Sunday, 27 July 2014

Alcohol culture - making friends sober

I'm an adolescent at that magical age where I can finally stride up to the muscle bound doorman and pacify his alpha male complex with my ID. I feel manly as he nods me through the portal to another world.

A world where, it seems to me, my whole generation gathers. They gather in this land to consume a magic potion that can make everything and everyone cool. This potion comes in many different colours and flavours of liquid, and they guzzle this liquid because they believe it to be a social lubricant.

Because really we're all so uptight and so nervous and so scared of rejection and scared to be ourselves that we just need something. Something that's going to lower our guard. So I can let you in, and you can let me in. And if I do something unacceptable, hey come on I'm a little drunk. Everything becomes more acceptable once you get this magic potion.

The first thing noticeable stepping through the portal is the loud music, beats vibrate my whole body and bounce about my head. I feel dizzy as I gaze across the ocean of youth. Then I observe my fellow teenagers; some sitting, some dancing, some kissing, all of them drinking. They all seem to know exactly what theyre doing. I'm a foreign person who doesn't speak the native language. I'm an imposter to this world of socialising and intoxication and cigarette smoke.

The air is thinker inside here. I wade through a veil of body heat and inhale the collective cheap aftershave of 100 sweaty men. Passing a fragrant girl is like briefly taking refuge in her scent. Then I'm back into the melting pot of beer, sweat and lynx deodorant.

The seething mass of bodies has created an uncomfortably hot room temperature. A constant haze presses against my skin like an extra layer of clothing.

5 seconds pass and I realise I'm surrounded by my generation yet completely alone at the same time. I desperately scan the sea of faces for a set of features I recognise. Its coming up to a solid minute of walking round awkwardly looking for my friends. I feel the disapproving eyes of all the attractive people, they know I don't belong here. They can smell my anxiety.

Salvation. I stumble past pretty faces and smile my way through girls I'll never talk to untill finally Im stood in a circle of people I know.

Over loud, unfamiliar music I talk to my friends, I shout jokes and point out people I know, we laugh, we catch up, they drink. Sometimes I find myself uncomfortably alone and do my best not to be the creep with no mates.

As the night (and everybody's intoxication) progresses I feel more and more comfortable and care less and less about, well, anything really. Everyone's too drunk to notice how crazy Im now dancing. In fact I take advantage of that and see what outrageous moves I can pull to the delight of many intoxicated bystanders.

When I run into people I know I pull them into the fray, we jump around like loons and have a good time.

As an athlete I need to put my body and its function above a lot of other stuff in life. And my commitment has alienated me from my peers significantly. Although I exaggerated for your entertainment my level of social discomfort, I remain unresponsive and introverted in many social situations. I have always known drinking was unhealthy but used to do it anyway with a close brotherhood. We were allies and would attend house parties often, taking over music arrangements with our clearly unparalleled taste.
But as I researched more and more the effects of alcohol on the body, I found that I was unable to participate.

 Forget true self expression and forget doing shit you may regret, forget all the moral stuff and the money... It was going to damage my fight game, so I just lost interest.

Years have passed since I became the guy who doesn't drink. I have always said its not that I don't drink, just not while Im in camp, then the camp was over and I was celebrating my win. Ah Ill keep it going, Ill be competing again soon anyway, why take steps back right?

Then weeks turn to months and months to years and now I feel like even if I had the inclination to get wasted I wouldn't because of how terrified I am about damaging my meat vehicle. This vessel is all I have to depend on when I compete.
I will never have a problem loosing to a better guy. However, if Im beaten and I can say, yeah but if I skipped that night out, or if I didn't drink at that party, I could have done better; then it will be far harder to accept defeat and grow stronger.

Simultaneously, I also feel like Im missing out the nights out and parties that lead to meaningful connections to other people.
So the question is, what will I regret more on my death bed, missing the parties to train and fight, or missing the successful fights for the sake of bonds forged in a bath of alcohol and vomit?

In no way do I consider myself 'above' drinking, I have experienced how fun it can be and would never tell anyone what not to do. But just because everyone does it, it doesn't mean its not weird.

'May you always do what you are afraid to do' -Elliott Hulse

' All I'm trying to say, is if you were to look from the outside looking in where would you begin?'- Newton Faulkner.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Self (Un) awareness, mediation and becoming gods

You know something is working properly when you don't even notice its function.
In the old saying, when you do something right, people wont know you've done anything at all.

This is one of the underpinning features of the universe and consciousness. 
What of the human body and its organs? If they all work properly and fully, you cant feel them busy at work. You cant feel your eyes seeing, you cant feel the rods and cones organising your sight in the retina. You cant feel your kidneys filtering waste from the blood, or the intestinal wall deriving the chemical nutrients from your food. Indeed, when all is in harmony and perfect, attention is absent.

When systems malfunction however, that's when we notice they are there. After a loud music concert, you can hear your ears, the ringing. You damage an organ and you can feel it, you can feel its place in your body, you notice its presence.

The same is true for we humans and consciousness. When all is in harmony, there is no sensation of I. The human forgets its individual self when it is in perfect harmony with the environment.
Like a raindrop of consciousness falling back into the  ocean.  Or to put it another way, the consciousness can be likened to  flood light rather than spot light. This forgetting of the 'self' as an individual and separate being is meditation. It doesn't have to be achieved by any effort, though it can be, via the traditional Buddhist and Hindu ways. Where you sit comfortably and perhaps adopt the lotus position and practice one of hundreds of techniques designed to calm the mind. Ultimately trying to forget yourself.

However it is also happening when you are completely and fully absorbed in a task. You become one with the universe, you are on a sort of auto pilot but you are still thinking rationally, clearly; perhaps the clearest you ever think. Your attention is not divided, it is fully on the task in hand. You are no longer self aware.

