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Abbey Shepard
Abbey Shepard

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What My MMA Career Taught Me

What My MMA Career Taught Me — pt. 1

This story is about how I could have been a contender. Okay I’m kidding. I didn’t have the most illustrious mixed martial arts career. I…

I had always considered myself a martial artist who fights rather than a fighter who learned martial arts — although I probably flowed between those two categories over the years.

I have a talent for coming up with an analogy about martial arts training for everything. It’s because training to improve your martial arts skills and training to step into a cage and fight another person teaches you a lot about . . . everything. Over the course of six amateur fights and two professional fights I learned a lot about how to get things done, how to pick myself up after disappointment, how to work through frustration and how to process moments of success.

Getting It Done

I always tell people “I can show you and tell you how to throw a punch thousands of times but until you actually throw thousands of punches, you will never know how to throw a punch.” What does that even mean?!?! Here’s the deal, too often we spend time thinking and planning and envisioning what it would be like to reach a goal. There has to be some level of planning but if you never make it past the planning stage, you will never accomplish your goals.

How does that apply to “real” life? Let’s pretend you want to start a business. You come up with this solution to a problem you know millions of people have. You make a checklist. You write out a concept paper. You tell all your friends about it. Then you do a ton of research and read a bunch of books about starting a business and how to get funding. How far into knowing how to throw a punch are you? With all those things done, I’d say you know which gym you are going to try out and you bought some gloves. Not that far but it’s a start.

So what next? You have to walk into the gym. Again, what does that even mean?!?! It means you have to start to do the things that you might not be comfortable with doing. We’ll pretend your business idea doesn’t require a set of skills you don’t already have — now you need to start to try to sell your product or service. The first time you ask someone to spend money on your business service or product that is the first time you have thrown a punch. Before that you have just been preparing to throw the first punch.

That isn’t even the hard part, that’s just the initial discomfort. Here’s what discomfort looks like when you are learning to punch. A punch is composed of hundreds of small technical movements functioning together to purposefully generate power and then release the full potential of that power in an instant. The hundreds of small movements start on the floor and flow up from the ball of your foot through every fiber of your calf, hamstring, quad, hip, glut, every back muscle, all four shoulder muscles, your neck, pectorals, biceps, triceps, forearms, wrist and ultimately your fist. When you throw a punch it touches every part of your body. To the untrained eye, to someone who has never learned the intricacies of a punch, it doesn’t seem that complicated.

The first lesson in truly learning how to throw a punch is so frustrating, so frustrating. Especially if you fancy yourself athletic, that has to do with expectations and that is a different topic. The discomfort is realizing you thought you knew what throwing a punch meant and you just found out you don’t even know how to stand. The frustrating part is realizing that you are not going to get this right any time soon. You will not throw a good punch for a long time and as soon as you think you are doing something right you realize that you are throwing a good punch for a beginner and now you are ready to start learning the intermediate techniques. In fact, you have only been practicing the jab and cross, the one two. Also, a month in and you can finally do a whole class and walk the next day without a funny swagger.

Ok seriously now — what does this mean for the business venture. This is where the realization that the idea you thought was solving the problem millions have doesn’t strike very many people as being worth paying for or they don’t really even think it’s a problem. But you only found that out because you started actually asking people to pay for it. If you hadn’t started throwing the punches you wouldn’t have seen all these places where you can improve. The benefit is that you are now getting feedback —

“stay on the balls of your feet” — Punching

“here’s the only way I could see paying for that service” — Business

“keep your elbow in” — Punching

“I already use this service to address that problem” — Business

Basically, getting things done, I mean really accomplishing things requires some level of discomfort. If what your doing seems really easy then you might not actually be throwing punches yet or you are ready to move to the intermediate or advanced techniques.

I’ll have to share my learnings about picking myself up after disappointment, working through frustration, and processing moments of success another time. This is already a long read.

Last thing — go try a boxing or muay thai class. You’ll love it!

First published on Medium

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