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Why do people start?

I have an anecdote that’s only slightly exaggerated, depending on the setting and how much I want to embarrass my wife. Basically, I got into martial arts because I wanted to meet girls. I was running with a friend on an elevated track, and my friend was running a Taekwondo class in the hall below. He had been trying to get us to go along for months, but on this particular night, the class was about 50% female, so we looked at each other and said “Uhhh, say, why don’t we try this… to emm… learn… some self… defence?”

My wife was down there, I just didn’t know it yet! And they tell you to let your brain do the thinking! Pfft!

But that’s the abridged version. The real version doesn’t go down as well at parties, or make my wife roll her eyes.

The truth is I was ready to do something. I was just out of college, I had spent a couple of years lifting weights and messing around, something was missing in my life, I just didn’t know what it was. There’s a saying, “When the student is ready, the master appears”. Beneath the eastern philosophical veneer of that is the idea that when you’re open to changing something about your life, those opportunities seem to magically appear in front of you.

How I started Jiu Jitsu is a bit different. As a black belt I wanted to be able to fight, and while Taekwondo meant I could kick and punch, when I was shown this grappling stuff, I knew I was clueless, and wanted to know more. A few classes in I was hooked on it. I wanted to be a complete martial artist, and that led me to MMA and Wrestling and where I am today. But Jiu Jitsu was just different. I know deep down that I would have quit Taekwondo and possibly martial arts eventually if I hadn’t discovered grappling.

I ask other people what they think. What made them come to their first class? The “early adopters” were all traditional martial artists. We were black belts or experienced martial artists in other disciplines who wanted to know more. When I look at the first 13 black belts in Ireland (I was Ireland’s 13th… the dirty Baker’s Dozen!) only one of them stands out as someone who wasn’t an ex-traditional martial artist.

Everyone after that varies between loving Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC and coming because of that, right through to not having a clue what they were getting themselves in for.

But there’s one common factor when you delve a bit deeper. Everyone was looking for something. Some people were just looking to get fit, and some were looking for a social outlet. Some were looking for self defence, some looking for a competitive sport. But we were all looking for something. Who knows why. But everyone just took that “F*ck it!” leap and went to their first class one day.

I wrote a bit about the F*ck It moment in an email previously and that same week 5 people came to training saying that was what made them come. I’m fascinated by the psychology of what makes people make decisions (good and bad), and what sort of build-up of momentum it takes before people get pushed over the edge into a decision. You can see the original mail here

So a bit like my chance meeting with my future career on a running track, I was ready to go do something new, and martial arts appealed to me. I wouldn’t have gone to a badminton club. There was something about fighting that got to me. Again, who knows what? Whatever it was, I’m glad it was there. Frankly I don’t care to dwell too deeply on it.



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