My attitude as a trained fighter is simple. I presume the opponent can match my skill. However I remain confident that he is unable to match my savagery.
Archive for mind setting
I’m at the gym, gimme a sec…
I’m just looking for something…
I’m on my last rep and while I know my heartrate is dropping right now, I’m just trying to get it right…
Ah…there we go. Mindsetting with music…
I’d like to think that I think I can do anything.
I’d like to think that I’ve made strides in quieting the voices in my head that would have me take a different route. It’s been a process.
Or perhaps, like many conditions I treat, I’ve just chased them into a corner. And there they wait – until there is even a bit of let-up. But I have learned, as is the same when facing an opponent, never let up when they are at their weakest.
“The most dangerous time is when you have your opponent hurt.” – Kru Phil Nurse’s maxim (from Tapped Out by Matthew Polly)
“Make techniques as simple as possible, avoid complexity for the sake of looking good and constantly look for ways to perform a technique with less movement.” Jesse Glover, describes the essential elements of Gung Fu.
A feeling of awe is hard to describe. Something that grows in the pit of your stomach and makes your skin tingle with excitement. When I first met Jesse in 2004, I remember this overwhelming feeling of awe.
(Jesse Glover far left, Bruce Lee center, Ed Hart far right)
“Loi Lau Hoi Sung,
Lat Sau Jik Chung”
I’ve been told by my learned friend to fill the space during our Gung Fu (Wing Chun) training sessions. The concept seemed simple; something that made sense at the time, but I now realize that it hadn’t quite fully formed in my mind, until now.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to train in a sport kickboxing club with a bunch of jiu jitsu fighters. An interesting environment in which to find myself. However as my training partners are primarily grapplers, much of the time is spent on fundamental techniques, with little theory. One thing I noticed was that the students were not actively encouraged to fill space in the way that I had been taught. In Gung Fu, we fill the space generally by way of a well-timed and precise strike, either to cause damage, or to create a window by which we can escape. As an example, the double jab is a beautiful way of both delivering power or alternatively, as a movement used to plug the gap between you and your opponent. It enables you to keep pressure on the opponent and can be used as an effective bridge for the next shot or to allow you to fall back into immediate cover or to create some distance.
I thought it strange that I never saw the bigger picture of consuming that space while training Gung Fu with my learned friend. Then I realized I spent all that time with him fighting over control of that very space.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. Gibran
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. Confucius
Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite. Francis Bacon
My eyes opened suddenly and my left hand came up to my chest. The constriction of my airways was palpable. I felt the thunderous thud of a heartbeating out of control. Lack of air. And I need air. Standing upright, I tried to force breath into the deepest tissue of my lungs but the sound resonating in my inner air was raspy, a shrill wind in an underground tunnel.
My labored breathing felt mechanized, the metallic drone of a rusted cog groaning under the weight of a chain wrapped too tight. I blinked again. My childhood illnesses were revisiting me on this overcast Monday morning. Too add insult to injury, the people at the gym appeared oblivious to my wheezing body. I stood positioned t’ward the edge of the free-weight section. Perhaps it was wishful thinking that dragged me, sickness and all, to the gym. I hadn’t trained for twenty four hours, I was reeling from the itch.
As a child I had been hospitalized many times, even teetering on the brink of death a few times. “The worst case of asthma I have ever seen” lamented one doctor at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London. Those were times when the affliction had become so overwhelming that I was tempted to just stop breathing altogether.
When one is oxygen deprived, the brain starts to fade and one reaches a state of euphoria. The temptation is to embrace this overwhelming feeling, to ride it., to hold it. But the euphoria is a signal, ushering the Reaper close and welcoming a small death. Whatever power had driven me to survive through the hardships as a young boy had now driven me, fully formed and older to the gym. Purposeful and determined.
To the normal person a cold, is just a cold. To me it is a sentence lasting too long. I was well aware that the training would be arduous. And that I would suffer pain. And by lifting weights, skipping and sprinting I risked adding exercise induced asthma to the conundrum of aches and pains from this illness. But train I had to. Without it, I was already dead.
