Great Fighters Are Born, Not Made

From my hammock by the beach, I read one of my all-time favorite books, “The Fighter’s Mind” by Sam Sheridan. This is a must read for serious martial arts students and fight fans alike.

In the book, Sheridan emphasizes the mental aspects of fighting and profiles a number of legendary fighters.

A central theme in his interviews is that great fighters are born and not made.

“My best wrestlers, most of them, were winning before they came here,” says wrestling icon Dan Gable. “They might not know any holds or have a lot of skill, but they would go all out, beat somebody up, and run them into the ground.”

“They knew how to win before they knew how to wrestle. That is the critical thing. And we take them, and mold them, and teach them, and in a few years they’re amazing. It’s easier to teach the skills than the mentality.”

This is contrary to the idea that an average guy can be a champion if he is determined enough and and given enough time and coaching.

The chapter on boxing trainer Freddie Roach, who has trained Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, and so on echoes the same opinion.

“Freddie is a firm believer in the old saw ‘Fighters are born not made,’ because as a former fighter he knows the multitude of variables that go into making a world champion. They are infinite. If you start trying to make a world champion from scratch, you’re doomed to failure.”

I recall reading Ken Shamrock’s “Inside The Lion’s Den” where he talked about the grueling tryouts he had to endure with the legendary fight team. At the time, The Lion’s Den were among the very first to pioneer true MMA in terms of training methods and creating a team philosophy.

During tryouts, Shamrock pushed the fighters beyond the point of physical and mental endurance, trying to make them crack. He was not looking for really skilled guys with perfect technique. He was looking for guys who wouldn’t quit. Guys who had the mindset to keep pushing when most would give up.

Shamrock held the opinion that he could teach the young fighters the skills and techniques. Heart and fighting spirit, however, were inbred. Either you had them or you didn’t.

The reality is that not everyone can be a professional fighter or a World Champion in jiu-jitsu. Guts, determination, and belief can take us only so far.

From the experience of top trainers, champions are born, not made.

Can we think of a champion in jiu-jitsu who was not a natural athlete?

Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times: Most Submissions in UFC History?



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