Fake It Til You Make It: Martial Arts Style!

Martial arts fake it till you make it

I started officially training in martial arts in September 1994. So, at this writing, it has been over 20 years of martial arts training for me. I bought my school from another school owner and started operating in January 2002. I guess I am somewhat of a risk taker because I had never officially worked in a martial arts school, and therefore had no experience in operating a martial arts school in any capacity. I had operated other businesses in varying capacities. But, you know, we risk takers have one common question that comes up. “How hard can it be?” That’s a dangerous question!

Well, I quickly found an answer to that question. There was so much I didn’t know, and one of the things that saved me was the principle of “fake it till you make it.” In fact, my leadership team heard that message a lot in those days. When I say fake it, I don’t mean lie about it. What I mean is ask yourself what would I do, if I did know? Or, how would I do this if I did know? Then research, find a coach, mentor, DVD, book or whatever you need to learn what you need. If I have to give a speech and I am not totally confident with the material, I will act as if I am confident with the material. Body language means a lot! Watch the Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy for more information on that. That Ted Talk inspired this blog post. After watching Amy’s Ted Talk, I think I will be changing the meaning of this phrase to “fake it til you become it”, because that’s exactly what happens. If you do it right, you will become it.

While I now pretty much enjoy all phases of martial arts training, at the time I purchased the school, I was not all that good with, nor cared for, the various weapons we taught at our school. I had learned the basics of all the weapons being taught at the school prior to my purchase, but certainly had a lot to learn still. This was not something I took into consideration in deciding to purchase the school. I discovered this later. But, hey “How hard can it be” … right? With myself and my business partner at the time pretty much teaching all of the classes and teaching mostly the same curriculum that was already in place, I needed to teach weapons. Well, while I had been taught previously, I did not remember all the forms and techniques with the weapons. But guess what, neither did my students! So I did the next best thing I faked it. Yep, in class I would teach just the parts that I had learned or relearned, and was comfortable with. Then, at night or on the weekends after everyone had left, I would practice and learn some more. I learned from DVDs, books, other instructors (internal or external from my school), seminars and by any means possible so that I could teach it to students. Now I know and am proficient with all of those weapons and more. That’s 20 years of faking it till you make it!

Some of those students took what I taught them and then moved on to become even better with those weapons than I was. I have no egoistic issues with that. I am super excited that I gave them the foundation they needed to excel in those areas. I have sometimes brought those students back to teach others who are now where they once were. Faking it till I made it paid off for me over time. During those times faking it helped me build the confidence and the skill to become a better instructor. Also, since those times I have used this principle to help me overcome numerous obstacles in many other phases of my personal and business life.

If you were to Google the term “fake it till you make it”, you will find a plethora of articles on it. In fact, I came up with about 8,020,000 results! Ok, well I can’t read that much. In the ones I did read I found some who supported this concept with some wonderful advice of their own. Those are the resources below. I found some totally rejecting this concept. One of those is listed below in the resources section because she did have some good points. The main one I agreed with is do not fake yourself into financial ruin. I assumed in my writing this post that, this would be common sense. You know what “they” say about assumptions right! Don’t do anything crazy like spend way too much money trying to impress someone. That almost never works out. Also, be authentic and transparent. People will love you more. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to tell everything up front. I learned all those weapons in the heat of the battle so to speak. Very few people ever asked me if I really didn’t know them. They just assumed I did. My leadership team knew what was going on. Just use “good” common sense.

What’s really the point here? Don’t let not knowing something get in the way of you living the life you want to live. Don’t get hung up on telling the story the way it is. Tell the story the way you want it to be. Just because you don’t know today, doesn’t mean you can’t learn, and won’t know tomorrow. Eternal Grandmaster H.U. Lee, the founder of our wonderful organization, ATA Martial Arts Worldwide, is famous for saying “Today not possible, tomorrow possible.” How true those words are. You see, if there is something you want to do in life, start now as if you know what you are doing. Just get started and learn along the way. One year from now you will be totally impressed with what you have learned, and are now able to apply.


Stan Shields, is a 5th Degree black belt, President/CEO of Shields ATA Family Martial Arts in Centennial, CO. He can be contacted via email at sshields@kicks4all.com or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stan.shields.


Other resources on this subject:







Stan Shields

Stan N. Shields is a 6th Degree Black Belt, three-time world champion, and has been teaching martial arts to kids and adults for over 23 years. You can contact him directly at stan@stanNshields.com

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