Endure a Little More

There is simply no substitute for time on the mat, range, or in the weight room. One of my coaches told me that cranking the oven up to 800 degrees doesn’t reduce the baking time, it just burns the cake. There’s a lot of truth in those words. I can’t count the times I tried to go too far too fast, and paid the price in the form of injuries, frustration, and sometimes lost training time.

 

While there certainly are more efficient ways to train we have to fight the urge to succumb to the get rich quick mentality. There is no easy way. There is no shortcut. There is only consistent effort over time.

 

Sometimes it’s consistent, painful, bone-crushing exhaustion level effort over a longer period of time than we think it should take.

 

As one approaches a level of mastery it becomes even more difficult to measure improvements. The first few years of strength training it’s normal to put 200 pounds on our squat or deadlift, after 10 years of training a 200 pound increase on the squat or deadlift would be miraculous. There are a few things we can do at this point. We can radically change our approach, maybe switch to a new coach, or a new training strategy. Sometimes that works for a brief time. However, sometimes the best strategy is to keep doing what got us here while trusting the process. Focusing on small improvements, even as small as a 1% over a 4-6 week training cycle, is an improvement. Put enough of those together, and we end up with a 10-15% increase over the course of a macro cycle.

 

Regardless of your stage in this game know this, there will come a time where you will simply have to choose to endure a little more. There is no way around it, you will want to quit, you will be frustrated. You will see friends, and training partners that started at the same time as you or even after you surpass you. Keep on keeping on. There really is nothing to it but to do it.

 

IMG_6230As my coach Chris Haueter says, “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left… it’s hours on the mat… and if you put in that time, natural athlete or not, you practice the art, you’ll be a black belt. You’ll be somewhere in ten years… imagine someplace ten years from now I’m gonna be somewhere why not be a black belt too? You just can’t quit.”

 

Swing For the Fence

When we examine the use of an impact weapon to defend ourselves we find a lot of complicated ways to approach something that should be fairly simple. I know I spent quite a few years doing a lot of things that were little more than a fancy choreographed dance routine with an impact weapon as an accessory. Through trial and error my training partners and I were able to boil impact weapon work down to a few essentials.

 

Impact weapon work is similar to any other weapon we might use to defend our life and limb. Some principles are universal such as; 1) Choose the right tool for the job. 2) If you aren't regularly practicing with the tool don't expect skill to magically materialize when you need it. 3) Hit what's available until something better to hit becomes available.

 

Coach Matt Thornton, president of the Straight Blast Gym, International streamlined impact weapon work within the SBG in the early 2000's using the acronym SMAC to best summarize our approach. Through the process of constant pressure testing we had discovered a few truths regarding impact weapon work. We found a target hierarchy of; 1) weapon bearing arm, 2) lead leg, 3) the head to be the best way to deal with an armed opponent. Particularly if our opponent was armed with an impact weapon, aka we were stick fighting, the best way to deal with them was to beat on their weapon bearing arm to take away their ability to hit us, attack their lead leg to reduce their mobility, and finally attack their head to knock them out. We found it worked best if we used this hierarchy within our stick fighting strategy.

 

(It was also through this impact weapon testing process in the 1990's that I discovered the Helmet, now called the Default Response by master trainer Craig Douglas. We learned a lot of valuable lessons beating on each other with sticks… mostly that it hurts. A lot.)

 

When it comes to using an impact weapon to defend ourselves outside the arena of a consensual stick fight, there are a few things we need to understand. (Beyond the legal aspect. For that you'll need to speak with an attorney that understands the law and self defense). I'm a believer in attacking the limbs with impact weapons. A shot from a sap across the wrist or top of the forearm will make it difficult for your attacker to hold onto you. The same can be said for shots to major muscle groups. A baseball bat or table leg to the outside of your attacker's upper arm or thigh will most likely cause them to alter their immediate plans, and a second and third shot will create some mobility issues for them.

