Now I’m not saying you walk around the streets choking every bloke you see. But I am suggesting that, more broadly, having an activity that normally brings people together and finding its practitioners in new places is a great way to ingratiate yourself to people. Perhaps I should explain a bit more…
I’ve been training martial arts for the better part of my life; at least 25 out of my (ugh) almost 40 years. Along the way, I’ve made great friends that train and even compete at the highest levels of competition each of their respective disciplines have to offer. But arguably more importantly, I’ve made friends with other “normal” folks who are also just hobbyists like me with shared interests.
Getting To Know You
Which brings me to the main point, I’ve always found it much easier to find out who someone is and if I’d like to get to know them better, through martial arts. To me, martial arts is an expression of the truth (many tangential thoughts to this here) and of who you are. In fact, this quote from the Matrix hit so close to home, I repeat more frequently that I’d like to admit, “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”
When people are put into difficult situations, you find out who they really are. Do they go all in and fight tooth and nail to succeed? Do they start cracking jokes to change the tone of the situation? Do they choose to make excuses and sit on the side while others participate? Do they fail and then self-reflect to improve? Are they diligent workers who push forward when the going gets tough or do they attempt to come up with creative solutions when in unexpected situations? How do they treat someone who is significantly better (or worse) than they are? When you spend enough time on the mats, you find ways of approximating who people really are through their expression of a craft.
Finding Your People
I’ve always found that the best part about finding out who people are over the course of a training session is that, after a period of practicing murder, most people hug, say thank you and appreciate that small piece of each other that was just shared. Some of my best friends in life from all over the world, are people that I’ve either met on the mat (including my wonderful wife). And after spending time on the mats with someone, it’s usually pretty easy to decide if you want to spend time with them off the mats too. After all, you can now see how they treat people and how they react in many types of situations. Knowing that’s just the tip of the iceberg, it’s also typically a great foundation on which to build any kind of relationship.
While this notion is something I’ve thought a lot about in terms of martial arts, it’s safe enough to make similar approximations for other group activities that you can do when you travel. This can include things like weight lifting, running, Crossfit, yoga, skydiving, scuba diving, and the list goes on. Because at the core of these physical activities are self expression and passion. And when you find out how people with similar passions to you behave while expressing themselves in similar situations, it’s usually a good approximation for deciding if they are the type of person you want to have in your life. So when I come across someone else who likes to choke people for the same reason I do, it’s a good place to start a conversation of common interest. And who knows, maybe even make some new friends.