Why Mike Tyson Is Smarter Than You Think

By Rory Singer Co-owner of SBG Athens

The word smith and former boxing world champion, Mike Tyson, said it best when he uttered, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He was answering the following reporter’s question, “I hear your opponent has a clever plan for defensing your left hook. How do you respond?” I believe those powerful words have much more do with life than the boxing match he was discussing.

If this is your first time reading my column, you may not know that I co-own one of the top Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms in the country. SBG Athens is almost in its 20th year of business in the Classic City. As a former professional fighter and coach to world champions, I know a little about getting hit in the face. During any given week, you will find a small percentage of our students happily engaging in fisticuffs with one another. You will find men and women from all walks of life on the same mat with amateur and professional fighters.

After every class, we come together for a “mat chat.” It’s an opportunity for the coach to discuss upcoming events and impart some words of wisdom. I always take a moment to discuss safe training and how to be better training partners. Especially after classes where we spar, I always discuss getting hit in the face. My students have often heard me say, “You don’t have to like it. I’d actually prefer it if you didn’t, as I think people who like it might be sociopaths. But you must accept that it is part of what we do.” Although not all of my students will spar in a striking class, it is my hope that they all try it at least once. I never want the first time someone gets punched in the face to be in the “real world.” I would like it to happen in a controlled environment where s/he can feel safe being vulnerable.

The bigger picture is I know almost everything else in life is easier after you have been “punched in the mouth.” It’s not about being the toughest person in the room, it’s about being in the room and getting through the training. It’s about being able to answer questions about oneself that are otherwise hard to answer. Once stuff gets hard, how will you respond? Whether it’s a fast approaching deadline, a rejection letter, missed promotion, or actual perpetrator of violence; do you have the mental toughness to step up and face your fear/failure?

Life is not full of sunshine and rainbows. You will face adversity, and lots of it. That adversity takes a lot of forms. Are you doing things that make you mentally stronger? Are you testing yourself ahead of time to be better prepared? The way you experience life changes, once you realize your game plan doesn’t, because you had a set back. When I think of that quote from the philosopher and raiser of pigeons, Mike Tyson, that’s what I think he was truly speaking about.


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Rory Singer is co-owner of SBG Athens. Along with his brother, Adam. They are both graduates of UGA and 2nd Degree Black Belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They have helped their members gain confidence, lose thousands of pounds, become world champions, and find their tribe. When not with their families, they can be found on the mats coaching and training.