Saturday, 3 October 2015

Some things a nobody has learned about champions.

Currently I am a nobody in the grand scheme of things. I have yet to do anything outstanding. I have yet to make any changes that will influence people's lives for the better and I have yet to make my mark on the world. The person writing this is well aware that what follows has no standing to you dear reader, because its sauce is unknown, and its contents founded on limited experience. But I write for me as much as - if not more than - I write for you.

Champions speak a language that is alien to most. They do not only speak it externally to those around them, but they speak it internally also. The word  'mindset' should not be used. Rather, what I refer to is a way of approaching life that is unique.  Unique is the right word to use because each champion was forged in different fires and has walked a different path. Although they are all different from each other, what they share is that they all differ from the masses in the same areas. Champions are unique; and have that in common.

While some settle for stability and safety, the champion climbs higher. He sets his intent on a goal and moves toward it step by step.

While most are short sighted in their approach to life, a champion plays the long game. Some work towards the weekend where they can enjoy a concentrated burst of happiness. But the champion has a fundamental understanding that time is extremely scarce.

So at every opportunity, he must take another step, however miniscule, in the direction of his goal.

Champions do not have 'dreams'. What champions have instead is a 'goal'. The difference is massive. In calling something your 'dream' you accept its impossibility. But in calling something a 'goal', you approach life with an inevitability that baffles others.

Champions are courageous. As discussed a while ago in my 'Fearless?' post, courage does not exist in the absence of fear. It exists because of fear. Champions demonstrate courage in planning their goals and even confessing them to others. I say 'confess' because it feels crazy, like a crime or a taboo subject to say to someone, I think I can do this. Here is what I'm going to try and do.

The first time you do this, you feel silly and vulnerable. But as more and more people ask you what you do and why, you feel a deeper sense of pride and purpose. A lot of those feelings are antagonistic; born of a desire to prove naysayers wrong.

I don't feel that. I feel impatient when I encounter naysayers. I've heard their attempts to drag me down so many times that now I avoid the subject of what I do and where I am going whenever possible.

It's not just naysayers that a champion avoids though. He finds people who have surrendered dangerous. Because he knows that they are content; and probably had goals or perhaps dreams or even a plan at one stage. Now they are a shadow of what they could have been. Always talking about what they used to be able to do and what they could have done. And when he finds himself in such a person's company he has a horrific vision of himself going down the exact same path of settle, surrender, stability, security, safety.

In the right company however, discussing where you intend to go and how you are willing to get there fans the flames of your dedication. It just takes some courage to start the conversation.

Champions appear arrogant and cocky to others. By the time their goals and plans are solidified and they have thought deeply and seriously about what they are going to try and  accomplish, a champion in the making will seem so very sure of himself in the presence of others.

The reason for this is that they are trying to convince themselves as much as others that they are capable of such things.

For me, beneath a shell of very real confidence earned over years of hard work bubbles a seething pit of mixed up emotions. Akin to the mood swings of adolescent females, I will feel one day like my success is completely inevitable; only to wake up the next day to fear, doubt, loneliness and insecurity.

But as well as all this champions have perspective. Why can't some people realise that they are going to die. And why are people so afraid of death?
(I felt you cringe through the internet as this post took a turn to the deeper side. But we'll save that rabbit hole for another post;)

I think most champions have an understanding of a very simple  concept.

I am going to die.
If I don't try to do something outstanding, I'm still going to die.
If I try and do something outstanding I might do something good before I die.

Facing up to one's mortality reduces the fear of failure. It gives you a boldness that people who cower in comfort and pleasure will only 'dream' of because they couldn't see past the weekend.

So this language of champions is born of many things, only a small number discussed in this post.
Namely; acceptance of mortality; goals and plans in the place of dreams; confidence built by hard work but quelled by emotions; and a separation from people who are willing to settle for less than they are capable of.

Ever experience any of the aforementioned feelings? What's stopping you from achieving your goal? Probably a million things correct?
Well those million things are just steps to take, you know what you have to do, reader. Now stop scrolling through facebook for 5 minutes and scare yourself with your greatest ambition.
Peace x

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Practice does not make perfect.

