Friday, October 31, 2008
Training in BJJ requires that you pay a price.
By this I mean that at some time or other, you are going to have to embrace the concept of 'losing' or 'doing it tough'. Some pay it early in their training, some pay it later, some pay less but pay frequently, others pay less fequently but they pay more. However it goes - you WILL PAY. Accepting this fact and understanding that it is a necessary part of the process can make life easier.
The larger stronger students, for example, tend to put of 'paying' for some time. Initially, they dominate the smaller, lighter students and don't find the training to be too 'difficult' at all. The problem is though, later one, as those smaller and weaker students become more technical, they may find they are asked to pay a huge price when the tables turn and they find themselves on their backs and experiencing positions they have never spent much time in. This can be a very frustrating time for the 'big guys'.
Conversely, the smaller students, are always finding themselves 'being squashed' and on the 'defence'. From 'day one' they are underneath and being dominated by the larger half of the class. They pay constantly from the very outset. The good news though, is that the longer they spend on the bottom, the better their Guard Skills and Escape Skills become. Eventually, the tables turn and they begin to rack up a few wins over the bigger guys. And that of course, is when the bigger guys begin to pay.
The deal is, that everyone pays. And it's not a bad thing - in fact it's a good thing - it's how we develop 'immunity'. We get a small dose of the chicken pox - we pay a price, for sure, but we develop the antibodies that allow us to prevail over future infections. We all need to pay.
If your in the middle of the class - not the smallest, not the biggest, sometimes you pay, other times you don't . It all works out in the end. Payment is required - but payment can be fun too!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
How well do our classes prepare students for ‘real world’ assault?
Well, as far as physical assault is concerned, the big ‘overhand’ right is far and away the most common punch thrown at the very outset of a fight; so it sure makes sense to train students to deal with that scenario. Leg-checks and counters to triangle chokes are certainly important aspects of the well-rounded kickboxer or MMA fighters training but they have little to do with how the average person is physically assaulted on the street; so how do we prioritize what we offer to students who are coming in asking for self defence training?
In my school, new students must undergo an introductory course that lasts for three months before they move up into the more specialised intermediate and advanced classes. In this intro class they are exposed to a variety of training methodologies including – pre-fight scenario training, structure-based defence strategies for dealing with a flailing head-hunter, ground and pound defence techniques, worst-case-ground scenario training as well as basic strikes, kicks, elbows and knees. My focus is to give them what they asked for; in the shortest time possible, I try to arm them with some skills that will greatly increase their chances of survival in the world outside the school doors. So my short-term approach is a fairly wholistic one - but what about my long-term goals?
As someone who has sampled life in it’s many aspects, in a dozen different countries over the course of five decades I feel confident that I have a fairly balanced view of how the world works. Although I have had my share of street tussles outside of the dojo, I have also come to realize that the ways in which we are assaulted are many, varied and quite often subtle; and they are rarely ‘physical’.
For instance, almost every day, we can find ourselves assaulted on emotional and financial fronts; but does our martial arts training provide us with the skills necessary to deal with these ‘less than obvious’ forms of assault? It is my view that the martial arts are a metaphor for ‘life’; and by life, I mean the ‘struggle of life’. In undertaking martial arts training, people prepare and strengthen themselves in ways that at first, may not seem obvious. Through martial arts training people learn to stand up to adversity, to be more confident, to develop a mindset that will allow them to push through situations that would previously have brought them to their knees.
However, it is also my belief that the kinds of martial arts training that ‘tests’ us every time we step onto the mat, or into the ring, builds ‘real’ confidence and ‘real’ strength of will; the brand of confidence and strength of will that will not buckle under the ‘real’ pressure of life. The only thing worse than no confidence is false confidence.
I lament at the rise of ‘pat on the back’, ego-building, new-age martial arts practices that ultimately fail to deliver on almost every front. These are those schools that promote one thing but deliver another; they promise martial arts training that will deliver self-defence skills but their training is outdates and totally unrelated to real fighting. Okay, so we give them a break and concede that they provide an environment where people can practice safe martial arts while building confidence, self-esteem and the like – but upon what skills is this so-called confidence and self-esteem based. My contention is that it may just be a house of cards ready to tumble at the slightest touch.
Martial arts for me is about preparing people to prevail; to prevail in all areas of life; physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially. I want my students to have the skills to milk life for al it has to offer; to have the courage to ‘go for it’ to try new things, to fail, know that it’s alright, and try again. Martial arts training is about fortifying our resources and improving our odds for survival. Martial arts training is about building within ourselves a ‘mindset of excellence’. Martial arts training is about struggle and growth, about problem solving, about winning and losing battles. This all sounds like ‘life’ to me.