 

Regardless of the size of the weapon I try to keep my hand within the four corners of my upper body meaning I don't lift my hands above my shoulders or let them drop below my hips. If I'm swinging an impact weapon in an X pattern I won't let my weapon bearing arm go outside of the four corners of my upper body. Power is generated by rotation of my upper body, weight shift of my lower body, and the weight of the tool I'm using. This really becomes important when using the shorter impact weapons such as an extendable baton, a sap, or a short improvised impact weapon. With longer impact weapons that require two hands we can loosen this rule a bit however, it's never a good idea to develop bad habits.

 

In the next post we'll get into some specific concepts and principles as well as some training ideas we can use to develop our impact weapon skills.

 

What is First?

First Things First by Stephen Covey is a great book on time management. It takes us deeper into Covey’s system for managing our most valuable asset; time. During a seminar on time management one of the presenters said something that pertains to working towards our goals and objectives that stuck with me. He said; the first thing you do upon waking is the first thing. If the first thing I do upon waking isn’t taking me towards my goals, then I need to think about my goals, and what’s really important to me.

 

If one of my goals is to improve my Jiujitsu escapes from bottom then the first thing I should be doing upon waking is something that takes me closer to this goal. Get out of bed, and get the coffee brewing. While I’m waiting for my coffee I can do hip escapes/shrimps,  bridges/upas, sit-outs or any number of solo drills that prime my mind and body to think all day about my goal of improving my Jiujitsu.

 

This also applies to any other goal in the multidisciplinary practice. If we want to improve our pistol skills then the first thing I should do is dry practice. If I want to level up my standup game then I should be shadowboxing as soon as I’m awake enough to move around. The mental act of starting to work on reaching my goal as soon as I’m awake is important. It sets the tone and pace for the day. Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives has spoken and written quite often about using every available minute for our daily practice as we are all on a time crunch. Those moments while waiting for our coffee to brew, or the shower water to regulate is a few more minutes or reps.  It’s a simple way to get into the mental state of using every available moment when we start our day working on our goal.

 

As I recall the presentation on time management, and reaching goals I think about how many times I have started my day looking at what others are doing. I surf social media to see what my friends, and family are doing, check emails, or my RSS feed. While these things are all interesting, there is a good chance none of these things are helping me reach my goals. I have effectively told myself what others are doing is more important than my goals, and what I want to do. It might sound self serving yet, I think it’s okay to focus on ourselves and our goals for the first few moments of the day.

 

Think about your goals. Think about how you start your day. If those two things aren’t congruent maybe it’s time to put yourself and your goals first, at least for the first part of your day. Try it for a few weeks, and see if it doesn’t move you closer to reaching your goals.

 

Banged Up

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe

At this point it’s virtually impossible to find someone that hasn’t read or heard this quote from Rippetoe, and for good reason. There is a lot of truth found in those words. In a recent social media post Ryan of Full Contact Runner on the subject of injuries Ryan talked about the frustration experienced when folks act as if the cause of our injury or illness is related to, and made worse by this lifestyle. As if we are somehow more susceptible to injury, and illness than someone that spends those same hours sitting on a couch. While we are definitely more likely to be injured, (as this lifestyle is a contact sport), it is still preferable to any other way of life. Most importantly, and something these critics fail to realize, is the simple fact that this lifestyle sets us up to recover from any injury or illness much faster, and with less complications. Because of this lifestyle we are strong therefore we are harder to kill, harder to knock down, and when knocked down we’re harder to keep down.

  • Using myself as an example; in 2007 I shattered my kneecap on a gig. It took surgery, and 8 months of therapy to get back in the saddle. I was told there were things I wouldn’t be able to do again, to include key aspects of my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2010 I injured my lower back doing extensive damage to the discs and vertebrae at S1, L5, L4, and L3. I was told I would need major surgery, and would have to medically retire from my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2011 I was hit with intense abdominal pain that went on for months. I ultimately ended up in the hospital with acute pancreatitis. I was in a bad state, and it resulted in surgery to repair the damage. I was told this is probably going to be something I would live with for the rest of my life. I’m able to manage this because of my lifestyle.
  • 2014 I had a brain hemorrhage with intra-cranial pressure/swelling. It was awesome. Probably the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. I should have died. I didn’t. I was told I would have permanently altered gait, and other issues. I don’t.
  • During training cycles I’ve broken ribs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, teeth, my jaw, nose, and a metric ton of soft tissue injuries.

