A few years ago, I was watching a professional MMA fight at a nearby casino. I owned shares in a MMA business at the time, and we had several fighters on the card.
While a fight was on, a tall man strode toward the stage, and stood at ringside with his arms folded, shaking his head. He wore a black turtleneck and black dress pants, and had a full head of silver hair. He looked like a lion.
I later learned the “silver lion” owned a “traditional” martial arts school, and disapproved of MMA. He told his classes that a purist in any discipline could beat any MMA fighter, who jumped between all styles. Of course, he was selling one path instead of many, so his position didn’t surprise me. But everyone else asked:
“Why doesn’t he just get in the ring and prove it?”
A fighter with MMA experience knows that every discipline has strengths and weaknesses.
Jiu-jitsu is fantastic until someone draws a knife.
Boxing is perfect until someone falls down.
In a “no-holds-barred” world, it’s simply no longer wise to become expert at one system and exclude everything else. Instead, an expert sees between systems and chooses his strategy based on the fight.
For a beginner, any system will work. So the expert chooses one for his student. He says, “You can skip this part” or “You should spend extra time here. It’s important.” Then, when the student is ready, a new system is introduced.
It’s true in the fight game: a student should become a good wrestler, spending years to master the sport, before she moves to MMA. It’s true in CrossFit: a student should master the squat and the pushup before doing “Angie.” And it’s true in business: a student can use a “funnel” or “free trial” if they don’t know what else to do. But mastery of one system is no longer enough.
Now a coach must see between systems. They must know when paper beats scissors–and when scissors don’t work. They must be in the ring, practicing until their experience becomes valuable. And they must be able to rise above traditionalism.
Is the master of one book a great teacher?