Whether it is AYSO Soccer or Little League Baseball, the first lesson we are all taught is to be a Good Sport. This means shaking hands after a game, playing by the rules, and congratulating the other team for their good effort. Why? Because nobody wants to play with a poor sport.
The same goes for combative sports. Touching gloves begins a fight. It is your way as the fighter to tell all who are watching that it is an honor to be there and it tells your opponent that you are ready to begin.
If you truly love the sport and truly love competing, you put in the effort for months and months or sometimes years ahead of time. You watch videos of your opponent’s style, you have a coaching team that helps you understand each competitor’s holes in their game, and you make sure that your body is in such amazing shape that you don’t gas out. Yes, most of this is so that you will win, but in the art of fighting, it’s also to show your opponent that you believe in them and respect their hard work to get where they are.
Watching the fight on Saturday between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm, I thought about the fact that Ronda didn’t touch gloves with Holly. Not for the reason that Holm would be effected by it, because she clearly wasn’t…in fact, it seemed Ronda needed to do that more to convince herself that she had effectively intimidated her opponent–which clearly she had not…
No, rather, the reason I couldn’t stop thinking about it is because of the respect I have for athletes and fighters. If any of you have done a sport…specifically Martial Arts or boxing, you realize the importance of your competition and the way you treat your competitor.
As I step on the mat each night at Jiu Jitsu, I bow. As I step off the mat, I bow. I suppose I could get away without doing it every so often if my sensei doesn’t see me…but then again, I have no desire to skip the bow. At first, I felt a bit of inferiority on the mat, but the bow at least paid my admission ticket. If I could get the bow right, then maybe I might belong.
That bow has now become second nature to me. It is without a doubt one of the ways that reminds me that what I am doing is a skill given to me by the founders that had to work, create, and craft this art until fights could be won. Thank God for them. Can you imagine being the first one to even figure out the arm bar? How does one even figure that out?
Someone else did all the work to give me the knowledge to defend myself. And to that, I bow and say thank you. It’s beyond just the founders; it’s also for the respect that we give my sensei that they took the time and energy to prepare a home for me to make myself a better fighter and ultimately safer in this world. So again, I bow and say thank you.
At the beginning of every sparring (rolling, training, grappling) session you give your partner the clap of your hand and a fist bump. Then after your session with said partner, you give each other a hand shake (sometimes a hug if it’s truly an amazing roll: although this could just be me and everyone shakes their head at the hugging girl on the mat) and then move on to your next partner. Rolling with these guys day in and day out create close relationships. You know immediately that you would go to bat for these guys. You’ve shared blood, sweat, and tears.
Sure you are competitive with these guys to a certain point. Yet one thing remains very clear–there is an importance for respecting your competition. And part of this respect is how you begin and how you end a fight.
When you begin the fight with the fist bump, you are ultimately saying, “Okay, I’m ready and you’re ready. I respect you enough to give you a hard fight. I have trained enough because you and I deserve the best fight. And I respect what you have done and that’s why I have put so much work into beating you.”
There are some people that I have known that work so hard at not being tapped out. But here’s the deal…everyone gets tapped out. Good days come, bad days are there…and sometimes it just isn’t your night. I find it important as a team to be able to look my team mate in the eye and say, good job at that arm bar…
Why? Because the more he gets my arm, the more I am going to see when the arm bar is coming. Dropping your ego at the door when it comes to Martial Arts is important. Nights where you get tapped out don’t mean you aren’t good, it just means that your partner is getting good enough to make you better.
So praise him for his success and squeeze his shoulder with a thank you. When he gets better, he only makes you better…this is not only true for teammates, but also for competitors.
On Saturday when Ronda didn’t bump fists with Holly Holm who has clearly worked her ass off to get where she is, I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me. Then I realized…
Because of that disrespect to her opponent, when she lost, many shrugged their shoulders. They were surprised she lost, of course, but at the same time, I don’t see many people feeling bad for her. Now move back a few days and perhaps if Ronda had worked at showing more respect for her opponent, things might have been different–even showing respect by getting in the best shape of her life to fight Holly Holm. Perhaps more people would be there for Ronda to pull her back on her feet and encourage her if she showed better sportsmanship. By not touching gloves she shifted from hero to villain for many people…but then again, maybe that’s all part of the show.
As I feel my training partners doing well against me and I battle against them hard, at least I know at the end we respect each other. They’ve worked hard and I’ve worked hard and together we are only making each other better.
This is the importance of the fist bump. Without the fist bump you are just a bully in the Octagon. With the fist bump you are a true fighter that respects the power of a great competitor.
I understand that this seems to be the way to intimidate…but perhaps hard work and dedication which lead to a calm and collected behavior is a bit more intimidating…
I could be wrong…but then again we all watched the fall from grace.