5 Cage-Fighting Tips For The Self-Employed
The business world has always venerated warriors and studied their strategies. The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings can be found in many business management libraries.
Now a new breed of warrior has arrived. Mixed Martial Arts (the proper term for cage fighting) has exploded out of the underground to emerge as the hottest sport in the world. What might be learned from these modern warriors?
My Training As An Amateur Fighter
Yes. Computer geeks can learn to fight.
I’ve learned a lot while training with some of the toughest athletes in the world. I’m not talking about choking your opponent unconscious or splitting open foreheads with well-placed elbow strikes (although they are fun techniques to learn). We’re talking about tools for success that can apply to any aspect of life, especially business.
Here are the top 5 things I’ve learned while fight training:
1. Competing in the Information Age
The question of “which martial art is most effective?” is no longer relevant.
When the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) started over 14 years ago, it was like something out of an old Bruce Lee flick. Each contestant represented a country and a fighting style. Sumo wrestlers, kickboxers, jiu-jitsu black-belts, and savate artists all wanted to prove that their style was most effective.
Now it’s completely different. Every top fighter in the UFC cross-trains in the 3 Pillars of Mixed Martial Arts: Striking, Submissions, & Wrestling. Fighters may specialize in one discipline, but will train in all of them. The question of “which martial art is most effective?” is no longer relevant.
Cross-training helps you compete. The need for additional training to remain competitive is not unique to martial arts. Take a trade like Graphic Design.
Nowadays in addition to design skills, designers need to understand how to use image editing software like Illustrator and Photoshop. Designing for web and Flash require an understanding of user-interface theory and many designers have learned HTML and CSS. To compete at a high level, designers need ongoing training to keep up with the latest software, theory and design trends.
Cross-training is critical for the self-employed. When you’re self-employed you wear a lot of hats. You need to handle marketing, accounting, and other aspects of business while juggling multiple projects. Inc Magazine reports that cross-training is especially helpful for start-ups and continues to be of value as the company grows.
2. Globalization Changes Everything
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a good example of the effects of Globalization. For many centuries it was enough to train in the same discipline that your fellow countrymen trained in. But as fighters traveled the world learning new styles and sharing their knowledge, eventually all fighters needed to train in other disciplines to remain competitive.
As this requirement for more knowledge grew, it also became easier to travel to other countries to learn new fighting styles. Now most athletes can train in MMA or any martial arts style without having to travel out of their city.
You are no longer limited by geography. Just as you no longer have to go to Brazil to learn or teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you no longer have to be anywhere specific to provide your services. With the Internet, you can work from anywhere and have clients from anywhere.
During the past 7 years of being self employed I’ve spent a lot of time working while traveling. I’ve outsourced to India and have several clients that I’ve never met in “real life”.
For additional information on working from anywhere, check out this well-written article.
3. It Takes A Team
Behind every great fighter is a great training camp. Watch any “UFC All Access” program on Spike TV and it becomes obvious that it takes a team to prepare for a fight.
…it’s too easy to get lost in the vacuum of your own little world.
I’ve heard horror stories from other fighters who were so nervous before their first fight that they were choking back vomit as they walked into the cage.
I’m not a great fighter, just a guy with a huge passion for MMA. Fortunately, my instructors and training partners at the Mushin MMA gym prepared me so well for my first fight that I experienced an incredible sense of confidence and energy as I walked towards the cage. I could never have done it without them.
One of the drawbacks to being self-employed is that it’s too easy to get lost in the vacuum of your own little world. As a developer I felt I could learn anything I wanted by researching on the web. To some extent, it’s true.
But it was only after working with jiu-jitsu instructors David Heaps & Darius Andrews that I realized how much more effective it was to learn from a hands-on teacher than by trying to learn from instructional videos or books.
When I joined the Mushin gym to learn Muay Thai & Combat Submission Wrestling, that appreciation for teachers was reinforced. I also realized that each training partner brought something different to the table. The more good partners I had, the more my MMA game evolved.
