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Dear Martial Artist: It's Okay to Fail

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Dear Martial Artist,

You’ve been training for a while now. Congratulations! You have gotten past the first trial

week, the first month, and like your martial art enough to want to stay. You’ve started to get those ‘symptoms’ - like feeling anxious if you miss a day of training. Martial arts memes on Instagram finally make sense to you, and turn you into one of those people who cannot stop laughing at your phone during your train commute. #bjjproblems and #martialartistproblems also become an inside joke with your gym buddies; friends and family outside the academy don’t seem to get your humour anymore.

Your martial art is now a huge part of your life, and you don’t regret having started.

But then there are some scenarios where you wish you didn’t.

Like the other time you stepped up to participate in an amateur fight or local tournament - and lost badly to your opponent. Not just that, too, but in front of your coach, all your friends, and teammates.

It doesn’t make sense to you. You’d been hitting those reps in class over and over, and you thought you knew something. Why is it that those moves don’t seem to be working in a tournament?

You replay the shame of losing so publicly in your mind, over and over again. You wonder to yourself - what if you tried a different technique? What if you had trained harder? What if you were less arrogant and confident about yourself? Maybe you would not be setting yourself up for so much failure.

The discouragement makes you question if you should ever show up in a tournament or fight again. You run through a list of reasons in your mind:

“I shouldn’t compete. I am not good enough.”

“I always lose. Maybe competition is not for me.”

“So-and-so from the other gym is going to be competing and is a former champion. Best

for me not to sign up.”

“I’m a newly promoted belt, and I am not ready yet.”

“I’m not as young, aggressive or hungry as the others.”

It is easy to let these reasons validate why you should not show up for the next tournament.

But may I invite you to take a different perspective?

Singapore is a meritocratic society that celebrates achievement and excellence. This drive is what has allowed the nation to be known for many great things, and this is wonderful.

However, when distorted, this motivation can transform into a fear of failure. So used to getting validated for doing well, so many of us are now afraid to fail. So we play it safe and only take that step when we are confident of succeeding.

Dear Martial Artist, may I invite you to consider that a fear of failure could be what hinders you from experiencing the best martial arts journey of all time?

The truth is that we are never going to get things right all the time. In life, in relationships, at work and school, and most definitely in martial arts. Remember the first time you learned a punch, kick, sweep, or submission? You certainly did not get it right at the first try - even if you did, it was quite likely executed poorly. Yet your teacher encouraged you, anyway. Remember the first time you got into a sparring session, and as you reached out to attempt that move, your classmate nullified it in an instant, or used it against you to get their way?

As a practitioner of six years, I can vouch that this scenario will never end. You can ask any of your seniors in class, your instructors even - and they will tell you that there will be days that they will make mistakes, or holes in their game will be exposed.

Even Black Belts fail and lose - simply watch the World Championships. Even professional, undefeated MMA fighters will get knocked down one day - simply ask Ronda Rousey.

You can quit now, and seek an alternative activity, hobby, or profession. Or you can be real about your holes and mistakes, and come back to work on them, so that next time, you know a better way to respond to the situation you’d failed in.

Mistakes and failure are part of the growth of a martial artist. If we always shy away from opportunities to grow - for fear of failure or looking bad in public - how can we expect to go to the next level in the art that we fell in love with in the first place?

Dear Martial Artist, failing certainly blows. Losing in front of a crowd of people can be humiliating and a bruise on your ego. Let’s acknowledge that.

But don’t let that stop you from showing up.

Show up and present your best self. Express yourself through a choreography of your favourite techniques and moves, the ones that you worked so hard on refining back at the gym. Give the best of your ability every second, because who knows, you could come through at the very last moment. (I personally can vouch for this - a whole-hearted attempt at a sweep got me my win in the finals of the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship, just 15 seconds before the match was to end.)

But even if it didn’t work in your favour, you can walk away with the confidence that you presented your best self to the world that day.

Dear Martial Artist, may I invite you to show up the next time the opportunity presents itself?

Show up with all that you’ve got, even if you are afraid, even if you fail. It will do wonders for your progress.

Show up, because your presence is crucial for other practitioners to have an opponent. It will give them something to train for, and this is healthy growth for the community.

Show up, for your team, because you are valued by all of us, and you make us proud (regardless of result).

Dear Martial Artist, I can’t wait for you to show up the next time around.

Yours sincerely,



fama, singapore, free, trial, sign up


FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts training facility located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from the Clarke Quay MRT station, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Each program is led by experts in their respective fields. Whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for everyone.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, or The Art of Eight Limbs, is a martial art developed in Thailand thousands of years ago to help the Kingdom protect itself against invaders. Using the human body as a weapon, Muay Thai practitioners are well-versed in punching, elbowing, kicking, kneeing, and clinching with their opponents. What was once only used for self-defence and protection of the Kingdom, Muay Thai has grown to become one of the most popular sports not only in Thailand but in the world. Muay Thai is known to provide a complete total-body workout that will help build lean muscle, core strength, and help with weight loss. At FaMA, Muay Thai classes are taught daily by Tanaphong Khunhankaew, or better known as Kru Ping, and Kru Jerel Louie.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ as it is commonly known around the world, is a self-defence martial art that enables a smaller, weaker person to protect themselves against a much larger attacker using leverage and pressure. Formed from Kodokan Judo in Japan, Jiu Jitsu found its way to Brazil in the 1910s through Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka and no-holds-barred prize fighter. During his time in Brazil, Maeda accepted a young Carlos Gracie as his student. Carlos would later pass on his knowledge to his brothers, most notably Helio Gracie - the father of modern Brazilian Jiujitsu. The Gracie family would go on to spread BJJ through The Gracie Challenge and eventually the creation of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Today, BJJ has grown to be more than just an effective unarmed fighting system. It helps young children deal with bullies and adults live a healthy lifestyle. BJJ classes are offered daily at FaMA under the tutelage of Black Belts Zoro Moreira, Robyn Goudy and Thiago Gaspary.

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