Can hard work make up for lack of talent?

Discussion in 'Beginners Corner' started by Sarah Mc, May 4, 2019.

  1. Sarah Mc

    Sarah Mc Yellow Belt

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    I have been training in MMA, kickboxing & karate for about 8 months. I'm 33 years old & had no prior experience. I'm not the most uncoordinated person but teaching my body entirely new movements has not come naturally to me.

    From my first class until about 5 months I felt like I just wasn't getting anything at all. Looking back I think that's because-

    1) The sheer quantity of different moves was overwhelming - it's taken time to learn what's what, &
    2) I was sort of thrown into sparring on my first night (I was looking around trying to figure out what we were even doing - I didn't know what sparring was or what was expected), & kept sparring every class until I had a thorough complex about it - I just didn't get it & started to believe I just couldn't. Beliefs are powerful - it's gotten in the way of forming confidence.

    At some point I broke a barrier & started seeing progress. It helped that I didn't need to re-learn the difference between all the different blocks & punches, etc, & could just do them. I'm not frozen during sparring & can see how it's supposed to come together (I think).

    I'm saying all this to explain my question. If I keep trying, can I develop the skills to actually be good? That's probably a taboo question, but it's honest - there are people who flourish at something, & people who always barely scrape by. And with some activities, scraping by isn't enough.

    It seems to me that a lot of it is instinct. The ability to move without thinking. I want to know if working at it will be enough to develop the needed instincts & skills? Or, does a lack of inherent instincts, & an apparently extremely slow learning curve, mean that I should adjust my expectations to scraping by at best?

    I ask mainly because there's a big part of me that believes - despite what seems like evidence to the contrary - that if I just have enough time & practice, the pieces will keep falling into place, maybe just a little more slowly as I wrap my mind around everything. But, I have no interest in fooling myself, if that's what I'm doing.
     
  2. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I would say that hard work nearly always trounces talent and the harder you work the luckier you get too.

    Martial arts is one of those activities that the more you work at it and depending on you learning to do techniques properly you will do them instinctively eventually. Absolutely things will fall in place after a while. It maybe longer that for other activities because there is so much of it!

    A lot of fighters have started later than you would have thought and have become very good.
     
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  3. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Well maybe you should just pick one system instead of 3. Karate will teach different things than Mma so no wonder you're not learning properly. Yeah hard work makes up a lot and cross training is good but you should really get a good understanding of one style before crossing over. Especially since your training 3 different types of stand up fighting (plus the ground in Mma)
     
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  4. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    also it's not a race keep training you'll get better eventually whether it's a month or a year you'll get better. Not everyone is going to be the best ever. But it's not about that
     
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  5. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Yes, hard work can make up for lack of talent. Thank God for that.
     
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  6. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    What are your expectations and how realistic are they? I’m saying that in a positive way, not in a negative way. We’re our own worst critics, and we expect that are unrealistic and/or too soon.

    I find how much I’ve improved doesn’t hit me until I see someone else trying to learn something I learned a while back and it’s now relatively easy for me.

    And if you’re comparing yourself to people you started with, keep in mind that you’re most likely improving at the same pace. You couldn’t outdo him/her on day 1, now 8 months later you still can’t. Guess what? You both got better in that time.
     
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  7. DocWard

    DocWard Blue Belt

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    I will wholeheartedly say that hard work can overcome a lack of talent. Having said that, don't assume you don't have natural talent for the martial arts. Eight months, in three different disciplines, as has been suggested, may be such that you aren't developing the muscle memory necessary to progress effectively as if you were concentrating on one art.

    I can give countless examples of hard work making a huge difference in sports. There's no reason you can't be the next.
     
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  8. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    People who are talented but don’t put the work in don’t improve. They start off better than the rest, but the rest catch up and pass them by sooner or later. I’ve seen it a ton of times.