These realizations prompted me to reflect on my business life. I had been blessed with wonderful mentors back when I worked in the corporate world. But after several years of being self-employed my career was starting to stagnate. With guidance from my Professional Development Coach (and Zen Master), I started reconnecting with former mentors and asking for business advice from some of my more successful clients.
I also started connecting with other developers and designers to bounce ideas off each other and share new discoveries.
The effects were remarkable. I became more excited about my career and received new and bigger opportunities.
4. Flow with the Go
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
When I first started jiu-jitsu training, my instructor Darius would often tell me to stop using my muscles and use technique instead. He’d tell me to act as if my opponent was a tree and to move myself around him, but not to muscle my opponent around.
When you “flow with the go” in business, you’re operating in that productivity sweet spot.
I experienced a similar lesson when I started Muay Thai training. After many years of working on a heavy punching bag by myself, I knew I could hit hard. One of my training partners told me I “hit like a train”.
So when my instructor Brian told me my striking technique was all wrong, it was hard to take. He said I was using too much muscle and was too tense. I needed to loosen up and let my arm whip out more.
Over many months Brian helped me drop some of my bad habits in punching, and learn to be more fluid while striking. Now my punches are quicker and I can throw many more of them before tiring out.
During one training session, an instructor introduced the idea of “Flow with the go”. It’s that balancing act of not trying to force everything around you, but also not being completely at the mercy of everything else.
It’s very similar to “going with the flow” but the subtle difference is instead of bobbing along being carried by the flow, you are flowing and mixing your energy with what’s going on around you.
When you “flow with the go” in business, you’re operating in that productivity sweet spot. You’re neither forcing things to happen nor waiting for things to happen. You’re simply facilitating things happening.
An example of flowing could be in a sales meeting with a prospective client. Perhaps the potential client is expressing doubt that you’re the right one for the job. If you follow along with his current negative flow you could lose the sale. If you try to impose your will and force the sale, you’ll probably offend the client and lose the sale. But, if you mix your flow into what’s going on, address his concerns and make the effort to understand the needs of this person, you have a better chance of saving the sale.
Will-power is wonderful. It can accomplish a lot. But will-power with flow will accomplish even more.
For a good example of kinetic flowing, check out this video clip. It’s of one of my favorite mixed martial artists, Genki Sudo, competing in a submission grappling tournament.
5. It’s All In Your Mind
“There are two types of people in this world. Those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t. They’re both right.” –Khru Brian Yamasaki
The most important thing I learned while fight training was how to develop the muscle of your mind. During brutal conditioning drills, instructor Khru Brian would bark “You’re not working your muscles…you’re training your mind not to give up.” Somehow we’d find a way to squeeze out a few more push-ups or run another lap even when our bodies were telling us to stop.
At one point during training, I was puking in the bathroom and the one-minute rest period was almost over. I couldn’t go on. Coach Brandon Kiser made all of the other students do push-ups until I came back out. As soon as I realized what was going on I came running out and found the strength to go another round rather than make my teammates suffer.
I hated training. But after each completed session the sense of accomplishment was so great, I couldn’t help but love it.
Slowly I learned to believe in myself and my abilities. After graduating from the Mushin Fighter Corp training program, I felt like could do anything. Many things now seem easy in comparison. Even the actual fight was easy compared to the training.
This mental training to never give up and fear nothing has drastically changed my attitude about work. Staying up all night to make a deadline now seems easier. When a client is slow to pay or a project falls through, I never even consider going back to a full-time job as an employee for someone else.
I saw Donald Trump on TV a few months ago. Someone asked him what the secret to success is. He said “Never, never, never give up”. I felt thankful for that reminder, thankful for the experience of living that message while fight training, and thankful for the opportunity to learn how to apply it to other aspects of my life.
- Competing in the Information Age. Self-employed business owners can benefit from cross-training and ongoing education.
- Globalization Changes Everything. There are no geographical limitations; you can work from anywhere and have clients anywhere.
- It Takes A Team. If you work for yourself, it pays to cultivate mentors and a community of peers.
- Flow With the Go. Will power is effective. Will power while flowing is even more effective.
- It’s All In Your Mind. Believe in yourself and never give up.
As this has been an unusual topic for a business development blog, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. All questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Please leave a comment below.