So where has the 'I' gone in situations like these? Is it merely forgotten? If so by whom? Perhaps it was never there in the first place and the universe is playing the Dean Pattinson game through my physical body, and the Joe Bloggs through yours. Perhaps, conciseness is external and received rather than generated internally by our biochemistry. Here we can use the analogy of the relationship between a radio and the songs coming out of the speaker being the same as that of the human body and consciousness.

Is all well and good to daydream about personal identity being a total illusion.
However conscious attention is what has brought us to our current point. Although it was arguably a mistake, (becoming self aware may be likened to forbidden fruit/knowledge in the garden of Eden perhaps) it has helped us learn a lot.

The scientific information we have become conscious of in our evolution was still true when we didn't even have fire. The advantage of being conscious of universal physical phenomena is that we can use it. For what? Well whatever we want really, pointless stuff, utilitarian stuff like being able to travel great distances, or share information with millions of other people.

We are currently in the age of manipulating our environment to suit our taste. If we want to be hotter, we make it hotter. Colder? Ditto. We find a place with too many trees and a few weeks later its flat open land, another week later, there's crop covering the horizon or a factory, or a farm, or a factory farm!

Manipulating the dna of other organisms has been common practice for decades now, how long before a procedure whereby we can alter our own genes to suit taste is made safe and accessible to the public?

I guess the point Im trying to make here in my long winded way is that we are kind of playing god by learning and knowing how to manipulate the fabric of our environment.

Are we trying to become gods?
Would it be better had we never evolved such a high level of awareness? If so why? Is our species wide, subconscious goal of achieving god like control over our environment dangerous?
Food for thought, fellows

A case against weight cuts in combat sport

Were all familiar with the various weight categories in combat sports. Their purpose is to avoid mismatches and David vs goliath-esque situations. Simple enough and quite logically sound. This post is not against weight classes at all, I fully agree with their necessity in combat sports.
In this day and age though, with our knowledge of how to manipulate the body and its hormones we find that David vs goliath-esque situations are far from uncommon. 

This occurs when two opponents are matched at an agreed weight but one uses water manipulation to give an illusory low body weight. If these professional athletes were to fight immediately after getting weighed my comparably minute skills would be enough for me to run rings round them.

The acute dehydration is very taxing to the body, even small levels of water loss that happen naturally impair performance a surprising amount. So massive water loss by manipulation of body heat would leave the athlete no more able to perform  than a small toddler.

However, almost all professional fighters have to go through this unhealthy weight loss. Because its just what everyone else is doing. Which is to say that if I look for an opponent classed as my natural weight of 80kg the only dudes id find were 95kg powerhouses who have learned to cut down to 80 for a brief time.

If everyone just agreed to compete at their natural weight, there would be no problems with weigh ins but todays top guys are cutting 20 lbs of water weight so they can technically tip the scales for a brief amount of time at that lower weight and consider themselves part of that class. This is cheating, im my eyes but because everyone's doing it, cutting weight has become as much a part of competing in combat sports as the training itself!

I have competed numerous times and experimented with numerous techniques, from the long term hardcore diet to last minute sweating procedures. Both of which depleted my 'chi' if you will, and left me no energy to train. I was more concerned with with the weigh in for the weeks leading up to the fight, stopping me from getting my head im the game and basically sapped all the enjoyment out of the sport because i needed enough calories to train hard but few enough to remain in deficit.  As for the last minute water cutting favoured by todays top guys, the goal is to spend as little time as possible at the target weight. This did allow me to train harder and not constantly worry about food but the dehydration (nothing like the pros, a mere 4kilos) was poorly timed because of my inexperience and i spent longer than necessary in a dehydrated state, and probably didn't refuel properly. So god only knows if I was performing at maximum out put that night.  

The moral of the storey is that if you feel strong, and youre blasting through gym sessions and destroying the sparring, you are at full fitness. Your body is loving what you're putting in and your fight game is flourishing from the out put.


My logic from now on is that yes, I may well have to fight a bigger opponent, but i will feel strong and weight related stress free right up to fight night and he has had to expend some of his valuable chi, dehydrating or starving himself or both, which will make him uncomfortable and unable to perform to his physical best.
If I had my way, weigh ins would be an hour before the fight, forcing people to be honest.

Rant over! Thankyou for coming. X

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Knowing when your ego is in control

The ego is our identity as we perceive it. Within the ego, the mind, resides our self image. It consists of all the attributes we must live up to and the expectations that have been heaped upon us; like a crippling load callously strapped to a mule's  back. Even his strong hardy legs shake with the effort of supporting it.

Indeed we stumble through life learning who we are from other people, because we don't really have any idea. And by the same token we easily see who others are, and we tell them.

So our ego identity is constructed by other peoples interpretations of our actions....(oh youre the boxer, your the guy who reads, you must be very clever, you eat really healthy stuff, you must know a lot about diet, wow your muscles are huge, youre ace at playing poker, you have so many jokes....etc.... All assumptions and judgments, some born of admiration, others of jealousy others dislike...

And we are for some reason charged with the responsibility of its maintenance.... (oh i didn't expect that from you...youre not acting yourself recently.....what's gotten into you.....) It's like people are saying 'Oh no, Fred that's not how you behave. You behave like this.'

And they are saying this because they have spent time and effort to construct a Fred they know, the least you could do is continue to be him. Now they have to re-adjust, change the judgements, add more details, more information and people would rather have you in their little box that says 'Fred' and you are the perfect fit for that box. They don't like making new boxes or having to alter the shapes of their boxes... Nobody has time for that!

However the ego, or box, or self image, or *insert clever metaphor here* is a two way thing. You have to agree with it, or maintain it or be that mule supporting the load. So we act, speak and look in a certain way that we think we ought to. We don't know why we need to act in this way. Only that its who we are, its our identity.

We need first to remember that our identity is created primarily by our actions and then by how people interpret them. The duty of its maintenance does not exist; we only feel it as a need to conform to expectation.

