I got home not too long ago from my mixed martial arts (MMA) self defense class. I go twice a week and we practice things like grappling (wrestling), striking, kicking, knife defense, judo (ugghhh) and ninjitsu. It’s been quite the learning experience.
Which reminds me…
11 Things I’ve Learned from MMA.
I’ve been practicing MMA for about 9 months now–fitting, considering I’m pretty much still in my infancy when it comes to this stuff. (My instructor yelled at me for something and I told him that I’m a baby learning how to crawl, and he said, “More like you act like a baby.” Psh.) I don’t want to try to sound like I really know anything; this list is based off of my own personal experiences. It could be different for anyone.
1. Leave your ego at the door.
If you have a problem with failure then this is probably not the best pursuit for you, because someone is always going to be better than you. And you WILL mess up if you are a newbie. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Embrace failure
They can’t all be winners. Every time you fail, you learn. And the more you learn, the better you get. For me, success has come as tiny victories sprinkled throughout long stretches of clumsy, hasty suckiness. The fear of failure is paralyzing, and on many occasions it has left me frozen in doubt in the middle of a drill. There is no benefit to this. Either you try something and it works, or it doesn’t. In both of those instances the experience is far more valuable than doing nothing.
3. Get clinical.
I’m not sure if other people experience this, but removing my emotions from the situation is something I’ve really had to work on. When I “fight” MMA with someone I can get mad and take things way too personally. I’ve never gone into a tussle with the intention of getting upset, but for a while whenever I would roll I would start to see red and thrash wildly. This is not good because you get sloppy, you don’t see important things and you waste a lot of energy. I can’t emphasize how important it is to keep your cool and not let your emotions get the best of you. I’m still working on this one but I think I’ve gotten better. And at the end of the day, there’s no reason to take it personally. You’re there to learn, as are other people. No one’s intentions are malicious (usually…hopefully), they are just trying to get better, the same as you are.
4. Be patient.
Some people are naturally better at things like martial arts, but for those of us (*cough cough ME cough cough*) who are challenged in all things that require finesse and coordination…shit is hard. But don’t give up. If you stick with it, and you try, you will get better.
I had a panic attack during my yellow belt test. Ever since then I’ve been putting a lot of effort into calming my breathing and not getting too worked up. Think about when you get stressed. The best thing you can do is regulate your breathing and try to relax. For many people it’s something you have to learn to do, and I really feel that MMA is helping me to improve in this area.
6. Rely on technique, not strength.
This may not apply quite so much to a larger person, but as a girl who is only 5’3″ and 115 lbs, this is important for me. Mostly because I don’t really have much strength to use against someone bigger and stronger than me. And the more strength I try to use, the more I’m going to wear myself out. And for what? It’s not like it’s going to save me from the other person. That’s why really nailing down the technique is important.
7. Get used to being bruised.
I’ve pretty much retired my skirts because my shins are perpetually covered in bruises. I don’t really mind though. It makes me feel kind of tough.
8. Grappling counts as cardio.
Dude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told myself that I was going to do cardio after an MMA class, only to leave completely exhausted with my shirt drenched in sweat. Wrestling is INTENSE. In fact, today the other girls and I rolled live (rolling basically means wrestling with someone, and going live is like going almost full force) for longer than we ever have before, and I started getting the shakes. But to be honest, I find this form of cardio way more fun than the treadmill. Even if I do feel like dying afterwards.
9. Get lots of pedicures (if you’re a girl.)
My feet are JACKED UP. Normally I pride myself on having nice tootsies, but damn. The mat will do a number on them, as evidenced here. I have more pictures of scars from mat burn and groadie blisters, but I’ll spare you. Not so much because I care about grossing anyone out, but because I don’t want to be known as the girl with crusty feet.
10. Prepare to be in a lot of awkward positions.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched an MMA match, but when two dudes get on the floor…it can look like gay sex. Naturally, it took a little bit of getting used to whenever I’d get someone between my legs (in my guard) or when someone would mount me. I’m completely desensitized to it now, but lesser experienced grapplers may break out into fits of awkward giggling. Other weird positions include a triangle choke (their head is between your legs) and the north south hold, which is basically a 69 position.
11. Prepare to get very well acquainted with other people’s smells.
I think after #10 this one is pretty self explanatory.
So there you have it. For me, MMA is equal parts physical intuition and mental fortitude. As rough as it is, MMA can be kind of therapeutic. Your pent-up issues tend to come out on the mat, and from there it’s up to you to fix them. I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested not only in self defense, but self improvement as well.