Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Practicing Courage

noun: courage
  1. the ability to do something that frightens one.
    "she called on all her courage to face the ordeal"
    • strength in the face of pain or grief.
      "he fought his illness with great courage"

I loathe the saying "you cant teach heart". You most certainly can improve your ability to face adversity and fear if you want to. If there is willingness, courage can be cultivated, it can be grown, and it most certainly can be taught. 

~Rebbeca Hill

I competed in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tournament last week. One of my teammates during the rules meeting was overcome with anxiety. He found a corner of the warm up mat and laid down. Deep breathes. He got his head on straight and went up for his match. This is a man who has dropped 75 pounds since I met him, who couldn't complete a warm up before class. This is his first match as a newly minted blue belt, and he stepped out on that mat and gave it his all in front of crowds of strangers and a referee. He had earned my respect many times over, and I don't doubt he will continue to do so. He has been practicing courage.

Sometimes it gets easier. Sometimes the stress inoculation starts to make it easier, and after time it takes more and more pressure to elicit a response.

Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the fear is there. The sweaty skin, the nervousness, the racing thoughts. And we need to move forward anyway. We need to face the fear, and walk through it. This takes courage. This we can get better at.

So, how does one get better at anything? Practice. I cant say the fear will leave, I wont make promises that every individual will become some sort of fearless juggernaut crashing through life's obstacles. But what I can say is that the more you face fear, the more you practice courage and do the work, the better you will get at summoning the mental fortitude needed to keep moving.

Get out of your comfort zone! Push your limits! We don't get stronger without adding weight to the bar, we don't get better doing what we are already good at, and we certainly cant practice courage if we are never in fear.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Most people will never put themselves in a position to feel fear, even some seemingly tough guys will simply never go into a fight they can lose. Last minute excuses, mysterious emergencies and injury. The fear can feel overwhelming, the pressure unable to bear.

I'm blessed to have truly awesome training partners, supportive friends and colleagues, and a wife who is fighting right along side me on her own journey. The support structure we operate within is key. I want to be surrounded by people who support me, who build me up, who challenge and drive me. Life is short, time is at a premium, I have none to waste. These support structures allow us to expose ourselves over and over to ever increasing levels of pressure in a healthy, positive manner. That might be our shooting buddies, it may be our belief structure, it may be our teachers and family, it most certainly should be all of the above. Like a pyramid, the wider the base, the higher the pinnacle. 

I've backed out before. Felt overwhelmed and unable to continue. It would be easy to never expose myself to that kind of pressure again. I wouldn't need to even make up an excuse. I could take up some sort of endeavor that wouldn't threaten my ego. I could take the easy path. And I could spend what little time I have on an unremarkable existence with no pain or triumph never knowing what I could have experienced. Like the great poet once said, I aint going out like that.    

Antifragile Training

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why are you guys always trying to fight somebody?

Its like every time I turn around there's a challenge match. Recently my younger sister told a guy on facebook she would throw down with him, anytime, anywhere, no holds barred. He made one demand after another. No gloves, ok.  No mouth guard, ok, we have to sign a waiver..... yeah dude, we do that all the time. If your not signing waivers your probably not doing anything fun I say!

So here have a small girl, completely comfortable with the idea of a fight with a dude shes never met knowing only that he thinks he has an "unchokeable neck" from his "steel neck technique" and that fighting styles built by monks and mysticism practiced via kata trumps modern MMA. Yeah, this is what our white belts think of your style.  Bring it.

Of course he backs out.  For some reason these never seem to actually go down.......

But whats the deal here? Why is our crew always trying to throw down with someone, and why has the MMA revolution thats more than a few years old now not overtaken the world of self defense?

One would think after the Gracie's stomped all over other styles across the globe and with professional mixed martial arts available to the masses on TV that the argument over what makes an effective fighting style would be over. Not so much in some circles it seems. There is still threads of folks stuck in the era of the karate kid and the McDojo who think martial arts are some sort of mystical endeavor where you learn to harness your chia pet to stop a mans heart. Because reasons!

So here's the thing. We aren't challenging people to fights, or shooting matches, in order to be tough. Or because we are angry, mean, meat heads, or any other such notion. Its because we are used to working in an environment with resistance. Every day we train we are expected to be able to perform under real pressure. I don't consider that I truly know a technique until I can perform it against someone resisting it. I don't ever have the expectation that someone will take someones word that something works, or a video, or a well laid out rational argument, regardless of the source. I believe deeply in personal experience.

"I love being in the lab." ~ Craig Douglas  

So this is the mindset under which our tribe operates. Throw down. Not for ego, or with malice, but because the truth is in the training. Because this is where we prove our theory, where we audit our skills, and where we sharpen our dull edges. 

"Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind."
~Nassim Taleb, from Antifragile 

There is a reason this is Antifragile Training.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Everyday I'm Hustlin

Last year I hosted Frank Proctor for a carbine course. Frank is a special forces dude and USPSA ranked Grand Master level competition shooter. The first thing Frank asked us out of the gate was by a show of hands who there wanted to be a better shooter. Frank raised his hand too.

That's an important statement.  That a dude at that level is still working, still drilling, still looking for improvement. Still doing the work.

“There are certainly problems within all this training business, but for the record...again...they are really NOT what many people believe them to be.
Mostly, we definitely, absolutely, do NOT have a 'not enough stuff' problem...contrary to what all those people constantly seeking the next magic trick seem to think.
However we surely DO have a 'not good enough at stuff' problem, with people fooling themselves into believing they will achieve outstanding results with mediocre performance.”

Monday after work I hit jiu jitsu, train through 2 classes, hit open mat.  Tuesday strength training, squats, press, deadlift.  Wednesday is a heavy no gi day, self structured BJJ followed by fundamentals and intermediate no gi. Thursday was shooting day, USPSA practice, about 2 hours and 250 rounds of ammo. Friday Im training in the gi through 2 classes and open mat.  Saturday is squat, bench, row, maybe have a few friends over to train.  This past weekend I had two separate stand up weapons based grappling sessions fighting a dude with a training knife, drilling duck under, arm drags, tie ups. Sunday I shot a USPSA match, then trained at home with a buddy, sometimes me and the wifey hit open mat and go out for some quality time.

I'm not training for "good enough". I'm not just passing by on this path. I'm here to do the work, sometimes that means every day, sometimes that's one more round when I'm gassed and spent. This isn't the path for everybody, and I'm not saying it should be or needs to be.  But its the path for me, and for those walking along it with me understand what its like.

The "outstanding results with mediocre performance" is often what I see hustled in the self defense industry. The notion that with a quick weekend you can learn "one weird trick" or that with minimal effort one can overcome a much larger attacker that has taken us by surprise. Bullshit. Skill can overcome size and strength, have no doubt, but to have that kind of skill takes hard work over time.

I'm a bit driven at the moment.  I want to get better.  I want to defeat the me of yesterday.  That translates into some long days at times, but today I got a call that one of our guys owned a in car evolution in ECQC , he buys dope in cars for a living and we've spent a lot of time in the car. That gets me all fired up!

Another training partner came in second after me at the match today.  He's out working me on the shooting piece right now.  I gotta up my level!  He's coming for me!

These guys are always making me better, always raising the bar.

This is a lifestyle, its a journey with many milestones and no end.  Its every day.  And its worth every moment.