A while ago, Mike wrote something on my Facebook page.
I have a topic suggestion for you: Making the transition from competing to coaching.
And that’s how this “How to transition from competitor to coach” guide was born. I’ll try to give you some thoughts here but have to say upfront that I’m not the best guy to write about this. Because I’m a bit of a special case (Peanut gallery dwellers, keep your mouthes shut…) Here’s why.
A long, long time ago…
When I was 16 or 17, my teacher asked me to start class for him. He’d come in a bit later (he had a real long drive to get there) and I’d do the warm up and get everybody started. After a while, he asked me to start teaching beginners. So I did. More time goes by and I’m teaching a full class now. Fast forward a few years, and my teacher asks me to take over and run the school. Which I did.
I was 18 when I started competing so by that time, I’d already been teaching (or something that passes for teaching anyway) for a little while. By the time I started competing internationally, I had been teaching for several years. In that regard, I didn’t really make a smooth transition from competing to coaching as I started out the other way around.
But there’s something else: I competed in Sanshou (IWUF rules). Think of it as kick boxing but with throws and take downs, no groundwork. Back in the day, it wasn’t all that popular so finding teachers was hard. My own teacher had fought under different rules decades earlier and he couldn’t help me much either. So I was left to fend for myself and figure it out on my own. Which explains why I’m such an opinionated asshole sometimes, but I digress…
That meant looking at all the information I could find: kick boxing, muay Thai, wrestling, judo, etc. If people competed in it, I tried to learn from that art. For the record, I don’t claim I was all that good at those arts, just that I looked for inspiration there because there were precious few books or videos on Sanshou back then. As a result, I developed a personal, hybrid style that incorporated a lot of the elements from other arts but tweaked and adapted to the Sanshou format. When I looked at what my fellow competitors were doing, I wasn’t that far off the mark.
What’s your point?
I was a coach and a competitor at the same time; I didn’t transition from the one to the other.
I coached myself because I didn’t have a choice: I didn’t have the means to go study abroad and didn’t know of any local teachers who specifically taught fighting under Sanshou rules. Obviously, I made tons and tons of mistakes. I lost to fighters I shouldn’t have because I trained in the wrong way, messed up my conditioning, didn’t know enough about strategy and tactics, etc.
Looking at the other guys out there, I wasn’t bad, but I most certainly was not the best fighter out there.
But despite all these downsides, I learned a lot. I learned to look for information, analyze it and try to apply it. The real irony is that I became a much better fighter after I had stopped competing. With some time and distance between me and the competitions, I saw things in a different light, with a better perspective. And I made huge progress in my fighting skills. But it was too late to do anything with them because there was no money in Sanshou fights (still isn’t really) and I was married, bought a house, etc. All nice things to have but incompatible with a competitor’s life, especially one who isn’t sponsored.
The biggest upside is that it made me a better coach. Primarily because I learned firsthand what not to do and can now help my students avoid those pitfalls. Here are some of the things I picked up along the way and you can use to transition form competitor to coach: [Read more…]