Sound Off: The Heart of the Matter


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From: Coach Frank
Title: The Heart of the Matter

Echoing in the vacuous arena were the footsteps of competitors and coaches as they headed for the scale. This is one of the defining moments for every competitor that opts to compete in a weight classified sport. Some have tormented themselves for weeks leading up to this day, others come to their weight naturally, still others decide to wait and sweat off the pounds the day of the weigh in. How they arrive at this moment will, in some cases, decide the outcome of the competition. In the world of Mixed Martial Arts, we see competitors from every walk of life.Here they are, ready to be locked in an octagonal cage and allowed to batter or be battered senseless.

The training these competitors endure can be as damaging as the actual combat. Learning techniques and drilling with coaches that serve as unyielding task masters, prepare these fighters for what is categorized as one of the most vicious forms of competition. Martial Arts experts have forged their bodies into the weapons of unarmed war for centuries. From the ancient Chinese wrestlers to the modern day cage fighter there is a common thread that unites them. The Warrior’s Heart. It is this factor that separates those who compete from those that try and fail.

Remembering days passed when I stood before a teak wood dummy, Mook Wan Jong, I was 9 years old and was instructed to smash my fists into the piece of inanimate wood until they swelled. The punch was called the”Dead Blow”. It was an introduction that very few would relish, and fewer still would continue. Weeks of being unable to slide my hand in my pocket bore testament to the conditioning that forged fists into weapons. As I looked at that wood I determined in my mind that I would not allow it to defeat me. So day after day I worked the dummy, each day growing stronger, each day becoming more determined. During this same time I was wrestling on the middle school team, my Coach would bellow that, “This mat builds character!” One day I asked my Sifu, translated as Master, if the wooden dummy built character. Stepping back he reached out his hand and cupped my chin, a smile spread across his face, shaking his head GrandMaster Lee advised, “No, this dummy exposes your character.”

The same can be said of the competitors that believe they are destined for greatness. Why is it that some fight and win, and some have little reason for being in this cage. I believe it’s the fighter’s heart that drives the victorious. That place in the human spirit that will not allow retreat, will never disengage from the battle, will never see the other’s hand raised in victory. Heart overpowers a myriad of obstacles that bar us from our dates with victory. Heart replaces the willingness to quit, it makes the combatant feel that he is a person who’s head is being held under water, and nothing will stop them from taking that next breath. The will of the fighter gets them into the battle, the heart of the fighter makes them win. Throughout history the fighter’s heart has made itself evident, Greek wrestlers that actually struck one another competed naked in sand. Roman gladiators, many unwilling, fought to the death. They battled, not for glory or money, but for survival. In my own experience I have witnessed gallantry on the field of battle and recognize it without wondering what it is. Last weekend, Sep. 2nd and 3rd, I saw 2 nights worth of combat in Houston, on those nights I saw the heart of the fighter, both built and exposed. Unfortunate incidents aside the heart of the fighter is alive and well, we always believe that old times were tougher times, while that may be true there is an unbridled truth that will resonate throughout all time. People rise to the level of greatness, mediocrity, and fall to dismal failure. The only difference between the “Old days” and now is the time in which they exist.

Having left sweat on the floors of training halls in many different places I can say without reticence that stepping into the arena and taking charge births in the fighter the heart of the warrior. The endless hours of training, the pain and diligent suffering that accompanies it, fills this breed of warrior with the fuel that motors them on…

Coach Frank