Raw Talent vs. The Rest of Us
I was inspired to make this thread after having a conversation today with a friend about "prodigy" fighters such as BJ Penn. My friend was amazed at how quickly Penn earned his BJJ blackbelt and couldn't figure out how he transitioned to MMA so easily. I think I can help make it easier to understand just how the very best fighters in the world can be so much better at beating people up than the vast majority of other humans.
For starters, meet Vernon White. He was the very first disciple of Ken Shamrock at the Lion's Den. Before training for MMA, White was heavily into Taekwondo and even worked as an instructor. He was very hard working, tremendously courageous, and always kept in excellent shape. He had his first fight after only a few months of grappling training:
White would amass an 8-17-1 record during his first three years of fighting.
Now let's meet Frank Shamrock. Frank never had an interest in martial arts before training with Ken and had a history of run-ins with the law. He didn't really take the early part of his career seriously and was a smoker for at least the first year of his Pancrase tenure. Like Vernon, he made his debut after a few months of training:
Frank would amass a 15-7-1 during his first three years of fighting (Including a victory over White) and won both the King of Pancrase and UFC Lightheavyweight title during that time.
Vernon White would display an awkwardness on the ground for much of his early career. Watching him grapple, you easily get a sense that he just felt like a fish out of water even against fighters who also had a paucity of skill. Frank Shamrock, on the other hand, was able to go to the ground with best in the business at the time and usually come out on top. What was at work there? Well, on one level there was hard work and natural athleticism, but on another level there was a specific natural talent for fighting. The ability to pick things up easily in training, the innate coordination to throw a one-punch knockout... Some genetic gifts are just specifically conducive to beating people up, and the "prodigy" fighters we marvel at are the ones who possess a combination of these abilities in addition to a tremendous drive to succeed.
It's obvious in the example I gave that Frank Shamrock was the fighter who had the raw talent, while White was more like the rest of us. Like many of us here I'm sure, White needed to spend more time in training before being able to develop a new skill. Although this didn't mean he lacked the chops to be fighter, he truthfully should not have been thrust into a career so early. For perspective, this is what White looked like after a few more years of hard work and dedication:
I know this guy who's very good at judo. Actually, take all the other guys I know who are good at judo, and who consistently win competitions, and he's at some level well above those guys.
He trains with one of my coach's buddies, and after a recent competition I was talking with my coach about him. My coach kind of shrugged his shoulders and said he hadn't a clue why the guy is as good as he is. The guy doesn't appear to be training significantly hours or at a harder pace than all the other guys who are just good. As far as my coach is concerned, the guy is just a natural.
I see the guy at pretty much every competition I go to, and I've only ever seen him lose once. My god the look on his face when it happened - it was like the world had ended. I think he just wants to win more than everyone else. I'm sure that has a whole bunch of knock on effects that mean that, not only does he fight harder in competition, but also that he's making the most of the training that he is doing.
That's just a guess though. My coach seemed pretty stumped by the whole thing, and he knows a lot more than me about coaching and training.
I trained boxing with a guy who was natural, he fought at the commonwealth games and I think won an oceanic title as well.
Our trainer simply said he had an amazing sense of balance and always knew what each limb was doing (freakishly coordinated). Now I'm older I know it relates to the kinesthetic senses.
Is imagine it would be very valuable for a grappler, do you think it might come into play here?
Sent from the Astral Deeps.
Reminds me of Dan Gable. No margin for error:
I see the guy at pretty much every competition I go to, and I've only ever seen him lose once. My god the look on his face when it happened - it was like the world had ended.
"I still dream about that loss."
Originally Posted by AfistfulloTeeth
The theories of intelligence came to mind while I wrote this thread. It's been said that Muhammad Ali was a genius. Some have said that if he was educated to the highest degree he would've been a professional of some sort, while others believe he was specifically a bodily-kinesthetic genius and a genius of character.
On the subject of boxers:
Earnie Shavers, heavyweight contender in the 70's and the hardest puncher of all time. Took boxing up at age 22 and won his first amateur bout after two weeks of training. Knocked out the likes of Jimmy Ellis and Ken Norton and pushed Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes to the limit. Joe Frazier and George Foreman managed to stay away from him while they were champions:
Last edited by Holy Moment; 3/01/2014 7:58pm at .
Yeah we have a guy. The whippit who is doing that. 2 and o mma. Won his white belt division bjj.
Been training 6 months maybe. And he doesn't do bjj.
Our coach is the same.
I accept it is just going to take longer to be as proficient.
There are hyper coordinated people out there, whose kinaesthetic abilities are off the scale. I've had them as Judo students. Very few of them keep with it.
In a lot of cases, everything is too easy for them. They have to find something that "trips their trigger" and fits with the rest of their personality to stick with anything for long. Even then, they often won't train as hard...it all depends on their underlying personality to a large degree, in my experience at least.
I can't relate, as I 'm not one of those types.
Falling for Judo since 1980
"You are wrong. Why? Because you move like a pregnant yak and talk like a spazzing 'I train UFC' noob." -DCS
Originally Posted by Holy Moment
His quotes on the subject are interesting, in light of this thread:
"The 1st period is won by the best technician. The 2nd period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart."
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Today in work I got a flash back to a minor argument I had with one of the leading BJJ instructors here in Ireland.
He subscribes to the idea the there is absolutely no such thing as talent, and it all comes down to who is doing the most/best practice. I was trying to say to him that practice and instruction are going to be the major factors in ability, but that there are so many factors to success you just can't account for, and talent must be in there somewhere. He was having none of it.
I have to say I mostly agree with him and I don't at the same time.
Originally Posted by CrackFox
Certainly something sets some people apart than others when it comes to things. I also know that those without talent can work at something and if they are trained right they can get it. They can become good at it. To me looking at talent is a bit of a cop out or more importantly the lack of talent. Its an excuse we give ourselves for accepting not being good at something.
Do some people excel and learn certain skills faster? Certainly. However I do believe that anyone that is physically capable can learn any skill. They can do so to a competitive level if they so wish. They may have to put in more hours than the guy with talent but they can do it. They even have to use alternative methods of learning to do it.
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