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Lessons From Martial Arts

You can hear the crowd quieten down, hear the MC as he introduces the next fight. You’re in a corridor, waiting for your name to be announced. This is the quiet before the storm. When the intro to your entrance music starts, so does the adrenaline. You’ve worked out to this song, pushed yourself to your absolute limits, endured pain and sacrificed so much, and in those first few bars of the song, all of that, the grit that got you through it comes back. And then it’s time. You walk out through the crowd, not really seeing them, so focused are you at the task at hand. You climb through the ropes and get your gloves checked by the ref whilst your coach utters the last bits of advice, wipes your brow with vaseline, but not too much. When he leaves the ring, that’s it, you’re on your own. The stare down when the ref calls you and your opponent to the centre of the ring, then back to your corner. You wait for the bell to clang, to call you into action. It’s time.

From Emma Kathryn


I am a kickboxer and boxer. People are always quite surprised, when on meeting me or coming to my home, that I am a fighter. ‘But you’re so ‘small’, or ‘so nice’ or ‘so quiet’, they say when they see my trophies or photos, but the truth is I just love to fight. There is something so addictive about it, about that whole world.

I’m so very lucky to have such a good gym in my town. It’s becoming world-famous and just seems to breed good fighters. My coach is the old school kind, the kind that’ll shout at you and beast you, but he’ll also do anything for his fighters, talk about going the extra mile.

As I write this now, it is Christmas eve eve, but now, as you read this it is NYE eve, and naturally, for many, as the new year fast approaches, we start to think about the year past, our achievements and failures, and we think of the coming year, and what we hope to achieve.

Now, I’m not generally one for new years resolutions, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I have learnt from martial arts, and how they can be applied to everyday life and the good fight. To any kind of fight or struggle really. Because nothing is ever given for free. We must take it, and we must do so through action.

Anything Worth Doing Is Going To Be Hard Graft

How many of us know this truth. When training for a fight, it gets hard. You ache all the time, sometimes you feel like absolute shit in the gym, like you just cannot do it, and the same is true in life.

When having to go out to work all of the time (and as I write this I am currently half way through five days of twelve-hour shifts), as well as fit in family time and all the other stuff we have to do, it can be easy to step down from our beliefs and morals. They get squashed out, or squeezed in when we get five minutes and in doing so something, quite a lot in fact, is lost. We become mere shadows of ourselves.

Sometimes even the most hardcore of us feel low, and might even question whether or not they can go on, whether they have the energy to do so. When faced with the giants  of governments and capitalism, it can seem like a colossus task, and we all have probably asked ourselves when feeling vulnerable just what the point is. It’s at this point when we must remember and take heart from the fact that anything worth doing in life is never easy. It takes time, effort and sheer will.

If You Don’t Believe, You Won’t Achieve


My coach often says that, when preparing for a fight, if you don’t truly believe in yourself and your ability, then you will lose, and he’s right. You have to have the right mindset and attitude.

I’ve often heard people who don’t fight say that they think all fighters are cocky and arrogant, and in a way they are right, and that’s because in the fight game, you must have that kind of self belief and confidence. If you don’t think you can win, then why bother even stepping into the ring? I have lost fights before, and the main reason for doing so is a lack of confidence, for whatever reason, on that particular day.

We all have bad days, and that’s okay, but if you don’t have that inner belief and confidence in whatever it is you are trying to achieve, then you are already fighting an uphill battle. You’ve already beaten yourself.

So what can you do to foster self belief? Well it is hard, but it is something that builds up with experience and effort. Sometimes it’s only when we look back that we can admire our wins and achievements, that we realise, that actually, we can succeed. So whatever you want to achieve, start small. Find that small spark of courage within and tend it. Feed it. Keep at it and it will grow and burn bright.

Hard Work Beats Natural Talent

We all know those people who are good at anything they turn their hand to. Some folks are just naturally talented. They just seem to have that knack. But as my coach says, hard work beats natural talent any day of the week.