So to bring this into k1 or combat sports in general, how do you know when your ego has inflated to the point of interfering with your training?

Usually this occurs in sparring sessions. My experience has been that it shows when I start to think I'm better than some folks at the gym. This is not the problem in and of itself. I am a more capable fighter than some of the guys there, the problem is when I have to start proving it. Either to myself, to the other guys themselves who I am supposedly better than, or to people watching.

At this point, I start taking shots, light, easy stuff to see coming but the misty vision of the ego mind obscures certain things. Why an I taking simple shots? I'm way better than Joe bloggs he should not be tagging me like this! More shots taken from rookies. I start to reason, everyone has their off days, you just need to chill, stop being so uptight. Not for a second do I consider their skills might be improving a little...

Back to more advanced partners, feeling annoyed at having made so many stupid mistakes with the rookies...
I up my game, begin landing my own shots and eventually see a big opening and take it, for a split second my ego has an orgasm as my shin lands on a good friend's head. He shakes it off because we're used to taking big bombs from each other. Then I just feel like a bum hole.

The hurting your sparring partners is an easy way to know that youre trying to prove something, there is no need for such intensity when sparring that your shots can cause injury.
The second way I find I'm ego-sparring is when I just get my arse kicked by every single partner. Rookies, usual partners, advanced guys, my coach. I catch myself coming from a place of worrying about their opinions of me.
Desperate not have them out-perform me or look down on me.

This is a weak place to come from in training. But it has happened a few times to me. I can not explain why, a mixture or pride and misguided self image mixed in with my arsehole side and boom, ego trip.

It is important therefore that when we find our ego has grabbed the steering wheel and we are not being authentic in our thoughts, words and actions that we get beaten up in sparring. Or loose badly against our rival football team, or get beaten at tennis by the new kid, or get submitted by the white belt at jiu-jitsu.

All these things deflate the ego and remind us of the strongest place to come from in our thoughts words and actions. Which is a willingness to learn.

If we are acting in a certain way to maintain our self image we know the ego is in control. But back when the self image was made, when people saw what you did and interpreted it in a certain way, who was behind the wheel then? What was their agenda?

That person had nothing to uphold and so the action was authentic. You're not playing to the crowd when you dance in the shower but when out in public the 'self image boxes' must be ticked

Common ones include....
Tough guy
Strong guy
Up for anything
Always drunk
Always sober
Loves drugs
Hates drugs

All of these are personality traits that we may have displayed on a single occasion. But once they are assigned to us by others they become, for no reason at all, a chore to keep as a part of who we are.

In training for any combat sport, do not allow your 'self' (ego) to think its better than any one, everyone has something to teach you, be willing to learn. (Then tomorrow, be unwilling to learn if the subject doesn't excite you ;).
Well done if you read all that

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Releasing Demons and the magical 'Cheat Day'

Nutrition and training.
They are a part of our lifestyle. And to get close to the health and vitality our ancestors had we need to be more conscious of both nutrition and training than they ever were.
They thought nothing of counting calories, eating clean, corrective stretching, warm ups, cool downs, high intensity training vs low level cardio blah blah blah. This because food was scarce; they hunted and gathered everything they could, and shared what they found, any calories were greatly accepted.

There was no processed or junk food, and no corporate media. Their only choice was to find and eat natural food. They ate their food raw and probably cooked some of it, but in general their bodies were not exposed to the chemical onslaught we face from birth and their minds were not bombarded with advertisements from junk food companies.

So we need to be ultra vigilant to fuel our meat vessels with what they were designed to use. It takes a significant amount of our life energy, effort, chi, if you will to eat and train right.

This means that over time demons build up. By demons I mean the voices telling you it will be fine to just quickly have some toast, one chocolate bar cant hurt. These minor inconvenient duals are easily won. The thoughts turn into wow that looks soooo good but I know its sooo bad for me. Id love to join you in that take away but id rather cook for myself thanks.  Ah go on then, no, no ill only regret it. I have found that I can go for months on a volley of victories and near misses with the devils of my appetite. Eventually my energy is run down and the war gets boring, WE FORGET WHY WE MAKE the choices. 

So rather than give in to temptation, I suggest something better...
Exercise the demons and remember the reasons for the choices you make.
To do this you need to throw caution to the wind and simply eat anything and everything you fancy. Eat because you can with reckless abandon! Revel in the supposed pleasures of consumption. Cookies, baked goods, pastries, a bun heavily laden with processed meat and fuck loads of salad cream. Toast and mother fucking margarine. Consume obscene amounts of cereal in the biggest bowl you can find. These are the things I have to spend my chi saying no to every day. For you it might be mac Donald's, fried fast food or biscuits.

Expelling demons is a personal thing, whatever it is that plagues you, that's your port of call brothers! For me its sugary baked stuff and heavy carbs like cereal and cereal bars man! Cereal bars till the cows come home!
I spend one day and one day only indulging in my carb craziness...
In the after math I remember fully and completely the reason I don't live this way every day. I feel like absolute shit. My body is flooded with toxins, overloaded in fact. The sudden surge of chemicals in the processed pleasures I submerged myself in had basically crippled me.  I felt like a corpse, I had head aches, stomach cramps, and my shits went weird as fuck, with my bowels having an extremely adverse reaction to the abuse. And in spite of the technical chemical energy that was going in, my body was not equipped to use it as fuel. Having been used to receiving its natural and optimal fuel for so long there was no way it was going to take kindly to this bullshit.

So now for quite a while all I will think of when I see the cereals, the bread buns, the ham sandwiches, flap jacks and Paninis, is pain, misery and lacking  energy. This is obviously a massive help in the ongoing battle for optimal nutrition.

