Humility is Key to a Fighter’s Success

Mike Stidham Speaks Out

Every budding fighter goes through what I call the 10-fight itch. Some experience it at 3 fights, others at 15, depending on how often they fight, but invariably, they experience it.

I liken it to a teenager that has just gotten their drivers license. Teenage drivers are free to step out into the world and experience it first-hand, with no immediate supervision. They think they have the world by the tail, and that they know EVERYTHING.

As adults, we kind of sit back and laugh, knowing just how much they really don’t know, and relish in the thought that they have some life lessons lying in wait for them. We try to be there for them when reality slaps them in the face, and are prepared to pick up the pieces when necessary.

I can always tell when this ’10-fight itch’ syndrome kicks in because the budding fighter will usually display one of the following behaviors;

1. They start to train on their own during class times. They think they already know the techniques that are being taught in class- therefore, they don’t need to drill them.
2. They bring their friends to the gym and start teaching them outside of class. Giving them ‘private lessons’, rather than have them attend the normal classes.
3. Choose to skip class when the chief instructor is not in attendance that evening, as though they couldn’t possibly learn from one of their peers, or perhaps benefit in someway by helping teach a class.
4. Decide they need to ‘spar’ rather than be in class, because drilling is a waste of time.

I could go on for days, but I’m sure you get the point. You have either seen this happen a kajillion times in the gym where you train, or you’ve actually done this yourself at some point in your career.

I will spare the lecture about how incredibly disrespectful this behavior is to your instructor. You will understand that more fully when you actually become one.

What I do want to address here, is the disservice you are doing to yourself. As an instructor, I can honestly say I can count on one hand the amount of classes I have taught that I haven’t learned something from myself. There is tremendous value in drilling. There is tremendous value in reviewing fundamentals. There is tremendous value in the repetition of movement.

I am yet to watch a fight at ANY level that I didn’t not see some fundamental flaws demonstrated by one of the combatants at some point or another, whether it be a result of fatigue, or the chaos that a fight creates, or a lack of preparedness. I have NEVER seen a perfectly executed fight. On that basis alone, it is asinine to think you don’t need to perfect fundamentals.

Why do fighters think they don’t need that training? They lack humility. They begin to believe what all their friends are telling them about how awesome they are. They begin to look in the mirror and see a ‘Pro fighter’-one who is far too advanced for ‘beginner training’.

Don’t get me wrong- confidence is great, and actually a necessary component for success for any great fighter. But if confidence comes without humility, it is just cockiness.

To have the HUMILITY necessary to take a class from someone you deem lesser experienced than you, with the hopes of gleaning something from it, or to take a class along side beginners with the hopes of spotting something they are doing wrong, in hopes of realizing some flaws in YOUR game, is the true test of how far you have become as a mature athlete.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a serious ‘training camp’ for an upcoming fight. If there is a scheduled class on the calendar at the gym you train, YOU SHOULD BE IN IT. If you need to schedule extra time for your ‘sparring’ or ‘advanced training’ do it. But I cannot stress this next point enough; without the most incredibly sound fundamentals, all that ‘advanced training’ is worthless. If your fundamentals are so incredibly awesome that you do not need to improve them, I hope you have a world title belt around your waist- otherwise you might be kidding yourself. Even then… trust me, fundamental training should be an integral part of what you do each and every day.

In my gym, we start EVERY class (Beginner to advanced) with a simple footwork drill. We do it EVERY DAY, for the simple reason that EVERYTHING starts with your stance and your footwork. I don’t care what fancy moves you learn after those two fundamentals, without a sound stance, and solid footwork, those ‘fancy’ moves will never be as great as they could be. They might look super awesome, but imagine how much better they would be if they had a solid foundation.

Additionally, a fight is very chaotic. A lot of things are happening all at once. Quickly you can get knocked out of position. Muscle memory from drilling and drilling that fundamental stance and footwork, allows your body to automatically return to that good posture just as quickly as you were knocked out of it.

The day you start thinking you no longer need this drilling, is the day you start your decline in advancing to the next level. No matter what level you are at. There is ALWAYS room for improvement, and it ALWAYS starts at the fundamental level.

Each and every new move you learn begins from the fundamental level. The second you take away any portion of the fundamental building block for that move, it will lose it’s effectiveness.

I am going to take the theory of humility as a key factor in your success a step further. As you become an upper-tier athlete, and find yourself dominating your training partners-and the competition, you become less and less likely to find yourself in positions of inferiority… until you meet your match. How often does this happen to the top-level fighters, and they are like a fish out of water? Without exception that is the same fighter that I saw stuff a takedown on a beginner sparring partner just weeks earlier.

When you are sparring, the more advance student should ALWAYS yield to the lesser-experienced fighter… ALWAYS.

This is where you are going to have to trust me, because it is a hard concept for advanced athletes to comprehend at first… You will ALWAYS learn more from this experience, than if you best your training partners. (I should note, this is NOT a difficult concept for those who have mastered their craft. The best of the best get it).

Having the HUMILITY to allow your training partners to take you down the same amount of times you stuff their takedown, is the sign of an advanced student.

Having the humility to allow your partner to get that good punch to the face in without the immediate urge to retaliate is the sign of an advanced student.

It is the insecure fighter that feels he needs to show his training partners just how hard he can hit, or how many shots he can stuff. Knowing that you could have, but passing on the opportunity takes tremendous self-control, and self-confidence.

I know, a lot of you ‘tough guys’ think this is flawed thinking. How could you possibly get better this way? Don’t we always have to push ourselves to the limits to achieve greatness? This simple answer is YES. Drill like your life depends on it. Condition like there is no tomorrow. Sharpen your mind with all you’ve got. Spar with humility and grace. Enter the cage with better skills from drilling, greater conditioning, and the sharpest mind, with humility and grace, and you will be unstoppable.

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