Let Yourself Get Hit
How Failure is a Necessary Step for Success
By the Modern Martial Artist
In the martial arts world, there is something known as iron stomach. The idea is that someone can train their stomach to withstand powerful blows. Until about a year ago, I thought that it was a myth.
I mean, I knew the stomach could be toughened up enough to take a glancing blow (boxers and MMA fighters use medicine balls to do this all the time) but I never thought the idea of hitting someone full force in the gut and them laughing it off was possible.
That was when I met a “guru.” This guy was pretentious, smelly, and annoying. My hopes were not high. He was training with a friend, and offered to spiritually heal my sore throat. I was willing to give it a try, because you never know, but I asked if he needed to touch my throat to heal it.
He informed me he needed to jab it. So I told him no. Very kindly, actually.
This offended “The Guru.”
He felt an urge to show off his powers. So he invited me to punch him as hard as I could in the stomach. I didn’t want to be rude, so I did.
And, to my surprise, it felt like punching a brick wall. There was an audible WHAP and everyone in the gym turned to look at what the noise was. I was honestly impressed.
He seemed disappointed. He asked me to punch again and I said that I was impressed and that I didn’t need to.
“Oh,” he said glumly, “Most people hurt their hand when they do it.”
So, he truly was a jerk, and I was truly grateful that I didn’t hurt my hand. (I have been punching hard surfaces since I was six, but of course he didn’t know that.)
But what’s the point of this? Well, this guy had been through some pretty serious training to get his Iron Stomach. According to him, they started off just tapping his stomach, then hitting it, then moving to hammers. Hammers! And I believe it.
He let himself get hit. Over and over and over again, he stood there and didn’t move as people beat the hell out of him. And as much as this guy is an annoying ass, I have to respect him for that.
And you know what? That’s exactly what you and I need to do too. In everything.
How do you get good at sparring when you first start out? Is it the few successes you have? Yeah, of course. But more than that, it’s the million times you get knocked down. The first time it stings. You’re nervous, so you act like an uncoordinated idiot. Or you just got punched in the gut, and now you’re on the floor gasping for air. But you get up, and you do it again.
Hit again? Damn. But you know what, it didn’t hurt so bad that time. You can roll with the punches now. And you were a lot calmer. You go again and again, until you become fluid, not afraid of the consequences and totally at ease.
This is one of the things that separate leaders from followers. We need to be hit. We need to fail. We need adversary to get stronger. We need to taste defeat, so that we can be strong enough to taste victory.
This holds true in business, social skills, art, lifting, everything.
“There are two kinds of failure: The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.” Mastery by Robert Green.
“Don’t fear failure. Not, failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” Bruce Lee in Striking Thoughts.
If you don’t let yourself get hit, you’re gonna be weak. If you are weak, you will fail. You will blow that chance, because you have no experience.
So let yourself get hit.