Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves, our performance or even from other people. Sometimes - it is the differential between the desired outcomes or behaviours and the actual outcomes or behaviours that causes us stress or concern.
In terms of our own performance, it is easy to 'expect' too much. On one hand, if we set the bar to low, we are cultivating with ourselves an acceptance of mediocrity - if we always set the bar too high, we are setting ourselves up for failure. My own view is that we should set the bar high, but not overly concern ourselves with the outcome - that way we move beyond mediocrity but don't find ourselves always paying the emotional price for failing.
When it comes to what we expect from others, in terms of performance - or even just in terms of how we expect people to behave or to act - it is even easier to set ourselves up for disappointment. This is largely because we think others will think and behave like we do, have the moral standards as we do - and we tend to forget that people are, as the saying goes, 'queer as folk'.
Other people will behave, perform and act in accordance with their own set of values and from within their own particular world-views. Oft times, those values and those world views do not match our own. This can cause problems, but only if we have unrealistic expectations of how people should perform, behave and act. But hey, sometimes, it may just be that they have 'other stuff' going on in their lives and their behaviour or performance, although hypocritical, sub-par or not in alignment with our own, may just be a temporary thing - fueled by an unfortunate series of events or feelings that they are experiencing. As a friend of mine used to say 'They are who they are - don't expect more and you won't be disappointed'. Sage advice.
It is also important to note, both for the individual and for the professional coach - that everyone has ups and downs in their lives and in their training. The longer the relationship (and the stronger the relationship) between friends, or between coach and student, the more 'friendship or relationship credits' should be available to get over the 'hump'.
I see people dealing with these issues all the time - in their personal lives and on the mat. Having unrealistic expectations about our own performance can send us spiraling into a state of unease; having unrealistic expectations of our we think others should behave and act can casue us heart-ache and sorrow.
My advice - cultivate tolerance - for ourselves and for others. People after all (including ourselves) are only human.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Back on a plane tomorrow, this time to Sydney for another great and exciting round of seminars. Last weekend I visited my friends on Coffs Harbour - including a nice dinner with Phil and Tanja. Then it was onward to Bellana - thanks Shane for hosting the session and the drive up the coast - then the Gold Coast - thanks Vincent - one of my longest training Black Belts and an outstanding martial arts coach - and finally to Brisbane - thanks Brett - his school is one of the nicest and most professional places you could hope to visit. Thanks for the great meal as well Brett!!
Tomorrow I am to see my good friends David and Jacqui in Bargo. It's always a treat to go there as Jacqui cooks a great home cooked feast - on site - every visit. Much appreciated Jacqui - thank you. The my very good friend and BJJ Black Belt Steve Perceval will then drive me back to Penrith - the next morning, he' and I will head over to George Adams' school. George would be hands-down winner of the MOST ENTHUSIASTIC MARTIAL ARTIST AWARD if there was one). After our session there, I am off to Fari Salievski's school in Liverpool. Fari is one of the countries true martial arts professionals, he has helped many school-owners across the country, better-realize their dreams of running a professional school. Myself included. After Fari, I head over to Maroubra to teach my friend Joe Ingrati. This will be followed by dinner with Joe and George - and a good nights rest before heading out to Penrith to teach at Steve Perceval's school. The it's down to Wollongong to run the session for Sam Dignam and Craig Sinclair. A flying trip back up to the airport will see me back on a plane and home to my family.
Next week I will be teaching my usual swag of private and evening classes before packing my bags and heading of to the USA on friday. I shall be regularly updating my blog from las Vegas, which shall be my first port of call after teaching a seminar for the Krav Maga Center in Longbeach.
My blogs over the next few weeks will be a mix of Travelogue and my usual style ... please bear with me ...
Monday, June 22, 2009
It is my belief that our love of action – arises from our need to spend more time ‘Living in the Moment’.
When we are ski-ing down a mountain, white water rafting, rock-climbing or fighting – we are probably more present, more in the moment, that we are at most other times of our lives. I think this is a large part of the reason that many of us find those types of activities to be quite addictive. It seems, that some deep part of us, loves being in the moment.
