Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Thoughts

Here it is a day after Thanksgiving and I was thinking about how grateful I am for so many things in my life. My loved ones, my health, all of those who have helped me and others, our service men and women out there in the face of adversity who are fighting so that we can be safe, all of our police and emergency response personnel who ensure our safety within our communities, our teachers who are helping raise our understanding to encompass more than just our own views, our leaders who hopefully will set the pace for greater justice, compassion and respect for all of us, and thanks to all of you who I have had or will hopefully have the honor of meeting and/or training with to share in learning, growing and "mowing the lawn" so to speak. (If you don't know what I mean when I say "mowing the lawn" give me a shout and I will explain).
In light of my thankful thoughts I'm doing some more down to earth worldly activities such as cleaning my condo when I came across these pics from a workshop I did for the Girl Scouts in 2005 at our old studio on Market Ave. Downtown GR. Here are some shots of us training, learning about assault prevention and (despite the heaviness of the topic) having a great time! I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and was able to reflect, if for but only a minute on those things you are truly grateful for.
Best wishes,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winning vs. Not Being Beat

Here is a good story that I read in Saulo Ribeiro's new book "Jiu-Jitsu University." The book is one of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu books that I have read and I thought his story about Helio and surviving was great!

When I was out in California training at the Gracie Academy I almost met Helio a couple times. One time I arrived a day late and another he came a few weeks after I had gone home. Too bad that I missed him...who knows though maybe our paths will cross sometime, someplace...

Well anyway, here's Saulo's story:

The last time I trained with Helio Gracie was a truly memorable experience and is to this day the most important class I ever had on Jiu-Jitsu. What struck me most was how Helio addressed me. He did not hold me in awe for my titles or championships, and what he said more than surprised me. He said, "son, you're strong, you're tough, you're a world champion, but I don't think you can beat me." At the time I just looked at him sideways in disbelief. After all, how could a ninety-year-old beat someone who is in his athletic prime? It was at this moment that I realized how he deftly put all the responsibility on me to defeat him. This is the key to Helio; he never says he will beat you, only that you will not beat him.

This is important because he believes he will survive. His survival has nothing to do with perfect timing or strength. Instead, it has everything to do with mastering the defensive aspects of jiu-jitsu. He didn't say he would escape from my position, or that he would do anything else. He said he would survive.

The result of our training only validated that fact. Helio did survive, and I was not able to impose my game on him. Helio proved to me the importance of survivability and the defensive nature of jiu-jitsu. Furthermore, I took from him one of the greatest lessons ever: It is not enough to be able to defeat all of your challengers. To be able to tell any man that he cannot defeat you is to wield true power.

~Saulo Ribeiro

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What if...

you faced a situation that you couldn't win? A circumstance or adversary that would crush you if you went toe to toe with them. What then? How would you endure... Persevere... escape... survive... Sometimes when we come up against something there is no win or lose. There is survive or not survive. Live or die. Escape or be conquered. This could be physically, psychologically and/or emotionally. Sometimes when someone "win's" they really lose because their psychological make up cannot withstand the trauma. This is often called "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." It happens when someone is put in a highly stressful environment often dealing with violence, death, and/or the fear of them. The person could be on the giving or receiving end of this spectrum. Many of our soldiers & Police officers get this disorder after serving active duty in some type of a crime or combat zone where they were subjected to an intense amount of this type of experience.

How does this effect you and your training? Well, these are some of the issues we were talking about this past Saturday when I was out in Jersey training with Jack Hoban. We talked about these factors and how it is important to train with these things in mind. How to train in such a way that gives us and those who train with us, the opportunity to escape not only physical injury, but also psychological and emotional injury. Like I said before, sometimes even when you "win" you could lose. The soldiers coming back from Iraq are the "winners." They are the ones who may have personally conquered and eliminated many of our (their) enemies, yet they are scarred for life emotionally. Some are not able to handle the emotional trauma of it and they end up hand grenading their own personal lives. Why?? Are we meant for all of this violence? If we are than why does the human psyche so often get damaged by it? What happens when we can't justify the death and killing?

I can remember some personal experiences that I have had in my past. Although I was not in a war I did came face to face with a few extremely violent attacks in which I managed to escape intact, yet I had nightmares about them for years that stretched into over a decade after the actual events occurred. Why? Wasn't I the one who successfully defended myself from the clutches of the baddies? Wasn't I justified in defending myself? Then why the nightmares? Was it only about what could have happened to ME, or was I also traumatized by what I did to THEM? This was no ring fight. No competition, no glory, just violence and survival. The odds weren't in my favor, both of these incidents involved large, angry men with weapons. So weren't my actions justified? Didn't I have the right to live and not be threatened or harmed? My answer to myself is simply "yes," I did have the right to physically defend myself, but it came at a greater psychological cost than I would have imagined. It wasn't a direct conscience thought to respond in the manner in which I did in either circumstance, but because of my training I did respond physically and I am confident in at least one of the two incidents that my response most likely saved my life or at the very least a trip to an intensive care unit. I don't regret either outcome, because I was able to go home to those I loved, yet the violence that I performed even justifiably came with a cost. An emotional price that I was to pay for years to come. I've never forgotten... So I can see from both a personal experience and in the eyes of some of our soldiers and officers that sometimes even when you win you lose! Violence is not the way, even though sometimes it seems to be. We often revert to it only to be reminded later of the true psychological and emotional cost.

Thanks again Jack for the great training. I am looking forward to seeing you again next month!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Olympic Swimmer & The Life Guard

The other day someone asked me if I would train them to fight in a MMA match. I explained to him that I had a different view. I told him that I train people to live, not to fight and although there are many aspects of class that are physical and involve combat training, that aspect was a small part of a larger picture. At first he looked a bit confused and then a look of almost disgust came over him like I was trying to pull some Kwai Chan Cane philosophical BS on him or some how attempting to mask that I couldn't fight or that my classes were not practical because we didn't train to fight in the cage. So instead of challenging him to a duel or something crazy like that, I explained it to him another way. I told him that I train Life Guards, not Olympic Swimmers. Both train to be good swimmers and although the Olympian could probably win in a competition against the life guard, that's not how or why the life guard does what he does. Life guards learn to swim for altogether different reasons, reasons that out weigh merely personal gain. Yes, both need to know how to swim and how to swim well, but the life guard also learns many other things. They learn more than just how to be the best, fastest swimmer in the water. They learn about saving lives; how to protect and defend themselves and others. The training is different, they learn different things and more importantly they have a different focus. It's not about the competition, it's so much more than that. It doesn't mean don't be the best you can be or don't learn functional techniques. It means look to the larger picture of what you want your training and more important your life to be. I am not trying to take anything away from what it is to be an Olympian because I do have a lot of respect for them and any athlete that pushes their own limits and gives it their all (I myself have competed numerous times in my day), but a competitor has a short shelf life and after its all done, win or lose, what's next?? What is the bigger picture? Is the path your on... the way you train... the way you live sustainable? Are the things you do today bringing you closer to being happy, more fulfilled tomorrow? Do your actions bring you peace of mind and help you with life or is your training just helping you to win your next competition? How many 55 year old boxers, wrestlers, or MMA competitors do you see? Are you a protector/defender that trains for life, or a competitor that trains for your next victory. Isn't there always someone a little better? Someone younger, stronger, faster or in better condition waiting to knock you off your throne. At one time Muhammad Ali was young, cocky and the best boxer in the world, where is he today? Do police officers and soldiers have to be world champions to serve and protect?

So, I will leave you with the same thought that I left the young MMA enthusiast with: You don't have to be the best, fastest swimmer to be a life guard. Although you will have to learn to swim.