Here’s a pretty cool clip from Erik Paulson. He talks a little about respect in NHB and MMA.
I couldn’t agree more with everything he said. Especially about the getting old part. I’m only a few years younger than Eric but feel the same way: I used to be part of the young generation and now I’m one of the “old guys” .
By the way, one of the ways I first noticed this was when my younger students weren’t getting some of my jokes anymore. For instance, when one of them moved their head first and then turned their body, I told him “Don’t move like RoboCop” and then showed what they did wrong. Most students understood right away what I was talking about. Now, they just look at me with a slightly confused look on their face.
Eventually I looked it up and it turns out the movie came out well over 20 years ago, way before they were even born. Proof positive I’m getting old… Anyway, back to the respect thing.
I noticed the same thing Erik did: When I started training, the teacher’s word was law and you did what he said, period. You didn’t question him, you didn’t talk to him like one of the other students, none of that. I would never have dreamed of interrupting my teacher or asking questions while he was busy with somebody else. You just didn’t do that. Today, I have students yelling for me from across the room…
Up to a point, this is normal. Society always changes and social conventions along with it. So it’s only normal today’s youngsters are different from when I was their age. But I still make them do the palm/fist salute at the beginning and end of class. And also when they start and stop working with somebody else. Simply because there are some compelling reasons to keep giving them a sense of respect during the training. There are so many more but to make sense for the typical MMA-testosterone loudmouth(*) , I’ll limit myself to this:
- Becoming a good fighter is about self-discipline, doing what you need to do instead of what you want to do: You might want to spar weaker opponents all the time because it’s fun but to make progress, you’ll have to work with stronger ones. Not so much fun when you eat leather all the time, but it’s necessary to improve your skills.
- Respect is also all about self-discipline. It’s about restraining your own feelings, desires and little (or big) pet peeves and hold all that back while you concentrate on someone other than yourself: your teacher, your fellow students, all your opponents, the rest of the world basically. If you can’t even control yourself enough to show respect to these people, you probably won’t have the discipline to excel in the ring, cage or on the lei tai.
- Becoming a smart fighter is about seeing the strength and weakness of others. You have to respect those strengths and try to use their weakness against them. To do that, you have to get out of your own head, forget your ego and sometimes admit that some opponents will be better than you. Maybe not in every aspect of the fight game but it will happen eventually. This doesn’t mean you can’t beat them though. But you will have to analyze them correctly first.
- Respect is also about seeing the strength and weakness, but in yourself. If you don’t respect your opponents, if you think they’re all bums and losers, how will you make an accurate, dispassionate assessment of their skills? You can’t; you’ll just assume you’re better than them regardless of the evidence to the contrary staring you in the face. As a result, you’ll (subconsciously) underestimate their strong points and overestimate their weaknesses. Which is a sure fire way to lose your fight.
Here’s the kicker: You can’t fake respect. You can go through the motions and fool other people but never yourself. In your dark, little heart, you know how you really feel about other fighters or fellow students. Which brings you right back to the problems I listed in the above bullet list:
- Lack of respect/self-discipline breeds sloppy, lazy fighters.
- It also creates illusions of grandeur in your own head.
Saluting your teacher, bowing to your opponent, touching gloves, whatever, it all serves as a constant reminder that you need to work hard and not think you’ve arrived. Because slacking off means your opponent has more time to train harder than you, get better and eventually beat you. And that includes the other students in class, even those you might not like or don’t enjoy training with.
The reality of combat sports is that fights are always snapshots in time: Today you win, next time you might lose against the same guy. You might dominate him today and next time, he knocks you out with a lucky shot. Anything can and will happen when to fighters go at each other. That’s just how it works. To avoid Mr. Murphy determining the outcome of your fights, you have to do everything in your power to be better, stronger, faster, more technical, smarter, etc. than the other guy.
The only way you can do that is with loads of self-discipline. Respect is simply another aspect of that.
(*) Yes, yes, I know not every fighter is a loudmouth-asshole. I’m just making a point, don’t take it personal OK? I’m talking about Tito Ortiz disrespecting Mark Coleman after he lost to Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar’s tirade after he beat Frank Mir, that kind of thing .
UPDATE: Here’s part two of “Respect in the Mixed Martial Arts”.