Why is it that most of us, for a large part of our waking day, tend to drift away from the present, and muse of the happenings of yesterday or the what if’s of tomorrow? In my opinion the larger part of human suffering stems from the habit we have of allowing ourselves to be pulled from the present into the past or the future. All of us, at some time or other, have experienced worry, deep regret or anger over something that happened last month, last year or perhaps even decades ago. I can probably safely say that each of us has experienced worry, apprehension, inner turmoil or stress about something that may or may not eventuate at some time in our future. Why does this happen?
All of us have been endowed, over millions of years of evolution, with some remarkable architecture within the confines of our craniums that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. What we all have, that has allowed to muse, invent, plan and remember is the wonderful structure in our brain called the pre-frontal cortex. This, the largest part of our brain, essentially does two things, pretty much unique in the animal kingdom – it endows us with the ability to look into the future and PLAN – and remember the past and LEARN. The development of the pre-frontal cortex has given us the ability to invent agriculture, build cars and formulate investment and retirement strategies. However, this ability we have, that the rest of the animal kingdom does not possess, comes at a high price …
The pre-frontal cortex has provided us with the ability to plan ahead, and learn from the past, true – but making those journey’s, both into the past, and into the future, also provides us with an effortless means to dwell on the bad things that have happened last month and worry about the bad things that may or may not happen next month. I can only guess (reasonably confidently) that animals, although they lack a developed pre-frontal cortex like us and cannot invent a cell phone or design a new house, are nevertheless able to happily go about their lives living fully in the moment, and being fully engaged and present at all times. Lucky little beasts!
In BJJ (wrestling, boxing, fencing also come to mind) we are quite present when engaged in the throes of combat. It is my contention though, that even though we are fairly present when fighting, the more experienced and best athletes are far more present than most.
Imagine you are grappling, your opponent sweeps you over – you spend two seconds ‘dwelling’ in the sweep and lamenting that this has happened to you – this happens because you have allowed the magical function of the pre-frontal cortex to do it’s thing and drag you (albeit only by two seconds) into the past. If your opponent is in the present, he will gain the advantage. Imagine again. You allow yourself to drift into the future, by three or four seconds, and ponder on the finish or position that you want to establish on your opponent – by doing this, you are not as able to notice what he or she is doing to you right at that moment. In a state of action – we need to be fully present – in the moment – and not allow ourselves to be pulled back into past or drift forward into the future – even by a few seconds. The more we practice, the more present we become and the better we perform and react. Seconds, or even parts of seconds, really count when we are in a state of action.
Off the mat or out of the ring, we should perhaps spend much more time, trying to be in the present – in the now – fully engaged in what we do. I have learned to do this in my teaching – irrespective of how tired, injured, or whatever else is going on in my life. And it is infectious, those present in my class, become more present. The more fully engaged and in the now I am as an instructor, the more fully engaged and in the now my students become. For me personally, training myself to do this, has made me an infinitely happier person. Be in the now … your soul will love you for it – your BJJ opponent will not!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This classic chalice/faces picture can be viewed in more than one way and our brains happily jump between these different views, trying one and then switching to another. But experiments show that if we are rewarded for seeing the picture one way rather than the other - rewarded with a jellybean, a dollar bill, or a friendly pat on the back - our brains begin to hold on to the rewarding view, and the picture stops changing. The lesson here is that things can be viewed in many ways, but human brains like the most rewarding view and thus they search for and hold on to that view whenever they can.
If this is possible with this picture, then it is also true of other things: BJJ, martial arts, marriage, business, etc.
If, in training, we are rewarded for trying one technique over another, or rewarded for thinking about something in one way over another, then we tend to begin to ‘lock in’ that particular viewpoint. It’s often all a matter of persective.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Most of the time, for most people, it seems to be that ‘making a living’ just gets in the way of ‘living a life’.
The way human society has evolved, leaves the larger portion of the population spending most of their waking hours in a struggle for survival – sure, most of us we aren’t out there dodging angry bison or hunting down dinner for our tribe, but many of us are spending the larger part of our days doing jobs we don’t like so we can earn the money to buy the food that we once hunted, gathered or grew ourselves. And then of course, there’s the mortgage (damn – those tepees and caves were way cheaper), the cars we need to get to work, the cell phones we need to talk to others on their way to work, the nice clothes we need to look like we now what we are doing, etc.
