Sunday, October 25, 2009
Self Esteem is one of the many purported benefits of martial arts training. So often is the term bantered around, that I think it has become standard phrasing for almost every martial arts pamphlet on the planet. IMPROVE YOUR SELF ESTEEM!
Well, I certainly cannot deny that improved self esteem is probably one of the most important benefits of martial arts practice – but I think that we mostly focus on our own self esteem, when thinking about the subject, and not perhaps so much on how other people’s self esteem (or lack thereof) can play a part in how they relate to us in everyday life.
A friend of mine recently pointed out an interesting thing – and it is this: No-one’s self esteem is on a continually upward trend – or for that matter, on a continually even keel. The truth of it is that our self-esteem, like everything else in life, rises and falls, dips and peeks, depending on how our lives are playing out at the time. Our health can improve or deteriorate, our relationships can improve or deteriorate, our finances can improve or deteriorate, our life-enjoyment can improve or deteriorate – everything is in a state of flux. Our self-esteem can be effected by all of these external and internal factors – and in turn, can effect how we interact with others.
You may have a very good friend for example, who normally when his or her self esteem was in good shape would take the time to compliment you on your new car, new house or new project you may be embarking on. That self-same friend though, if their self esteem is temporarily in a ‘trough’, may not only fail to compliment you on your success, but may even feel envy or jealousy and view your success as some kind of reflection of their failure. The reason behind this is simple – when someone’s self esteem is taking a pounding, they look for validation from external sources – namely, their friends and family. When their friends and family ‘fail’ – or should I say, neglect, to give them that validation, they can perceive this as a ‘mild attack – when objectively, it may be nothing of the kind.
So the moral of this blog I guess, is that when other people, students or friends seem to over-react to some imagined indiscretion that you may or may not have committed – it may well be because their Self Esteem has taken a few blows of late. So give them a little of what they need – VALIDATION – and you may well find, things will take a turn for the better.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Perhaps I should entitle this blog ... SO YOU WANNA BE A PURPLE BELT? If this is the case, be careful what you wish for.The nicest rank of all is WHITE Belt - there's no pressure, no wild and crazy expectations .... there's just training and learning. Oh, what a nice place to be!
Once you get blue belt around your waist, the pressure starts to mount. The blue belt is supposed to innoculate you against all white belt efforts ... and then, there's the dreaded purple belt. To be a purple belt is easy ... just tap out all of the blue belts! maybe on a good day, this is an achievable task ... but on other days, it can be a challenging task indeed. Those pesky blues are getting better each year.
jean Jacques Machado told me something one day, that really stuck in my head; he said "Always remember - we are NOT Supermen. Somedays we win, sometimes we lose ... and sometimes we lose to even white belts."
it is my belief that the pressures we experience as we work our way up through the ranks - are largely, self-imposed. We are, after all ... only human.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
If you begin your BJJ training with the idea of one day earning your Black Belt, I would say that you are an unusual person. For myself, the idea of earning a Black Belt was such vague notion, such a far-off goal, that in truth, I gave it little or no thought - instead, I just immersed myself in the training process - and of course, the passage of time took care of the rest. In fact, when I was eventually offered my blue, purple, brown and black belts respectively, I pleaded for more time to get my skills up to scratch!
If you start out wanting to earn a Black Belt in BJJ, you should understand that this is a very big commitment. Only the most serious, passionate and steadfast can hope to acheive this prestigious goal. I say this, not to come across as elitist - but merely to underline it as a fact.
Here is something that many people fail to consider - the commiment I am talking about, is a two-way affair: the commitment the student needs to make, and the commitment that the instructor needs to make. So there needs to be commitment on both sides. The amount of knowledge the instructor needs to impart to the student to make the completion of this journey possible, is immense. If we take that knowledge, even without taking into considration, the vast amount of mat-time needed, just the sheer number of classes the instructor needs to guide the student through - is astounding. It's hard to put a number on it - but perhaps a good 1000 classes would fit the bill. That's a load of classes for the student - yes - but it's a load of classes for the instructor as well. This is probably the biggest commitment one can make - (for teacher and student both) in the study of the martial arts.
I am sometimes astounded by the odd student, who on one hand might make a lot of noise about wanting to get their Black Belt, and how serious they are with their training - but when all they need to do is make a time to train when the opportunity is offered they fail to leap up and grab it with both hands. Perhaps I am a bit old-school - but if my instructor Rigan MAchado, called and asked if I wanted to be there at midnight - mid-winter for a session on the 'ice' - I would be there, ear-muffs in hand. Nowadays, we live in a culture of 'easiness' - fast food, fast ranking, fast finance, etc. people want things the easy way - and sadly, this is becoming the 'norm' rather than the exception.
