Hello! I have a bit of an… odd question. But ths something that has been bothering me greatly. Most of the time I have seen people tell someone that (both in media and real life) “they weren’t born for combat”. Do you think anyone can become a fighter? Or do you need some “talent”?



No, there’s no such thing. Whether they want to admit it or not, every single person has the capacity for violence.

There are some people are so phenomenally talented like Ernie Reyes Jr., Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, to name a few, that their skill leaves you breathless with envy. However, the same can be said for any person who is extraordinarily talented like Gabbie Douglass, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, or any Olympic level athlete. You hear phrases like “they were born for it” tossed around for them, because predestination is an easy way to explain why some people are just more talented than others.

However, by linking their success only to fate does them a disservice. It cuts out the second and perhaps most important aspect of what lead to their success. Hard work.

Being the best is a combination of multiple factors: skill, luck, love, determination, and perseverance.

You can get skill without talent, because what you need to become skilled is a willingness to apply yourself and work hard. You could be the most talented person ever to throw a punch or land a kick in Taekwondo, but if you don’t love it or want to do it then you won’t succeed. You’ll quit.

Martial arts schools have an incredibly high turnover rate because a lot of people do give up. From adults to children (especially children), the vast majority of those who sign up will be gone within the first three months. When I tested for my first black belt, though it was in a group of six or seven candidates, none of them were from the original group I’d started out with. Second and third, however, was with most of the same people at my school from my second test.

Why? Because by that point we’d built a camaraderie, and though we ran the age gamut from fourteen to fifty, we were a team. The ones who stick with it are the ones who stay. It’s not talent, it’s perseverance, and the willingness to put in the extra time.

“Born for it” is just an excuse. It’s easy to comprehend, it’s bite size, easy to swallow, and you don’t have to think about it much beyond that. The failure is outside,  whatever happened this person was always going to fail. It’s not a black mark against them, it’s just fate. Risk free and guilt free. “It’s okay, you weren’t meant for it”.

For me, it’s right up there with “women can’t fight”. You’ve heard it, “nature didn’t build them that way”. “It’s not your place”. People repeat it, even when we have a slews and slews of evidence in any martial arts school around the country that it isn’t true.

“You’ll never be good enough, so why even try?”

Because trying is the only way you will ever be any good. This is true of anything, you have to be willing to stick with it and keep going even when it’s not easy. Keep pushing when it’s hard, volunteer to put in the extra time, do what you don’t have to do.

In my martial arts school (and most schools do this), we had early practice on Saturday mornings at 7am-8:30am at one of the local high schools. We’d work out, run the mile, focus entirely on our conditioning. It was hard. Hard to wake up that early on a weekend, hard to sacrifice the first few hours of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Block, hard to show up rain or shine. It became mandatory at red belt, but the instructors suggested starting as early as blue belt, or even earlier.

The ones who put in the extra time earlier than it was required were the ones most likely to make it to the test. One of the reasons is that training for black belt not only has a conditioning/endurance test, but also a commitment test. Training for black belt takes time, the serious training starts six months in advance (though it really starts earlier than that), and training upgrades from three times a week to five with special and extra practices tacked on to what you’re already doing. Our Saturday Morning practices were taken over by the main organizations and required going down to Willow Glen to train with Master Ernie every Saturday. That required getting up at five in the morning for the hour long commute and getting home at ten. We picked up extra optional Sunday Beach Training for black belt candidates.

That’s just one example.

The most difficult part of training to fight (or any sport) is the time commitment. Training for first degree black belt was 10-15 hours a week (including travel time) on top of the 45 already covered by school. It was often late in the evenings, which meant I had to go to bed early. It left time for little else.

What do I think? I think talent is nice, but not relevant. Determination is, the will to show up even when you don’t want to (and there will be days when you don’t) is, putting in extra time and extra classes when you don’t have to be there is, volunteering around the school and helping your fellow classmates is.

You have to want to be good. You have to be willing to work to get better. Many more talented people will quit. If you work hard, you can go from being worst in the class to best in the class in a year.

You don’t need talent, you need will and to believe that you will improve. Both are much harder to come by.

Still, skills for surviving life.


There is a difference to be noted here, though – psychological comfort.  Not too many people are ethically or deeply uncomfortable with the idea of being athletic – but there’s good reason to be deeply uncomfortable with the concept of violence against another person.

Some people can’t work around that, nor, really, should they try.  Some people instinctively go straight for the throat without a second thought.  You can train your way into an effective reaction and response time with practice and muscle memory, but you can’t really train yourself into not being horrified by the feeling of someone’s nose breaking under your hand.

Actually, you really can. Conditioning someone into being comfortable with inflicting violence on another human being is horrifyingly easy.

That said, you’re also confusing a sadist for an effective combatant. Being able to put aside your discomfort and do something you find distasteful from time to time because it’s necessary is just a fact of being an adult.

With combat, your choice is to do something distasteful, or have horrible things inflicted upon you. This has nothing to do with if you’re “comfortable” with violence. Ironically, most martial artists are less comfortable with inflicting violence on other people than the theoretical “normal person.”

They have a better grasp of what it entails, and as a result, a greater aversion to it out of school. Put another way: the more you understand about violence, the more unpalatable it becomes.

The techniques, the training, the physical action? Those are all a sideshow for many martial artists. It’s something you do, but not to other people. For a lot of martial artists who come out of a sport or recreational background, the transition to practical combat is something they have real trouble reconciling. “This was all fun and games, but now you expect me to push a little further and kill someone?”

Also, you don’t ever want to train with a sadist. Full stop.

Someone who is genuinely comfortable with hurting their training partner is a serious liability when you’re trying to learn how to perform a technique. I know, I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of those and I, quite literally, have the scars to prove it.

In my experience, people who are comfortable with hurting other people are far more prone to “training accidents,” and as a result, people you want out of the school as fast as possible, before they seriously injure another student.

In combat, even with training, they’re less capable of moderating their behavior, and more prone to leaving themselves exposed, or being effectively baited.

So, no, being a sadist doesn’t help you fight, and it is certainly not a prerequisite.