Stoicism in the Ring
When it comes to the world of combat sports, the physical strength, agility, and technique of a fighter are undeniable pillars of success.
However, something deeper often remains unsung—the philosophy that guides the fighter, both in and outside of the ring.
Let’s take a closer look at how Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) not only embraces Stoic philosophy but thrives on it.
Consider the MMA fighter’s journey—the intense training sessions, the disciplined lifestyle, the ups and downs, the victories and defeats.
It’s a journey that requires immense resilience and self-control, a stoic acceptance of whatever life (or the opponent) throws at them.
There’s a need to detach oneself from things beyond one’s control, a core tenet of Stoic philosophy.
The MMA ring is not just a physical battle arena; it is also a battleground for one’s mental and emotional fortitude.
Adversity as a Path to Growth
MMA, like Stoicism, views adversity not as a hindrance but as a path to growth.
It embraces the idea that the obstacle is the way, a concept deeply embedded in Stoicism and popularized by Ryan Holiday.
The fighters face adversities, in the form of stronger opponents, injuries, or losses, and rather than letting it break them, they use it as a stepping stone, embracing it to build their resilience, to learn, and to grow.
Dichotomy of Control
“Some things are in our control and others not.”
This concept is incredibly relevant in the context of MMA.
Fighters learn to focus on aspects within their control—their training, strategy, and response to the opponent—while accepting the factors beyond their control, like the decision of the judges, the opponent’s tactics, or the crowd’s reaction.
This aligns closely with Stoicism, which teaches the acceptance of things beyond our control while focusing on those within our reach.
Victory and Defeat
A loss in the ring can be heart-wrenching, but the best MMA fighters understand that both victory and defeat are parts of the journey.
They treat these outcomes with equanimity, much like the Stoic principle of acceptance.
They learn from their defeats, stay humble in their victories, and keep moving forward.
As Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher, and Roman emperor, puts it, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
In the end, MMA and Stoicism share a common goal: the development of an individual’s character and resilience in the face of adversity.
Both push for understanding and accepting the limits of our control over external events, while focusing on what we can control – our actions, judgments, and responses.
It’s a holistic approach to personal growth and self-improvement that MMA fighters embody in their journey, both inside the ring and out.
In the words of Seneca, “Life is very much like wrestling, not about winning outright but about not being pinned, staying alive, surviving, and making it through.”