tiger camp, I would sleep like that every day. The training is so intense, that I need to think about how will I rest, not only about how will I train. The intensity doesn’t come from the fact that I would be crazy and decide to have 3-4 sessions of training per day at Tiger every day, but because I just love it so much that I wanna do more! (And yes, I still trained 3-4 sessions of training per day).
How to eat well and that my appetite has changed completely
For my first fight ever, which happened to be MMA and with 5 days notice, I had to lose 4 kg. That time, I freaked out and did it in a completely terrible way, cried that whole week through. But I have learned a lot, took a nutrition seminar at Tiger, read, watched, discussed and changed what I normally eat. Not because I have a fight coming, but because I want to train like a Ferrari, so I need to get the best gasoline. I need energy. And when it started to work, I realized, hell, I don’t want to have food comma every day when I don’t have to! Also, it made my mind brighter and more positive. And suddenly it is hard to eat like before. Don’t take me wrong, I am not on a diet really. If I want chocolate or a hamburger, I eat it. But it’s more holistically about what kind of food I go for usually. After some time, I also realized that my appetite changed a lot. For example, one time I cut sugar completely. But I need my black tea with milk and sugar. So, at first it had absolutely no flavour. But then I became more sensitive and less sugar-addicted. Now I have my tea with sugar during the day but also without sugar, and I can taste and enjoy both.
How to love my body.
Don’t get me wrong here. I never had problems with my body. I never felt too fat, or too thin, too big or small. But after MMA I really feel so much comfortable in my own skin. I see, what my body can do. I am happy for that movement. With the range of movements, techniques and strategies in MMA, standing and on the ground, I feel like a little kid playing in a warm sand at a beach. Or rolling down a grassy hill. I feel like a monkey. And I love it. It brings me closer to the most primal and deepest instinct we have for eternity: fighting. There is no violence in that. Yes, it changes once it is a competition. But for training, it is me, my body and the technique. All I need is my body.
How not to be sorry for my level
You need to prove everyone, that you are worth it. Keep your face. And your coach’s. And the gym’s. If you are a beginner, you only slow down the others. If sparring hurts, it is because you are not good enough. Right?
Sitting at my bed in Thailand, going to a sparring session, feeling nervous, I am telling myself: “They are all at some point of their journey, so are you. They will help you.” At first, I felt miserably not being able to roll really, because I have such low level. Now I understand, it was stupid. The constant comparison on the mat with other people marks your level visibly. It is not about being a keyboard warrior. Here is the mat. Am I the weakest one in the group? That is ok. If I need somebody to use less power on me, I will tell them. It is ok to get hit. It is ok to tap. It is ok to suck. There is no other way. I no longer start a roll with a stranger saying embarrassed: “I am a beginner, so sorry.” Instead, I simply say:
“Hi! I am a beginner.”
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. However, I am no expert. Take the further blog posts as sharing of an enthusiast.