A topic like this needs a STRONG headline. But it’s an absolutely important topic to write about. I have noted it before, but I think it needs readdressing, because sadly, I still see way to many people thinking that it will never happen to them.
I have been practicing martial arts professionally for more than two and a half decades. I started teaching Karate at 16. As a young adult I spent several years outside some of the roughest nightclubs in the world. Over that period, I was conservatively in no less than 300 physical altercations — that’s 3,5 fights every month for 7-years straight. That’s outside of 27 years of hard sparring, which accounts for no less than 40,000 rounds (although it was likely more). Throw in the ageing process, and now in my 40’s — what do you have?
My body is broken. My left knee hurts most weeks. My fingers feel stiff. I suffer from severe and constant headaches. I often have mood swings (which I am sure is from all the head trauma I have taken). To top it all off, by back is sore most days, and all my vertebra in my neck are severely degenerating. Part of this may be genetic, but no human is designed to put their body through that kind of onslaught. I think of someone like Rickson Gracie, who I hear is equally suffering with his health. Here is a guy who really did all the right things, yoga, kept flexible, did strength training, etc. Simply he was a physical specimen, but even with all of that, smashing his body over and over again in interpersonal combat has taken its toll on him (and his only 58yrs old).Check out this Article on 10 MMA stars now suffering with memory loss.
It’s Not Just Me
Even in my own circle, I am surrounded by training partners who I have know well over a decade now. One has had a hip replacement (and his younger than me and that’s only one of his injuries) and a very close friend of mine has had several eye surgeries (and that’s the most severe of his injuries). I could go on and on.
Honestly though, what the fuck for?
Sure we wanted to be true to our craft, but it has come at such a hefty price. We are not even 50 years old yet, and we still have conservatively another 30-years to go. We didn’t know any better either when we were younger. We all thought, as so many still do, that you had to go all out, all of the time, otherwise you were fake. Our egos got in the way, along with our Machismo. But all the fighting prowess in the world, means shit, when you can’t remember your name, or the names of your grand kids. When you are unable to live a functional life and you note even 60 yet. I get out of the bed most mornings and already feel like a 70-year old.
I don’t want to give up martial arts either. But I have had to make some serious changes to the way I train if I still want to be doing this in a decade. I only spar one person consistently now, Costa Ioannou, a 4 X EFC Champ and my student. Twice every week, we drop no less than 30-rounds of sparring. Its fast paced, laser like strategic, but we dial the contact down at least 80% of what we would have done a decade ago. I roll with select few of my students in the week, but for those students on my mat, who don’t get my longevity principle yet, I simply stay far away from.
Tell Your Ego To Piss Off (And Everyone Else’s For that Matter)
As a Man, as a Warrior, it took a lot to tell me Ego to piss off and refuse to spar or roll with certain people. This is especially hard on seminars. Sadly, as I noted in the opening, many times, especially Young Guns, think they have to go balls to the wall. They think this is the way they will get better, or they have to prove something to me. Maybe they will get better, I know I did through very tough training, but one has to decide down the road what the aftermath of all that will be? To be honest, I never considered it, but because I now know better, I won’t allow that anymore on my watch. I refuse to compete with anyone now. Competition tends to bring the Alpha Male to the surface, and while I am confident that I can do well against almost anyone, walking around like Robo-Cop for a week isn’t fun. So saying thanks, but no thanks has been a hard pill to swallow. But, if I want to be playing with my grandchildren one day I simply no longer have a choice.
You shouldn’t allow anyone either to use you as their personal punching bag. We all as Men in the martial arts have to get over our own Ego’s and Machismo and stand up and say no. You can train healthy. You can train realistic. But you can also do it in a way, that doesn’t become an expense to your health. Of course there is going to be consequences when you do. I knew the minute I stopped taking the bait of fighting anyone that challenged me that there would be some guys who would begin to talk shit about me behind my back. But they don’t pay my bills, raise my family, or live my life. Even if I reflect back to Rickson Gracie again, even after everything he proved about is fighting prowess, when he wouldn’t fight a specific person, he was still denigrated. It’s clear, that no matter what you do, there will always be naysayers.
In the end, there’s only two reasons to have martial skills. The one is for self-protection, and the other is for self mastery. Everything else really doesn’t matter in the end. Today’s fighting champions, will be discarded on the history pile of has-beens, replaced by new champions. I can’t help keep thinking that in a way, that this obsession of us as Men wanting to keep fighting each other (for sport, and in wars), is really a form of slavery. But that’s for another article!