Give it a try, work out your best fuel, focus your diet around it and see the results. Then observe the demons creep in. Then, instead of giving up control and caving in, choose to gorge yourself in a controlled manor. The beauty is that there is no guilt!

Have trust in the fact that because you have worked so very hard and been so very vigilant up to now, you wont suffer for very long and your athletic performance will not suffer in the slightest, as opposed to the weakly cheat meal, that builds up toxins and an inherent weakness where to get by you must have your share of junk, and that junk is soooo good man.

Well perhaps my method also shows my weakness, this is a perfectly viable claim but after I've had my cheat day, I can think of nothing more vile and atrocious than eating my demon foods; while after your cheat meal, you cant wait for the next one.

'This is just advice, do whatever the fuck you wanna do' - Elliott Hulse

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Enjoying yourself?

Lately I've been neglecting one of my fundamental principles of life; don't take it too seriously! 

Although we as a species no longer face the same sources of physical and mental stress our ancestors had to, we are nonetheless equally stressed in our day to day lives.

There are deadlines, there are people to impress, your health to consider, money to manage, a myriad of daily choices between right and easy in all aspects of life, and that's just when we are young!

While I understand the necessity to be conscious and alert to who you are allowing yourself to be moulded into by the world; it is equally important to realise we can't control everything.

There are a great deal of things we let ourselves worry about despite the fact that that theyre beyond our influence. If you find that you are becoming stressed or feel that other happier people seem to give less fucks than you, ask yourself; 'Can I change this situation to make it preferable?'  If the answer is no, why worry? If the answer is yes, take action.

 I am not trying to say life is always black and white, I am simply dancing with the idea that we should accept that its not.
Many people embark on a mental road of deep thoughts and complex ideas. Some make a career out of thinking such thoughts, others just have brief insights when they zone out in the shower.  Am I more than just my body? What is this essence that looks out through my eyes? Am I more than what Alan Watts referred to as 'a skin-encapsulated ego'. Does my skin separate me from other beings?

These ideas and a million others like them  usually lead back to simple ideas about 'the meaning of it all'...

We will probably never know. Sure enough we can breathe meaning into our lives of our own accord, there are endless options open to us...
 We can create our own truths rather then seeking some greater authority.

Or we can whole heartedly accept what world religions tell us. An advantage of this is that our curiosity can be poured into other places if we have the whole universe thing locked down. 'Right I'm happy that Allah is behind all this and I need to embrace this guy or whatever to be happy, now I can go learn about rally driving or the ins and outs of snowboarding technique etc' obviously I am exaggerating this idea but the point is constantly wondering about the meaning of life can be a cumbersome, thought-consuming habit and having a set truth in that area can free up room for other ventures!

We may also reject all previous knowledge and make our own ideas up.
We can commit our lives to figuring this thing out and enjoy the endless pondering!

In spite of all the options of how to interpret our reality; in the end we come back to the idea that one course of action is as good as another.
We are just an experiment.
This isn't a serious thing. This whole thing is more akin to a game or a dream or a piece of music than something that is purposeful and utilitarian.

We don't need to do anything in particular.

So then, we eventually liberate ourselves from the fallacy that we NEED to do something.
With this comes the freedom to choose to do something we enjoy. We can take a far more light hearted approach to life.

If I didn't enjoy training you would not  find me in a gym every night. If I found reading interesting things unfulfilling i would not read.
We all have the freedom to be involved with what we happen to enjoy and to avoid what we don't enjoy.

Avoiding certain types of food is neither bad nor good it's just someone who dislikes it keeping away from it. The implications are also neither here nor there, simply the echoes of different choices.
Should we exercise every day?
Should we do what everyone else does?
Do your parents know best?
Is it okay to gorge on so called unhealthy food?
Should we all be monogamous?

These questions all appear to have moral implications and one might build up a picture of a person simply from their answers to these questions.

Yet in time and through deep thought we all eventually come to realise that different choices are just different ways. Facing any choice in life we may want to consider that both regret/unhappiness and fulfilment/joy will be present either way. So don't take things so seriously! 

Through experiments I have found a way of living that I find quite enjoyable. I have discovered that although it's not easy, it is  in my best interests to keep my body in good condition, and to learn about how it works, which is also interesting to me.

If you feel the deep visceral need to change your situation because you are unhappy, hard work is necessary, but in your zeal to transfer to a different situation that is more preferable to you (not 'improved' or 'better', these descriptions are subjective) remain light hearted and open, to ideas, love and joy.

It is quite plausible that we are all dreaming. It is also quite plausible that we were created by a higher being who suffered a 7 day burst of creativity, who smiled after his 7 says of work and said 'it was good'.

Most importantly be open to the fact that everything you believe may be completely incorrect.

All we can do after all these deep thoughts about the meaning of life, the universe and consciousness is laugh.

Because we have arrived at a conclusion we were unconsciously aware of all along! But only after these conversations with ourselves and others can we consciously appreciate it. 

'Its cool being alive and shit and I enjoy being conscious, aware and confused' 

Going with this underlying 'non-serious' approach to life, surely it makes sense to enjoy your time here? Bringing it back to the title of this post; does it not make sense that having chosen our belief or at least having established a vague personal idea about life, we should at the very least enjoy ourselves? 
The only options out of the thousands before you that are definitely immoral are those that involve hurting other participants in this game.
Anything beyond this is cool, do whatever takes your fancy. And if you want something in particular, put the effort in and its yours.

'I have a good job, I am well payed, I have a big house, full of the latest technology, I have a good retirement plan, a car that inspires envy, my job gives me financial security, I can support my family'

All aspects of a successful fellow correct? Perhaps, but only as long as he is happy when he wakes up on Monday morning and smiles at the week ahead of him. Life should be less of a balence between work and play, and more of a fun game that at different times yields happiness and strife, but mostly happiness.
So stress less and and enjoy more.

Bad times are needed to appreciate the good

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Why do we feel awkward? Are we all really good actors?