My adfvice to any students of BJJ - if you are serious, remember this: your instructor is serious as welll - if the oppoertunity to train is presented to you - TAKE IT - with both hands and full commitment.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I have just returned from a round of seminars in Sydney ths past weekend. One particularly nice moment was when I was able to present Sam Dignam (in WIndang) with his Brown Belt. As my good friend Dave Meyer says, "You don't get a Belt in BJJ - you BECOME the belt!" Belt's are easy to get - you head to the store and hand over your $5 and you can get one of any colour you like - but to BECOME a BJJ Blue, Purple, Brown or Black Belt - well, this is another matter entirely.
The way I see it, the four different BJJ belts represent four very different stages of the students evolution ... and those stages are as follows:
BLUE: the Foundation ...
This stage is perhaps the most important in the journey as it provides the foundation upon which we load everything else we ever lear, In this stage, the student internalizes strong basics for every position on the ground. A good blue belt should have something to say about most positions that he or she will encounter during a grappling match. The better this foundation, the better the the blue belt - and as the saying goes, a technical Blue Belt will make for a technical Black Belt!
This is the 'selfish' stage of the BJJ journey. By this time, the student has been exposed to a lot of technique and strategy. From this ever-expanding storehouse of knowledge, the student is beginning to really construct a 'personal game'. He or she fully understands their preferences, and is very clear about their 'go to' techniques for all positions that occur during the groundfight. Also, by this stage, the student has some working knowledge of takedowns - as e or she feels very confient of controlling the fight once it goes to the ground. We call it the selfish stage because it is all about the construction adn development of a personal game from the vast technical dta-bank that he or she has been exposed to by that time.
This is the apprentice 'teacher' stage - and as such is anything but 'selfish'. As a Brown Belt the student has a wealth of knowledge on wide variety of positions. By this time, the student has a 'depth' of knwledge on a wide vaiety of subjects, and not just a cursory or shallow understanding. The student, by this stage, should also know a lot about positions and techniques that he or she may personally not use in their 'game' - as an apprentice 'instructor', they can expect to be asked for help from people who are developing very differnet games from those they use themselves - and so, they must understand and be able to teach things that they may not necessarily like or use themeselves. Brown Belts are really junior black belts.
This is the instructor stage. The BJJ Black Belt, should pretty much have answers to most of the problems that occur on the ground. They should have a satrong working knowledge of takedowns and be able to deal with both sporting and 'real world' assault scenarios. The Black Belt should also have efective and powerful coaching/teaching skills - and be able to bring others along the path to Black Belt. The BJJ Black Belt should also have a good understanding of how the various ground techniques and positions relate to each other, they should be able to build unique combinations and solve unusual problems - all of these skill-sets, along with a profound understanding of applied bio-mechanics and leverage make the BJJ Black Beklt one of the most prestigious, sought-after and respected martial arts qualifications. perhaps, above all though - the BJJ Black Belt has returned full circle to the 'open' and 'eager for knowledge' student mind-set - the true BJJ Black Belt knows that his or her journey is always 'just beginning'.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Drum roll please …. I shall now offer up an alternative meaning for this commonly used expression ….
At the heart of it, the martial arts environment is a social environment. As such, we develop many friendships along the way, some of them fleeting, some of them lasting a lifetime.
The friendships we all make in our martial arts lifestyle can be impacted upon by many forces – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It can be the case that we evolve into becoming the harshest critics of our close friends and family – oft times, more harsh than perhaps we would be with absolute strangers. It might be worth considering the following – alternative view …
If we have had a long-standing relationship with someone; a relationship that has been, by and large, a healthy and mutually beneficial one – then my feeling is that this gives our ‘friend’ considerable ‘CREDIT’ in the relationship bank. That is, if, for one reason or another, we have a small problem with that person (perhaps they say something or do something we don’t approve of) then we need to dip into some of the considerable CREDIT they have built up with us over the years – and let the ‘problem’ slide. I have said it before, everyone’s lives go through peaks and valleys, highs and lows – we should all develop the ability to give our friends the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when things go pear-shaped – because, if we think about it, perhaps they have built up a lot of relationship credit with us over the years – and we need to allow them to spend a little of it every now and then. If the person we have a problem with is a virtual stranger, okay – walk away from the meet – but if it is a lifelong friend – check the credit vault first – maybe they have a big pile of credit in there they will by them a ‘seasons pass’ – maybe there’s enough credit in there to buy them a ‘lifetime pass’. Give credit – where credit is due.
