There’s no such thing as a tie in wrestling. The sheer primal nature of the sport dictates that one man will win while the other must accept defeat. Recently, in my blog “That. Precise. Moment.” I went through the psychology of a match that detailed the thoughts that go through the mind of the guy who realizes that he’s about to win the match. I know we all know that moment when the momentum starts to go our way. We’re wrestling – following our game plan and executing the set-ups and the holds –and can FEEL that moment when we know the match is ours.
The amazing thing about wrestling though, is that matches don’t always go according to plan. Despite all your efforts to get the pin, the submission or a tap out, you’re dealing with an opponent who has the same mission you have. He wants to win. And while your body is doing everything it instinctively knows how to do to ensure that you succeed in getting the bragging rights in this match up, there’s something about your opponent’s style and defense that leads to the inevitable. Your head knows it before your body will admit it. You’re about to lose.
Recently, I was chatting with another member about an experience he had while wrestling. It matched an experience I had just a few weeks earlier. Both of us were wrestling according to our game plan. We had control. Our moves were fluid and logical. We were executing everything we planned. But no matterwhat we did, we couldn’t get a submission. No matter what we tried, nelsons, grapevines, cradles or rear naked chokes, we just weren’t able to lock in the hold to secure the win. Our opponent either anticipated it, defended against it or managed to make his own move to thwart our attempt. In my chat-buddy’s case, despite controlling all of the action for a solid 15 minutes, his inability to lock in a submission hold created frustrated. And self-doubt. And an opening for his opponent. In my case, I knew that my own need for a quick and decisive win was driving me to forge ahead too quickly. I had the control I knew I needed, but my opponent hadn’t given up. Or even thought about giving up.
And that’s when things turn south… Not only could I NOT secure a submission (despite using plenty of the moves in my arsenal), but I was convinced I wasn’t even ABLE to get a submission. I was doing my thing and my body was wrestling with all it had, but my mind was realizing the inevitable. As my opponent not only escaped what I thought was a great and converted it into an even better hold, that’s when it all became clear. “Oh No”. This dude has ME. Sure, I fought it. But it was clear. It was unmistakable. And it was happening. He had control. And I was done. My chat-buddies experience was pretty the same. He had his opponent the entire match. But was growing frustrated in his ability to finish him off. Then came the rear naked choke. A strong, secure choke, the kind that hurts your windpipe and forces you to tap. His weakness exposed, the neck became the target and the submissions started to rack up. He was beaten. And he knew. Despite having incredible power and skill, his mind knew we was going to lose. And he did.
Typically, I don’t let one loss stop me on my mission. But something about being the first to tap in this recent match was different. I knew it was a best of 3, but somehow in that one match, my opponent had bested me. He was able to withstand everything I tossed his way. Sure, I was slapping on holds and getting control. Hell, if we were keeping score, I was probably way ahead in points. But he was the one making the point. He made me tap. The damage was done. Stepping on the mat for the second round revealed a different set of dynamics. I was no longer the “feared opponent”. I was the guy that had been beaten. I was the man who had been figured out. I wasn’t the man who anticipated the other’s moves. I responded. And my response was “Oh No”. My body was in defense-mode. His moves were solid, but his mind was focused. His head told him he was going to win, while my mind knew it couldn’t. Try as I might, I couldn’t get a submission and with each passing moment of my frustration, his confidence grew. His wrestling was more aggressive. More powerful. And I became prey.
It seems that my blogs have hit a chord with some of my brothers in fighting. I appreciate the positive feedback, but more importantly, I’m happy to hear that I communicate many of the things we all ponder about our attraction to wrestling. And, as I’ve learned boxing. Though I tend to be more wrestling-centric in my fighting fetish, I never role out an opportunity to lace up the glove with another man. One of my “fans” actually posed the question which I’ll paraphrase here, “What’s the difference in the way we talk about wrestling and boxing?”
I figured I’d take a stab at this – or more appropriately, I’ll take a swing at it.
There’s common ground in our interest and fascination with both wrestling and boxing. Both sports are masculine. Aggressive. Competitive. And have a very primal nature to it. With boxing you use your fist and power to put another down. With wrestling you use your entire body to get another man off his feet and pinned to a mat. The ultimate goal is the same – one man wins by beating the other. But when we discuss these sports, there are nuances that make each very different.
My blogs have well-documented what makes wrestling a challenge and erotic. There’s the primal nature of using both your body and mind to control a man. To find that one precise moment when your skill and power manage to gain control your opponent. (Or when your opponent manages to get the best of you.) For me, wrestling is about the challenge that straddles both the physical elements with the mental elements. It’s using your body to get into the mind of your opponent. And using your mind to tell your body HOW to control your opponent. As I’ve said many times, wrestling is chess with muscle and aggression. There’s a mental side which can drive a more determined man to grind his more muscled opponent into the mats.
