Martial ArtWhy Trading is Like a Martial Art. Photo: Jason Briscoe (Unsplash)

Why Trading is Like a Martial Art

Meet Zain Abrar. He has just completed an intensive month-long trading internship. He is also an expert in Shaolin, Tai Chi, Wing Chun and Xing Yi, all centuries-old Chinese martial arts.

“I have been involved with Chinese martial arts for quite a few years,” he says. This includes learning about them in their place of birth. “I travelled to [mainland] China for a month to train at a temple with monks and learnt their traditional techniques for training. I also went to Hong Kong for a month where I learnt Kung Fu from a student of [martial arts master] Ip Man.”

“Personally, I see a lot of links between trading and martial arts,” he says. Below are some of the connections he draws. Even if you have no plans to practice a martial art yourself, they might just help you see your trading battles in new and helpful ways.

1. The start is tough

As with many accomplishments in life, the beginning of the road is hard, thinks Abrar. “On the first day of my [trading] internship I had no idea what was going on, but after the month I felt like I had been trading for a year.”

“Similarly, on my first day training in China I got blisters on my hands and feet because I simply was't used to it. But after a month of training for six hours a day, I felt a lot more comfortable.” So get through that difficult beginning and it all becomes a bit easier.

2. You need to build your confidence

“Confidence is really important for both [trading and martial arts],” says Abrar. “During my internship, if I talked about the trade I was planning on making beforehand with [our tutors] and if they assured me that it was a good plan, I found out I was a lot more confident in my trade and as a result was able to run it as I had planned.”

“Similarly with martial arts, the more I performed in front of my teachers, the more confident I became, and as a result the more I stuck to the plan when performing in front of an audience.”

3. If you put your mind to it, you can learn a lot quickly

“It is quite possible to learn a lot about trading and martial arts within a short period of time if you practice intensively,” says Abrar.

In both trading and martial arts becoming proficient involves the mastery of many complicated techniques and a huge amount of technical terminology. But putting regular time and effort into tackling these will yield rewards. Abrar reckons you can make very significant progress in both disciplines in as little as a month.

4. But you also need to be patient

Moving quickly can be very important in trading and martial arts alike. But so can biding your time.

In both areas, says Abrar, the way to succeed is not through panicked responses to events around you. Instead you should be prepared to wait to execute your own carefully considered strategy at a point that suits you best – whether that is a string of rapid moves or a series of financial transactions. As one traditional Chinese proverb says: “A little impatience will spoil great plans.”

5. Anyone can do it with the right approach and attitude

If you are reading this, you can probably become a successful trader or martial artist, according to Abrar’s philosophy. Expert traders and accomplished martial artists are made over time rather than being born fully-formed, he thinks.

A “misconception” common to both trading and martial arts, he says, is that they “are excessively hard and require a lot of natural talent”. In fact, he says, most people can develop skills in both areas with a bit of time and effort. Go forth and conquer!