In a former life, I was seeking ways to relieve stress from work and improve my fitness, so a friend recommended I give kick-boxing a try. As it happened, the brother of one of my colleagues was the reigning British ultimate fighting champion and he agreed to give me lessons twice a week. Whereas I do not want to go into the merits of my endeavours and that I was essentially paying someone to beat me up on a regular basis (as my wife put it), there was one particular training session that gave me a lifetime of insights.
Most people would associate trying to hit and knock someone out as utter brutality. And it is of course, but there is also a cerebral aspect to the sport once you figure out how to protect yourself. In other words, if both parties know how to defend themselves, then it is never that one (lucky) punch that wins the fight, but rather it is a war of attrition and looking for opportunities to strike. This is where combinations are the key, e.g. you throw two or three punches so that the other fighter is forced to protect one area of attack, but then drops their guard on another in the process.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique, my trainer would hit me with his hands in quick succession, and then somehow plant a kick on my right thigh. We have some fairly large muscles in the upper part of our legs, so it didn’t really feel like much when he first kicked me. But then he did it again, hitting the exact same spot over and over again until finally, I buckled. It was the strangest feeling, standing there on my guard, my gloves up and looking for openings to attack, when suddenly my leg was literally pulled out from under me.
But the lesson wasn’t so much about whether or not I should have done a better job of defending myself. If life teaches us anything, it is that we have to expect the unexpected. From bad weather, sudden changes in our health, to random walks in the markets, we cannot protect ourselves from a future that we cannot predict. We all get knocked down sometimes and there really is very little we can do about it. Whether or not we get up again on the other hand, is entirely up to us.