So you think you can fight?

If you’ve never played guitar, do you think it would be wise to challenge a guitar player to a guitar dual?

If you’ve never written a line of code, do you think you could code better than a coder who works for Google? 

What about a coder who works for a local business? 

What about a high school kid who’s been coding for a couple years?

The answer to all these questions is an obvious no. If you haven’t trained a certain skill, you won’t win in a competition against someone who has. 

But if this idea is so obvious, why do bros who have never trained (real) martial arts think they’d stand a chance in a fight with someone who does?

“But bro, I can bench press 300.”


“But bro, like, if it really came down to it, I’d do what it takes to win.”

Mm hmm

“Seriously bro, there’s always a puncher’s chance.” 

This last statement holds a little water. Weird things can happen in a fight, but I wouldn’t want to stake my life on the slight chance I get lucky.

The truth of the matter is that fighting is a skill that separates fighters from non-fighters in the same manner that guitarists are separated from non-guitarists and coders from non-coders. Unfortunately, most bros can’t comprehend this. These are the same guys who watch UFC and think “Yeah, I could do that” but then never show up when their friend invites them to Jiu Jitsu practice (or quit after their first class because “they’re too busy,” or “they don’t like rolling around on the ground with dudes.”)

I think part of the problem is that when bros watch a guitarist shred on stage, they quickly understand they’re not equipped to undertake such a task. With fighting, it’s different. On the surface, the movements of a fight seem like movements almost anyone could make. The mirage is even stronger if the bro watching is athletically gifted, be it with strength, speed, size, or a combination of all the above. For these bros, let me try to explain why you’re still not equipped to fight.

Your instincts are wrong.

As a Jiu Jitsu practitioner and coach, I spend a lot of time training bad habits out of myself and my students. As humans, there are physical instincts imprinted in our DNA that are counterproductive in a fight. In other words, the things that would feel right for you to do in a fight are actually the opposite of what you should do. The only way to learn the right way to do things is to train with someone who knows the right way to do things. Until then, you’re a sitting duck.

Fighting requires a different kind of fitness.

Imagine you just finished a hard set of wind-sprints. Then, as you’re resting your hands on your knees, trying to catch your breath, someone runs up, tackles you into a swimming pool and holds you under water. How tough are you now? This is what it feels like to be deep in a fight. This is what Mick calls “Going to the dark places,” where you’re so exhausted you’d gladly welcome death, but you have to press on. A hard Crossfit workout can give you an idea of this feeling, but until the weights start punching, kicking, and trying to strangle you, you won’t really understand what a fight feels like.

Fights are won mentally, and you’re not prepared.

Do you remember the last time you had a really good jump scare? Maybe it was from a scary movie or maybe a friend jumped out and screamed BOO when you weren’t expecting it. Now take that feeling of your heart jumping inside your chest, but instead of experiencing it for a millisecond, stretch it out for 30 seconds or a minute or several minutes. That’s what an actual fight feels like. As martial artists, it’s our job to dive headfirst into this kind of terror and come out the other side. Eventually, after enough training, our tolerance increases and we can keep a clear head through the chaos. Elite warriors can maintain this clarity indefinitely and grow stronger the deeper they go. Can you say the same for yourself?

If you think so, find a reputable Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, or MMA Gym and challenge the head instructor to a match. Once you do, let me know in the comments how it went.

I’ll be the first to tell you that in the grand scheme, I’m nothing special in the fight game. I’m the coder working for a local business and I’m fully aware of the monsters coding at Google.

With that said, if you can’t “code,” either get some training or quit running your mouth. If you don’t, eventually you’ll run into someone who’s happy to show you how unskilled you really are. 

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