Natural talent can only take you so far. Anyone who trains in any kind of sport will be familiar with that one person who is just good at what they do. But what often happens, particularly as they get older, they spend less time in the gym. I can remember, at an old kickboxing club, at an interclub tournament, I was matched against this woman who everyone thought was the bees knees. Even to the extent where someone asked me if I was sure and had I agreed to this fight. But, I knew I had put the hard work in, trained hard and trained well and I came away with a unanimous win.

So the point is, work hard at what you do, at what you want to achieve. Don’t let things slack off, because it is easy, oh so easy to do. So many people whom I admire work seemingly tirelessly at what they do. One of my friends is always out and about, demonstrating and protesting against fracking, she puts me to shame. Another comes under fire all the time for standing up for what they believe, for sometimes saying stuff that they know is going to lead to another shit storm because others won’t like it. It’s hard work, but you know what, they are winning. And they are winning because they put the work and effort in, and in doing so inspire so many others in so many ways.

There’s No Such Thing As An Undefeated Champion

So, okay, technically there is, strictly speaking, but the point I’m making here is that those fighters who have lost and then come back to regain their title are often treated like heroes of epic proportions, fighters like Ali, for example.

Losing is shit, excuse the language, but it really is, in fighting and in life. So, over the coming year, do not get down hearted over workings that, well, just don’t work, for whatever reason,or setbacks in your environmental and political fights. It is how we deal with these losses that counts. Pull yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on it! Which leads on, naturally, to the next lesson.

A Loss Isn’t A Loss If You Learn From It.

And my coach is right about this one too.

I once lost a fight because my opponent managed to keep me away with side kicks. She was a lot taller than me, and I couldn’t get close enough to utilise my own skills. I was so pissed off afterwards, because I felt like I hadn’t really been in a fight, and lost anyway. It was so frustrating. So we went back to the gym, and we drilled getting in close, blocking, movement and other techniques, and you know what, I’ve never had that problem since.

So, whilst losing is crap, don’t get so down hearted that you don’t come back better and stronger.

Look at Rhonda Rousey, MMA megastar, she really did so much for women’s fighting. Love her or loathe her, there’s no denying what she did for her sport. But when she lost to Holly Holmes, and devastatingly so, she never really recovered from that loss, at least that’s how it seems to the outside world.

So dismantle your losses. Look at what you did and learn to be constructively critical of yourself. Pick yourself apart and figure out what you did wrong, what didn’t work and why, but also what did work and why and how can that be replicated across other areas.

If you learn from your losses and defeats and come back stronger and better, then you haven’t really lost at all.

Be As The Elements

No shit! This is actual advice from my coach.

Earth equals stability, essential for balance and power.

Water equals fluidity, the smooth swiftness of a roundhouse kick, or the flow of a combination.

Air equals space, and the use of it is what separates good fighters from great ones, the ones who can slip and weave and find the space to get a shot off, then move again to avoid being hit.

Fire is, obviously, that passion, the fire that gets you through the pain and the tiredness and the sheer hard work and effort.

The sorcerers among us will already, no doubt, be familiar with the elements and their attributes. We can use this same philosophy in life, in our own fights and struggles. Stand strong, but also be fluid enough so that you don’t stagnate. Find your niche, your space, what you are good with, your talents and abilities, and use them in whatever areas you are passionate about.

It Only Takes Three Steps…

…To take the centre of the ring. When the fight starts, you come out from the corner. Controlling the centre of the ring shows dominance and puts your opponent on the back foot. Sometimes, that distance from your corner to the centre can seem like a mile long, but it only takes three steps to claim the centre.

Do not be ashamed to start small. Take those first three steps, start your own journey of resistance. Everything gets easier after that, or you get used to it, you’ve already gained your momentum. You just have to start. You’re already here, reading this, on this website and that can only be a good thing!

So there you have it, just some of the teachings given to me by my coach, and by martial arts. Of course, there are the more obvious lessons, like how to fight, because self defence is never something one should take lightly. At the very least, you may as well go down swinging, you might as well fight back when your backs against the wall because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Violence is often the last recourse of the oppressed and down trodden.

So a big shout out to my coach and friend, Dean, head coach and owner at Suggy’s Gym, and let 2018 be the year of Resistance!

Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magick, of course!

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