But don’t worry the financial advisors say; if you plan right (and pay me my trailing commissions) you will at least enjoy your retirement. Well, I very much doubt that that is true! If you are not enjoying life right now – I can bet you won’t be in retirement!
This topic comes down to two things: TIME and MONEY
It seems we want the former but need the latter.
Time but no money: Most of us start out with loads free time but not that much money. When we think about this time of our lives, most can probably admit to having a lot of fun. This usually relates to the time when we are growing up. Having fun, chasing lizards, building billy carts from bits and pieces we found down the local dump, and having adventures with our friends.
No time or money: This is usually when we start working in a job or becoming a fulltime student. Free time seems like a thing of the past and we can barely scrape together enough money to fill our petrol tank and pay our rent, let alone squirrel savings away that will feed us in retirement.
Money but no time: Now we are starting to get our act together financially. Our business or job is paying off and we have bought ourselves a house and have savings in the bank. We no longer have to worry about whether we can afford that trip overseas – we can, but we just don’t have the time to do it. We are a ‘fat rat’ but we are still stuck running on the wheel.
Time and money: This is the fun part. Some make it here, others sadly don’t. Usually this is when we are in semi-retirement or something like it – or perhaps we have become so successful in our business that we can spend less time doing it and still get by or even flourish.
I have NEVER subscribed to the above model. I have refused to budget, refused to ‘tow the line’, do the responsible thing, focus on tomorrow. Instead, I have lived with a sense of purpose, lived my life with passion, and really enjoyed myself in this huge playground called planet earth. When I have had absolutely no money, I was as happy and purpose driven as I am today – and didn’t suffer for it. Time, my friends, is something that both billionaires and paupers cannot get back! As my dad used to say, live for today but plan for tomorrow – but really LIVE for today. Time to go fishing with my son … cost: $2 for bait!!
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Black Belts should be held to a higher standard.
Be in better shape than most; be more accountable than most; be more well-read than most; have better relationships than most. What has that to do with martial arts, you might say? Well, it has plenty to do with ‘excellence’ – and to me, that is what the black belt should be about; living in a state of excellence that lifts you above the norm!
Whether it’s a BJJ Black Belt, a Karate Black Belt, a Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, makes no difference in terms of how high you set the standards for yourself. I do not like the trend of ‘lowering the bar’ to the point where every dysfunctional, malcontent can just walk up and step over it. I am all for raising the bar, so that people have to work, and aspire and work some more before they can develop the skills to make the leap they need to.
Renowned author Robert Kiyosaki once told me that the single biggest reason why people fail to succeed in life is because they are willing to live by the ‘good enough to get by’ credo. Oh, I eat well enough to ‘get by’; oh, I make enough money to ‘get by’; oh, my relationship is good enough so that we don’t need to get divorced; oh, I know enough about martial arts and what I do to ‘get by’ in class tonight, etc. The ‘good enough to get by’ attitude did not get us across the ocean to other lands; it certainly did not get us across space to stand on the moon; it did not inspire Helio Gracie to bring Jiu Jitsu to the professional fighting arena in Brazil; it did not help Mohammed Ali up into the ring; it did not assist Thomas Edison in his search for the electric light; and it did not inspire the legendary martial artists of out time (or any other) to take the art or their skills to the heights they did. ‘Good enough to get by’ is the credo of the mediocre. It is the first thing we need to shed, if we are to live by a standard of Black Belt Excellence.
I travel to the United States once or twice a year. I head over to instruct several hundred of Chuck Norris’s Black Belts for a couple if days in Las Vegas each year; and I head over to teach and man my booth at the MAIA Convention (a martial arts trade show) as well. The Americans are good at many things relating to business and the running of martial arts schools; most professional instructors here (myself included) can learn a great deal from them. However, each year I see more and more school owners there, talking up the concept of Black Belt Excellence, while at the same time allowing the standard of what it means to be a Black Belt to slip ad falter. I don’t want to be seen as someone getting up on their ‘high horse’ about what a Black Belt should mean – but come on, it should mean ‘Something’! I understand that this ‘slippage’ is driven by the needs of business; the easier it is for someone to get their Black Belt, the more likely it becomes that we can ‘sell’ that goal to the masses. I think I the long run, less and less people will be willing to pay for something that they perceive to have little or no value.
