What has martial arts got to do with starting a business or building a business? That's the question that will run through your mind the moment you read the title. By the time you are through with this article, you will know the answer to the question.
Sometime ago, I felt bored and needed something to lighten up my spirit while still building myself positively; this means that parties were out of it since I want to engage in something that’s fun and self developing. After some pondering, I figured it out and signed up for a self defense class; Taekwondo to be precise.
I knew it was going to be challenging because I was about to learn something new and I was excited about it. After several months of training as a martial artist, I assessed myself and decided to share the life lessons I picked up as a martial artist with you.
The lessons of martial arts has helped me become a better entrepreneur; improved my life and is ultimately helping me build a successful business. Without wasting much of your time, below are ten life lessons and personal skills I learned from martial arts.
Starting a Business: Ten Personal Skills and Life Lessons I Learned from Martial Arts
As I go into the details of the personal skills I learned from martial arts (Taekwondo), I will also be sharing with you the five aims and objectives of Taekwondo and how it has affected my life. If you are still patient enough to learn, then below are the five aims and objectives of Taekwondo and how it has affected my life.
Aims and Objectives of Taekwondo and the lessons learned
"You cannot teach an old dog new tricks." – Old saying
One thing with unlearning old tricks and learning new tricks is that it takes humility; and old dogs think they know too much to be taught by younger dogs. Talk of pride.
Sometimes in life, we have to humble ourselves to learn what we don't know; even if it means serving our subordinates. When I signed up as a martial arts and went for my first training, I dropped my entrepreneurial ego and entered the training ground (Dojan) as a complete novice; a new slate.
In the Dojan, I had twelve year old superiors who could knock me down in less than two minutes. Instead of looking at the age difference, I humbled myself and learned from this kids and today, I am a better martial artist and entrepreneur. So this brings me to life lesson number one.
Life Lesson No 1: "To learn new things; you might need to unlearn old thoughts and tricks. Both processes can never be achieved without humility." – Ajaero Tony Martins
Take a look at the Dobok (fighting attire) of a martial artist; white top over white trousers. That signifies of purity and cleanliness. In martial arts, modesty entails composure, good appearance and ultimately, obeying the golden rule that "silence is golden."
Life Lesson No 2: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it. If you think about this, you will do things differently." – Warren Buffett
Do you know what it takes to learn something new? It takes pain, perseverance and persistence because nothing good comes easy. I know the pain it took me to stretch out my legs at 180 degree, the commitment it took me to get my kicks or moves right and the focus required to hit your opponent with accuracy. Every one of these things I mentioned is highly needed in the entrepreneurial process of starting a business from scratch.
To successfully start a business and grow that same business to enviable status, you need perseverance, persistence, commitment and focus. Without perseverance to bear pain; I am not sure I would have been both a martial artist and an entrepreneur. That brings me to lesson number three.
Life Lesson No 3: "By perseverance, the snail reached the ark." – Anonymous
4. Self Control
In the movie "Spiderman," it was said that with great power comes great responsibility and I think there is a great truth in that statement. Before I proceed, I want to ask a question. If you had all the power in the world, what will you do?
The answer to that question boils down to self control. Before you can become a true martial artist, you must first gain control over yourself. Gaining control over yourself entails controlling your emotions, your time and your life. Martial arts gave me a greater control over my life.
"In order to be a player on the fast track, you will need to have a plan on how to gain more and more control. On the fast track, it is control more than money that counts." – Rich Dad
Life Lesson No 4: "Control your destiny or someone else will." – Jack Welch
5. Indomitable Spirit
Show me a successful entrepreneur and I will show you a tough, stubborn fellow. I will show you someone who stared failure in the face and said “go to hell.” Every entrepreneur who's aiming for greatness should possess an indomitable spirit; the ability not to be cowed by circumstances.
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” – Jeff Bezos
I have seen fighters knocked down by hard kicks from the opponent they refuse to give up. In the Dojan, we were trained and instructed to jump up and shout with all our heart and might whenever we were knocked down.
Shouting from your heart is a way of telling the opponent that despite my falling, I am not giving up. Such should be your attitude when you are weighed down by business challenges or the troubles of life. That is why I love the game of martial arts; because I see a relationship in principles between business, life and martial arts.
Life Lesson No 5: "When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough." – Donald Trump
These are the five aims and objectives of Taekwondo; the very attributes you need to be a black belt martial artist, and also build a successful business. In recap, these are the five aims and objectives of taekwondo. They are: Humility, modesty, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit.
In a quick wrap, I will share with you more attributes and life lessons I personally picked up as a martial artist; and how I used them as to my advantage in business.
In the process of being made a martial artist; we train when it rains, we train when the sun is high up in the sky. We train regardless of the weather. When given an instruction, you carry it out with immediate effect and we don't joke with our time. Punctuality is our watchword.
