The two worlds of business and martial arts could not seem further apart. That’s only on the surface though. There are many martial arts codes including boxing, karate, tae kwon do, jujitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai kickboxing, Tai chi and so many more. There are a lot of lessons we can extract from the martial arts world and here I have included the ones that can be applied directly to your journey business.
There are really two lessons in one here. If you’ve ever peeked into the world of Karate you will notice that Black belts (the highest level) practice the same basic punches and kicks that white belts (beginners) do. While this is counterintuitive, it contains two essential lessons for us. Firstly, it is important to practice things in private or low-pressure situations first. Expecting to master something on the first try and when your business or a client relationship hinges on it will likely end badly. Secondly, amateurs practice until they get something right. Masters practice until they cannot get it wrong. So that the black belt will continue to practice the same basic movements as the novice.
Plans can change
Legendary boxer Joe Lewis said it first though I came to know of it through another legend Mike Tyson; everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face. Nothing can be closer to the reality of running a business than this. We can make great plans that are endorsed by peers and mentors alike but the market may have other ideas altogether. So plans may have to change. Sometimes the whole business may have to change.
Strategy conquers strength and size
Size and strength are great weapons to have at your disposal As a startup you are unlikely to have these on your side. Look at the martial art of judo which teaches us to use strategy rather than size and strength. In Judo you can use your opponents own body weight against them to gain victory. If you are a new entrant in a market dominated by big players try to find ways to use their size against them. What does being big prevent them from doing that customers need them to do?
In competitions, a big part of victory is knowing when it is appropriate to strike. In fact, striking at the right time could well be the most important factor in achieving victory. Similar to business timing is very important to success. Skype was just as good a video calling tool as any but came too soon. By the time the coronavirus and lockdown came around Microsoft had bought skype and ruined everything that made it popular. Whether it is with small day to day things or with big movements timing them right will make a difference.
The concept of leverage is very important in martial arts such as Judo, Bushido, Greko-Roman wrestling and any martial art that allows grappling and holding the opponent. As discussed before the idea is to use the opponents own weight against them. In business, leverage is not used in such sinister terms but is a very important lesson to learn. While debt is frowned upon by many, it is still a handy tool in expanding an existing business. But financial leverage is not the only type of leverage that applies in business. Another great to use leverage is other people’s time. While this applies in terms of employing people to do some work for you it also extends to concepts such as using customers to help your business grow through word of mouth campaigns or them doing part of the work as Ikea did with furniture.
Leave no holes
Martial artists spend a lot of time in practice perfecting their art. For them stepping into the ring or onto the canvas with obvious weaknesses could be the difference between a good fight and a knockout. While it is perfectly acceptable that in business sometimes we have to step out with our product before it is perfect, ignoring our weaknesses is not the answer. We must spend considerable time and energy getting better at the things we know may let us down.
Do not believe everything you see in action movies. Martial arts are built on a foundation of respect. Self-respect, respect for opponents and respect for the art as a whole. This lesson is transferrable to business because of the way businesses interact with people. Respect for your staff leads to a workforce that is a pleasure to work with. Respect for customers keeps them engaged and connected. Respect for the industry feeds both innovation and product fit for customers.
Perhaps martial arts, besides giving you self defence skills and exercise can also add to your abilities in the world of business.