'I don't know how to act in these situations'

An interesting sentiment I heard recently... Are we so uncomfortable with exposing our true selves to people? Are we so caught up with how people see us that we have a mask for every situation? I believe so and it may be the cause of dreaded 'awkwardness'. 

I draw attention to this question because of the unconscious way this problem is worded 'I don't know how to ACT in this situation'. When we find ourselves in situations we are unfamiliar with, we have no idea what persona to portray, we have little or no experience in this situation and so we don't know how to show ourselves to others in a way that is resourceful to us.

This feels awkward and uncomfortable because we are left with nothing but who we actually are, the face beneath the many masks. And going about our business without a mask of some description to protect ourselves is something we do so little that it feels very uncomfortable, we feel naked and exposed and so we often freeze up.

Because we are so used to shrouding them in our everyday lives so that people look at us how we want them to look at us, when the time comes to remove the mask or when we don't have one; we struggle to find words that do our real emotions justice. I have experienced this is in that I can talk for ever about the menial things of life but when I find myself alone with some people, my usually talkative brain almost shuts off and refuses to come up with interesting things to say. And isn't it also strange that we feel a need to fill the silence?

Many of us know this as awkwardness.
As long as there is a difference between the way we behave with one set of people and the way we are with others, there will always be awkwardness somewhere in our lives. The best method to avoid it? Be the same weirdo in every situation regardless of the consequences.
'Hakuna Matata - no worries' - Lion King

Sunday, 16 February 2014


What is fear? And what is courage? Are there different types of fear? Does everybody have the capacity for courage?

Competing for the first time? Boxing? Kickboxing? Muay Thai? MMA? Can you feel the gut wrenching fear eating you up inside? 
I know you can and those who have competed more than once know that (sorry to disappoint) it will NEVER go away, no matter how many times you compete.

The technical definition of fear refers to emotions of anxiety and stress regarding an imminent threat; characterised by a sympathetic nervous system response (increased heart rate, breathing rate and rapid thought processes). When under direct threat this is the well known fight or flight response to danger. But we are going to discuss the anxiety fighters feel in anticipation of their bout.

The first step in dealing with fear is to realise that it is not synonymous with the weak or cowardly... In what way is it courageous to do something that doesn't scare you in the slightest? The answer is that it is not. And courage can only be exercised if there is fear; the two go hand in hand.

After this realisation there comes a choice; do we evade the fear, so that it cannot harm us? Or do we expose ourselves to it, and place ourselves at its mercy, so to speak. You see, many of us flirt with facing our fears, and dance with our fears and generally get through life trying to think, as a snooker or pool player might, numerous steps into the future. We try to perceive how events might unfold should we take a particular course of action. This perception was vital to us when we were struggling to survive on the African grasslands during our species' infancy, but now we have less need for forward thinking and more need for simply forward 'doing'. Trying to imagine how our choices may bring us further from or closer to our fears is both futile and unhelpful.

It is unhelpful because it robs us of the present moment. Which is the only time we have to act. And if we spend our moment, our present thinking about fear then fear is 'winning' for want of a better word. It is immobilizing us and stopping us from acting.
It is futile because there is no possible way to calculate every possibility and weigh up the pros and cons of each.

It might be said that the fear fighters experience is more of a phobia; which means an irrational fear. Because what exactly is it that we get scared of? Humiliation? Well not for me because I know the people that matter in life will never think less of me for being beaten.
The fear of pain, or injury perhaps then? Well again for me Ive suffered more damage sparring heavy with big dudes than I've ever taken during a proper bout.
Maybe we get scared of actually losing itself then, but why specifically? We cant put our fingers on it can we? Hence the definition of irrational fear, we have nothing to be frightened of.

But this is not the point, I know. The fact is we DO get scared, maybe anxious is a better choice of word. And how to deal with these emotions is the real reason youre reading.
Id like to regurgitate an idea I got from Alan Watts who in better words than I have, told the storey of a man who asked a zen master 'Its hot, its hot and how do I escape the fire?'. To which the master replies 'go to the bottom of the furnace'
'but how to escape the flames?' the man presses, wondering what the master means. 'Go to the heart of the furnace and the flames can do you no worse'

I cant remember the exact quote so I apologise for that but the basic idea is that by exposing ourselves to our worst fears we become free from them. I have yet to loose (touch wood!) but some say that it is important for new fighters to suffer a loss early on, that they may be free from the paralysing fear of defeat. Because when the worst case scenario occurs there is nothing left but the choice to give up there and then or carry on with the sport and exercise a determination to improve. This is understandable and maybe Id be a better fighter today if I had lost terribly in my first bout. 

So lets try some fearful forward thinking for a moment shall we? Its your first fight and everyone who matters to you is going to watch, you feel their expectations weighing you down as you step in the ring or cage. Why cant you seem to move very fast, and why does your opponent look so fast and strong? The bell goes and your training goes out the window, you are knocked out in the first round and wake up surrounded by friends and family.
Your best friend comes and says, bloody hell man my nanna could have lasted longer and you all have a good laugh. Did the world end? Did you die? Did you suffer agonising pain? Are you injured beyond recovery? Did your family disown you? Did your friends disown you?

The only person let down by a poor performance is you. And you have the power to improve, so no sweat. Get back to training, and be better. And don't make any excuses. The most important sentiment is 'enter the ring with no excuses because then you know if you come up short it was because the dude was simply better, and that's okay'. 
So, irrational fear of defeat! Train hard, challenge yourself, be better than you were yesterday, give your all 24/7 and by the time you get to round one, youre in the zone doing your thing, there's no time for fear; only doing what we love.

People often ask why I smile so much when Im competing, and its because I love what I do, if you're not loving it then why are you there? It just so happens that I have an irrational fear to face everytime, which is a bit of an annoyance. But hey; if I wasn't shit scared, I wouldn't be very brave now would I.

