Something I believe strongly in is the need for everyone to learn how to fight.

I know that some people get offended when I say this, as if learning to fight brings more violence and negative energy into the world or that living in a polite society precludes needing to know how to fight.

But learning to fight is important for you for several reasons that you should consider before writing it off.

First, you’re here because several people in your genetic past have won fights. It is baked into your DNA and at one point was essential to survival.

This is why fighting is really a form of Functional Fitness. I mean, who cares how “fit” you are in the gym or on the trail if you can’t defend yourself or someone you care about?

I know that most people don’t think about it this way, including myself for a lot of my fitness career. I first got introduced to this concept in through the book The Natural Method, which was written a Frenchman in the early 1900’s

In it he laid out his plan for developing Functional Fitness, which isn’t what he called it but his method shares the same stated goal of building fitness that can help you function in your environment.

He had observed the effects of sedentary industrialized life in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s and realized that people were losing their ability to simply function as humans. Seeing people die who couldn’t flee from an exploding volcano in the Canary Islands solidified his observations and he set about developing a training system to change that.

Unfortunately WWI wiped him and his generation out and so his work was largely forgotten about but it has lived on in some pockets of the fitness world. When you read his book today you get a sense for a world of Functional Fitness that goes way beyond what we’re doing today.

One of the things that he covers as part of Functional Fitness are what he calls Martial Skills. These are basically self defense skills using your own body and different weapons of the day.

His feeling was that you needed to know how to defend yourself if you were going to be truly “fit” to function in the world. Bad things happen to good people and knowing how to deal with those potential situations is really just using your fitness when it matters most.

Which brings us to another important thing to consider – you are your own best First Responder. If things go wrong then you are going to be the first one on the scene and your ability to handle the situation until the real help can arrive can be a matter of life and death.

Of course, we want to avoid violence and if it finds us, let the professionals handle it. We have police and military to deal with violent people so we largely don’t have to.

But this leads us into a false sense of security that can be easily shattered. The truth is that even the best police response time leaves an eternity for something bad to happen to you or someone you’re with, leaving you to fill that time with what you bring to the moment.

At this point a lot of people delude themselves into thinking that they will be able to step up in the moment and be able to use their righteous anger to help them power through a bad guy. These are also the same people who have never been in a fight or done any sort of legitimate combat sport – anyone who has been in a physical confrontation with another person knows it is frighteningly difficult. 

Your only chance is to possess some basic skills and tactics to be able to survive a self defense situation. And that requires training.

Which leads to the last point – training to learn to fight changes your perspective for the better. Far from making you more prone to violence, fighting turns the volume on everything else way down. You gain a perspective that most other people don’t have about the daily bullshit that surrounds us.

You also learn that the last thing you want to do is get into a fight. If you are doing a legitimate martial art for self defense – Brazilian Jiu Jistsu being my favorite – then you will spend time pressure testing your skills. This means that you will be going against another person that doesn’t want you to succeed. 

You quickly realize that there are some regular looking people walking around out there that you would never recognize as being able to destroy you. You also see how hard and chaotic it is. Simply put, fighting is something that you should avoid at all costs.

Mr. Miagi was right when he told Daniel-son that you learn to fight so that you don’t have to fight. Musashi, who was the greatest swordsman in the history of Japan, said that the highest expression of a martial art is not having to use it.

But, if you had no other choice, you’d have the skills needed to give yourself a chance. And the training it took to get those skills will improve your fitness and mindset like few things can.

While learning to fight is a goal in itself, this type of training will help your riding as well. The fitness you gain and lessons you learn will help you on the trail. For example, learning how to take a fall will help you crash better. Or staying calm in a tough situation and working out using good technique requires a type of focus under pressure that will help you face tough situations on the trail better.

There are a lot of examples like this but the point is, if you neglect this important part of true Functional Fitness then you could be selling yourself short on the trail as well.

So hopefully you’ve reconsidered the need to learn how to fight. If you’re interested in learning more about how to defend yourself, especially against potentially bigger and stronger opponents, then I’d recommend finding a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym near you and trying some classes. Most gyms have some sort of free or low cost trial so you can check it out and I highly encourage you to take advantage of it.

Don’t let the stigma that frightened, timid people have created around learning to fight scare you away from this important skill. Learning to fight doesn’t make you a violent person, it makes you able to protect yourself and others. And at the end of the day, what’s more important than that?

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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