Be Persistent

The best way out is always through.” 

― Robert Frost

For as long as I can remember I have been about the struggle.  When it came to training and pushing myself I didn’t think of it as a struggle. I find meaning in struggle and hard work.  Without a doubt there were many days when it was tough. A battle as much with myself as with the hard training we were doing. Through athletics and martial arts I have developed a mentality that enabled me to continue to push myself and be persistent. The habit of sticking with something until it is complete. Being persistent has enabled me to get through most everything that has ever been thrown at me.  As martial artists, we are fighters, combat athletes and by our very nature… is to be persistent.

I am not sure what made me want to be an athlete and a martial artist , but I have figured out a few ‘hacks’ along the way.  Just so you know, I feel that hard work and persistence are two of the biggest ‘hacks’ to reaching your potential.  That being said, here are a few ways you can become more persistent in your life.

  1. When taking on anything the number one thing is, never stop attacking it.  Whether it is a task that needs to get done, a goal you want to achieve or a problem that you have to deal with, have the attack mentality.  Even if you are regrouping, trying to figure out the next best way to go, it is with an attack mentality.  The task isn’t going to take care of itself. Real goals will keep nagging you. Problems are not going to go away…you have to attack them until they are taken care of.
  2. My motto has always been, “It’s always too soon to quit.” Never Give Up the Fight!  If something is important to you, if it needs to get done, or if others are counting on you, you can’t quit, you can’t give up, sorry that is not an option.  No matter how hard something is you have to figure out a way to finish.  Hey, no one said it had to be perfect and pretty, but if you start something, finish it.  One of the statements I have used is, “Better never begin, once begun, better finish.”  Bottom line, if I didn’t want to do something that I didn’t need to do, I didn’t start.  However, if I started something that I had to do, said I’d do, or wanted to do, I would not stop until it was done.  That mentality has served me well, both in making decisions on what I am willing to do and following through on what needs to get done.  
  3. Do not let circumstances defeat you.  Life happens to everyone We are all going to experience good and bad times, health and sickness, happiness and sadness, good luck and bad luck. We are all going to have circumstances that are going to have the ability to derail you, but do not allow them to defeat you.  I look at everything as a part of life, even accidents and tragedies.  I have had my fair share of accidents, failures, injuries, illness, losses, personal tragedies, even life threatening cancers. But, we are martial artists, fighters, warriors and ready and willing to take on what life decides to throw at us.  When it happens I will take it on, never stop attacking and Never Give Up the Fight!

It is not going to be easy, worthwhile things never are.  You are going to have to be persistent…especially with yourself!  Once you begin to build routines and positive habits in your life you will find your ability to be persistent grow.  Once you know what you have to do and what you want to do, then you have to knuckle up and do it.  As Robert Frost stated, “The best way out is always through.”  You are a fighter, a combat athlete, a martial artist, you attack, you never quit or give up, and  you won’t be defeated by the circumstances of our life.  Be persistent and stand your ground!

Goal Setting

Summer is finally here and it’s time to start setting your summer training goals! Goal setting is a critical component to training well and requires careful thought and organization. Below is a formula you can use to start setting your goals TODAY:

  1. Clearly define your goal.

    If it involves losing weight, give an amount you want to lose. If it involves promotion, give the belt color you want to get. “I want to lose 20 pounds.”OR “I want to get promoted to my next rank which is Green belt.”

  2. Set a definite date by when you will achieve your goal.

    a)“Today is (date) and in 3 months, on (mm/dd/yyyy) I will have…. (lost 20 lbs, been promoted to my next rank, etc.)

  3. Explain how you plan on achieve your goal.

    This is your ACTION PLAN. The more specific you are the better!
    a) I will get promoted to my next rank by attending each of my scheduled classes every week and by attending open mat twice a month to practice my shadow boxing.”

    b) “I will lose 20 pounds by attending each of my scheduled classes every week and by using the fitness center twice a week.” Be sure to include important dietary changes you will implement to accompany your workouts (not eating fast food, cutting back on soft drinks, eating more salad and veggies, less processed foods, etc).

  4. Write or type out your goals and place them where you will see them regularly.

    Good places are on your bathroom mirror, next to your bed, on the dashboard in your car, at your desk, on your computer monitor, etc. Seeing your goal daily and repetitively will help you stay focused on what you have promised yourself you would do, how you plan to do it, and by when you will do it by.

  5. Recite your goal out loud every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep.

    Turn your goal into a healthy obsession. By always keeping your goal on your mind you are less likely to get distracted and more likely to follow through on your plan.

  6. Keep a journal of your progress.

    Every time you come to class – note improvements that you’ve made, or areas you want to improve. This is where you can keep track of mini goals: “Today in class I did 15 pushups, by next week this time I want to do 20 pushups. I will prepare for this by doing pushups at night before I go to bed starting with 10 pushups on the first night. Each night after that I will add one more pushup until I get to 20 pushups.”

