Embracing the grind

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in combat sport knows that the time in between fights can be very taxing. You have just come off a fight and you are mentally and physically exhausted, you have a long way to go before your next fight. This is exactly what I am experiencing right now.

Training can be a slow grind sometimes. The greatest athletes will always get through. In my experience it’s the grind of constant competing that takes people out of the sport. If I looked back at my weight class over the past 3 years I can show you a list of people who don’t compete anymore. Athletes come and go.

For example, of the 8 people that competed in the 2012 Nationals in the -80kg division only 1 competed in the 2014 Nationals. Me. Of those 8 in 2012, only two of us still compete. 6 people over the course of two years, stopped fighting. That is a lot of retirement, almost the entire division is gone. Of course, they have been replaced with other people either moving up into my weight or new athletes fighting in the Black Belt category for the first time. It amazes me that after 7 years in Taekwondo, I can turn up to a competition, have a chat with all the coaches I’ve become close with, all the athletes who I have been on trips with and then look at my draw and have absolutely no idea who the people are.

I would like to think I have become so good at Taekwondo that people are getting scared of me. But that isn’t it. I think it’s the grind.

It’s turning up to training everyday, doing your strength work, doing your recovery sessions, sparring other elite players at your club, dealing with injuries and managing your diet. This is no easy feat, there is a good reason that people respect Olympic Athletes. Imagine doing all of those things everyday for a chance at your dream once every 4 years. There is also a good reason not everyone makes the Olympics, and I have listed them all above.

Embracing that grind is so important. I have some small competitions coming up before a big International Tour in the middle of the year, looking towards that tour it’s hard to motivate myself to turn up to training everyday.

Georges St-Pierre the former long time UFC Welterweight Champion once said that ‘fighters’ train when they have a fight coming up, but Martial Artists train year round. He couldn’t be more right.

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Chasing Lions

Two weeks ago I fought at the National Team Trials at the AIS in Canberra. I am not going to mince words. I lost. I won my semi-final by a significant margin, when walking off the mats I fainted, had a seizure and could not participate in the final. I lost by withdrawal. I am the reserve athlete for the 87+ division, essentially, the B Team. A significant step up from not being on the team at all, but not the step that I wanted to take.

The promise I made myself about starting to transfer to MMA still stands, but now I have a different outlook on what that might mean. After my performance at the AIS I feel that I am closer to the Olympics than I have ever been. I will not participate in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I know that now. That is a failure I will have to live with. I will spend the next 5 years training for MMA and Taekwondo concurrently on the way to the UFC and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

There is a saying that if you try and chase two rabbits you will lose both of them. I don’t think this applies here though. The two dreams I am chasing are intertwined, being an Olympic level Taekwondo athlete will help me get into the UFC, and training in MMA will help me build my strength and power for Taekwondo. The Taekwondo background I have is a huge advantage in MMA, in the last few years we have seen more and more UFC fighters utilizing Taekwondo techniques. Stopping Taekwondo all together now would be a huge mistake. I want to retain the kicking advantage I have over other MMA fighters. I typically train in Taekwondo 4-5 times a week, BJJ 3 times and Kickboxing twice. I don’t want to become a Kickboxing striker in MMA, I want to be a Taekwondo striker, who has altered the punching aspect (punching the face and body as opposed to only punching the body). Lyoto Machida is the prime example of what I mean. He isn’t a Muay Thai fighter, he is a Karate fighter who also trains in Muay Thai so his Karate can be adapted to the MMA landscape.

With that being said I am looking forward to a slightly altered competition season. I will be fighting in the Victorian Taekwondo Championships, The Arnold Classic Taekwondo Championships and the Victorian BJJ Championships in the coming months. BJJ is my biggest disadvantage, even though the quality of Australian BJJ in MMA is quite low compared to other countries I still know what it takes to make the UFC. A complete game.

I am chasing down the lions that I train with at the AET. Everyone is so good that it makes every training session a challenge, I have never left training feeling that I won every encounter. I improve with every session and now that all my swelling from the AIS has gone down I am excited to get back to training and achieving things in 2015 that I never have before.