Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The most frustrating thing I have to deal with in my professional life - is the hazard of 'injuries'. I hate injuries - as any professional athlete does. I guess we all despise them for different reasons - for me, it is the inability to do my job - and the frustration that comes with that - namely, the feeling that I am letting others down - my students, my family, etc.
Today I badly strained the medial ligament of my right knee - and injury I have had before. My initial reaction, after the pain subsided, was one of frustration, mixed with a little self-anger: how could I have been so careless?
An hour or two later, I am still frustrated, but have had time to bring a little perspective to bear. For one - I am 'injured' - not dead. It WILL heal. Countless others have far worse injuries than the one I am dealing with today - along with other problems, that will simply NOT heal.
Injuries are hiccups - in the ebb and flow of daily life. Nothing more. They inconvenience us, and others that share our orbit - but they don't last. Injuries, like parking tickets, are just part of doing the business of life.
Train smart (do as I say - not as I do)
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I was never very good at school. There really wasn’t very much at all that I liked about it. Every day, I looked forward to it ending, when I would be released for a few hours of recreation before dinner, sleep and the inevitable ringing of the alarm clock that would announce it was time to do it all over again.
In my own experience with the school system, I came across very few teachers that truly afforded heart-felt encouragement. There were, over the years, one or two exceptions – and I have to say, that such people are hardly paid enough to compensate for their singular and unique contribution to our society. Mostly though, it seemed that my teachers found their own compensation by way of sarcastic comment and physical cruelty.
I remember when I was doing my eleventh year at school (St Joseph’ College in Geelong) the vice principal (now the current principal), called me into his office for a lecture. He assured me in no uncertain terms that if I continued my martial arts training that I would not only fail miserably in life but that there was a strong possibility that I could also end up in a mental institution.
I find it quite disturbing that the vice principal of a secondary learning institution can find no redeeming virtue in ‘passionate endeavour’. I actually feel sorry for the man. Although, people can change – I certainly hope that he has undergone some positive form of transformation!
I barely passed math; I barely passed English – but I did somehow, despite my lack of study, manage to ‘matriculate’ from College. I have to say, that although there were some benefits to my education, that beyond a basic education in Maths and English – most of it has played no significant role in the way in which my life unfolded afterward.
I have done most of my important learning since. The things that have mattered in my life – things like basic business principles, understanding people, marketing concepts, meaningful writing and reading, adventure, building relationships, etc – all these things I learned about after school was officially ‘out’. I learned more about life and how it works from travelling and adventuring that I ever did in school. Bad at school – certainly – good at life? Yes!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
All animals have a sense of purpose about them – humans are no exception. We are more alive – more true to our natures – when we are ‘fully engaged’. I believe that this is one of the reasons why people become ‘healthily’ addicted to the martial arts – and BJJ in particular. When we are engaged in struggle with our opponent, there is no doubt that we become more ‘fully engaged’ in what we are doing, than we are in the larger part of our daily life. There is no ‘engagement’ quite like, the engagement that results from a fight for your life.
Although we are not really fighting for our lives when we hit the mat for practice – we are nonetheless, fully focused in a similar kind of way. When we are grappling, musings about tomorrow and rememberances of yesterday rarely come into play. We remain (largely) in the moment … but how much so?
Now, one of the hallmarks of the truly good grappler, is that he or she becomes more fully and completely ‘engaged’ in the moment than others. Here’s an example: A beginner is engaged in the problem of passing the guard, it is likely that this beginner is ‘looking ahead’ to where he or she wants to be – and is perhaps not as fully ‘in the now’ as the more experienced grappler. The more experienced grappler is not so much concerned with what may or may not eventuate ten seconds from now, he or she is concerned with what is actually happening right NOW – in this very moment. The same thing can be said of ‘thinking about the past’. The beginner is likely to have thoughts like ‘how did that heppen’, or ‘oh, I just got swept – on no – how bad is that!’ – whereas the more experienced grappler, as they are being swept is thinking more ‘in the monent’ and is reacting appropriately and establishing his or her own guard or recovery. Thinking about the past, or thinking about the future is a result of having the extra hardware our brain has developed over the past millennia – this extra hardware has a name – the pre-frontal cortex. This is great as a survival mechanism when used to live, learn and survive in the world we live in – but not great for moment-by-moment calculation during the heat of action. Animals tend do better in those situations – lacking the marvellous abilities the pre-frontal cortex affords we humans.
