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?