Lighten up Francis

This post is a bit of a cautionary posting. The self defense world is full of guys named Francis, they just don’t know it. When I hear them talking immediately this scene from the movie Stripes starts playing in my head. I just can’t help it. I think one of the worst things folks can do is make this endeavor an overly grim, serious affair. That’s not to say we think this is badminton, we understand we’re talking about dealing with multiple adversaries with malevolent intent, and the stakes involved.

Some of us have actually had to solve that problem in real time and been in situations where we legitimately believed we would die if we lost the fight. Yes Francis, we realize it is serious business. When I look at my training history and the intensity I brought to practice and training, I can certainly categorize it into pre/post incidents. Most folks I know that bear some scars can say the same. If they survived their first incident and are intact enough to get another chance, they realize how much more intensely they need to prepare for the next incident.

Yet as serious as all of this might be? At some point we’ve got to lighten up or it all becomes a drudgery and unsustainable. When practice and training become something we HAVE to do as opposed to something we GET to do, the countdown until we walk away from all of this has begun. This thing we do is a life long endeavor, we will spend our life attempting to achieve a performance objective that will always be just a little further away. If we don’t find a way to have fun with this, we will never sustain the effort. Watch the two clips below, the first is a short clip of baby Gorillas playing. The second is of adult Gorillas fighting.

If we watch these clips we see very little difference in the physical movements. Wrestling, and striking with the only real difference being the mental or emotional state of the Gorillas. One clip shows effort they can sustain for a long time, and learn a metric ton that will apply to real world application, the other clip not so much. My friend Luis Gutierrez created a program a long time ago that still works today, it’s called PAW which stands for Play As the Way. I often look at the PAW approach to training and think we as adults could stand to inject a bit more fun and games into our training program. The movements are the same, the intent is not.

Now, I’m willing to admit that I, and most of you, are wired a little different which explains why we do the things we do. While some guys and gals are spending their evenings playing softball or bowling, we are getting punched in the face, choked out, hit with sticks or running and gunning at a USPSA, IDPA or 3-gun match. Sometimes we do all those things at once in a multidisciplinary evolution. So yeah, we are wired a little differently however, we have to keep it all in perspective. This is fun. We enjoy doing this stuff. Really we do, see this black eye? Proof I had fun!

In his book; The New Toughness Training for Sports, Dr James Loehr writes about the need to find positivity and fun in the grind of daily or ongoing effort. Dr Loehr tells us that the Ideal Performance State that is necessary to excel in competition is developed in practice and training. We can train while in a flight or fight state or we can train while in a challenge response state. The place we develop this is in the training hall where we teach ourselves that this is fun, this is a challenge or a puzzle that we enjoy solving. Although this book was written some time ago, it is still an excellent resource.

If we aren’t having fun and enjoying the massive amount of time we spend on this journey, it’s time to re-evaluate our approach. Find a way to lighten up, have some fun, train with intensity and intelligence, and when the time comes be dangerous.

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Apparently it’s much more fun when you win! This is a pic of my brother David and our father after one of David’s boxing matches.