Friday, March 23, 2012

Life Lessons Learned Fighting

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

A lot of people ask why I fight. It's a difficult question to answer and there are many, nuances and levels to the fight game and why we do it.
There is the aspect of the challenge. All sport is combat by proxy. All sport is combat with various rules applied.
Fighting arts in that respect could be argued to be amongst the purest of sports, and if you disagree then perhaps you'd agree that at the very least they are the most primal, the most visceral.
This primal nature often causes people to think that fighting is brutal and brutish and that fighters are thugs. But my experience is exactly the opposite.
Any sport can provide for a microcosm of life in general, and fighting is no different. Sure you'll find the odd narcissist and the odd bully. But they are rarer than you'd think, because fighting has a way of weeding those types out. The people that I have met along the way, and continue to train and spar with, are amongst some of the most reflective, caring and compassionate people I know.
Standing toe to toe with someone in the ring, in the cage or on the mat has a way of confronting you in a way that other sport (and few experiences in life) can, and in moments of reflection many of us realise that we aren't fighting any body else, but instead by fighting, we are transcending our own internal challenges.

When You Get Knocked Down...Get Back Up 

"It's hard to identify one single lesson I've learned from nearly twenty years of competitive martial arts. 
Fighting in general is a huge and fantastic analogy for life. The majority of the time, you get out what you put in. And if you learn to invest in the process and do your very best behind the scenes then you should be happy and proud of yourself regardless of the outcome. That's hard to apply in a culture of meritocracy and success but I think it's important to try and apply it. 

One of the best lessons a life fighting has taught me is the importance of perseverance. Simply don't quit, try everything to succeed. Just like in life, when you fight, one day you will get knocked down,but getting knocked down teaches you how to get up and try again. If you persevere and don't quit in the face of adversity, regardless of the outcome you will grow in spirit and mana and that's something you can carry with you long after you hang up the gloves."
~ Richie Hardcore (Professional Muay Thai fighter)

Never Judge a Book by it's Cover

I was watching some amateur fights many years ago at the Auckland Boxing Association, where I first began training for boxing.
At these events there are often kids fights. I remember this one gangly, effeminate, skinny white boy walking out to face his opponent: a tough looking, athletic, young Maori boy with a gangster like swagger and a grimace to match. Now I know as well as anyone that looks can be deceiving (and that often the toughest looking guys are merely projecting that image because in reality they are pretty damn soft!) but in this case it just looked like too much of a mismatch. I said to my friend sitting with me: "This poor kid is gonna get killed!"...
And you know of those kids did get destroyed...The tough looking kid got taken apart with a brutal and technical display of boxing!

Never Underestimate an Opponent

"A life lesson I've learnt in the ring and especially from a very recent fight is to never underestimate somebody else's will to want the big W at the end."
~ 'Southpaw' Joe Hopkins (Professional Muay Thai fighter)

You Can Always Give One Last Effort...

Nothing has shown me this more than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of the hardest things anyone joining the sport quickly realises is that you have to keep working, and that you have to keep moving. And in almost every case there is always a little energy, somewhere deep within that you can muster to bridge and sweep, or to give that final squeeze to a choke that will finish the fight, or to posture up and pass the  guard when there is a little voice saying that you have nothing left. You always do.

No Matter How Hard You Train, and No Matter How Good You Are, You Never Know Everything...

"From fighting I have learned that no matter how hard you train, no matter how good you are, you never know everything. 
So it is an eternal learning process where you must keep yourself humble and attentive to learn from anyone, even a white belt."
~ Fernando Junior (BJJ Black Belt, Founder Au Capoeira NZ and MMA fighter)

Being Happy and Being Comfortable are Two Different Things

Nowadays I think that people equate happiness with 'comfort'. But to my mind these are quite distinct. When we predicate our happiness on seeking comfort at the expense of all else we take the path of least resistance and deny ourselves many amazing opportunities and experiences that may encompass a degree of discomfort in their process.
Nowhere is this more true than in the fighting arts. The sports I have trained for (boxing, weightlifting and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) have provided some of the most physically exhausting, arduous and at times down right uncomfortable experiences of my life. But through it all I can't remember ever not being happy doing these things. The greater benefit of going through transient discomfort and 'becoming comfortable with discomfort' (as my friend and mentor strength coach Carmen Bott puts it) has been that I have experienced greater physical health, improved self worth, confidence and camaraderie with my fighting mates. All of which had one big side effect: one hell of a smile.

Be Patient

"I have learned many things fighting! JiuJitsu made me the man I am! The most important thing I believe is to be patient. Patient to endure an uncomfortable situation waiting for the right time to react.
Be patient and persistent to endure the long process that is learning, and be disciplined to get out of bed on those cold wet mornings and go training!"