'There is no underlying meaning to this thing, the universe. It isn't really going anywhere or doing anything, it just expresses itself and explores itself by way of all the things that are going on. There is no meaning, just as a piece of music has no meaning other than itself, if it was going somewhere, the best songs would be fastest ones' - Alan Watts

Friday, 14 February 2014

Hard Science vs Spiritual Bullshit?

Going to take things a little bit deep today with my attitude when I hear or read people arguing about whether science disproves religion or vice versa. My ideas on this subject are not complete and I expect them to evolve as I get older and learn more about the world.
Throughout history there has been, and there continues to be a struggle of those who find their truth in scientific fact against those who put their faith in the inexplicable. But which side is correct?

I would start by drawing attention to the idea that scientists and those who put stock in the physical and chemical laws we have uncovered need to have as much faith as people who choose for themselves a more spiritual reality. They have to be okay with not knowing all of the answers. From the beginning of the universe to its end, all of the biggest questions in science started as pure mysteries. The truths we know well today like gravity, electromagnetism and the production of ATP in our bodies' cells would have once been inconceivable, sounding ridiculous to the closed mind. Hopefully this information has removed the stereotypes of scientists being narrow minded boring and unwilling to see another perspective. As seeing another perspective is their only way of progression.

Now let's address an issue that has plagued humans for centuries; science and spirituality.
I'd like to introduce the idea that these two are deeply connected. Two sides of the same coin, if you will, or different ways of seeing the universe.

The world we live in won't change, regardless of how we choose to think about it right?
Wrong. Quite simply we become, and our world becomes what we think about. This means that if you choose to see wonder, magic and adventure these things will become a larger part of your perceived world. There are as many different worlds as there are people. If you choose to think about mediocrity and predictability, then your thoughts will manifest in the shape of your reality.

How are science and spirituality linked?
We are familiar with the term prayer. This is the act of consciously willing something to take shape in our reality. It can take the form of a conversation with god, or Allah or the universal consciousness. To those of us who are not identified with a religion it is known as positive thought.

It has been common knowledge in science  for quite a while that our thoughts have a frequency, a very specific frequency, like a signature of sorts.  This has been demonstrated in many different ways in many different studies which i do not care to list.
This is an interesting fact but not really life changing.

What makes this fact important is a recent discovery that DNA responds to frequency in ways that seem fantastical or even implausible, yet studies and experiments have ascertained   beyond reason that DNA can be altered by directing different frequencies at it.
This essentially means that we can change our very being with the power of our minds. Frequencies and vibrations also interact with one another, sometimes changing each other. IE, we can change our surroundings just by choosing to think about them positively. Others will react positively to your frequency and carry the love into their lives, resulting in a butterfly effect of goodness.

I am not blind to how funny, ridiculous, hysterical or even delirious this sounds, yet  we are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between what religions have been fundamentally saying for thousands of years and the nature of our world and human physiology/biology (science)
 The two are intertwined and can be interchanged in many applications.

For example, why is it that when we commit our very being to achieving a goal we are rewarded?  When we give everything we have and crawl through pain and suffering to realise an ideal why we are rewarded so richly? This could be a physical/athletic goal, a relationship, getting a job, taking exams.
The reason could be that because you were spiritually immersed in your goal and the actions you needed to take; the work you had to do was such that there was no other option but success. Basically you became, for a brief time the embodiment of someone who succeeds in that particular field. The work you did was done on meditation, you were not thinking, just doing things that would move you towards your goal without weighing up the cost. And god or the universe or Allah smiled at your work. Karma was in your favour and you were rewarded with the realisation of your goal...

Very deep right?
Issac newton succinctly says 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction' what you put into life, you get out. As we sow, so shall we reap. The metaphors and age old sayings go on and on, the world religions, at their most basic concepts, and science both describe the same phenomena.

So next time youre bashing the Muslims and christians and sikhs with 'big bang' this 'string theory' that and 'evolution' the other, remember that we may never know all the answers. So nobody's way of seeing the world may ever be 100% how the world actually is. Be okay with that.

I'm not writing this to try and say which parts of the many world religions are right and wrong, I only wish to direct your attention at how fundamentally, they are not only reflections and interpretations of each other, but of science as well.

Be grateful for your moment to wonder about why we are here, where we came from and where we are going, if we will ever conquer outer space, if there's life out there.

 And find it awesome that you are as old as time itself!

"The human mind is like the rich soils of our earth, whatever seed you plant will grow; be it a deadly poisonous plant or nourishing crop. The mind, like the earth is indifferent to what seeds we allow to be planted, all shall grow" - unknown

Thursday, 23 January 2014

5 Fighter stereorypes!

Fighters of all the different styles out there; from K1 to Thai boxing, to kickboxing, mma and regular western boxing, are subject to many stereotypes and judgements brought about by television, film, media and perhaps a few well known cases that fit the bill. My goal today is to help clear the air and inform you lovely people that there is a lot more to those who practice martial arts than a snarling face and an athletic build.
So here are a few myths or fallacies I would like to dispel.