The most important lesson on Gung Fu that I learnt today was during a Performance Racing Car training course I went to at a disused airstrip.
Immediately figure out out your nearest escape route and focus your body on formulating a way to make good your escape. This means that whilst you are aware of the dangers at hand you are not necessarily giving all your resources to dealing with them. Being aware of the problem and allowing your subconscious mind to allow your body to deal with them, while keeping your focus on the escape is the best way to go.
The logic appears to be that by keeping your focus locked onto the nearest escape route your body will automatically be oriented on the escape, allowing your subconscious to drive the skill set in dealing with the physical danger. Alternatively, if your conscious mind is focused primarily on the attack, then chances are the attack will become protracted and the attempt at escape, hesitant.
Focus on the escape, and you make it so.
I live in the moment, most of the time. However, at this very second I feel detached. The small knuckle of my right hand is shaded grey, skin hardened. Using hand wraps for punching is another cleverly devised scheme to keep us living a life of comfort. F*ck that. The hand came sheathed in tissue and membrane, no synthetic fibers necessary.
I’m burning, my eyes are red. My ears ensnared by the dull monotony of background music. The rolling hum of the Starbucks air conditioner hovers above, its breeze cascading over my head and face. Longing for the company of distant friends, I pull the chair to my left closer. Drawing it toward my leg provides a sense of comfort. The chair is empty. Subconsciously I want to cocoon myself in to the corner, back resting against the window. My cup of coffee in hand.
The expectant quivering of my body ceases as the caffeine is sucked deep into my stomach. I’ve been working my punches and kicks. I imagine last nights violent jerking of the heavy bag to have become a softened arc today, as it patiently awaits another visit from its tormentor. Soon.
I began a work-trade with a personal fitness trainer. She has failed to meet my requests, but that is neither here nor there.
Close to the end of our session, filled with bodyweight exercises that were a little challenging the fourth time through, she told me, “Fifteen reps or failure. Whatever comes first.”
I responded, “There is no failure.”
“Ah..” she kind of laughed.
I wasn’t kidding.
the teaching method is a layered one designed to introduce a person to increased levels of resistance and psychological and physical torment. in my experience, this is the best way to teach good habits.
once you start recognising patterns in what we do, you’ll see those patterns repeated again and again. ultimately, what i do is simple, but it requires a lot of initial effort both physically and intellectually.
recognize patterns; the way you grab a wrist (lap sau – grabbing hand) is mirrored in the way that you would, for instance, grab and pull a neck.
we worked a drill to take the inside/dominant position of a double handed neck grab/tie and added knees as an attack.
when playing the game of tag, orient your hands forwards to create a barrier or ‘fence’ between you and your opponent.
we introduced the push into sticking hands (chi sao). remember to grab and cover the opponents wing arm (bong sau) and then extend your dispersing hand (tan sau) to uproot at the neck. keep your elbows in to ensure a sound structural attack position.
use an overhand grip.
conceptually, we introduced the idea of following the contour of a persons face with your hand to allow your thumb to pierce their eye (fish hook). the eye is an excellent soft tissue target and your job is to penetrate the socket of the eye, deeply and decisively.
as it is impossible to train this with realism kindly do the following mind-setting exercise; close your eyes in a relaxed place and allow your mind to imagine the following scenario;
imagine that you find yourself somewhere where you have been confronted by a man on the attack. you can see him now, like a dark silhouette. although you try to see his face, it is darkened and shadowed so you dont get a clear look. you know that he is heavy set and bigger than you. imagine that he has grabbed your hair or perhaps he has hit you already and you are quickly recovering from being disoriented. although you cant see his face in detail, you picture yourself clearly fighting back now. your hand finds its way to his face and with aggression you push your thumb deep into his eye. aggressively you attack him back and when you create the opportunity, you escape now.
we also introduced the idea of ‘anchoring’ yourself if you are grabbed by, for example your hair.
we worked our various punches which you are all familiar with by now.
we went over the first part of the first form called Siu Nim Tao ‘the small idea’.
