Guest Post: MMA – The Real Life Video Game?

The following is a guest post by my brother Oliver (website here) who happens to be a fighter, coach and instructor of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) at our martial arts academy. Watch out for him in the UFC in a couple of years.

(Me? I’m busy transcribing one of the most inspiring Karate interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of conducting for you guys. Keep your eyes open, it’s coming pretty soon and it’s awesomeness redefined. Seriously.)

So, anyways, here’s what my bro has to say. Hopefully it resonates with you guys, even though it’s not literally labeled “THE ONLY TRUE AND REAL KARATE WAY” or whatever. It’ll still get your idea juices flowing, for sure.

Let’s go:

MMA – The Real Life Video Game?

Sometimes people ask me what I do when I don’t do MMA – since I train so much.

Well, the answer is pretty similar to that of an old man I would think; I like to just take it easy, sit on a random spot and just get a new perspective of the surroundings. Sounds kinda silly maybe, but it’s actually really nice to just sit down somewhere you haven’t sat before, taking in the atmosphere from this new spot and watch the world carry on without you for a while. It’s kind of like meditation.

I think that when you train hard and your life circles around training – both physical and mental – you learn to appreciate the relaxed and quiet moments much, much more than a regular person.

“Ok, I get it grandpa, but don’t you like to play video games or something?”

All right, you got me.

I admit.

I do like to play video games.

In fact, I play the best one there is everyday. I play a real life video game called mixed martial arts.

See, when people sit behind their computers and “level up” their characters in a virtual fantasy world – I do it every day IRL (in real life). They go out hunting monsters, I do sparring. They learn new skills and attacks, so do I. They increase their stats (strength, endurance, speed, stamina) – I do that as well.

The important difference though, is that when the video game nerd gets tired of a game, he goes out and buys a new one. So all his progress is lost. He has to learn the new game and start again from square one. I, on the other hand, also play new games all the time (i.e. kickboxing, submission wrestling, Thai boxing, shootfighting, jiu-jitsu, boxing) but I can use the same character (me) in all the games and never loose my progress! Rather, I just keep getting better, learning new and exciting stuff while competing and improving in different martial arts. In that way, I always carry my skills with me to my next “game”.

But when you really level up is when you enter in a competition.

That’s when all your hard earned skills, stats and experience come in to play to see how well you can use them (apply them) on a live opponent. That is, an opponent ready to take your head off. And after the fight, you learn something new about yourself – what you have to improve to the next fight (your next “level”). However, taking this video game analogy a step further, I think you should put focus into different parts of your character development depending on where you are at in your “martial arts evolution”.

  • A beginner should focus on improving his basic skills. Why? Because he probably doesn’t have any, and to be able to even do MMA (or any other martial art) you need some serious skills (techniques).
  • An amateur who has been a bit longer in the game should focus on keeping his basic skills while gaining more experience. In other words he should be out “grinding” (as the video game nerds call it) to level up (take fights) just to get a lot of experience and learn how to utilize the basic skills he has already acquired.
  • A pro should focus on raising his stats. He should already have the skills and experience necessary to fight just about any opponent – so now it’s all about getting the most out of it. This requires strength, speed and endurance; since if two professionals have the same experience/level (the same amount of fights) and equally high skills (technique) – the one with the better conditioning will surely win (which often is the deciding factor in big, epic MMA fights). At this level it’s all about hard and gruesome work.

So as you can see, MMA is not that very different from a video game.

You just get more value  for the time you invest.

And you never loose all the progress you’ve made!

“But dude, you can’t compare training MMA to playing a video game, it’s much more fun and relaxing to play!”

Fun ay? Well, let me inform you that most beginners in MMA train because they think it’s a super fun and socially relaxing way to work out. If they didn’t think it was fun they would be doing some other form of training. Like awesome dancing. But here’s the thing: when you reach a certain level in doing something, you actually don’t think in terms of whats “fun” or not anymore. You do it because you are getting good at it. You do it because you wish to get even better at it.

You do it because you realize that you have the potential to one day, maybe, become the best.

I mean, do any World of Warcraft players out there really think it’s fun to click a button 1,303,592,704 times, killing endless amounts of creeps just to gain digital “experience points”? I don’t think so. At least I didn’t when I played online role-playing games some five to ten years ago. The grinding is not the fun part. Nope, you do it for the reward. The progress in itself. You do it to see your character evolve. It’s not fun to kill endless bunches of monsters but it sure is fun to see your character get better and level up! And you can always get a little bit better in the process; that’s what keeps video game nerds playing and me training.

And remember, when you’ve finished a game and are as good as you can get… it’s not so fun to play anymore, right? But in martial arts it’s close to impossible for one human in one lifetime to become the best at all the aspects of the “game”.

Thus, there is always a reason to keep training and keep getting better…

Anyway, I’m not gonna keep you any longer now – I gotta go grind some more in the gym for my next level!



  • Dan
    That's just awesome, Oliver! As a teenager digging real and virtual video-games, I understand you completely. But since I won't have peace of mind complimenting without trying to add something to it, there's one more thing worth mentioning when doing the comparision, and I'd say it's on the time. I mean, we can die over and over again on a tough boss, but our next try is just a button press away, mostly, so we can go ahead and just try a different strategy, or even the same one. Sure, there are games where you have to go back to the beginning, but they mess up my point, so nevermind them. IRL, there's much more emphasis on the training/leveling up than there is on boss fights, and that means you have a lot more time to spend figuring out what to improve and what went wrong. Going back to karate, more specifically the good ol' self defense, we can even exclude the whole idea of trying again, considering that thug with a knife.
  • Dan
    WAITAMINUTE! Oliver? That same Oliver kicking butt in a Muay Thai match over here? Remember that 'awesome' on the above post? Make it double. ;)
    • Boban Alempijevic
      Had to check that one out.... holy... Was pretty easy to see who was keeping the pace of the game there. And like Jesse-san pointed out... Oliver does his own thing and blends so many different styles that it was scary :) I want to See Oliver in UFC one day :)
  • diego romero
    you NERDS *ahem* also, i generally play for the backstory and the shiny pew-pew lazers :p
  • Just checked out the fight pointed to, great stuff, also a very good article. I beg to differ about not being able to transfer your skills: As an avid simracer, I have to do just that every time an interesting new mod comes out for rFactor or a new title like "rFactor2", "GTR 3" or whatever hits the shelves. I think even with role playing games, some skills (eye / hand coordination, strategic thinking and so on) will stick with you from title to title. All the best, Uwe
  • Szilard
    "You do it because you realize that you have the potential to one day, maybe, become the best." That would be the first thing I did for this reason. I don't remember doing anything for the off chance to become the best. The coolness factor. And that it stays with me. I don't think it is possible to do video games while waiting for a bus, but I can close my eyes and do a kata in my mind...

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