1- When we are out and about, we are the first to join in a scrap or even look to instigate them...
I have suffered this stereotype many a time having been present when alcohol fueled arguments and fights begin. "Oh yeah i bet you're awesome at street fighting, you do all that ufc don't you, what would you do if someone started with you? Blah blah blah. What people should understand is that we, like most people do not enjoy being in situations full of hate, pain and anger. Another way of looking at it could be that our lifestyles are full of violence by choice, we choose to be involved in sports that are violent. There's no way around this fact. Now every fighter is different but I think my attraction to the sport is because I feel most alive when fighting/sparring. I can observe more in a small amount of time and my body enters a higher state almost, like time is slowed for all but me. Of course in reality it is the hormones like adrenaline and other chemical reactions happening inside me, all to helping me survive and avoid death. For many, the fight or flight reaction/state is short lived, unpleasant and irregular. But fighters are not only used to the way the body acts when under threat, they crave the feeling. The senses are enhanced, the mind is quiet, the body is having a very potent experience. This is what draws me in, not the damage I am able to do to my fellow man. So if opportunities for fighting outside of the sport arise I will usually be the first to remove myself from the situation. I will avoid, for want of a better word, 'real' fighting at all costs; yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir I'm sure you would beat me to a pulp. Saying sorry in situations when you are clearly the one who has been wronged is an attribute many think is synonymous with the weak. But just what if I decided to participate in this petty brawl? People will get injured, I could get injured, police, hospitals all unnecessary hardship... Whereas I could have made a friend out of this person/people by backing down and letting them have their ego boost.
Notice after competitive fights, the combatants hug and shake hands and show nothing but love and respect for each other? There is a lot of love flowing round that ring or cage, friends. Whereas out in your bars, down back allies and on streets there is nothing but hate pain and suffering. Two very different types of fighting.

2 - We enjoy hurting people
As before, I can not speak on behalf of every fighter who has ever lived but from my experience I can tell you that inflicting maximum pain is not our goal. The techniques we use in the sport cause physical pain to the opponent a lot of the time, but this is just the nature of the sport. So when I am asked why I didn't enjoy that video on youtube where the kid gets beaten to a pulp, or why I do not care for the armed forces and armies that we spend billions of dollars/pounds on; it's because I am repulsed by man's inhumanity to man. How can people justify killing each other? This is not a post about my opinions on war and politics, I'll save that rant for another time, but my point is that the main objective of fighters is to prove themselves better than their former self, this has nothing at all to do with inflicting pain.

3 - We are not clever enough to invest our time elsewhere
I am always slightly disappointed when people who have come to know me as a fighter are taken aback by my interest in learning. I invest my time in training because I want to become stronger and because I feel attracted to the sport. I consider myself very lucky to have many opportunities open to me. Some boxers are left with barely another option to survive other than to make it big in the fight world. So it becomes a prison rather than a passion. I am grateful that the decisions I make are mine, some do not have the luxury of being truly in charge if their lives. So while we enjoy our sport, please do not mistake us for people who can't learn, or that we performed poorly at school. How very surprised people seem when I introduce them to the books I read, the websites I frequent. This all seem so complicated! I didn't know you were clever! To which I would answer that cleverness is the individual' ability to approach problems, more than it is the amount of complicated information they remember, but yes I know shit! And yes enjoy learning new and interesting shit!

4 - We fight because we just need to let out all our uncommonly high levels of aggression and anger
Everybody builds up aggression and anger. It's not wrong or right, it is simply how we are, because expressing how we feel at EVERY single moment can prove un-resourceful sometimes. The urge to fling that insult, the urge to have sex with another girl when you are in a relationship, that random erection you only just managed to hide. All these things are natural occurrences but we have to stuff them down and not fully express them because it will not benefit us to do so. This leads to a build up of unexpressed energy.
It is important then, that we find a way to release this pent up emotion. There are a great many things you can pour your energy into, running, athletics, football, riding bikes, playing music, lifting heavy stuff, jumping out of planes! People like myself are drawn to fighting competitively. This is because when we bottle up emotion, regardless of what emotion it was at the time, stuffing it down causes resentment inside us because we were not able to express it. So yes, physical activity can be used to release our built up energy. Yet this build up of energy is true of everyone, athletes have just found that their sport helps with its release. I ask you to consider that people who make no effort, conscious or otherwise to release their built up energy are usually very unhappy, aggressive individuals, people who use their passion partly as a tool to let out all these things that happen inside of them are gentle and calm.

5 - We despise and wish to inflict maximum pain and suffering on our opponents.
In spite of what many people think, fighters have more respect for the opponent they have known for all of half an hour than they probably have for some people they have known for years. How can you have anything but love and respect for a person who not only shares some of your interests but also who allows you to test your skill and pushes you to your limits. When someone gets knocked out for example, there is empathy from the winner because they would not want to be in that situation, there is gratitude for both being able to win and for the opponent for forcing them to take it to the next level. This is more than can be said for so called fans of the sport who offer nothing but jeers and laughter and lesser opinions. My heart goes out to all the fighters who put everything they have into training and competing and still suffering agony of loosing. Do not mistake that for pity, we never really loose, we only learn how to get better. 
The stereotype that fighters hate their opponents is quite simply wrong. Apart from the fact that we have no reason whatsoever to dislike them, our opponents are just people we play with at the end of the day, new opponent, new friend.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Paradox Of Percieved Peace