“Flow represents a peak experience that most athletes rarely experience and some never quite experience. A flow experience will enrich your life and make you want to persist at your chosen discipline with even greater intensity. To reach this seemingly elusive state of being, you must switch off from all peripheral distractions and focus solely upon mastery and enjoyment of the task at hand. In particular, what anybody else might be thinking or saying about you is completely irrelevant to your performance. More important still is that being successful is about being completely happy with your performance even if somebody else does better. Flow equates with happiness.”
When I shake the table, it causes the coffee in my cup to my come alive, rippling. I lift the cup. Warm in my hand. Take a sip. Will it burn the tip of my tongue?
Obsessed with the detail.
I’ve watched the Devil appear during pauses in conversation. Distant, I see him crouched amongst trees as I walk through dense woodland. Right now he is living in this blog post. Look closely and find him swathed in letters which rise and fall like the heaving breast of an asthmatic. He even came to me a few evenings ago bursting unannounced into my dream, his face pressed against mine.
The Devil is in the detail and I am obsessed with details. When I go out, I check and re-check my attire; the position of my belt, the double-windsor of my tie. Occasionally my mind takes a third party perspective, analyzing the way in which I interact with people. Smile, firm and steady. The slightest glint of teeth only. Expressive eyes. Enthused. Alacritous.
I notice his presence the most when the details that cause him to stir concern my fighting; the angle of my fist, the rotation of my hip, the position of my chin. He watches me train, sitting comfortably in the corner and causing a state of disquiet in my soul which I use to summon liberal doses of fear etched fury.
The Devil is in the detail.
Interesting read from the book “In Search of the Human Mind” by Robert Sternberg. It lists a series of points on, as you may have gathered from the title, why intelligent people fail. I’ve picked out what I find to be the most pertinent points, but do click the link at the bottom for the full list. (emphasis by me)
1. Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.
7. Inability to complete tasks. For some people nothing ever draws to a close. Perhaps it’s fear of what they would do next or fear of becoming hopelessly enmeshed in detail.
19. Lack of balance between critical, analytical thinking and creative, synthetic thinking. It is important for people to learn what kind of thinking is expected of them in each situation.
20. Too little or too much self-confidence. Lack of self-confidence can gnaw away at a person’s ability to get things done and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, individuals with too much self-confidence may not know when to admit they are wrong or in need of self-improvement.
Sternberg, R. (1994). In search of the human mind.
I was watching a TV show other day about stories of people allegedly exerting almost superhuman levels of strength in times of extreme danger/panic. One example was of the lady who saw her son trapped under a car which had fallen off the hydraulic jacks; she managed to lift it up to allow her son to escape. The explanation given is the use of “hysterical strength”. The theory behind hysterical strength; typically, all reasoning, thinking is carried out in the neo-cortex, a layer of brain at the top of our head. Any muscle utilisation requests are sent through this, and in turn, this “restricts” the percentage of muscle to be utilised in any task, be it day to day moving furniture, or pushing weights. The theory of hysterical strength argues that in extreme panic, the command to engage a muscle doesn’t go through the neo cortex, and thus is not restricted, resulting in 100% (or near) utilisation of muscle. There is much debate as to whether this is scientifically true.
Regardless of the veracity of this story, what if we were to apply the same theory to our day to day actions? Too often, we think about the risk and not the reward, we choose the safe path over the new path. Risk needs to be put into perspective. We “limit” ourselves in the same way the neo-cortex limits the muscles. Remaining within our comfort zones doesn’t allow us to challenge ourselves, and we are stuck in a monotonous cycle, not allowing ourselves to progress. We are content to simply tread water. seek new challenges. Learn new skills, or push yourself to enhance your existing ones. You don’t learn to ride a bike without falling off.