Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Turning My Focus Away from the MMA Ring

Ok, it's time to face facts. I've started to turn away from the idea of getting into professional MMA fighting. Part of it has been life getting in the way. In the last 8 months, I've opened my dojo at a new location, I did special abilities extra work for 2 different movies (very time consuming). I sold my apartment and had to move out and live out of suitcases at a friend's place for a month. I bought and moved into a new house. I brought 2 cats into my life. I started a new full-time job in which I have a supervisory role.

Needless to say, these things kept me a little distracted.

Now that the distractions are starting to calm down and I'll soon be able to devote more time to training beyond that which I do in my own dojo. But I find myself wondering if pro MMA is where I want to focus my efforts.

Don't get me wrong. I love the martial arts training aspect. I love hitting pads. I love grappling. I love sparring. I am happy to do martial arts training several hours a day, most days of my week. But there are 3 aspects about professional fighting that make me hesitant to recommit.

First of all, I committed myself to a rigorous MMA training program for nearly 2 years with a coach/manager pushing my development, first Mark, then Louis. I was told of many instances where fights were being negotiated for me, but nothing ever materialized. There were numerous false starts when I was told that a fight would happen, but didn't back when Mark was my coach/manager. And after so many disappointments I found it harder and harder to throw my heart into my training.

Secondly, I found that the huge amount of time that I had to devote to conditioning, both strength and cardio training, was much more than the time I spent training in martial arts techniques. While I do believe that everyone should have a good base level of fitness and should spend some time doing conditioning, I personally would rather spend that time developing my technical abilities in the martial arts. In the ring, you are preparing to fight against someone that is the same size as you, so with conditioning, you are trying to get every advantage you can get. In a real street defense situation, you don't have the luxury of choosing your opponent. Attackers usually choose to attack you because they think they're bigger or stronger than you.

No matter how much you condition yourself, there will always be a bigger, stronger attacker willing to take you on. Particularly so in my case, being a woman of small stature. Furthermore, as one gets older, the body inevitably gets weaker, no matter how much a person trains. Technique is the only thing that can stay with you no matter what. It makes sense to make technical development a top priority.

To me, ultimately, the martial arts are not limited to the context of the ring in which you face only a single, unarmed opponent of a similar size within a set of rules designed for the fighters' protection. In a true street defense situation, there are no rules or limitations other than what you place on yourself, so you have to train for the many possibilities that can put you at a disadvantage.

Lastly, I am first and foremost a martial artist, as opposed to a fighter. For me it's about personal discovery and development, not the desire to inflict violence on another person. I've been told time and time again by various martial arts mentors that when you get into the ring, you cannot hold back, you have to fight with everything you've got. I am no stranger to this mentality, but in my 16 years of training, I've come to fundamentally believe that the only place for this mentality is a true street defense situation.

I see MMA as a sport and wouldn't truly want to injure an opponent in taking part. In a street defense situation, my rights are being violated, I'm likely going against a much bigger, stronger man, and there are no limits to the potential dangers that could arise. It make more sense not to hold back when someone is not holding back with you and has advantages over you to boot. I think that if I won an MMA fight against another woman by knocking her senseless or injuring her in some way, I would feel bad about it afterward. And I'm told you can't really afford to have compassion when you get into the ring.

This is not to say that I see no value in MMA training. I love what I've learned from my experiences and I will keep training in it. There is real practical application in what I've learned and I've found a place for it in what I teach in my own dojo.

As for entering the ring myself, I won't be actively seeking it out. I think it would be an interesting experience and if the opportunity presented itself, I might take it. Despite all my misgivings, part of me is still curious to do it. But I don't want to throw myself into a heavy conditioning program unless I have something specific I'm training for. I will simply train for the love and take things as they come.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When Life Gets in the Way of Martial Arts Training

This past month has been a little sad for me as a Sensei. I had about half a dozen students tell me that they're going to have to take a break from Jiu-jitsu this semester because their school schedules are too hectic and they need more time to focus on school.

I totally understand that career aspirations must be prioritized over martial arts training, as should family commitments. Personally, when I was in school, I never missed a Jiu-jitsu class for the sake of my studies, but then I was in a fairly easy program and I had decided to make martial arts a priority in my life no matter what. But then my program wasn't very demanding so I never needed to make a choice.

The students who are taking a break are all very dedicated, very promising martial artists, and while I will miss them during their absence, I hope they know that I respect their decisions and will welcome them back when they return. It's all part of running a dojo, and it's the reason why a Sensei must maintain at least a small degree of detachment from their students so that they won't feel guilty about making decisions they have to make.