You’re probably wondering what’s the point of listing injuries and illness? To make a point which is; the common theme in every injury or illness was at some point, often multiple times a Doctor or other medical professional would tell me that the reason it wasn’t worse, and my recovery was faster than expected was because I arrived at that crisis point strong, healthy, and in great condition. I’m not alone in this, every one of my friends that have gone through any type of injury or illness relate the same story. Doctors and medical professionals telling them they made it, or they will recover because their strength levels when it started were so high. That’s the other side of this injury/illness coin the couch surfers don’t understand. The injuries we suffer in this game aren’t as bad as they would be if we were weak. The illnesses we go through in life, (by the way, both of my health crisis were unrelated to my lifestyle), would be much worse, and maybe even unsurvivable if we didn’t have a reservoir of physical and mental strength going into the situation.

So remember that the next time a critic points out that you’re “always” hurt, or you seem to be more susceptible to injury or illness that “never” seems to affect them. First, their perception might be skewed, to say the least. Second, while the injury part might be true since if we never get punched in the face what are the odds that we’ll get concussed? However, illnesses which is to some degree genetic hit all of us regardless of whether we follow a healthy lifestyle or not. Folks that never smoke a day in their life are diagnosed with cancer, and folks that never drink a day in their life come down with liver disease. It’s just the cards we’re dealt. The difference is a strong body gives the physicians, and other medical professionals more to work with to fight the illness, or even a traumatic event that landed us on the hospital bed in front of them. Get strong, stay strong, and ignore the critics.

 

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A powerful depiction of our role in helping the doctors and medical staff help us. Give them something to fight with, get as strong and healthy as possible. Thanks to Ryan of Full Contact Runner for sharing this photo. If your not following Ryan on social media check out his Facebook page at Full Contact Runner as well as his excellent blog of the same name.

 

Mental Game

Some folks refer to the mental side of this pursuit as mindset, and we like to add a little heat to it by adding the words; combative, or tactical, or maybe even killer. That’s cool stuff, and I dig it yet I still prefer to refer to this as mental game simply because I approach this aspect just like any other piece of the multi-disciplinary endeavor; we can build it once we have a plan, tools, and materials.

First ask yourself if you see this endeavor as something epic? You might be thinking c’mon dude, this is just jiujitsu or just shooting or just lifting weights. That’s the first issue we have to address. You have to see this as your personal hero’s journey because that is exactly what this endeavor will be. You will fail. You will be injured. You will want to quit. You will be frustrated. You will see friends surpass you. You will lose, maybe more than you win. Did I mention you will want to quit? You will want to quit, sometimes daily. If you have read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell this is familiar to you. If it has been a while since you read Hero’s Journey then I would recommend reading it again, and put it into your rotation of books to be re-visited at least once a year.

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A cool depiction of The Hero’s Journey from the Buck Institute for Education. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campell.

Okay, so maybe you still don’t buy into this being a hero’s journey. That’s cool however, I think you will come around to this way of thinking, and once you do everything else we talk about regarding mental game will be easy to digest.

I want you to think about the aspects of your life that have been made better by this endeavor. I routinely meet or hear from people that have lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off, after years of struggling with this issue. People also share with me about putting on muscle, and dedicating themselves to healthy eating practices that allow them to be in the best condition to date. I hear from people that struggled with substance abuse, never able to kick that habit until they began this journey. Eating disorders, body image issues, folks that were severely traumatized by events in their life, these are all people I have talked with and were kind enough to share with me their stories of overcoming these challenges through the lifestyle changes that come with this endeavor. This wasn’t the only thing that helped folks get to a better place however, this was a key component in helping folks get to a better place.

We all know this practice is about falling, getting up, falling, and getting up again. Each time we get up we’re armed with a little more knowledge then we had before we fell. Now we have a little more understanding of what to do, and what not to do. We’re a little better. This is your hero’s journey. Get that in your head. Start seeing it as epic. What you’re doing here in this endeavor will affect everything you do outside this endeavor. You might never need to fight a malevolent attacker. However, the skills you build in this thing might be exactly what you need when it’s time to dust yourself off, stand up, and go at life one more time.

