Taken to the ultimate end game, combat sports lead to two athletes competing against each other in front of an audience in the ring or cage, or amongst their peers on the mats. This can be done for a career, a hobby, to realise a personal goal, or even just to experience it. Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai and the grappling arts such as wrestling, BJJ and judo all offer various outlets for competition. However, only a fraction of the people that train actually make it that far. It might not look like that from the outside - it can all seem a little bit daunting - but that’s the reality. It’s not all a big, macho, intimidating fight club, far from it.
Of course there are those that turn up to their first session on day one with the sole intention of getting into the ring, but there are many more who are content doing it recreationally. Combat Sports are for everyone, via Flickr This is not because they’re not good enough or aren’t ‘fighter material’ - some of the best martial artists I’ve ever encountered have never fought and they kicked my ass (in the nicest possible manner) in sparring - it’s just that some people don’t have that inclination or can’t commit the time, amongst many other possible and perfectly viable reasons.
I can’t hide my own biases and I understand that an endeavour that may seem enjoyable to one person could indeed be another’s worst nightmare, but here are some ways I think training in combat sports can benefit everybody, including those that have no desire to fight.
It’s way more fun than a treadmill We’ve all been there. Getting home after work and knowing you’ve got that gym membership putting a dent in your bank account every month, but having very little enthusiasm to get there. That’s because there isn’t a great deal motivating you. You know half an hour on a treadmill will be boring, and doing the same weights routine won’t exactly be riveting either. Training in combat sports, there’s an infinite amount of variation in training sessions, from the technical to the hard graft. You might be getting tired hitting the pads, but because you’re concentrating on the techniques and enjoying it, you notice it less and can push yourself more. Getting to grips with a new technique - a strike, takedown or submission - excites me, and I look forward to every session knowing I’ll be better in some way when I walk out than when I walked in.
It builds every attribute, not just one Strength, flexibility, power, endurance, balance. Those are just some of the physical attributes that you’ll enhance when you train in combat sports. And even better, they’ll be way more functional because most of the time it’s based on moving yourself and another person, and getting to grips with your own anatomy. True health is a combination of factors, but all of these things will contribute to you leading a healthier, more comfortable existence moving forward. Of course it helps with body composition too to address the elephant in the room - Roy Nelson aside there aren't too many fighters with a belly like some sort of festive bowl full of jelly (though I wouldn't advocate weight fluctuations like a competitive athlete!).
Confidence I’d never wish an unsolicited assault on anyone, but it happens. That’s the world we live in. Knowing that you’re equipping yourself with some techniques to at least aid you if you do happen to have a situation forced upon you greatly increases your confidence, and that will carry over into all areas of your life. Oddly enough, that confidence will often mean these situations arise less, or hopefully not at all. I'm not promising guaranteed one hit knockouts or how to defeat any attacker using only pressure points, mostly because that's a bunch of crap, but realistic skills tested in live environments. Of course the training can help you lose weight and tone up which can help your body image and self esteem too, all whilst improving your skillset and having fun.
Stress release There might be a guy at work that grinds your gears and hitting him in the face is, at best, frowned upon. At worst you’ll get the sack. That isn’t worth it. You might be having issues elsewhere in life and just screaming in the middle of the street makes everyone think you’re weird. It's not like in the movies where you can drop to your knees screaming in the middle of the street and people will just walk by normally - you will probably get sectioned. Going to a Muay Thai class and letting rip on the pads allows you to release that pent up aggression or stress, and that’s very beneficial for a healthier lifestyle, and your co-worker’s nose. If there’s all sorts of chaotic things going on in your personal life, rolling in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can take your mind off those worries and give you a place to be to get away from it. In those immediate seconds where someone is trying to choke or armlock you, or you’re trying to pass the guard, nothing else matters. Everybody needs that safe haven in one way or another, and this is way better than booze or drugs!
Push your boundaries We’re all guilty of getting too comfortable at times, finding a routine where we just float through life without being challenged mentally or physically. A quote that always sticks with me is, “comfort and safety are mortal dangers for the soul”. Push your limits a little bit every day. The thought of getting hit or choked can be scary, putting yourself at the bottom rung of a ladder can be scary, but facing those fears and confronting them will make you a better person, and you’ll be glad you did.
Friends There are people from all walks of life on the mats, but when we’re there we are equals. A businessman, a student, a nurse, a jobseeker, what you do outside of there doesn’t matter. I’d always go with sports that have the least hierarchy possible. With MMA, boxing and the like, of course you respect your coach, but he will not see you as inferior. There's no aura, no BS, none of those illusions of grandeur, not if you find the right gym that is. Just people trying to help each other to improve to move towards whatever goals they want to achieve. The camaraderie you build when training is second to none. It seems like they’re individual sports, but they’re as team orientated and tight-knit as any. It just so happens that this team might like to hit each other (but of course sparring is also totally optional if you don’t fancy it). There are options to travel, and also you’ll always find a welcoming community no matter where you find yourself on the planet (I hear Gracie Barra North Pole have an open mat policy). You can become part of a worldwide network or people all united by a similar interest.
There’s something for everyone This is vital. Some people want to grapple, some want to strike, some want to spar and others don’t, some like the fitness aspect more and others like the technical precision involved. Men and women are welcome, kids and adults. If you’re younger and full of that youthful exuberance, you can hit it hard every day, but I’ve known people training in jiu jitsu into their eighties. The only limits are the ones you put on yourself.
So there it is - no matter what your motivations, there’s a combat sport to suit you. The staff right here at Fightstore Pro would be happy to help you with any queries as we’re all lifelong lovers of the game. Just find us on Facebook or Twitter and we’d be happy to help. With regards to combat sports training that is, we're not Dear Deidre.