Have you ever been fully at peace? Did you find that in the absence of anything to do your mind began to fester, you became restless? This is because man is at his strongest, his best and in his most alive state when he is uncomfortable; when there are problems to overcome. It has been my experience that when I'm not at my best, when I have a small injury or when I am feeling sore I can get into  the 'zone' quicker and easier. When my mind has begun to stagnate in times that are too easygoing, when there is nothing challenging to occupy me, I find it hard to enter that meditative state. And K1 really is a form of meditation; depending of course, on your interpretation of the term meditation. To me it is the waking body in absence of conscious thought. This is a state fighters enter when they are sparring or competing, they do not act, they react.
Returning to the point about man only being truly happy, truly alive when he is uncomfortable; I think that strife and struggle is an inherent part of our being. Don't get me wrong, times when there are no worries are good, arguably essential, because of the dualistic nature of our world. But if these periods are prolonged and your soul faces no challenges, you have no obstacles. To over come and so you begin to seek a way, consciously or perhaps subconsciously, back out of tranquility. What is the reason for this paradox? In trying to overcome problems we are essentially striving for times of peace and no worries. Yet upon reaching such a point we find that these times fuel our desire to face adversity or to have fun and experience crazy times.
The paradox is that the sought after solution fuels the problem.
I put it to you that our struggles in life are not just obstacles but lessons. And that our purpose here is to learn. If you are bored or unoccupied it could mean you have stopped learning.
With regards to what it is we are here to learn, I can offer no solid idea and only my abstract opinion, whatever use it is to you. Perhaps we are here to learn about ourselves, and what better way to do that than the tests and trials of life? If you haven't failed recently or have not tried anything new, you have lost the connection to yourself, Miserable people do not know their own mind. I for example have found that indecision is one of the most difficult things to deal with. Better to make a choice and if it transpires that you were better off taking a different path then change your path! So it is undoubtedly advantageous to know ourselves. It is difficult because we cant easily see ourselves objectively. It is very hard to look at your past decisions and your actions from a neutral point of view. We don't really know ourselves, man is a mystery to himself. The old saying "your mother knows you better than you do" holds some truth because she has witnessed almost your whole life from 'outside' of you. We are too busy being ourselves, being so very human to analyse and think about how we work. So yes, it could be said that the underlying attraction that pulls us into situations where we are forced to grow could be that we are here to learn about ourselves.
Notice that there is no reason you cant be calm and grounded during busy times and the nature of being calm is in itself the real peace. When you are busy and tired you perceive "peace" as doing nothing and chilling out. And compared your current state it is. Yet this cannot be the ultimate goal. For it is easily reached without any real effort or learning, and so as an end it is unsatisfying.
There can be no ultimate goal. Other than to make sure that you have a goal, which will change and evolve as
you grow and achieve.
Real peace, true peace is happening when man is doing whatever it is that challenges him and engages him, it is an unconscious feeling that we do not know we seek.
'Want to be WISE? Do a lot of shit: life is about experiences' -Elliot Hulse

Monday, 13 January 2014

Fuel your vessel

Growth of the soul as well as the body is extremely difficult without the optimal fuel.
Consider the many people you know with pretty decent bodies. I spoke to someone yesterday about food and they said
"its cool I just eat what i like, fast food, junk food whatever I'm in the mood for really, I just do my fair share of exercise". If you don't care for improvement or are 100% happy with yourself then there is nothing wrong with this. Yet for people involved with sports and other types of athletes I cant stress enough the fact that the better the fuel our bodies have, the better our results will be. Making effective dietary choices can drastically improve the way we think and perform. Want to lift more weight? Run faster? Jump higher? Think better? Put better fuel into your vessel (body), people.
I have been eating foods full of wheat and gluten for years but only recently have I learned that these foods irritate my body. But I adore eating carbohydrates and starchy foods like cereal and oats so I sought gluten and wheat free products. I can honestly say it was one of the best choices I have ever made. Learn to feel your body more, really feel how it reacts to the food and drink you take, and make changes accordingly. I didn't wake up one day and decide I was gluten intolerant, I played about with my diet and discovered certain foods gave me gas, caused me to gain weight easily despite lots of exercise and bloated me up almost like a balloon! I would have been unaware of these affects had I not deviated from what was my norm. Progression is impossible without change, which entails a possibility of mistakes and ridicule. Embrace that shit.
Choosing what to eat on the grounds of how it affects our body is all well and good; essential in fact. Yet I believe we should also take notice of where our food and drink comes from and how it is produced.
Because we have no connection to the production or roots of our food sources we care less about the impact it has. Is your food made from genetically modified organisms? Does it come from a factory farm or are people payed wages that they can barely survive on in the name of the company's continued growth. Or does it come from a farmer who lives in a neighboring town? A fair trade company? Ask yourself what effect the production of your food has on both the people involved and the earth that we are born of. When know the answers, ask yourself if you want to further the cause by buying the food or choose something different.
People, we need to face the fact that healthy clean food is expensive! And you know what else? Food that supports sustainability and fair trade and respect for the earth is even more expensive! I for one am prepared to pay more. What else are you going to spend those extra few pounds on? It could be argued that obesity is a problem because high calorie food is so cheap that people can get lots for little. Whereas if you support healthy clean food (I refer to clean in both the health and moral sense) then you will find that you can't get as much food for your money, but you will always manage to get what you need.
Where did your dinner come from today?
Do you know how your body reacts to it?
What part did the earth play in its production

Friday, 10 January 2014

Embrace Your Breaking Point

Each and every one of your burning muscles are roaring in pain. You hear the voice of retreat screaming in anguish  as you continue to work. Your face crumples into a half sob as you teeter on the edge of defeat.
"That's it, I'm done there's nothing left". Teeth grind together and the muscles carry on working with the precious little oxygen you manage to suck in, movement is slow lackluster, you've no energy now, this is it: you're broken....
This is the point many of us know well as both the defiant beauty of trancendance and the part that makes us consider skipping the workout when we are not feeling fully fit.
 This is the point where improvement happens people.
Everything we do leading up to this point pales in insignificance compared to the moments where we push on despite having already been broken. The most valuable 5 reps happen after you believe you just did the last one.
I came across a clever quote not long back that I wish I could take credit for; "Strength is not measured by how much you can endure before breaking, it is a measure of how much you can do after you have been broken" I just thought I'd share how it struck me as completely true.
I would add that whatever target you set yourself with regards to reps (In your mind you have a number you're about to set out to complete) it is a psychologically challenging thing to surprise yourself with a few extra reps at the end. This practice in itself I very effective because even if you're not broken yet, a little voice will tell you not to do any more, "This is the number we agreed why bother doing anymore a few reps wont make us any stronger" People interpret this voice in many different ways, some imagine it as their competition desperately trying to stop them growing and so find it easy to defy. Others I imagine hear a loud voice and it is the other smaller voice that whispers to them to carry on. In truth there are as many attitudes towards the inner battle that happens inside us as there are people. How do you deal with the urge to stop?