Mental Game

Some folks refer to the mental side of this pursuit as mindset, and we like to add a little heat to it by adding the words; combative, or tactical, or maybe even killer. That’s cool stuff, and I dig it yet I still prefer to refer to this as mental game simply because I approach this aspect just like any other piece of the multi-disciplinary endeavor; we can build it once we have a plan, tools, and materials.

First ask yourself if you see this endeavor as something epic? You might be thinking c’mon dude, this is just jiujitsu or just shooting or just lifting weights. That’s the first issue we have to address. You have to see this as your personal hero’s journey because that is exactly what this endeavor will be. You will fail. You will be injured. You will want to quit. You will be frustrated. You will see friends surpass you. You will lose, maybe more than you win. Did I mention you will want to quit? You will want to quit, sometimes daily. If you have read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell this is familiar to you. If it has been a while since you read Hero’s Journey then I would recommend reading it again, and put it into your rotation of books to be re-visited at least once a year.

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A cool depiction of The Hero’s Journey from the Buck Institute for Education. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campell.

Okay, so maybe you still don’t buy into this being a hero’s journey. That’s cool however, I think you will come around to this way of thinking, and once you do everything else we talk about regarding mental game will be easy to digest.

I want you to think about the aspects of your life that have been made better by this endeavor. I routinely meet or hear from people that have lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off, after years of struggling with this issue. People also share with me about putting on muscle, and dedicating themselves to healthy eating practices that allow them to be in the best condition to date. I hear from people that struggled with substance abuse, never able to kick that habit until they began this journey. Eating disorders, body image issues, folks that were severely traumatized by events in their life, these are all people I have talked with and were kind enough to share with me their stories of overcoming these challenges through the lifestyle changes that come with this endeavor. This wasn’t the only thing that helped folks get to a better place however, this was a key component in helping folks get to a better place.

We all know this practice is about falling, getting up, falling, and getting up again. Each time we get up we’re armed with a little more knowledge then we had before we fell. Now we have a little more understanding of what to do, and what not to do. We’re a little better. This is your hero’s journey. Get that in your head. Start seeing it as epic. What you’re doing here in this endeavor will affect everything you do outside this endeavor. You might never need to fight a malevolent attacker. However, the skills you build in this thing might be exactly what you need when it’s time to dust yourself off, stand up, and go at life one more time.

Veggie Might! Part II

In Veggie Might! Part I I shared the motive for moving to plant based approach to eating. In this post I’m going to share some of the resources I’ve used to make this as painless as possible. There are quite a few apps, websites, and cookbooks available that have made my transition to plant based eating fairly easy.

Let’s start with youtube channels;

When it comes to cookbooks I look for recipes that make hearty, tasty meals. My favorites are;

One of the biggest challenges is eating while on the road. Fortunately there are more veggie friendly restaurants than ever before. The Happy Cow App is an excellent resource when I’m traveling or even if I’m at home and want to go out for a plant based meal. However, sometimes that’s not an option. Rather than force friends and family to eat at a plant based restaurant when all they really want is a steak, I’ll find ways to make do. Most regular restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu now. If that’s not an option I’ll order side dishes. There are always vegetables in the side dish menu as well as rice or something similar. I should say that my objective in eating this way isn’t to take the moral high ground or brow beat friends and family into eating my way. I want my friends and family to enjoy their life and if that means they eat a steak, so be it. Rather than make an issue about eating at a steak house or BBQ joint, I’ll treat it as a challenge! 

So whether you want to go all in on a plant based diet, or simply try one of the various approaches to vegetarianism to see for yourself if your health improves, these are a few of the resources I have used and continue to use. For me this has been a fantastic decision. I’m healthier, I eat foods that cover a full spectrum of flavors, colors, and textures. I meet my nutritional objectives everyday, and never feel like I’m missing out on anything. I will admit to missing a good cheeseburger on occasion, particularly in the summer time at events with friends and family. However, I’ve found other forms of burger such as black bean burgers or portobello burgers that taste great and are a fantastic substitute.

It’s as easy and as hard as that, after a few years of eating this way it really isn’t that difficult any longer. When I contrast my medication free life now with a life spent taking medications that were correcting one issue while creating a host of others, I can live without the cheeseburgers.