The Olympic Swimmer and the Lifeguard
I pulled this old blog post from my archives. I originally wrote it on Wednesday, November 5th 2008. It's a great post that I know you'll enjoy, but since it has been buried by years of other entries, I thought I would re-post it for everyone to read:
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.
Lifeguards 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? Do mothers or fathers?
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 lifeguard. Although you will have to learn to swim.