You don’t have to be Bruce Lee to understand that mental attributes are just as big part of becoming a master in the martial arts as physical attributes. Learning how to perform your basics and combinations in training is one thing but what use are they if you forget everything you have learnt under the pressure of the lights at competition, at a grading, or in everyday life if you find yourself in a precarious situation? Not many people will believe this but Xen-Do founder, Rafael Nieto, was not born a kickboxing master. Much of his life has been dedicated to learning the ways of the martial arts and perfecting the Xen-Do system but, before this, Master Raf spent 15 years serving in the fire brigade.
It is here where Master Raf believes that his strength of will and focus in the face of adversity developed him into one of kickboxing’s most celebrated competitor’s.
“Serving in the fire brigade was a real test of character. Every day I was confronted with potentially life-threatening situations and the only way to survive was to remain calm and focussed under immense pressure. My team and I would regularly have to enter burning buildings knowing that many lives, including our own, rested on how we performed in that critical time. I also had to overcome my own fear of heights. Was I scared? Of course, I was terrified. But through training and experience, I learnt that, instead of letting that fear overwhelm me, I could control it and even harness it to focus my mind and body to the task at hand.
“When I then competed in kickboxing competitions, the pressure was then not an unfamiliar feeling and I was able to use it much like I did in the fire brigade. I’m not saying the only way to get ahead in martial arts is to train as a firefighter but rather, draw on your own experiences and attributes from outside the dojo and transfer them. If you are a sprinter, use your speed and stamina to maintain great form throughout a class; if you do yoga transfer that flexibility into your kicks; and even if you work behind a desk, use your strength of concentration and patience to become the best kickboxer you can be!”
So there you have it. Years of training may be a necessary part of becoming the best martial artist you can be. But taking skills you have from other areas of your life and transferring them onto the dojo could give you an advantage in achieving your goal; be it overcoming an opponent during sparring or reaching the required standard to be awarded your next belt.