“Good enough never is. Set your standards so high that even the flaws are considered excellent.” – Debbi Fields
I carried these same principles of discipline down to my place of business and I saw a strong change in my business. Productivity increased and projects were executed with a higher degree of precision, all because of a slight enforcement of discipline.
Life Lesson No 6: "Discipline starts from the brain because the brain controls the whole body. In business, you – the entrepreneur is the brain. So therefore, discipline should start from you." – Ajaero Tony Martins
"You have to act and act now." – Larry Ellison
When I began the training session, I learned the fighting techniques quickly; though with a lot of effort on my part. Despite my improvement, I still had one fear; the fear of "Sparing" (sparing means to engage in an open martial combat with an opponent). I kept living with this fear until the day I was called into the ring. That day, I knew I come to a full circle; I knew I had to face my worst fear.
"What's coming will come and we will just have to meet it when it does." – J. K Rowling
Different thoughts kept racing through my mind. What if I got hit on the head? What if I ended up with a broken jaw or limb? What if, what if, what if? Well, the end point was that I picked courage and faced my worst fear; though I got my ass kicked. That singular act has led me to take certain decisions in business; decisions that were double edged. When faced with a 50-50 win or lose situation, I do my calculations and follow my instinct regardless of the consequences.
“Before making an important decision, get as much as you can of the best information available and review it carefully, analyze it and draw up worst case scenarios. Add up the plus or minus factors, discuss it with your team and do what your guts tell you to do.” – The Mafia Manager
Life Lesson No 7: "Face reality as it is; not as it was or as you wish it were." – Jack Welch
Strategy is one of the most important words in martial arts and business. One thing I love about business and martial art is this: Even if we were a group of hundred, being trained by a master; we may all learn the same fighting techniques but it's up to each one of us to find his or her own fighting strategy.
"My most important word in business is 'Strategy' and the reason is this: The speed at which your business grows is directly proportional to the overall strategy deployed on that business and the team behind the creation of that strategy." – Ajaero Tony Martins
In martial arts, I learned that you don't just attack the opponent because the wrong move may get you knocked down. You must first weigh your opponent strengths and weaknesses; and make your calculations before you attack. The same is also true in business.
I have a friend who is also a martial artist, his fighting strategy is to always be on the defensive; while sizing up the enemy and noting his/her strengths and weaknesses. This friend of mine will always be on the defensive until his opponent takes his defensive stance as a sign of fear and attack carelessly. At this point, this friend of mine will strike hard at the opponent’s weak points.
Another martial arts friend of mine will often allow the opponent score a kick on his belly but his counter strike will always aim for the opponent's head.
Life Lesson No 8: "A winning strategy must include losing." – Rich Dad
"The speed of the leader determines the speed of the gang." – Mary Kay Ash
In business and martial arts, speed can be a competitive advantage. The speed at which you take advantage of opportunities, react to issues or counter an attack may decide if you win or not. In a fight I witnessed, I saw first hand how a fighter's leg got broken on collision with another fighter's leg. Why was his leg broken? The reason his leg broke was because the speed of his opponent's leg was twice his own speed. With speed and accuracy, you can take your opponent unaware.
Lesson No 9: "Your greatest and most powerful business survival strategy is going to be the speed at which you handle the speed of change. That speed of change is trend." – Ajaero Tony Martins
"The most important 'speed' issue is often not technical but cultural. It's convincing everyone that the company's survival depends on everyone moving as fast as possible.” – Bill Gates
"Defeat your opponent by strategy and flexibility" – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Flexibility is another important skill I learned from martial arts. Flexibility in martial art is not just a physical aspect; it's also the mental ability to adapt swiftly to any fighting style without recourse to the styles you've mastered. Flexibility is the ability to act in opposite direction to conventional wisdom; flexibility is the willingness to try out new things without recourse to the pain involved.
"The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area." – Bill Gates
In business, flexibility is your ability to adapt swiftly to a trend, innovation or customer’s feedback. Businesses that are flexible will grow faster and survive any economic situation.
Lesson No 10: "To defeat the opponent. You must be like a fluid. A fluid has the ability to adapt to any container it finds itself. This should be your fighting strategy." – Jet Li
As a final note, these are the ten personal skills and life lessons I learned while undergoing my training as a martial artist. But aside these ten skills or lessons, the ultimate rule of martial arts is that it's a continuous learning process. Everyday’s training session and every fight is an opportunity to learn something new. So it is in entrepreneurship, you must keep learning and improving constantly. Success in business is not a one hit affair; it’s a continuous process that involves learning along the way.
At this point, I want to say I have found fulfillment as a martial artist. I have gained more control over my life and learned harness my inner strength. So my advice to you is this: no matter what you get involved with in life, always make sure it builds you positively.