~ Pedro Pacheco Fernandes (BJJ Black Belt, Pan-Pacific Champion, Founder: Tu Kaha BJJ)

Losing a Fight Doesn't Make You a Loser 

People often equate a loss with a greater sense of total failure. But that is self-limiting and unrealistic. None of us, no matter how good we are can win all the time. Our losses provide for our greatest learnings, and when we choose to take these learnings and grow and evolve, not just as fighters but as people, we reap a far greater reward. Insecurity and a poor sense of one's own self-worth drives many people to not risk losing. And not risking losing means that they won't even try or start, and so miss out on the great things that can be achieved when we risk losing, in order to gain so much more.

Adversity Builds Character 

"The coolest people i know do Jiu-Jitsu...
I don't think its so much the sport attracting good people as much as it is the sport building good character in people. On the mats you are being humbled every day, often by unassuming and maybe even smaller, less athletic training partners. Egos aren't big fans of environments where their ass is kicked daily. So you either: start to lose the ego, keep training with the ego but never improve due to never putting yourself at risk, or you quit.
You meet a wide range of people of every walk of life in Jiu-Jitsu. But on the mats your profession, your house, your car, your social status, none of it matters. All that matters is your ability. Both your ability to do Jiu-Jitsu and your ability to help others in their Jiu-Jitsu. The struggle you face on the mats every day with others teaches you you many things. It teaches you to overcome, to strive, to be confident, to have respect, to read people, to have empathy, to have self awareness, to be thankful, to be a student, and to be a teacher.
Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art created for self defense, but the best quality about it is not the teaching of its awesome techniques, it is the building of the character within the people who practice and live it."
~ Wilf Betz (professional MMA fighter and Jiu-Jitsu fighter)

Thanks to my brothers Richie, Joe, Junior, Pedro and Wilf for contributing some of their thoughts. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Champions Are Made Not Born

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

I was honoured to be the guest speaker at last years Auckland Lacrosse League Annual Dinner and Prize Giving, which doubled as a send off and fundraiser for the World Championship bound New Zealand Women's U19 team.

The theme of my speech was that Champions are made, not born and that no-one is inherently great - it is what we do that defines our greatness and our ability to achieve success.
I outlined some of the key differences in mind-set between athletes in various countries that I have worked with, and the differences in mind-set between minority and majority sport athletes in those countries.

The key things that I have noticed is that there are two simple things that seperate many athletes who achieve, from those that do not.
1. Belief
2. Hard work

Belief is that subtle, underlying pattern of success. It is the unconscious, survival based mechanism that let's us know that to achieve greatness is both safe and appropriate. Champions ave already imagined themselves as such. They have 'seen' in their minds eye their future success and podium finishes, and have framed the way they talk to themselves (often without even realising it) in a way that influences the subconscious mind to not only not reject success, but to seek it out, and to recognise those factors in our environment that will make it a reality.
On the other hand if we tell ourselves that we aren't good enough, that we can't succeed and imagine the failures we could make, then these will become our future reality.
In minority sports (such as Lacrosse in New Zealand) it is easy to give up before the whistle has even started if playing one of the world powers of Lacrosse (like Canada for example). But the belief that 'we can't win' can quite easily go from something that is a conscious probability (let's face it, the Kiwis winning against Canada would be a huge feat) to something that is a subconscious belief, and therefore a virtual certainty.

Hard Work is always necessary to achieve and maintain greatness.
Those who have attended one of my talks will know that I love the band Over the Rhine and often quote a line from their track 'Spark' which goes: 'It';s not the spark that caused the fire, it's the air you breathe that fans the flames...'
This lyric is such a great metaphor for the mind-body connection and for the value of hard work.
The 'spark' in this analogy at least I equate to the belief. Without that belief - or 'spark' there is no chance to start a fire (succeed) but with belief, AND the air you breathe (work) fanning the flames it is all but assured in some sense at least. Whether or not we do succeed is dependent on many factors, but without belief and hard work it all some to naught.

I finished by challenging this room of talented and committed young athletes to not be content to be mediocre. To strive for glory, to shoot for the stars...the worst that could happen is that they end up reaching the moon.
I challenged them to not be 'luke-warm' but instead to rise to a level greater than that of their competition, so that they (their adversaries) are luke-warm in comparison to the love and passion that they bring to their game.

So, because you are luke-warm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth
Revelation 3:16

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Empty Handed, Full Hearted

[Post by Leo Babauta]

We often load ourselves up when we travel, because we want to be prepared for various situations.
This burden of being prepared leaves us with our arms full, unable to receive whatever is there when we arrive. It leaves us tired from carrying, so that we are not happy when we meet someone new on our travels.
What if we travelled with empty hands, ready to embrace new experiences, receive new foods, touch new people?
We might feel less prepared when we leave, but the preparedness is an illusion. Stuff doesn't make us prepared.
Having empty hands but a heart that is full of love leaves us prepared for anything.
This doesn't just apply to taking a trip, but to living each day. Each day is a journey, and we load ourselves up with material possessions, with tasks and projects, with things to read and write, with meetings and calls and texts. Our hands are full, not ready for anything new.
Drop everything, be open to everything. Enter each day empty-handed, and full-hearted.

