One thing I am proud of is sticking my toe in the fighting arena. When I was a senior in college I trained in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I started MMA my senior year of college with a cardio kickboxing class that grew into Maui Thai kickboxing and jiu jitsu training. The group of guys I trained with was small and something of a ragtag group. When you looked at us you wouldn’t think we were fighters but we were dedicated and trained very hard. As a young man I was more interested in learning how to throw a punch and less interested in the life lessons hidden in the practice of fighting. It wasn’t until 3 years later, when I was unemployed, broke and looking for a job, that I discovered a life lesson hidden in the practice of sparring.
Anyone who has sparred more than a couple rounds can tell you fighting is painful. I have always had a high tolerance for pain but there were times I met my limits. I was decent at jiu jitsu but my boxing game was ugly. I mean it was ‘go home black and blue’ ugly. My problem was not ability but technique. Specifically I fought flat footed and I didn’t move my head. One basic rule about fighting is that if you don’t move you lose; and lose badly. Fast forward three years. I was unemployed and reflecting on how I got to that point in life when that fighting rule popped in my head. If you don’t move you lose. I thought about that for a while and tried to apply it to my life and that’s when I discovered the life lesson in that rule.
You see, in life stillness is stagnation. When water is left unmoving it stagnates. When you stand still in a fight you get beat up. Something similar happens to us when we become stagnant in our lives; we become unhappy. We start to hate our jobs, bosses, spouses, and even ourselves. We see this happen all the time however what we fail to realize is that it’s not our job, boss, or spouse’s fault that we are unhappy. It is our own.
You see when we stop moving we stop growing. When we stop growing we stop achieving. Our physical, mental and spiritual growth gets stuck. The byproduct is that we get stuck in the quagmire we call the rat race or we melt down and have a life identity crisis. Then we hide it by coping.
Most of us don’t realize we cope but if you pay attention you can become aware of how you cope with your stagnation. I cope, and I think most of us do this, by filling our time with meaningless things. Often times it’s some material thing that soothes us until the novelty wears off. Then we have to get something new until we get bored with that. It’s a cycle that never leaves us satisfied. How many times have you tried to cope with unhappiness by shopping, using pills, eating, cheating or watching hours of television only to be left needing something more? Maybe you didn’t recognize your actions as coping but that is exactly what it is.
The trick to start moving again is by admitting you’re stagnant. Once you become aware of your stillness then you can identify the issues that need fixing. Admitting that what you value may be making you unhappy can be tough but once you have you can set goals and start growing again.
The wrap up:
To bring you back to my fighting I did eventually start moving my head and feet. Before I stopped sparring I developed a decent boxing game and left practice with far fewer bruises. Sometimes I forget this life lesson. Then I get punched in the face.