My feeling is that is incumbent upon some segment of the martial arts community to ‘go the other way’, and do what needs to be done to ‘raise the bar’ and lift the standards in their own particular brand of practice. Many martial arts school owners need to stop just talking about excellence and actually start delivering ‘excellence’ and expecting as much from the students. This requires work, research, a willingness to move beyond the comfort zone and some serious self-examination. This is not for everyone; it is certainly not for those who are totally content with what they have achieved, who they are, what they teach and how their schools are running; but such people are probably not reading this article in any case.
If you’re reading this article, you are the kind of person who is interested in always knowing more; in keeping yourself informed; the kind of person who may be willing to do his or her part in ‘raising the bar’ in the Australasian martial arts industry. You may not be a school owner yet, but you may well be one day in the future.
We Australians and Kiwi’s have a lot to offer the wider martial arts world. We bring a lot to the table; we are highly innovative, closely linked to and influenced by the nearby martial culture of Asia and we have retained much of the old-school training ethic that prevailed some thirty years ago. At the same time, the world has become a much smaller place over the last few decades; and this means that we as much access to cutting edge training and information as anyone else in the world. This combination of old-school training ethic, innovation and cutting-edge information sees us perfectly positioned and qualified to help ‘set the standard’ for what it means to be a Black Belt.
Be accountable – be prepared and willing to be held to a higher standard.
Train well – train smart.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
It all comes down to WHO is doing the looking. Sure, there are a set of fundamental techniques that we all should learn, before we start getting in to Omoplata’s and Crucifix’s – but it almost doesn’t matter which techniques we are looking at – if a novice is doing the looking; we call them basics – if an expert is doing the looking; we call them advanced techniques or concepts. It’s not so much about the quantity of techniques, but at how deeply we are looking into them – how many layers of the technique we can peel back to gain profound understanding.
From my own perspective, all techniques are kind of the same. In understanding the underlying bio-mechanics, physics and timings involved, they all become more fully comprehended. To me, they are all basics, in that they are made up of the same INGREDIENTS.
From my viewpoint, it is more a matter of our PERSPECTIVE being Basic or Advanced – and not so much the technique. Hope that helps …
Monday, June 01, 2009
What a weekend - or should I say, four day weekend. On thursday last, I made the trip to Tasmania to meet up with the fantastic Tasmaniacs! This time around the session was held in Hobart - and was well attended by students from both launceston and as far away as Ulverston. I really appreciated the huge effort they made to be there. After an in-depth and very technically oriented training session, we went out for a bite at a local restaurant. More wild tales were shared before it was time to say our goodbyes. What a great bunch!
The next morning, I flew back to Melbounre, waited a few hours at the airport and then to Adelaide. My good friend Darren Cartwright played host and we held our session at his brand new location in the heart of Adelaide city. Another great training session was had by all - before a few of us headed out for dinner at T-chow's - a favourite Chinese restaurant. After Peking duck and other delights, it was time for five hours sleep before getting on the dawn flight to Perth.
At perth I was picked up by BJJ black Belt and good friend Steve Stevenson, and taken to his school for the first of five seminars. After that it was over to Adam Metcalf's for another great session, and then on to Paul Marsden's for the last session of the day. We all had a great time - and lot's of learning took place.
Another nights sleep and then Steve picked me up again to head over to the Submission factory, headed up by Troy Flugge. Here I had the immense pleasure to be able to award Stacey Wilson, his BJJ Black Belt.
Stacey has trained for 12 years now - and although he has had a couple of short breaks, back in his native New Zealand and over in the UK, he has kept up his training during those times and acquitted himself admirably. Actually, the word' admirably' doesn't do Stacey justice - he is an exceptionally talented and dedicated BJJ man - and is an asset to any mat he chooses to visit. Congratulations Stacey on this milestone achievement.
After another great session we headed off to the other side of Perth for the last leg of my Perth tour, at Lance Johnson's school. We did a really fun session on Closed Guard strategies before another round of goodbyes took place and it was time to head to the airport for my flight home. Steve came in and sat with me for a bit as I waited for my flight - and we chatted about all things martial arts over a coffee.
I arrived home, after my late flight, and drive back to Geelong - at 2am this morning.
A day off today is welcome - although I used it to catch up on e-mails, this blog and a few other matters that were lurking on my desk. Time to kick back for the evening - and begin another day tomorrow.