Best wishes all,
A rest day today - after arriving home just after 3:00Am this morning from Perth. A huge four days, with visits to Launceston in Tasmania, Adelaide and Perth. I look forward to heading back again in early february of next year. I have to say, there is such a great standard on the mat - all throughout Australia. The last seminar I took in Perth for example, saw four black belts on the mat - a paradigm shift from a decade ago, when a blue belt was considered to be the 'go to' expert. Times have changed. A big thanks to Beau Forwood, Adam Newton, Paul Butler and Stewart Clayton and the others in Tassie. Thanks to Darren Cartwright for a great night in Adelaide and dinner afterward at the ever reliable PF Chang's. Thanks to my good friend Steve Stevenson, who wont read this due to his aversion to all things technological, for driving me around in Perth. Thanks to Manfred Bohmuller - those new MMA mats are absolutely awesome - my knees send their thanks as well! Thanks to Lance and Belinda Johnson - and congratulations on your coming upgrade to a full-time premises - well done! Thanks to Paul Marsden for organizing a great class as usual - and please pass on my best to your good old dad - what a trooper! He is a wealth of old-school knowledge! Thanks to Adam Metcalf - one of the best martial artists and coaches in the country - and finally, thanks to Troy Flugge - you have such a great mat culture going at Submission Factory - its a pure pleasure to be there. Nice to see Gerald Burton-Batty and stacey Wilson on the mat as well - big bonus.
The end of the year approaches with the velocity of a speeding bullet. Where has this year gone? Time flies my friends - I don't know how it goes with you, but for me - I have to put it in my schedule if I have any hope of it happening. I think 100 people asked me these past four days - when's the third and final installment in my Rogue Black Belt series coming out? Well, I put it is my diary for the first two weeks of JAnuary. So it should be done by early next year ... time, simply, has not been on my side. I took on a few extra little jobs in this second half of '09 - and in doing so, totally blew out my schedule. More of the smae awaits me over the next sic weekends! Love it! I am though, taking mondays off! Starting ... NOW!
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Yesterday I watched an old film that I’m sure many of you have seen – Chariots of Fire - I loved that movie. For those who haven’t seen it – it focuses on the internal battles that a group of athletes must contend with in preparing for the Olympic games – and is set in the early part of last century. I’m confident in saying that anyone who runs seriously, would have to hold this movie close to their hearts.
The thing I liked most about the movie was the way it depicted the various athletes. They were all very, very different in the way they approached their competition. One was driven by an inner faith, an almost divine sense of purpose; another looked at the whole thing as a joyful experience, and win, lose or draw he ran with a huge open mouthed smile; and yet another, was driven by a burning need to win; his approach was a restless, heart-rendering affair that had little room for either joy, or faith.
I loved that about the film. The fact that each of these characters we’re all driven by very different motivators – and so it is with each of us. We are all driven to live our lives and embrace our training in different ways. For some of us, it is a deep, quiet, perhaps even a spiritual need – for others it is a form of pure joyous release – and for others again, it is a serious need to dominate, to chase after – to partake in the exercise of endless pursuit … the reasons that drive each us may well be different – but we are bonded in that we all share the ‘mat’ experience …
Sunday, October 04, 2009
If LIFE was compressed down to a day – what time would it be for you now?
For me, I would have just finished my evening meal. What! What did I just say? This is something that most people don’t want to think at all about – myself included – but hey, every now and then we should all take stock of where we are and how we are living our lives – for they are, FINITE things.
Say you will live to 75 years of age – and let’ say there are 15 waking hours in the day – how far are you through the 75 hours? Say only a third – (25 years old) – then go a third through the 15- and that means you’ve already been awake for five hours – you have already had lunch and are into your afternoon (if you slept in and woke at 9am). Don’t worry – you have till midnight till you turn into the proverbial pumpkin – but still, it makes you take notice right. Soon, you’ll be sitting down to dinner ….
The moral of this viewpoint is that we shouldn’t worry about the little things that gnaw away at us each week. We certainly shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted and overly focused on them, when there is precious LIVING to be done. The sands are running through our personal hourglasses – it is important to have clarity on what really matters to each of us. For me, the important things are time with my family, deep friendships, my martial arts training and other activities that bring me joy – also, it is important to me that I make a positive difference to the world in some way … my guess is that many of my readership have much the same kinds aspirations.
So put the small annoyances to the side and stride forward with passion and vigor. The is simply no stopping the sunset – and midnight arrives just six hours after that!
Thursday, October 01, 2009
The thing about a Rut is that the more it is used – the deeper and more entrenched it becomes. Sometimes this can be a good thing – and at other times it can be an obstacle t creativity and new thinking.
Streams follow ruts and become rivers – people live in their ruts and crystallize their lives. On the mat, we can get stuck in our ruts and limit the development of our overall game; it’s healthy, ever now and then, to jump out of the ruts we travel in and head off across new landscapes.
The seductive thing about a rut, is the familiarity it offers. We can travel along without the need for too much thought. We find comfort and security in familiarity – and we have been hard-wired to do so for a long, long time. During the course of mankind’s history, following familiar routines, living with familiar people and eating familiar foods have increased our chances for survival; but it is certainly not how new ideas and friendships were formed. Discovering the new requires that we step outside of our ruts and embrace the unfamiliar. Certainly this comes at a price, but the new experience can be extraordinarily, even profoundly rewarding.
Children never walk in the ruts. They are always experimenting without fear of consequence or ridicule. Children are natural-born explorers; we can learn a lot from how they interact with the world.
For depth, stick to the rut – for breadth, take a step to the left …