Forget IM… Fight to Win?

In MMA: strikers love to strike, wrestlers love to wrestle, and jiu jitsu black belts like to finish.  Loving what you do… intrinsic motivation (IM) is important for enjoyment of and success in sport.  Strikers probably would rather not lie around on the ground like a wrestler.  Wrestlers probably would rather not get hit in the face to win a bout.  One could even argue that masters in one martial arts domain really does not truly enjoy fighting in another style.

This being said, if you want to win an MMA match you may have to compete in a discipline not of your liking.  And as is said in competitive sport, “You play to win the game.”  Due to the diverse skill set required by the sport, it may be necessary to do things that are not personally, inherently enjoyable in order to succeed.  IM may need to be abandoned for success?  This seems quite paradoxical and even contrary to decades (centuries) of wise psychological wisdom.

This being said, to truly master any of the many martial art disciplines, hours of intensive study is required.  It is common knowledge that to engage in such practice the extrinsic reward must be ridiculously large (it is rare anything reaches “ridiculously large”) or one must have IM for the activity and practice of it.  Winning can be motivating, but in a sport like MMA when contests can be many months, even years apart, a genuine motivation to practice and learn has to be strong.  In this lies the rub:

To have IM or not to have IM that is the question?

The answer is quite simple… have IM.  Whether it is natural or developed it is necessary.  It is very difficult to achieve great things and sustain these successes without IM.  And it goes without saying, these successes will ultimately be unfulfilling.

When considering MMA perhaps this answer actually lies in the beauty of the sport (yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder on this one).  “Mixed” is a key word.  It is not boxing, it is not wrestling, etc.  A true mixed martial artist needs to love the sport and the training for the whole sport rather than viewing it as separate disciplines that simply happen in the octagon together.  Just as a great hockey player embraces playing in the offensive zone, neutral zone, and defensive zone (for it is all hockey), the successful MMA fighter embraces the entire sport rather picking and choosing certain parts of the game for passionate focus.

In every sport there are certain activities that are less fun than others.  That’s o.k., IM is not simply about frivolous fun.  Fulfillment can be found in many rigorous activities of sport.  With practice and perspective, an athlete can find IM quite often.  Regardless of the discipline or the task a competitor can harness…A love of learning.  A love of growth.  A love of challenge.

Quite simply…Can you learn to love it?

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