In a recent post I talked about my experience with the sport of wrestling and how it took a certain bit of Grit to be successful. While hard work and some form of craziness is a prerequisite to be a successful wrestler, the sport in itself taught me tons of life lessons beyond the normal lessons of sport.
These life lessons are the reason why combat sports have always been something that founds my stance that most young athletes should spend some time learning some form of combat sport. While Karate and Taekwondo tend to be popular, sports like wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and their different styles (Greco-Roman/Freestyle/Folkstyle, and Gi/No-Gi) are sports that I can't recommend enough for young athletes.
While many parents would rather not have their children learn to fight, and I am sympathetic to this concern, the applicable life lessons are something that every young individual needs. Life is a fight, it's filled with pain, and loss is inevitable.
"Once you've wrestled, everything else in life becomes easy" - Dan Gable
The great thing with combat sports, is that they require a certain amount of discipline. Combat sports are weight class sports, which means that eating junk food and playing Fortnite every night after school is a guaranteed way to make a fool of yourself at practice or a tournament. You have to watch what you eat, you have to get off the couch, and apply some sense of effort and diligence in order to not get butt kicked. This is a lot like life, as many times we have to stop the Netflix binge and do things like go to work and have some level of productivity in order to pay the bills and survive. You can't just idly go through life and expect to succeed.
Combat sports also teach the great lesson of losing. You are inevitably going to lose in life. It's a big fight to make it in the world, just like succeeding on the mat or in the ring. I love using my old training partner as an example, as wrestling taught him how to lose before it ever taught him how to win, he told me he lost over 200 wrestling matches before he won his first one. That's a lot of humble pie if you ask me.
A great thing about these combat sports is that it teaches how to handle pain, both physically and emotionally. Losing hurts emotionally, as does missing out on all the fun things the lazy kids are doing during the summer that doesn't include running the railroad tracks in a sweat suit. There's the physical pain, and the development of a pain tolerance, which is great, but it also teaches an emotional pain tolerance. I'll very openly admit that I cried for 2 hours straight after I lost the last match of my high school athletic career, but in that 2 hours I learned how to manage the pain that I've felt from other things since. In 6 minutes I lost everything I had poured my time, thoughts, and efforts into, and that took a toll on me. But looking back, I know that it prepared me for the trials of life that had yet to come.
If anything, among the jumbled thoughts I've laid out before you, the takeaway is that kids should learn how to physically wrestle. We're all wrestling in a way; we're all fighting. In the future, today's kids will do the same. And it's not a physical fight we're in, it's a social and emotional fight as well. But we can take the lessons of the physical fight, the individual battle, and apply them to the lives we lead. There are plenty of other good reasons to wrestle, but I felt it necessary to mention the above few. These lessons learned, which I realize now in greater capacity, will stay with me for the rest of my life. And if you care about teaching life lessons to the future generations, perhaps you'll look into your local wrestling club and get your young athlete started on that path of learning.