A cat doesn’t winge and complain about you grabbing one of it’s legs – it just goes at you with the other three – and it’s teeth. Humans on the other hand, tend to complain and go through internal dialogue that says stuff like – you shouldn’t be able to control my leg – why did I make that mistake – oh, no, it looks like he will pass my guard ….. instead of just allowing us to react with those resources we have left to us. Being ‘in the moment’ is a much more primal way of thinking – and it is a way of ‘being’ that that keeps us focussed on the task and problems of the moment; a useful mode to be in when we are in a state of ‘action’.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
A lot of people, particularly in BJJ training, comment that they seem to be doing worse in their second year of training than they were in their first. The same thing often happens in other areas of people’s lives – and it can be for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, particularly in the martial arts field, people who run professional schools, often start out by trying to monetize the thing they are passionate about. Wow – I love martial arts training – it’s what I live for. How great would it be to do this for a living. Then of course – when they need to pay the school rent, teach classes, day in, day out – the same old thing (not yours truly of course) – they become bored and disillusioned. The magic of martial arts training begins to evaporate as the bills keep coming and they find themselves teaching twenty classes a week just to make ends meet. They are doing more of what they love – they are even getting better at it – but they are feeling decidedly worse!
These people have forgotten the most important thing – they have forgotten to keep INVESTING in their own training and development. Rule number one – KEEP THE PASSION ALIVE!
The other common reason that people often do better but feel worse is because they are making the wrong comparisons. They compare how they are doing with how other people are doing and not how they are doing NOW with how they were doing THEN.
This often happens on the BJJ mat. The complaint comes back – hey, it’s as hard now as it was a year ago; I’m not getting better! Obviously, what is wrong with that statement is that it is based on the fact that they are comparing their performance with their classmates (WHO HAVE ALSO BEEN TRAINING HARD) instead of comparing their current performance with their performance of a year ago. Comparing ourselves with others IS NOT a way to happiness and fulfillment.
Train Hard – Train happily.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
I have enjoyed a love affair with the martial arts for over thirty years now. It occurs to me that during that time I have taught more than 25,000 classes. Certainly, I have taught approximately 10,000 classes during the past decade of my martial arts life. During the course of this instructional experience, I have learned a thing or two …
One of the most important things I have learned is that each and every student is the centre of his or her own universe. That is to say, they are equally central to the teaching/learning equation, as I am myself. I am acutely aware that the person I am teaching has paid for my time, not only with their hard-earned money, but more importantly, with their time. Each of us has a limited amount of time left to them; my students are trading precious amounts of this time, to undergo learning and training with me on the mat – I should respect and acknowledge this amazing ‘trade’; and I should pour my heart and soul into doing the best possible job I can.
To do my job well, I need to be 100% fully engaged. I need to be fully engaged both during the class I am offering and during the preparation phase of my class. During the class – that’s the easy part. I have long since developed that habit. But the prep-phase, is another matter entirely. I am always doing research on how to improve both my teaching/delivery/communication skills and my physical/technical skills. I never just rest on the skill-sets I currently have. This is all part of full-engagement.
I have also, over the years, come to understand the importance of being totally authentic. I am what I say I am – I deliver what I say I can deliver – I am true to myself – and true to my students. Authenticity is very important to me and I believe that people, more than ever, are seeking the authentic experience and become more fully engaged themselves when they are exposed to it.
Space for one more important idea – and that is the idea that a teacher needs to move people from where they are rather than from where he or she is. In taking people on a journey from their present state to another desired state, we need to get in the trenches with them and guide them through the process of making that journey, a single step at a time. This is vastly different from preaching, where the teacher yells down from his or her pedestal. I will never be content with getting peoples heads nodding – I want them to experience profound shifts and measurable growth. In short – I am obsessed with actual results. That’s what people want – that’s what we, the teachers, need to provide.
The past 25,000 classes have taught me far more than I have taught my students. I will not rest, till they catch up.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Sometimes when I am on the road, I have the very good fortune to meet some truly wonderful people - martial artists that live in a state of congruence and who understand the meaning of 'integrity'. That's the good news ... the bad news is that oft times, those meetings are all too brief, and i am left feeling slightly saddened that I couldn't have spent more time with them and gotten to know them a little better.
Two such people, on my recent trip to the UK, were Al Peasland and Mick Tully. Two great martial artists who I met at my seminar in the Cotswalds. Both good friends of my mate Geoff Thompson, the two had driven more than two hours to attend the session. They are best mates and train together daily - yet both laid down the 20 odd quid (British for pounds) to buy my Fight Logic book. Now .. these guys train together at their CSP gym in Coventry ... they could easily have just bought one copy of the book and shared it; but no, they went out of their way to buy a copy each. I was very impressed by this ... and by the humble and friendly demeanour with which both men carried themselves. meeting people like Al and Mick make the traveling and time away from my family, all worthwhile.
Thanks Al .. thanks Mick. I look forward to catching up again.