Monday, October 20, 2008
'You'll be 'trouble' when you grow up' - one of my teachers used to say. This particular teacher was one who didn't like being asked questions he couldn't easily answer. Where I saw opportunity for discussion, he saw 'threat'. pretty sad really. As it turned out - he was partially right - I do like a little bit of 'trouble'.
When all is well - when I have my house just right, plenty of money in the bank, food on the table, family all happy, the right circle of good friends, etc - when everything is just rolling along nicely - I feel quietly content - for about a week or so! After that, I find myself seeking out situations that provide me with a mild dose of stress (trouble). As my friend Steve Lavalle in Florida is fond of saying "pressure makes diamonds".
Gains arn't made in the 'garden of Eden', under ideal conditions, when everything is rosy and sweet - 'gains' are made, when necessity calls for them. We lift weights and our muscle fibers adapt and thicken; competition arises and we improve our own business practices; we put ourselves into a little debt, we need to find ways of making money to pay that debt down. A little 'trouble' causes us to 'overcome'.
The trick is to get the balance just right; enough 'trouble' to keep us moving forward and growing, but not so much as to threaten our physical or mental health.
BJJ is an art built on this principle - applying this particular lesson to our larger lives will afford benefits beyond expectation.
See out a little trouble ...
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The first step in 'extracting maximum value' from something, is to realize that there is high value there in the first place. The more deeply we look into something, the more we will see (Just ask a quantum physicist). Once we 'know' there is value within something, we tend to look more closely - and bang = we see things that had previously escaped our notice.
In working BJJ basis for example - as beginners we are usually somehwat overwhelmed at the sheer volume of techniques and concepts we are exposed to and are therefore 'forced' to take a broad view = as opposed to a deeper view. This is one of the reasons why purple belts are usually a good step up from blue belts on the 'skills ladder' - simply because at tat level, they usually have a pretty healthy 'broad' view, and are starting to really look deeply into some of the aspects of their 'game'.
Looking deeply - or digging into things - is at the very heart of what is commonly known as 'science'. As kids, most of us had a natural inclination toward 'discovery' and 'extracting value' - perhaps that is a big part of what is so very appealing about BJJ. The child in us once again becomes awakened - as we explore, dig, understand and continue to 'extract value'.
Train hard - train smart,
Thursday, October 09, 2008
One of the most common questions I am asked by students during the Q&A time that follows most of my seminars is 'How would you describe what you do?' (Ie: what do I do for a living?)
This is a question that I could spend hours answering - but if I had to distill my answer down to a single sentence, it would be this:
I TEACH PEOPLE TO PREVAIL!
For me, the martial arts are a metaphor for life; they are about struggle; and about overcoming obstacles and dealing with pressure. At their very core, the martial arts are about prevailing against physical assault; but beyond this, they are about prevailing against all kinds of obstacles and adversity. Highly physical and challenging arts like BJJ, Kickboxing, etc - see us dealing with real pressure on a regular basis; and becasue of this, provide us with the will and mindset to deal with the myriad of pressures that life throws our way.
BJJ,in particular, demands that we 'lose', try again, 'lose', try again, until we work it out. The study of BJJ provides the perfect environment for both mental and physical strengthening. The study of BJJ provides an opportunity to develop a mastery of leverage and the ability to 'problem solve' - and these skills are easily brought to bear in life off the mat.
What do I do for a living? I teach people to PREVAIL.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
During my recent four day interstate seminar jaunt, I spent time on the mat with a wide spectrum of BJJ and MMA students. In this day of 'information over-supply', it comes as no real surprise that I am often asked the question "what should I work on?" - as there is so much 'out there' today - as compared with what was available say, two decades ago.
Obviously, the answer to this question differs from student to student, dependant upon a myriad of factors ... however, I can offer this piece of advise to any who will listen:
Work on your weaknesses! Our natural tendency is to focus on our strengths and take the 'Egyptian' view (living in de nile) when considering our weaknesses! Banish 'denial' from your mind and embrace what is difficult - this always produces amazing and quite often, unexpected results.
Working on our weaknesses, lifts our whole game up. if your Guard lets you down, then next time you hit the mat, pull to Guard (for a month), if it's your escapes, put yourself underneath, if 'fast' opponents give you grief, seek them out, etc. And off the mat, as you take the lessons of Jiu Jitsu into your wider life, if you find your finances are something you instinctively 'reel away from' - do a budget. Embrace your weaknesses, work on them - even just a little attention on them will give you results.