Business lessons from kickboxing by Bridget Willard

Business Lessons From Kickboxing

Learning a new hobby, sport, or skill allows us to see our lives and businesses in perspective. In kickboxing you have an external and internal opponent. There is just one person across from you. And yourself. So, as I refer to “your opponent” in this analogy, it may be outside peers, your client, but may often be yourself. That’s for you to decide.

So, after four weeks of kickboxing lessons, here are some things I’ve learned that also apply to business.

You never know until you try.

It had been suggested to me (several times) that I find a hobby. So, I decided to reach out to a friend who coaches at a local MMA gym. So I hired Jake Vivanco from Fight Strong MMA in San Clemente to be my coach. I get to support him and my local economy. Win-Win, right?

In business you never know until you try. When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to go for it. The worst that could happen is I fail. But it wouldn’t be because I didn’t try.

It turns out I’m pretty good at kickboxing and business.

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Heading into kickboxing with my nerd swag.

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Having a coach helps.

It’s really easy to take a kickboxing class. Group classes are cheaper and often part of the gym that you might belong to. I didn’t belong to a gym and wasn’t willing to start that expense without completing my fact finding. So, for me, having a personal coach was the right way to go. It keeps me accountable. I am more reluctant to cancel. He corrects me appropriately.

In business, we often start from nowhere and fly by the seat of our collective pants. With that said, there are moments  when we need a corrective nudge here or there. If you don’t have the finances for a coach, then at least form your own peer group. Don’t keep only the “yes men” around. My favorite “non yes man” in my peer group is Robert Nissenbaum. It comes down to self-awareness. If you’re not self-driven, a coach may provide that accountability you need.

Form is more important than speed.

Kickboxing is great for a cardio workout. But one thing I have learned over the last four lessons is that speed isn’t important — form is. It’s okay to go slow to be able to work on the sequencing and footwork. It’s okay to go slow to ensure you are shifting your weight properly.

In business, it’s better to have your form (systems, processes, niche) before you start ramping up and scaling your business. Test the waters. Futz with your pricing. Get your customers in the your system and your cash flow, flowing. Then start thinking about being fast.

No matter what, keep your stance.

Regardless of your offensive (or defensive) move and its success (or failure), always return to your stance. As you move around the ring, keep your stance. As you move forward or backward, keep your stance. If you don’t, you are at risk at being unbalanced, tripping yourself, or even being taken down by your opponent. Staying strong in your stance will cause your opponent to work harder.

In business, keep your core grounded. Don’t leave that purpose. Don’t leave your why. Lots of outside forces will try to influence your direction and distract you with a jab or two — maybe even a body kick. Keep grounded. Keep centered. Balance matters. Achieving this balance depends on you as a person. For me, I need to exercise, keep learning things, and rest my brain. My body needs rest and my mind needs time to think. That’s when my big breakthroughs come.

Take productive breaks.

Between our two minute rounds, Coach has us do 30 seconds of rest. Well, it’s not really rest. It’s 30 seconds of squats or 30 seconds of abs or a 30 second plank. We keep moving. The activity has changed but the momentum is sustained. Now, this is only one hour, once a week, but the lesson is clear. While you are working, work.

In business, it’s easy to be swayed by our own exhaustion or laziness. Batch your work. Then do something else in your business. Block out your time. When you’re working, work. Be productive.

Preparation is key.

The first week of kickboxing, I borrowed my coach’s gloves but didn’t wrap my hands. Boy howdy! Was that ever a mistake. Week 2 I had my own gloves and wraps and I was ready. Learning to prepare and taking it seriously prevents long-term and short-term damage and injury.

In business, the preparation can be in the form of a contract, invoice terms, or even your accounting system or business type. Whatever you need to do to protect yourself, do it. It takes time to wrap your hands and isn’t as fun as punching a bag, but you’ll regret not doing it.

The hurt feels good.

Kickboxing isn’t as glamorous as it seems. Well, it’s not glamorous at all. I never knew one hour could hurt me so much. But after my first lesson, I had so many endorphins in my brain. I knew that when I walked and my quads were sore, it’s because I could do squats and I did so many, I’m hurting.

In business, there are ups and downs. It’s work. Sometimes, work hurts. Growing pains hurt. Progress is slow but the pain shows us progress. This is the most difficult lesson that I’m currently learning. I am far from mastery at this.

Don’t overthink your move.

This is the most difficult for me today. I keep trying to imagine my body in space doing the punch Coach just showed me. But when he has me do it just a bit faster, my form improves. So, for me, overthinking is a bad thing. It keeps me from doing anything. That’s never a good thing in the ring.

In business, it’s so easy to analyze and then analyze your analysis. You’re stopped. In business, if you’re not going forward, you’re sliding backward. It’s not good. Being decisive is important. Learning to trust your intuition and instinct during times where you are forced to pivot will make you stronger.

Keep your chin down and your face protected.

In boxing, our face is the most important thing to protect. Hands up and chin down. This is contrary to most advice with business.

“Keep your chin up. Things will get better.” They may tel us. But we still need to have protective measures in place. Saving face is an important part of protecting our brand and not allowing our most sensitive organ (our brain) to become vulnerable to outside sources.

Never turn around in the ring.

Last week while I was in the ring with my coach practicing with pads, I was so tired, I turned around. “Never turn around,” Coach said. The round isn’t over until the bell rings. If I turn around, I’m making myself an easy target for my opponent. Don’t stop until the round is over.

We get tired in business, too. We want to give up. We just want a break. Turning around is a bad thing. In kickboxing, we move around, following our opponent; in client work we often follow the movements of our clients. It’s important to not be so tired that we give up.

Never turn around. Keep going. Protect. Prepare. Stay balanced. In and out of the ring.

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