“We Win or We Learn” A Martial Arts Mindset

Posted 10:04 AM by Robert Esom & filed under learning, development, skills, Do Something New .

I believe it was Master Shifu who once said the wise words: “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than who you are.” Yes, I did just use Kung Fu Panda as philosophical touchstone.

Martial Arts


I honestly believe that each and every one of us harbours an innate desire to challenge ourselves to try new and exciting things, however not enough of us act on it. Intent is one thing, but I’ve found in my short time on this earth that intent is rarely enough. Excuses are rife in this day and age, from “I haven’t got the time at the moment” to “I haven’t got the money to get started”. They rarely work to even convince yourself - let alone anyone else.

Historically I have been the king of these excuses, thinking up any reason under the sun to avoid putting myself in situations where I may be uncomfortable. Part of growing up has involved the realisation that you are fully accountable for whether you develop or remain stagnant. I believe that embracing this mindset can truly help you improve as a person.

Do Something New

Working for Chameleon certainly has its perks, and something that has hugely impacted my life in the past three to four months, is the budget offered to all employees to “try something new, as long as it isn’t work related”. I’ve always had a keen interest in martial arts, I dabbled in it throughout my life with very minor commitment but have been an avid spectator for years. Something about the discipline and honour coupled with the potential to get a true understanding of my mind and body’s capabilities really appeals to me. So, I decided to challenge myself and set a tangible goal: to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and compete by the end of the year.

While some may be aware of the sport, you’d be forgiven for not having a clue about what it involves. The easiest way to describe it is to think of a combat sport without any striking, where the aim of the game is to control and submit your opponent. The sport looks and sounds brutal from the outside looking in, however behind the veil it is elegant in its application. Patience, mental toughness and an understanding of momentum are some of the most vital ingredients of success. All of these factors build towards the artistry of the sport. Oh, and it is one of the most challenging physical activities I have ever done.

I distinctly remember walking into the Gracie Barra dojo for my first session, having woken up at 5:30am to make it to the 7:00am session. It is worth bearing in mind that I am anything but an early bird. This was simply a way I could challenge myself further, whilst enabling myself to get the most out of each day. Walking through the doors I was greeted with a warm welcome, closely followed by the feeling I was way out of my depth. What ensued was an hour and a half battering, whatever the task put before me I would get broken and beaten, repeatedly. At the end of it I came out exhausted, bruised and aching all over, thinking: “That went terribly”. This is where I was wrong.

Over and over again, the instructor would walk around shouting, in a thick Brazilian accent: “in jiu jitsu, there is no losing, only learning”. This motto was one I’d heard before, but only now did I see it in practice and truly understand the value of failure. Without this mindset I would likely have run for the hills, striking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu down as something “I’m just bad at”. However, my curiosity and stubbornness kept me going, and thank god it did. Going once a week turned into two to three times a week, then four - I was hooked. It is incredibly gratifying to dedicate yourself to a discipline where you get back exactly what you put in. By failing to the point of success, over and over again, progress doesn’t just take the form of physical improvement, but also heightened perspective and a clearer state of mind.

The Student Mindset

Four months in, this initial shock to my routine has had an incredible impact. Make no mistake, I have still yet to scratch the surface of the sport and continue to “learn” session after session. Expert Jiu Jitsu practitioners have dedicated their entire life to this, and still continue to learn. A common saying within the sport is to “approach everything with a white belt mindset”. If you maintain humility and keep the hunger of being a complete novice, your ability to learn is amplified. This depth excites me even more, and although I am at the beginning of my journey, I feel as though I am in it for the long haul.

Trying new things will always be daunting, especially something as physically demanding as martial arts. However, with a little self-discipline and the support that Chameleon offered me, this endeavour has been incredibly beneficial.

So, whatever it is you have been telling yourself you’d try for years, take it from me - with a little discipline and curiosity you can do it, you just have to turn up.

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