Can you find life’s meaning and direction in martial arts

Today I’m answering a question whether we can find life’s meaning, discipline, and direction in martial arts.

I got a comment from Gerrett Pettit: “I’m 26, out of shape, and my life has no direction. My goal in joining an MMA club is to form discipline”.

Join MMA to form discipline

Even though Gerret didn’t ask any question, but just commented, I decided to address it because this topic is very important.

Many young people today have no direction, and generally our society today is in lack of direction, motivation, and meaning. So how do you do that and can you actually do it through martial arts training?

This is not a simple matter, and I’ll try to explain it the best way I can. I don’t know Gerret and his life situation, but I know what it’s like to be without direction and ask myself: “what am I going to do with my life”? A lot of us have gone through this.

Is martial arts really the answer?

For some people, it is, like it was for me because I found my life calling through martial arts. First I competed in judo, then I competed in MMA, and then I became an MMA coach. So my professional life revolves around martial arts. For others, it might be helpful.

What do I mean by that?

There are a lot of good things that can come from martial arts training. One of those things is, of course, discipline because if you want to improve in martial arts, you have to learn discipline. There are no two ways about it.


Another benefit is socializing. People are starved for social contact in modern times. We are constantly typing away at our smartphones, commenting on youtube, facebook, twitter, watching videos and what not, but the real contact is lacking. Before when people didn’t have all these devices and technology, they had to socialize and it is a healthy thing to do. We are social creatures and not solitary animals like big cats (tigers) that live alone most of their lives and only come together in the breeding season. We need social contact to feel normal, to feel well. In today’s world that’s lacking.


And what is social media exactly? It is social in nature, as the name suggests. It gives you a poor substitute for real socializing.

In a martial arts club, you are going to meet new friends, and the act of training is social. You cannot train alone. You actually can, but there are only a certain amount of things you can train alone. I received questions from people that wanted to buy my MMA instructionals: “Can I train your instructional alone”? I told them not to buy it unless they can get at least one person to train with them because they will not be able to do it alone.


Next, you are going to feel great in your body because it releases beta-endorphins after training. Have you ever heard of the “runner’s high”? That’s exactly what it is – body secreting natural drugs. This natural high is very pleasant and you can get it from running and weightlifting as well as martial arts training.


The next benefit is that you get to use your body again which is underused in the modern society. Most of us sit around all day in the offices typing away at our computers.

These are all the benefits that you will get from training in the martial arts academy. Will it solve the problem of the direction and meaning in your life? I’m not sure.
Direction means finding meaning in your life, and it is more complex than just training martial arts.


There was a man called Viktor Frankl, who was a Jewish psychiatrist and the founder of logotherapy. He wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” where he described his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps where he was an inmate. He came to the conclusion that people who survived the camps were the ones who were able to find meaning in that hell. People who thought about their wives or girlfriends, and how they will one day be together again, or they thought about their kids, or something like their occupation were the ones who were able to find meaning and survive that horrific place.

So it’s really important for us to find the meaning in life.

Society is starved for meaning. We have so many choices which was not the case back in the old days. The world was not as interesting as it is now when you can choose to be and do whatever you want to. Back in the past, it was not like that and you had very limited choices. But it was liberating because you didn’t have to ponder what you will do in life. You had maybe one to three options and that was it – just choose. And many times it was continuing what your father had been doing for years, and his father before him. So your life path was set from the day you were born.

Nowadays you can do anything. You can go to almost any colledge you want, providing it’s not expensive. Or even if it is expensive and you have the money. You also have an online education, both formal and informal. You can make money selling stuff online, and you have many choices in front of you, but they create problems as well. It creates a lack of direction and the lack of meaning.

Viktor Frankl Quote


Martial arts can help, and for some, it’s the right choice. I’ll give you an extreme example – Conor McGregor. He was a plumber but it was not for him so he quit and decided to dedicate himself to martial arts. Now he’s the highest paid MMA fighter and the fourth paid highest paid athlete in the world. That is an extreme example and there are people whose lives revolve around martial arts, like mine. We don’t have that kind of money, not even close, but it’s still good.

Then there are UFC fighters, or other MMA fighters, maybe champions but not as rich as Conor McGregor. Still, they can earn a decent amount of money and invest it. Also fighters in the top 10 that will eventually open their academies and benefit from their exposure and fame by attracting students. At least in the beginning. So MMA fighters and coaches can make a living and have some meaning through this, but not all of us can.


Then there are lessons that you can directly transfer from martial arts to life if you choose to do so. This is not a topic for this article, I’ll just mention it since it’s a subject for a completely separate one.

You can learn discipline from martial arts, and you will need discipline for whatever you do in your life. You can learn hard work, perseverance during hardships, you can learn all these things from martial arts, but you are going to need to learn how to transfer them to real life. It’s not directly transferable with a snap of a finger. You can transfer them to real life only if you choose to do it.


When I trained judo, I was very attracted to MMA. But back then, almost nobody was, especially here in Serbia. I was frowned upon by my judo coach and my teammates. They thought I was crazy and that MMA fighters were savages. They couldn’t see what I saw, that these people were athletes who had to learn a lot of stuff to be able to compete. There were savages of course, but most were not.

I was ridiculed and told I was crazy and stupid because I had a vision that was different then the norm. I didn’t listen to them and switched to MMA where I found a rewarding and meaningful life when I competed and afterward when I started coaching.


One more thing that I almost forgot – meaning in life changes over the years. Where you find meaning now might not be the same thing where you find meaning later.

When I competed in MMA I found myself doing what I like and had a sense of purpose. I thought that was it and that after all these years I found my meaning which resulted in me being calm and grounded. It did not matter what I needed to do. It was a hard life, training 2-3 times a day, but I didn’t care and I was satisfied.

After a while, it stopped being attractive like it was before. I started questioning myself and the whole business of MMA. Should I be doing this? Should I dedicate my life to improving my skills so I can hurt another human being? Maybe I’ll write an article about this subject, and I’m only mentioning this along the way.

The point was that what once held meaning in my life was starting to wane and not hold meaning anymore. At least not as it did before. Then I decided to quit fighting in my prime. I couldn’t do it anymore. Then I found new meaning and direction through coaching. And who knows, maybe I’ll find something else in the future.


In closing, I don’t know what is the right decision or path for you, but I suggest the following. Think about what you’re interested in. For example, maybe your interested in graphic design, making websites, try learning about that and doing it. Or whatever you’re interested in. Try going down that route. It might take some time to get the skills, but in the end, it will be rewarding. I don’t know if you went to college, or you finished it or dropped out. Try finding a job or activity that you lean towards.

I don’t know if martial arts are the answer for you professionally, but it might be the answer recreationally. Maybe even professionally after a few years. Who knows, maybe you can become a coach. I don’t know but try to do what you like. You’re obviously attracted to martial arts so go follow that path.

Go towards what you like, what you have the affinity for, explore things. If you have a hobby that you like, maybe you can monetize it. If you have a strong vision that is not approved by others – ignore them and go for it.

Start martial arts. Build discipline, build character, build strength, endurance. You said you were out of shape. Get in shape – it will help out tremendously with your self-confidence and direction. I’d rather be in shape and not have a direction in my life, then be out of shape and not have direction. You’ll feel better.

I hope this article has helped you.

What do you think, is it possible to find life’s meaning and direction in martial arts?

Have you ever felt directionless and how did you solve it? Let me know by leaving a youtube comment.

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