When it comes to winning a fight, there are plenty of predictable challenges, but the one people tend to focus on the most is learning a combative skill set.  Martial arts gyms around the world have created an industry that revolves around the idea that the person with the darkest colored belt will inevitably emerge the victor of any altercation, so, as a black belt holder with years of experience both winning and losing fights, allow me to dispel that myth right off the bat: in a real fight, a belt does nothing more than hold up your pants.

That isn’t to say that martial arts training isn’t important, and the skills you pick up along the way can certainly lead you to victory, but it’s the combination of those skills with the ability to think while having parts of your face pushed into your skull, and a willingness to absorb that pain along the way to victory that really determines a victor.  As a rule of thumb, a tough guy with a black belt is a formidable threat, but if a weak-willed, glass-chinned wannabe somehow manages to get himself one, well, now he’s just a weak-willed, glass-chinned wannabe with a black belt.

One of the bigger challenges many people don’t anticipate when it comes to learning to fight is the need to overcome the behavioral inhibitions our comfortable way of life embeds in us as we grow up.  We’re all taught right from the start that we should keep our hands to ourselves, not hurt one another, and that people who try to injure or kill another person are bad.  These are all good rules to maintain on the corner of County Street in small town Vermont, but when the going gets tough, that reluctance to harm your fellow man can result in defeat, and even death at the hands of an opponent with no such reservations.

The thing about training someone to fight is, most people have an idea in their head of what a fight looks like – an idea that’s been informed by years of dramatic television scuffles and cinematically shot, telegraphed uppercuts in movies.  In real life, even those who really know what they’re doing often don’t look as cool as the movie stars people want to emulate when fists start flying.  That’s just the nature of a fight: they’re ugly, awkward, scrambling messes of hands and feet.