Hard Work vs Natural Talent

Darren Higgs, with some thoughts on hard work versus talent.

FWMP

I have just finished watching the “Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquaio. Regardless of what people thought of the bout, you had two great martial artists who have worked very hard on their game and developed tremendous skill. They also have great natural talent and genetics, as proven by their speed, power and durability. It got me thinking about what is more important, hard work or talent?

I always lean towards the hard work. I have never been naturally talented. From a martial arts sense, I have never been overly fast, strong, flexible, etc. However, I have been willing to do the work to improve my technique and skills. This is what I credit towards achieving my 4th Dan Black Belt (with no intention of stopping there), fighting in and winning overseas tournaments, as well as running martial arts dojos with my good mate and a terrific bunch of students and mentors.

I acknowledge that it is a lot easier to do the work when you love what you do. I cannot think of a better way of working out. However, you still have to face those times when it is hard, or you are tired, or you are frustrated, or you are getting the worse of it in sparring. That can be deflating. At times like that, you just have get back into fighting stance and keep doing the hard work until you get better.

I know that other people favour natural talent over hard work. Granted, there have been some people since the dawn of time that have a “genetic edge”. They make things look easy and can do things that others cannot. I also know that I will never run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, no matter how hard I work. So you must give credit where it is due with “natural talent”.

Plus, if you get somebody with natural talent and they combine it with hard work, they will often just be better. There is not much that can be done about that. Life is not fair sometimes. However, I would not let this discourage anybody from partaking in martial arts. When training, you should always consider the following:

  • Be the best you can be, not better than everybody else. This takes “natural talent” out of the equation and puts the focus back on things you can control, such as hard work, dedication and discipline;
  • Different body types can complement different styles. For example, a taller person with long reach may have great boxing or kicks, but may be at a disadvantage during grappling. Through consistent training, you can determine what works for you;
  • For those who want to be lifelong martial artists, you had better get used to hard work. Unfortunately, you lose your genetics and youthfulness over time. Father Time and Mother Nature catch up with us all. But, it is harder to catch us when we are training diligently;
  • Does it have to one or the other, i.e. “hard work” or “natural talent”? My personal experience is that hard work can develop talent. When I first started martial arts, I would never have envisioned that I would be able to land a jumping-spinning-roundhouse-kick-followed-by-a-spinning-heel kick combo. I have had to do them in gradings. There are million other examples I could have used. This would never have been possible without hard work;
  • We mentioned that a natural talent with a good work ethic is a pretty formidable opponent. It is not an impossible opponent, though. How do you counter this? With “Strategy”. Developing good strategies will often see you prevail. For example, be equally good on your left and right hand side. Have moves that fit your knack, such as basic kicks, punches, clinches, wrestling and grappling moves that complement your strengths. These will be your reliable “go to“ moves in a self defence situation….your “talented” moves, if you will. Learn how to remain calm in any situation, as the calm mind can think and react better. How do you develop strategies to counter any situation? Through consistent training and experience. You must put in the hours so you know what works for you.

The beauty about martial arts is that it suits everybody, whether you are female, male, big, small, young, old, timid, not-so-timid, athletic, non-athletic, yada yada yada. There are always things you can do to better yourself and to improve your chances in a self defence situation. Set realistic aims, add a lot of discipline and let your instructors help you with a well designed training program / syllabus. This will allow you to excel in your “Fight of the Century”, no matter how naturally talented you are.

We are always interested in your thoughts. What do you think is better – hard work or natural talent?

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