Fighting Secret #2

In Mark Hatmaker’s first newsletter on the “secrets” or “shortcuts” of training, he reveals one of the factors of MA success in the ring and on the street: superb conditioning. Few of us, if any, could argue over its importance because all the technique in the world won’t help you if you have no energy to execute it. In the second newsletter installment, Hatmaker discusses the other secret to successful training, which is drilling. I know, I know. Not a sexy answer, but we all know it is true. The other ringing truth is this: there are no shortcuts. We have to put in the work and get sweaty. The work requires repetition, i.e. drilling.

I recall when I first began Muay Thai training many years ago. I inquired about learning the proper way to do the Thai kick. My instructor simply said, “Do a thousand repetitions.” He probably also said something about 1000 being the beginning (that would be one of his typical succinct responses). Luckily, in addition to repetition, I got a lot of pointers from friendly students, and from Francis Fong, who saw how much effort I was putting into this endeavor. I am still grateful for his time and involvement. I finally acquired the Thai kick after thousands of repetitions, and was accused of kicking like a mule, so I would say that drilling really works if we give attention to our own feedback loops as well as the constructive criticism of those who give a damn about what we are trying to accomplish.

Mark calls drilling “technical cultivation.” For many, there are stumbling blocks on the journey to proficiency, which he says lie in two categories of excuses, one of which is Lack of Discipline. I read an article about Francis Fong in Martial Arts Masters Magazine this year, wherein he talks about the concept of discipline. He says in all his years of training, discipline has never been an issue; he is so passionate about Kung Fu and the pursuit of excellence, he never has to force himself to do the work. In fact, he is not even certain whether he was born with natural ability because of his intense drive. Hatmaker states, “genetic exceptionalism is rare so that leaves the rest of us to cultivate self-discipline.” It has been my experience that burning desire, like Fong possesses, seems to overcome the issue of discipline because you have a grand vision of what you wish to accomplish, or a specific outcome that keeps you going. It has also been my experience that burning desire trumps talent any day. Many talented people waste their innate gifts because they don’t push further; they don’t grow beyond their talent.

Some folks are just looking for novelty, or they drill for the sake of drilling without putting much thought behind the practice. These people hit the second stumbling block to proficiency: Lack of Mission Perspective. Without some kind of return on your time investment, drilling useful techniques and scenarios, you are just spinning your wheels. Hatmaker says we must “match the drill(s) to the game at hand.” I do believe that all of the techniques work some of the time, and we have to try things to find what works best for us, but we also have to take care in training ourselves for a specific environment. That means very different things if you are a boxer, an MMA fighter, a cop, a soldier, or a civilian on the street, etc. I wrote about purposeful training in a recent blog post about Brian Willis:

We have to be willing to evaluate and fine-tune our training so that it meets our needs and works for us in the proper environment under duress (or in chaos!). If we are new to the game, we have to ask a lot of questions, study, and seek out answers from many instructors to develop the proper mission perspective.

There really is no mystique to becoming good at anything. Some of us do possess some innate ability for athletics or martial arts (kinesthetic intelligence), but we all have to apply ourselves to being fit to fight, and to doing enough repetition to build solid motor programs into our nervous systems. It takes time to develop efficiency, grace/fluidity and finesse. If I could add one more thing to what Hatmaker said, I would encourage people to cross-train in multiple disciplines, not for the novelty aspect, but to discover more about themselves. Guro Dan Inosanto talks about learning other people’s games not to necessarily make them your games, but so you may properly and efficiently defend against them. I think this is sound advice. We learn about the criminal mindset so that we can outsmart them, right?

Mark Hatmaker’s website:


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