Boxing, from what I’ve learned through my own experience and chatting with those how are more skilled and attracted to the gloves, has a different appeal. And two-very distinct ways to “enjoy” it. For many of us, boxing is more about pushing your own limits using your fists. How can you focus your power into your arms in order to use your fist to put another man on his knees? Do you possess the skill to summon the strength to land the perfect punch that forces your opponent to give? I know this is driving force for many of us. But there’s also the side of boxing that I feel many of our pugilist friends truly get off on when they boxing. This side is about seeing how much YOUR body can take. And what I find is this is purely focused on how much your abs can take. To me, I’m proud of that fact that I’ve been able to maintain some type of athletic 6 pack (of maybe at 55, it’s more of a 2 pack) and boxing provides the way to truly test out the strength of your core. Some of the toughest boxers I’ve ever met find the most erotic charge coming from seeing just how much punishment their abs can take. There’s nothing hotter than exchanging gut punches with another fit man and proving that you can take more than he can. There’s a bragging right that comes with building up a solid core that can stand punch after punch. And on the flip side, seeing your gloved fist break through those ab bricks is an experience that is hard to replicate on the wrestling mats.
While this blog is in no way the definitive explanation of what attracts us to our fighting styles, it does shed light into what the key elements of a match mean to the participants of both sports. For me, wrestling is the primal test to beat another man. Boxing is a measure for how much I can take. (And still come out on top).
Every sport and competition has that special moment. That one play. That one move. That one second where the momentum shifts. One sees victory getting one step closer, while the other one faces an inevitable defeat. Though all sports have that moment; no sport can rival that feeling more than wrestling. In every competitive match that is always that one. Precise. Moment.
Nothing is hotter than being in a tough competitive match where both competitors are giving their all to take the other man down. And then it happens. That move. The one move that makes a statement. One man senses the win is close. And the other man frantically knows in his head, he’s not coming out on top. For me, that’s the reason I’m attracted to wrestling. There’s a primal aspect that takes over in match. The need to win. The desire to outwrestle. Or sometimes out think. Out strategize. The mental side of wrestling sometimes over powers the physical aspects of the sport. And that is moment that intrigues me the most.
I’ve been in many a match where two even opponents are mixing it up and giving each other the challenge they hoped for. But at some point, there’s a shift that comes from one hold that showed a sign of dominance so strong that it gets in the other man’s head. I love that feel of slapping on a tough hold and looking in to my opponent’s eyes to see that look of self-doubt. Regardless of what had happened before in the match, that hold and the look tells the story. He knows I’ve got the goods to finish him off. And he senses that his body isn’t capable of stopping the inevitable. It’s a powerful moment in the match that I crave. It drives me to make more aggressive moves that give me the upper hand. Other moves somehow feel better once I get “that look”. That simple look, in that precise moment tells me I’ve gotten in my opponent’s head. The win is mine.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been on the receiving end where an opponent makes a pivotal move that has him seeing a victory coming soon in his hear future. That look of confidence matches the security that he now puts into every move that charts his course to make me tap. That moment when he realizes that he’s got this. Being Italian, I’m cursed with an overly expressive face and body. I can’t hide my thoughts. My eyes tell the story, along with my hands. I know that part of his confidence stems from the look of surprise etched across my face. As much as try to not let my eyes show defeat – I know they do.
As much as I want the more powerful, skilled (and better built) guy to win, occasionally the special moment in the match comes more from a place of frustration. That despite tossing out all your best holds, you’ve somehow not been able to get the control you feel you deserve in that. Your opponent’s untraditional style or quickness has you perplexed. Nothing is working. Your mind races for a solution, but he’s busy keeping you on your toes and off your game. Will frustration lead to a mistake? Or will it cause you dig deeper to crack the code? How do you get to that. Precise. Moment. In a match like this?
I sense another blog topic coming out of that question. But in the meantime, thing about your own matches. Have you experienced the rush of finding that move that gets inside your opponent’s head? Have you been the guy that was on the receiving end of being out-smarted? Don’t be shy…add your thoughts.
As a guy who has been wrestling for well over half my life, I’m not one to snub my nose any form of wrestling. While I prefer freestyle or submission, since I find them more competitive, I no longer turn down opportunities for pro style like I did for years. In recent years, I’ve also seen the value of cyber wrestling. I’m the first to admit that it doesn’t replace the actual wrestling experience but I’ve also learned that there’s a place for it.