    Pretty much anyone who’s consistently putting the work in will improve significantly. The longer they’re there, the less and less new people walking in will be able to hang with them. There’s no substitute for hard work and experience.
    F1DC25B9-C001-4841-B741-2A8B81E447A0.png
     
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  9. Sarah Mc

    Sarah Mc Yellow Belt

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    I tried not to have expectations, but - while I knew I shouldn't compare myself to others - it's hard to not notice when other beginners seem at ease / are faster & more efficient than I am. That's where all of this is coming from.

    If I look at the facts, it's not true that I can't learn (because I have) & the slower progress makes sense in light of what I know about my learning process. Still, I have never pursued a physical sport of any kind, so my self-knowledge doesn't include applying that to physical coordination and instincts.
     
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  10. Sarah Mc

    Sarah Mc Yellow Belt

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    Thank you for this. I have noticed that there is too much new information to practice everything I learn at once.

    I practice at home on a regular basis, but maybe coming up with a more organized plan of what I'm going to practice & for how long will help. So far I've just been picking whatever I have the hardest time with to practice, as opposed to basic punches that I can do easily on the bag, but have trouble applying when sparring.
     
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  11. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    You're learning how to drive the car. No worries about racing it yet. :)
     
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  12. Sarah Mc

    Sarah Mc Yellow Belt

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    Thank you!!
     
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    We all know better than to compare ourselves to others. Most of us do it, anyway. So, the good news is that you're human.

    There are people I started with who were more talented than me, who I outlasted and outworked. I got better than them.

    There were people who started after me and were less talented than me, but who outworked me. Some of them are now better than me.

    So keep working, and keep enjoying. If you're enjoying the process and getting what you want from it, not much else really matters in the long run.
     
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  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Well said.
     
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  15. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    That’s one of the best things I’ve read here in quite some time.
     
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  16. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    @Sarah, you can work on sparring without actually sparring. It's supplemental training, not a replacement for sparring. But it's fun and worthwhile.
     
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  17. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    no is the answer to you main question, hard work will not over come talent if the talented person also works hard.

    and then if they are talented enough then can 9ut in a third of the effort and still be three times as good as you, you can5 fight genetics, as I have found out many times 8n my life, ( soccer, pool, guitar playing, motorbike racing)can you improve . probably are you on the way to a UFC bout. probably not
     
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  18. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    That would be relevant if the OP was looking to become an Olympic champion or world-class professional fighter. It’s true that the folks at the very top of the heap are generally the ones who have natural talent and start young and work super hard for a long time and get world-class coaching and get various other lucky breaks along the way. 99.9999% of the population will never get to that level. Most of those who have the talent won’t work hard enough. Most of those who work hard enough won’t have the talent. Most of those who have the talent and the work ethic will have other roadblocks: injuries, finances, illnesses, inadequate coaching, family issues, etc which will prevent them from reaching that pinnacle of achievement.

    Fortunately the OP was asking about something much more manageable, i.e. “actually being good.” As long as she’s not defining “good” as “being a top champion”, then it’s a goal achievable by almost anyone willing to put in the work.
     
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  19. Sarah Mc

    Sarah Mc Yellow Belt

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    I appreciate your experience. And I really am enjoying it - as long as I stay focused on improving myself, & not fear, which is why I posted here today. I have no intention of quitting, but sometimes the fear that I'm lacking something essential overshadows my enjoyment. I figured finally I'd just ask.
     
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  20. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Although I wasn’t fully aware of it when I started training, my natural talent for martial arts was somewhere in the bottom 1% of the general population. I’ve met a few people along the way who are as naturally untalented as I am, but none I can think of who were significantly less talented.

    Funny thing, it turns out that if you train hard enough and long enough at something, you eventually get halfway decent at it. After 38 years in the martial arts, I’m an above average instructor. I spar with talented guys half my age and do okay. I’ve had pro fighters come to me for coaching. I’m certainly not the best around, but I’m better than 99.9% of martial artists will ever get. Not because I have any talent, but because most people drop out and go on to something else before they get to where I am.

    (I have known people with actual talent who have gotten to where I am in 1/2, 1/3, or even 1/4 the time that I took. They’re the exceptions. Most of those who had the talent to do that got bored or got frustrated or lacked the work ethic or had other priorities in life and didn’t stick with it.)
     
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