Sunday, November 4, 2012

Me and My Big Fat Lip

If you spar enough, sooner or later it will happen to you. Lest you think I’m making excuses, remember that it even happened to the greatest fighter of all time; Muhammad Ali.

This past week, one of our terrific students suffered a fat lip during sparring practice. Like me, her day job is in a professional occupation where bloody noses, black eyes, and fat lips are well outside the norms for proper attire.

I have limped to work with any number of broken toes, a busted nose from the freakiest of accidents, and twice took an onslaught of good natured ribbing for black eyes. As a martial artist, you learn humility in the dojang, which is good, ‘cause you’ll need it in the office.

In 1973, Muhammad Ali lost, by decision, a 12 round fight against Ken Norton. Norton threw a wicked hook and broke Ali’s jaw ... in the second round. Ali continued through 12 rounds without ever being knocked down. It was only after the fight, after a trip to the hospital that the broken jaw was discovered.

That a fighter suffers an injury is not unusual - if you fight enough, it’s bound to happen. What’s important is how the fighter responds. Muhammad Ali trained harder, lost nine pounds, and came back six months later to beat Norton in their next fight.

Our fighter, the one with the fat lip, could have responded with anger at her sparring partner. She could have complained about the sparring supervisors, or even joked about the lucky punch. Instead she said to herself, “Keep your hands up, dummy.”

While I would disagree with her self deprecating personal pronoun, she had the right attitude. She dropped her hands and paid the price; so rather than place blame, she used the experience to get better.

If you are a student of martial arts, you will experience injury at some point; probably at many points. What matters is how you use those events to learn, grow, and get better.

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