This article originally appeared on Evolve MMA.
What makes for a good leader is very subjective. It depends on the task at hand, the type of people being led, and the overall purpose of the team. That being said, there is a through-line of attributes and characteristics that are overly represented in the great leaders. Characteristics like confidence, empathy, the ability to inspire through action, and an unflinching drive to get the job done.
While there are countless ways to improve and nurture these characteristics throughout a lifetime, there are some methods that have proven time and again to be incredibly effective.
While most outside observers see martial arts as merely a skill set for physically dominating an opponent or a tool for getting in shape, for those who practice it and let it really become a part of their life, the physical challenges become simply a background for the emotional and personal development that takes place.
The effectiveness of a leader is a direct result of the challenges they faced in their development. Adversity breeds strength of character. Not all of us live in a world where intense challenges are awaiting us. Sometimes we must seek it out, and push ourselves to overcome. This is how you grow. Martial arts has become a tool for both individuals and some of the largest organizations in the world to develop the body and mind into something that can truly inspire, drive, and organize others.
The Secret of True Leadership and Martial Arts
One of the best examples of the real potential of martial arts to create leaders is the reliance that the greatest militaries in the world have put upon it to do so. Militaries around the world rely on effective leadership to overcome some of the most significant hardships ever faced by man. In many ways, the modern officers and NCO’s of these militaries are some of the most challenged, relied upon, and youngest leaders in the world. Militaries have had to learn methods of quickly turning soft, easy living youths into inspiring and effective leaders.
At first, you may think this is simply a modern rendition of a group of barbarians trying to out-alpha each other through fisticuffs – little different than perhaps what we imagine the cavemen to have done. After a bit of time spent researching, however, you find that the use of martial arts to quickly develop effective leaders is all underpinned by hundreds of years of philosophy and learning.
The United States Marine Corps is one of the premier fighting forces in the world, famed for its ability to accomplish missions no matter the cost. The Marine Corps relies on collections of very small groups, around 4 – 10 people, anchored by an unshakable leader to accomplish these missions. The backbone of their leadership development for the last 15 or so years has been their martial arts program.
Yes, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), which draws influences from such disciplines as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, and boxing, does teach Marines how to utilize hand to hand combat, but it goes well beyond that. The US Army’s website states that “MCMAP was implemented to increase the combat efficiency, as well as to increase the confidence and leadership abilities of Marines.” Strong discipline and the cultivation of an ethical/spiritual warrior are the hallmarks of MCMAP.
In the founding of the program the military had this to say on the topic:
“The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program molds the Mental, Character, and Physical Disciplines for the Marine Corps in order to imbed Marines with the ability to honorably deal with the moral dimensions of conflict and to make ethical decisions in life, whether on or off the battlefield… The mental and character disciplines assist in making leaders and citizens imbued with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”
The entire program is based upon coupling traditional martial arts philosophies with modern sport fighting training and group challenges.
Martial Arts Unlocks Your Potential
You obviously don’t have to become a Marine or an MMA fighter to obtain the benefits of the martial arts. Those were simply examples of how millions of dollars of research and some of the most intensely demanding jobs on the planet have come to understand the same thing that people like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors and boxing coaches have known for ages. There is something about learning the martial arts that opens your mind and body up to change. It unlocks something within you.
You challenge your body, you must learn to control your mind, you are pushed emotionally, and throughout it, you must maintain composure and rely on your training to get you through it. There is nothing that develops you faster.
How to Start
You don’t jump straight into the ocean waves to learn to swim, you take it step by step. Martial arts is the same. Martial arts will change the way you look at your body and the way you feel in it. It is a process that builds confidence and composure.
Start slowly with small challenges. The first step is to take a trial class and experience the rush of martial arts for yourself. As you continue to train and time goes on, you will begin to notice the change, and so will those around you.