It's purely subjective, but it may be most accurate to say that the fighters of today are more technically skilled and athletically advanced, but for the most part (and there are always exceptions) frankly, they just AREN'T as tough. There are many reasons and rationale that backs this up, but it really comes down to the role that society and day-to-day activities play in natural athleticism. The idea that fighters aren’t as tough as they used to be isn’t so much a judgment or indictment on today's athletes or an assault on their manhood, it's more about how you, as a fighter, can improve and change what you’re doing to become tougher, like fighters of the past.
Whether you agree or not, let's just operate under the idea that fighters today simply aren’t, in fact, as tough as they used to be...but why?
Well, for starters, modern day humans don't have to battle the elements anymore. Air-conditioners provide cool in the summer. Heaters keep people warm in the winter. Machines cook for you, so you don't have to chop wood, build a fire or wait for your food to be ready. You can just simply toss a pre-packaged, pre-heated three course meal in the microwave and in one minute or less, voilà...chow time! As far as that goes, most people's food is hunted or farmed, cooked, prepared and even served-up right to their table. The most effort it takes anyone to eat is to simply reach in their pocket and pull out a few dollar bills. Machines do about everything. They clean your clothes, they wash your car and four wheels drive you everywhere. If you think about it, the average individual can get through the day easily avoiding doing ANYTHING that is considered difficult or that requires any amount of mental or physical toughness. What do you think the results of that are?
You guessed it; dependence, complacency and softness. Those aren't exactly the character traits associated with aspiring fighters and would-be champions.
So...maybe, in terms of developing character and physical toughness, the easiest route may not always be the best. That's not to suggest that you should go out of your way to make bad or more difficult choices in your life, so that it is hard. Just consider that, by always choosing the path of least resistance you might be compromising your ability to hang tough.
How about making everyday life itself a little bit of an obstacle course? People do a lot of mundane things without thinking about them. So maybe if you just start by thinking about them and being aware of what you are DOING, that alone may make you a little tougher. In other words, it might just mean making simple choices that require slightly more effort.
Always take the stairs instead of the escalator.
Carry groceries in your arms instead of pushing them around in the cart.
Walk to the mailbox instead of driving to it.
Sprint from your car into the store, even though walking would still get you there.
Choose to open the door at the mall by the handle instead of walking through the electric doors.
Yes, these all sound like menial tasks, but if you stop to think about how many easy choices you make throughout the day, they quickly add up to a significant amount of active and physically-beneficial activity you are robbing yourself of.
If you always do your roadwork in the street, on the track or on a treadmill, get off the beaten path. Run in the dirt, sprint up a hill, go cross country, jump over rocks, even climb a tree in-between sprints. Make your roadwork into an obstacle course against the great outdoors. Brave the elements a little…or a lot.
If you're doing your power training in the gym and are using machines, cut the umbilical cord and grab some iron. Sling some dumbbells around, push some free weights or grab some kettle bells if they're available. Kettle bells require more muscle recruitment and are harder to manage. The point is you may have to get out of your comfort zone and get your workout in the hard way. Machines; like treadmills, bicycles and machine weights are great as finishing exercises or supplemental movements, but they should never be the foundation of your strength and conditioning program. They are convenient, but they're not the ideal road to physical salvation. Use your body weight and free weights to help create balance, symmetry and the ability to adapt.
Who you are, the fighter you will become, isn't only reflected in your dedication in the gym, but is also dictated by your approach to life. Who you are outside the ring, what you do in your daily routine and how hard you go in the gym is how you will show up come fight time. Your life choices AND your decisions in the gym both play a role in preparing you to fight.
The only way you can achieve the roughness that fighters from the past had, is to live your life on a little tougher terms. You can channel your inner Sugar Ray Robinson or Archie Moore by simply asking more of yourself and putting more into your daily routine, not just through the effort you're putting in at the gym.
It’s the twenty two hours you spend outside of the gym along with the two you spend in it that, working together, will dictate the fighter you are and can become.