Being a fighter

Fighters come in every shape and form and all have a common goal. The definition of a fighter is often times related to boxing or some form of combat. But actually, a ‘fighter’ can also be someone who perseveres through tough and incredible odds. Someone who, with the cards stacked against them, comes out having achieved their goal and more

Is a person that has multiple championship belts from Boxing, Muay Thai or MMA a fighter? What about someone who has been battling cancer for 14 years, are they considered a fighter too? What about that little child, who grows up in an impoverished environment, with all types of bad influences around them, only to become a doctor, lawyer or business person?

My answer, is YES. They all are. Fighting is about struggle. It’s about resistance. And it’s about figuring out how to achieve your goal(s) in everyday life with elements that are not in your favor.. A fighter’s mindset should have less to do with beating their opponent and winning and more to do with besting themselves and walking out a better person than they started.

Take that young child from the impoverished community that went to college and got an education and became a prominent member of society. Might they have gotten there if their upbringing was different? Maybe. But an argument can be made that they are as much a fighter as is the current World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.

It is my hope to give all who read this a good idea about what it means to be a fighter. That lives in all of us; whether training for a fight, or studying for a test or battling sickness or disease.

Cooperative vs. Competitive

Have you ever been in a Muay Thai, BJJ, MMA class and partnered with someone that wasn’t letting you drill the move the way the instructor intended? Ever have that partner, that no matter what, they always seemed to be competing against you instead of practicing the techniques lightly?

Competitive Partners are just that. They are always trying to win instead of taking the drills for what they are, practice. This really hurts the other partner, no necessarily physically, but in terms of learning new techniques. You cannot drill something new live.

Cooperative partners, on the other hand, help foster an environment of learning. They understand that the time in class is practice unless specified by the instructor. They go slow at first and build up as they become more familiar with the new techniques. They also allow their partner to do the same.

In the end, people notice things and eventually the competitive partner ends up being labelled as such and no one wants to partner up with them.

  • This issue is also something that the instructor must address at the beginning and end of every class. If they wish to foster an environment that is conducive to learning and having fun while being safe, this is a must.

Testing, Coaching and Rank Systems

Combat sports programs around the world all have ranking systems. From the traditional to the creative. They exist in every shape and form. The industry standard to how this works is that someone trains for a bit, the head instructor announces that there will be testing for the next rank. The student is then required to pay a fee (amount varies) to attend the test and to test for his or her next rank. Upon successful completion of the testing, the students gets something to signify the next rank whether it’s a different colored belt, prajiad, shorts, shirt, certificate, etc. Always in my experience has it been that the fee to test is applied to the belt or shorts or shirt that the student gets. Especially if the testing fee was expensive.

For coaches, these individuals should obviously be constantly training and learning and sharpening their techniques so that when they teach, the technique can be demonstrated properly and explained correctly. Also, working knowledge of the technique will add more to the process.

Do you think coaches should be forced or mandated to test to the next rank whenever they can? What if they cannot afford the fee? What if their technique and training are still constant, but they don’t test for the next rank? And then what if they test, pass the test and then have to pay more for the belt or short or shirt? What do you think?


Often times, when I hear coaches and trainers speak about the loss their fighter suffered, it always has something to do with the fighter themselves not doing something. This shrugging of responsibility, to me, has no place in the equation. As a trainer/coach, your job is to teach the fighter what to do, show them what to do, shows them how to react, etc. If they did not do those things, that should always fall on the trainer. My reasoning? When a fighter is in training camp, one of their main focuses should be a classical conditioning scenario. By this, I mean that they should be learning the specific techniques, combos, counters, defenses, etc and drilling them incessantly. If you do the same thing over and over again, it often times becomes your “default” action. If your fighter, did not perform the techniques as desired, it shows a lack of this.Every time I have ever had a fighter lose, I have taken it hard and started to question myself and my methods. My thoughts have never once shifted to blaming the fighter themselves for anything. So the next time your fighter loses a fight, ask yourself, “Did I do everything possible to ensure his/her success?” This very question is what take a trainer/coach from good to great.

Passing on knowledge

As a coach and instructor, you can’t keep the secrets to yourself. You need to be a source of knowledge and pass on all that which you yourself have learned over time. Whether it’s knowledge to your students, fighters or fellow coaches. This is how the dynamics work. This is how the sport and all of its practices grow and thrive. Tonight, I had my business partner and friend wrap our fighter’s hands before the fight and she did great. The best part is that we had to rush a little towards the end, but she rose to the occasion and completed the task. This helped to really test her ability to stay calm and trust in herself and her abilities. No one starts anything doing it perfectly; trials and tribulations are part of these processes and it makes the person better at that particular task. I’ve done this before with a few others coaches. This allows others to have working knowledge of this art within the art. I will not be able to do this forever and passing on any knowledge, big or small will add to the greater good.

How I Coach...

Coaching styles

As a former athlete and fighter, I have encountered many coaching styles in my lifetime. They have all shaped the way that I coach today. My coaching style is different than many in my surrounding community. Many people might not agree with it, but it’s been proven to work and I continue to adjust it as I encounter new students.

My Coaching Style

The standard paradigm is to explain the technique, show the technique, practice the technique, then drill the technique. I will do this, but not always in the conventional way. Often times, I will do this through padwork. Doing the same combinations, same movements, same defensive/offensive tactics. What many students later see and what many outside observers notice is that I don’t correct a lot when doing these sessions. By the time I do a padwork session with a student, they have usually done the technique(s) a number of times and know what it “feels like” to execute a good technique. I let them feel and hear what the technique is doing. Whether punching or kicking, elbowing or kneeing, one can feel and hear the technique on the pads. They can feel if it’s right. They can hear if it’s right. If not, they do it again. And again and again within the pad rounds. This whole time, I am not saying anything and not correcting them.


In the cage or the ring or even the street, your opponent will not be correcting you. Your opponent will not be telling you what to do and how to do it. You must figure all of this out for yourself. One of the main ideas behind padwork is and has always been a replacement for sparring; at least it should be used as such. The padholder is your opponent. The pads are your opponents head/face, body and legs. It’s main focus is to get the student/striker comfortable with throwing strikes in a combat scenario. The padholder may throw back or just keep the striker moving and executing. In any case, this is a popular way of getting a student comfortable with an “opponent”. Of course, it needs to be explained as such. With all of this being said, the idea of self-correction comes into play. There is nothing wrong with correcting someone during padwork. I just choose to keep it to a minimum. Self-correction. As with anything in life, you cannot always have someone there to “coach” you. You need to learn to be independent and figure it out on your own. This is especially true when the consequences are bodily harm.

While this may be my way of thinking, this is not the only way to do things. It’s just one way, not THE way. And if this can help someone to get better, then I am all for that.