What can entrepreneurs learn from studying martial arts?

I have been a trainer for over 20 years, before the rise of social media and now I foresee an even bigger change to the fitness industry with the rise of technology – we all must adapt and change if we want to continue succeeding.  Within my business, I have learnt a lot of different fitness disciplines and trained with many different kinds of people for varying needs, however when thinking about business growth for myself and those I mentor I can return back to a time when I trained and competed as a professional Thai Boxer (in Thailand) and think about what we can learn entrepreneurs from studying martial arts.

Any fitness activity has stress-relieving and wellbeing benefits, but martial arts, regardless of which ones are practiced, are particularly mindful and skill based, thus they become quite meditative. Eastern traditions have long used martial arts to develop physical attributes, tactical knowledge and character.  For example, when Facebook were about to buy snapchat, Stephen Spiegel bought his management team Sun Tzu’s art of war and CEO’s around the world often cite the samurai classic text ‘Book of 5 rings” as a how-to manual to raise to the top.

I think entrepreneurs are missing out if they just take intellectual lessons from reading warfare strategy and combat & martial arts guides though. Nine times out of ten it is mind-set, mental toughness and exquisite focus, (and not actually business acumen) entrepreneurs need to help get their businesses to the next level.

How Martial Arts Can Help

1) Learning Strategy, Attention to Detail and Problem Solving
BBJ, Judo and wrestling – very technical sports where you learn to make good decisions under pressure.

2) Learning Connection and Rapport
Akido and Wing Chun Kung Fu – these ‘soft’ martial arts require you to listen to the other person’s energy when you fight. When you learn to be sensitive in mind, you are perfectly empathetic and can feel other people’s energy then you can work with it or – in the ways of fighting you can manipulate it to your advantage.

3) Learning Perspective
Muay Thai / K1 Kick boxing. These martial arts pack heavy focus on sparring. If you do them, it won’t be long till you get punched or kicked in the face! Taking strikes can be alarming at first, your whole world momentarily falls apart, but with practice you learn to take the blows in detached way. You don’t feel pain really, you don’t have time to as you are trying to be strategic. This is brilliant lesson for rollercoaster of emotions entrepreneurs often feel in any given day or week.

By Dan Roberts


Dan Roberts is a careers development speaker for local schools via the Working Knowledge charity and a volunteer Business Mentor for both Virgin Start Up and the Prince’s Trust.
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