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7 Important Life Lessons Kick Boxing Has Taught Me

7 Important Life Lessons Kick Boxing Has Taught Me

Years of martial arts have taught me more than how to throw a good punch. Surprisingly it has taught me how to control myself and most importantly some crucial life lessons. It has also sharpened my focus

Around a year ago I sweated my way through a brown belt kick boxing exam. Since then I have taken a slight break as I moved temporarily for 12 months, but as I get closer to moving back to London, I’ve already started thinking about what martial art I would like to take up next. Aikido? Taekwondo? Perhaps karate (after all, maybe I will be naturally good at this one as I am half Japanese, where it originated).

I have been doing various martial arts for quite some time now, before I started living in London… some have worked out better than others (I won gold at a Choi Kwong Do competition but I had to give up MMA because, put simply, my 5ft 3 frame couldn’t handle it and I nearly broke my nose during a head lock). But I have absolutely loved trying every single one and can’t wait to start again.

I started kick boxing because I am a secret bad-ass.

Ok, that is not true. I started kick boxing because I wanted a way to shape up, give my body a good cardio-kicking and find a fun way to de-stress.

At first, I spent my time sheepishly hanging around, doing my best not to give anyone bigger than me any eye contact so I didn’t have to partner them. But then I started getting a little more confident, and smiling at people awkwardly (revealing my pink mouth-guard) with a “do you want to partner me?” look but always hoping that they would go easy on me.

As time went on though, my confidence grew (and then dipped again) and then grew some more, and I started to get more and more out of the sessions… and I started to learn some life lessons from the gruelling sessions that weren’t just about how to avoid a black eye.

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Here are my 7 seriously important life lessons that kick boxing has taught me. Because it hasn’t been all sweat and muscle ache for the sake of exercise…

Life lesson 1: Push yourself out of your comfort zone

The reason why it is called the comfort zone is because it is comfortable, not because it is exciting or exhilarating. A familiar place, perhaps bringing a warm feeling, you know you are safe in your comfort zone. But since when has safety equated to fun?

The trouble is that you’ll never progress if you keep sitting on the comfort zone sofa of life. Even worse, just because it is ‘familiar’ doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for you.

The only way to truly progress and develop yourself is to push your boundaries. The funny thing though, is the more you push, the more you experience and so your comfort zone widens. You’ll find that you quickly get used to whatever you used to find unnerving. There is nothing more comfort zone pushing then putting on a pair of gloves and getting into the boxing ring.

Life lesson 2: Learn from people better than you

Whether you are top of your game or just starting out, we can all learn from others, especially those that are better than us or do things differently. When I first started sparring, I was terrified and did my best to always partner my friend Kris in the hope that we wouldn’t have to pair a black belt or a bloke twice our size.

Our instructors quickly latched on to this though and like naughty school children, started separating us from each other. Whilst terrified at first, I soon started to learn new techniques and people were generous in the knowledge they shared about how to be a better fighter. This is also something I have learnt outside of kick boxing – people are generally very giving when it comes to helping you. The trouble is, most of us never ask or put ourselves in opportunities where we can learn.

Life lesson 3: Speak up if you are not happy

When you are sparring, it is inevitable that you are going to get punched in the face a few times, even if like me, you did your best to hide rather than box. Whilst most kick boxers will offer you a soft ‘tap’ there were also the odd imbeciles that wanted to show off or make themselves better and turn a friendly spar into an opportunity to use you as a human punch bag.

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Do you have to stand there and take it?  Of course not!

In the beginning, if I experienced one of these hard-hitting imbeciles, I would just simply remember not to partner them in the future and avoid them at all costs. Sensible approach in my mind. But then one day, the class was so small, the 6 of us rotated around and around and there was no escaping anyone. And that’s when I had no other choice but to speak up, a rather pathetic “erm… can you… errr…. not hit me as hard?… please?”

When the reply was “oh yea sure, I am so sorry, I didn’t realise”, I realised my error – they weren’t imbeciles. I had been the idiot for not speaking up! If you don’t like something, either change it or ask for it to be changed.

Knowing this as boosted my confidence in the simple act of asking and speaking up about something if you are not happy. You don’t have to stand there, physically or metaphorically, while you’re being punched in the face.

Life lesson 4: Relax

When kick boxing, I am constantly being reminded to relax by my instructors when punching and sparring because the more relaxed your body is, the more flexible you become, which in turn makes your technique better.

On one particular grading, I was so tired thanks to a late-night birthday (the kind of party where it is “oh just one more drink”), I was too tired to even think about being worried or scared for the exam. I just got up and went to the dojo. Result? My body relaxed, my mind wasn’t worried about what to expect and I did the best sparring I have ever done, which managed to get me a (rarely given) first grade!

This is true for life too!

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Relax a little, don’t be so rigid and stop your mind from worrying about the “what ifs”. You’ll find that things become a lot easier and are a lot more enjoyable.

Life lesson 5: Practice makes perfect

This is a classic, but I am afraid it is true. Practice really does make perfect. And you know what else? If you first don’t succeed, try and try again! It is boring but so truthful in life too. We can’t all be naturally gifted in everything that we do but there is no reason why we can’t dedicate a little time and effort to learn and practice. A learning curve for me was also seeing practice as enjoyable, fun and something I wanted to do (rather than ‘have’ to do). If you see it as a chore, you’ll resent having to practice to become perfect.

Life lesson 6: Be observant

Am I the best fighter in my class? Damn right! I am not! But have I won matches and passed demanding exams? Most certainly!

So how can you win a fight if you’re not at the top of the game? Wishing that your partner is having an off day can only get you so far!

My advice, be observant.

Watch others. Even if you don’t learn through someone else’s superior experience, you can always learn through your own simple observation. Even when I was partnering people my level or lower, I would still learn from each and every one of them, simply observing how they did things differently to me.

There was a guy in my class on a Tuesday that had a bad habit of starting to let his guard down half way through the match when he started to tire. The perfect time for me to land a jab. And there was a tall teenager who use to have his guard far too high up for me (because I was about his waist height) so would leave his torso exposed to me for a hook. And whilst my arm reach might mean I’ll never be able to jab my way to winning with anyone tall, my natural flexibility meant I could always plant a round-house kick to their chest or head. I may not have been the best, but observing other’s weaknesses meant I could see exactly where to shoot my arrow to find their Achille’s heel.

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Don’t underestimate the power of observation, be aware of your surroundings and look for opportunities to make your move.

Life lesson 7: Improvement isn’t linear

The trouble with improvement and development is that we seem to think that it is a linear progression. That every hour of practice we put in, the better we automatically become.

This is a misconception. Success isn’t a straight line, but instead a wandering, wavy road up and down a mountain’s path. Sometimes it can even feel like two steps forward and one step back! Not every day is the same situation so you can’t expect your progress to be linear.

Sometimes when kick boxing I feel elated that I have finally mastered that double backwards kick… only for me to feel so disappointed the next lesson when it isn’t as good. But there could be a whole host of reasons for this – perhaps I am particularly tired that day or my muscles aren’t as warm or flexible, or perhaps I haven’t eaten the right foods the day before for optimum energy. The situation is different.

Progress isn’t linear. Realising this through kick boxing has made me a lot kinder to my development in other areas too, like my career or learning Japanese. As long as you are committed to trying and learning, then you’re on the right road to success, however up and down it might be.

More by this author

Alice Dartnell

Engagement Expert

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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