Although the sentiment comes from an honest and honourable place, the idea that 'practice makes perfect' is a fallacy and the true master understands that perfection is unattainable. And so we are left with the truth that practice makes 'very good'.

You can never prepare for every eventuality in your practice, you can only experience as many as possible in years of accumulation. The masters we know today have prepared for and have experienced the highest amount eventualities and so they perform to a better standard armed with this knowledge.

They are not however, perfect. And though others comment that their execution of technique was 'perfect'; they, being a true master will not let such compliments disrupt the never ending chase that occurs between a masterful practitioner and the perfection of his style.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Art of Movement

To become great in any athletic or sporting pursuit requires tremendous effort. Not just of the mind with regards to your approach to training and conditioning but of the body as well. The damage that the body takes in training when seen from a perspective of years of accumulation can only be described as frightening. Whereas most athletes will have to endure through joint, ligament, muscle and bone damage at some point in their career, combat sports enthusiasts must tackle the additional threat of traumatic brain injury.
Getting punched and kicked in the head is not good for one's health. Therefore, a time will come for fighters when we move past checking and blocking strikes thrown our way. A transition must be made from blocking to dodging.

Such a transition should be made as soon as you can sit behind your guard and block, check, parry and absorb everything the opponent throws indefinitely. This level of effective defence is a milestone in itself. It takes time to be able to cover every part of your body that can be targeted and still be able to see your opponent moving.

Progressing past this 'safe' form of defence (when will someone hurling bones at your head ever be safe?), we begin to realise our ability to move just out the way of these strikes. The best fighters are able to seem punchable to their opponent only to slide, roll, slip, switch, lean or skip away to safety. To the delight of the dodger, the puncher now has an inclination that he is not as fast as his opponent.

Is this the case though? People have commented that I am too fast for them but this was from a far fitter and stronger athlete than me. The only conclusion is that I started moving first. I would beat Usain Bolt in a race if I started 5 seconds before him. By the same token I will move quicker than you can punch me if I can anticipate where and when you will attempt to do so. This anticipation and prediction coupled with hours of practice and muscle memory form a very dangerous fighter.

Effective and devastating though it is, this style's downfall is the high risk-high reward gamble we take when using it. As I said earlier, the best fighters seem punchable, predict the strike and move accordingly. However another characteristic of the best fighters is that they do not throw everything with the intent of landing. They half throw some shots to set up others.
For example if I slip to the right perfectly out the way of a jab, next time I would expect him to feign a jab and whip his left shin up to my chin as I lean down into it.

What this means is that the dodger must have three or four answers for everything the opponent throws to remain unpredictable. The beauty of adding busy footwork, perfectly timed movement and strange angles to your arsenal is that you can also fall back on your blocking checking and guarding you learned as a base. But those who never put any stock in the dangerous and risky art of movement, who are content with linear motion and tight, tidy hands have nothing to fall back on when their tactic does not work. Further, they will absorb more damage over time. Years and years of hooks, straights, wheel kicks and round houses all blasting against your guard although not finding their target will rattle your brain around inside your skull.

The objective for fighters apart from being the best they can be using a style unique to them, should be to remain as healthy as possible into our twilight years. Too many fighters have stayed in the game too long and slowly turned into a shadow of their former greatness, all because of the damage to the head. Research how many head shots top guys take throughout their career and you will be astonished. Now consider the years of sparring as well.
The degenerative effects to the fighter's health is all down to the fact that getting punched and kicked is unhealthy.

While this concept seems obvious, even sarcastic to most, I see people taking one shot to give theirs in return. And while this juggernaut style is undoubtedly effective and disgruntling to an opponent who lands his money shot perfectly to no effect, it will come back and bite you very hard is arse later on.

'I'm young, I'm handsome, I'm fast, I'm pretty and I can't possibly be beat' - If you don't know who said this I feel bad for you son.