[Check out Leo's e-books at Katoa Health  and his latest book The Power of Less at Amazon]

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happiness is a Doing, Not a Happening!

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

The happiest people I know have not had the easiest lives. In fact many of the most positive, encouraging, caring and compassionate people I know - the people that I consider my 'ambassadors of #PMA' (Positive Mental Attitude) have had to deal with terrible tragedies; grief, loss, trauma and abuse of many kinds.

But in spite of those things they choose a life that's worth living, they choose to play their role in making the world a better place, and they choose to help prevent the things that have happened to them happen to others. In short they choose happiness.

In practice I have had several patients say something along the lines of: "But Cliff - you just wouldn't're obviously just a naturally happy guy!"
And in one respect they are right. Happiness IS my nature...but it's y nature by intention and practice, not by accident or coincidence.
It's something I have chosen to become my reality at some of the darkest moments of my life. Those moments are not for the recounting now, and they may never be in entirety; for they are moments of the past that were difficult, heart breaking, traumatic and trying, but they are my moments nonetheless - moments that have made me more caring, considerate, considered and compassionate.

Seeing the light in the darkness is not always easy, but making the decision to flip the switch is. We can choose to live instead of merely being alive. We can choose happiness.

When you see a smile on someone's face, don't assume that they have had life easier than you, for we know not what someone's been through.
A smile isn't just something that happens to us, but is a beautiful challenge in the face of life's adversity that we can, that we will, that we ARE living a life of passion, love and purpose.

~ Blessings

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Value of the Little Break...

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

Cliff enjoying a 'little break' on the beach at Matamanoa, Fiji

So often in our rush to get everything done we push through exhaustion and work for long periods of time until we can almost work no more. We feel compelled to be at our desk, to be 'active', to be 'working' when often we would be much better served taking a break and coming back fresh.
I know there have been many times that I have sat staring at a blank page, exhausted, waiting for an article idea to come to me or for inspiration from the heavens to finish the latest chapter. And who hasn't at some stage found themselves pushing 'send and receive' or flicking mindlessly through facebook in an overworked daze?

When we find ourselves in this position I think we can all recognise that we are not being effective.
Work that we produce in these times of 'brain fade' is of a poor quality...if it happens at all!
We are simply wasting time by not being as effective as we could be. Attempting to work when unable and thereby forsaking other awesome things we could be doing (like surfing, lying at the beach or doing Jiu Jitsu!) is simply wasting our time - and wasting time is wasting life.
Every interminable moment we sit in that brain hazed state we are letting our lives drip away moment by moment.

All that is often needed is a small break . As little as a 5 minuite break can be enough to recharge our energy levels so that we can effectively get things done.

In Time Rich Cash Optional I write about NOT working if you are not being productive. Take a break instead in order to become more productive.

If you feel that you're simply 'spinning your wheels' take a short break (5min to 15min) and get away from what you are doing and do something else - or simply lie down and chill out.

Many of us do a lot of our work on a computer and so using this break time to do some realigning, activating and mobilising work for our bodies is a win-win.

Some of my favourite things to do on those long days in the writer-sphere include:

  •  Doing active mobility work (pike arches, lunge stretches, hip circles, arm circles etc.)
  •  Do some yoga poses (sun salutations especially)
  •  Do some body weight exercises (I often go outside and do 2 sets each of pushups, pullups and dips on a pergola outside my back door.)
  •  Lie in the sun (my favourite! Nothing like falling asleep in the sun for a little Vitamin D boost!)
  •  Take a siesta (Ever since my time in Buenos Aires writing Choosing You! I have taken to having a siesta in the early afternoon on most days. On days that I do weightlifting training and Jiu Jitsu training in the same day I find this essential to re-energise)
  •  Do a 5min meditation (During a short break is a gfreat time to re-balance, centre and ground yourself with a short meditation)

Lately I have been trying the Pomodoro Method. It's a good reminder to take those little breaks that help us to remain fresh and energised.

I used to really want to get everything done by the end of the working day...and often I ended up absolutely destroyed at the end of a day. I wouldn't take breaks and I would push too hard.
...then I had a realisation that life is a process...and it ain't over until it's over.
In the meantime, to enjoy our process as much as we can we need to preserve our energy and eek all the enjoyment we can out of our beautiful golden moments.

Appreciate those little breaks, they are powerful tools in your life of passion and purpose.