Yes I know. A decade ago, I would have stopped reading and would have jumped in with a dozen reasons why cyber fighting isn’t even close to the thrill you feel squaring off against another man on the mats. But, I’ve learned that even though it doesn’t fully replace the feeling of a real match, there’s a place for cyber that all of us should be open to…
Here’s my thoughts on why cyber wrestling actually can be fun.
A good match requires reading and thinking.
Wrestling has also been a sport that is equally as cerebral as it is physical. As I’ve stated in other blog posts, wrestling has an element of chess and strategy involved in it. You have to anticipate your opponents moves and know how you are going to build on your own moves. How do you best get that takedown…what is your best move to get a pin? There’s a thought process. A cyber match forces you to explain your moves, plan your strategy and reaction to the situation. (Keep in mind that you do have READ though to make this work.)
It evens the playing field.
Face it, we’ve all had real matches that never lived up the hype. You either find a guy who doesn’t the the skills or knowledge of the sport OR you find someone who greatly surpasses your abilities. (Cocky me will say that I’ve never found that. But there’s a few guys smiling over that now.) But in cyber, you basically can have the same skills of explaining your moves in order to make the match feel competitive.
It allows you to explore new territory. Safely.
At the core, cyber wrestling is fake. It’s built on the fantasy of wrestling. Many of the members of this group fantasize about wrestling in many ways. You see a guy on the street and you wonder how you’d do against him. You’re at the gym and this one guy keeps catching your eye and you can’t help but wonder what would happen when you step onto a mat with him. Well cyber enables you to live out the fantasy. Plus, when you open yourself up to the possibilities, you can allow yourself to explore all types of scenarios. Maybe you’re like me and in real life you are more comfortable in the “heel” role. You can go deep into the scenario in cyber or flip the script and see what it’s like to be a jobber. In cyber, there’s a lot less shame in losing when the battle isn’t really real. But you can experience a real sense of emotions that come with being handed a defeat or a hard won victory.
So don’t rule cyber wrestling out. There’s place for it and it can augment your wrestling experience in truly unique and interesting ways.
If winning is everything, why is that that in any wrestling match there is only one winner? Basic math tells us that when it comes to wrestling, winning is only half the story. Two men start the match, both (assumingly) out to win; yet only one man prevails. 50% of combatants win; while the other half will lose. It's just a basic fact about our sport.
Take me...I've been a jock for most of my life. And though I'm into my 50's now, I still consider (and define) myself to be an athlete at heart. Winning is something that I was programmed to be focused on. I worked hard on my high school football team to be the best linebacker possible. With determination I fought to take my team to the state championship. I used this same determination as a short stop in baseball; never stopping short to play with all I had. Yet wrestling, as you know, (if you follow my blogs) was the sport that truly caught my passion and drove me to accept the fact that winning is everything. But, sadly, winning is only half the story.
In any sport there's a winner and there's a loser. Someone will always come out on top. One person has to accept the concept of the "agony of defeat". Despite all of my skills and drive to succeed, a loss for me was actually a learning experience. With a loss, I learned that somewhere in the match, I made a mistake. Perhaps I missed an opportunity. Maybe I left myself open for a move. My defenses were down. My offense fell short. In my analytical mind, I needed to find out WHY I lost. In a way, I accepted defeat as a natural option – yet I hated the thought of it. When I won a tough match, I never replayed it over and over thinking about what I did right. Yet, with a loss, it stayed fresh in my mind. I'd recall each move, each defense and replay the match over and over and over again until I could pinpoint that ONE moment where I let winning, slip through my hands. I'd dissect the match until I learned from my mistakes. (I'd obviously have to assume that I made a mistake since my ego didn't want to think that the other wrestler was actually better than me.) What this taught me was the while winning was everything; losing provided a much better way to learn the sport. It was through losing that I could make an honest assessment of skills and performance. I'd learn from my mistakes and come up with a game plan to correct it; and include it in my arsenal of moves and defenses. I learned to train harder and smarter to avoid the loss. With each win, I added another notch to my win column; but with each loss I added three and four times the skills I needed to win.
Fast forward to a now where I'm still the guy who has the passion and drive; but may be a bit slower (I'm giving myself some credit here). While I'm still the same competitive, driven guy I've always been, there are times when I get outsmarted and out-wrestled. I accept that loss; but then continue to make improvements. I'd like to think that I don't get beaten by the same man twice; but that depends on my ability to learn. One loss shouldn't define you. But on the flip side, don't wrestle solely for the purpose of winning. If you're winning all your matches, maybe you aren't taking on the tougher opponents. Challenge yourself. Maybe you're trying to over-compensate for another area of your life and your ego needs the win. Lighten up. No one likes a sore winner. Remember, winning is only half the story. See what losing can do for you.