This is just one of many ways to set a goal. If you have any questions about goal setting, talk to your coaches! We are here to help you become better and we want you to succeed.

Training, the Heart of the Martial Arts

The martial arts have been part of my life for 43 years. From the beginning, I had friends that trained with me, but I spent a good deal of time with myself. Both are important to your development in martial arts and almost everything you do. The most successful that reach their potential and make the greatest strides, hold training as the heart of martial arts life. The ones that push themselves to higher levels and are more consistent have steady training partners along the journey.  Consistent training over time will accelerate your growth and make training more fun.

It is important to know that everyone has talents. At the beginning, we are all unsure how to develop our new skills and talents to reach our full potential. To become the ‘good, better, best’ that you can requires consistent training – consistency is king!   Start where you are, start with small deliberate steps, but be consistent.  Watch techniques, training methods, skills and drills being taught with focus and mindfulness. Keep the image of your instructor doing the skill as you start performing the repetitions with your partner. Practice by yourself in front of the mirror, on the heavy bag, or grab a partner and take 5 – 10 minutes to drill back and forth.  You can also watch the skills being performed over and over with some intense focus. A great source is TeamAcademyCoaches.com to watch the techniques of the month.  You can watch matches, fights, training, and techniques. Watch them over and over until you start to form a mental blueprint. Picture the movement, body mechanics, position and structure. Finally, focus on your body performing the same skills.

Once you begin to feel more comfortable with the technique, it is time to up your training. Keep in mind, ‘Technique is everything.’ You want to drill with precision and sharpen your technique.  Quality is more important than quantity.  ‘Repetition is the mother of skill, but discipline is your Daddy.’  You want to get your reps in but, you need to be specific, detailed and disciplined with those reps.  , it takes discipline to show up and do the reps necessary to reach your potential.  One of the best ways to be more disciplined is to have a solid training partner that shows up.

A training partner that shows up ready to work is important to keep you accountable. They will also give you feedback and make training more fun. Your instructors, top competitors, and top students all do consistent training outside of class with consistent training partners. Pick someone you like to work with and then, “Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter.” It is important to remember that skills grow over time and you have to water, weed and cultivate your skill like a gardener.  You need to plan and prepare your training to build a strong foundation. Connect your skills and techniques together like a carpenter building a beautiful house. ‘Training is the heart of the martial arts lifestyle.’ Training over time with great training partners is where the magic happens.

What is Meaningful to You?

minnesota thai boxingPeople that are at the top of their game, whatever it is, know what is meaningful in their life.  Meaning is a powerful driving force but, how do you know what you find meaningful when asked. High performers worldwide were asked some basic questions about what living the most meaningful life means to them. They were  asked, “what do you find meaningful to you when you have two options put before you?” Now when you have two bad options you can choose neither.  When you have one good option and one bad option, simply choose the good one. Yet, when you have two good options or opportunities put before you, how do you know which one is going to be best?  High Performers choose the one that is going to be most meaningful. So how do they choose what is the better more meaningful option/opportunity?

First, it was found that meaning is closely associated with enthusiasm. Simply put, which choice excites them the most. Which choice would they want to spend the most time doing for the longest time. Which one would they talk about the most, geek out about, they wake up thinking about and wanting to do it. Second, there was a deeper level of connection. They found it to be something that was right to them. It had greater depth and/or they found a better connection to the people associated with one option and found deeper relationships. Third, they find more satisfaction by doing one over the other. They feel that they will be more fulfilled, more satisfied at end the of the day. Which would make them feel more proud, or engage  them more helping them grow. Which would require them to give more of themselves to the process and give them a real sense of personal satisfaction.  When I was battling cancer and unsure whether I was going to live. I did a lot of thinking about what I did. Was I satisfied with my life? Did I have any regrets? What would I do different? Was I completely engaged? Did I give back to others? Did my life have meaning? Personal satisfaction is a huge thing and high performers find themselves asking, am I satisfied with what I’m doing? If not they either change their approach or change what they’re doing. Lastly, is there coherence or does it fit with your overall life story. Does what you choose to do make sense in the broader story of your life. Does what you have in front of you bring you closer to where you want to be?  There is a feeling of alignment, do you feel you are going in the right direction…

Here is a simple question you can ask yourself to help find more meaning and be more intentional in your life:

  1. How can I make what I’m doing more meaningful to me? Take some time and focus on the opportunities in front of you.  In the end you will be happier. You will do better and find so much more meaning if you are enthusiastic. You will find connection and satisfaction, and feel a sense of coherence in what you’re doing.

 

Energy

Who doesn’t want a high level of energy, happiness, and joy. Who doesn’t want to be more alert, engaged, fully present and alive? We all do! Energy and vitality, health and well being are all at the top of my life goals. Having more energy alone will make you more optimistic and positive: you are going to be more patient, productive, and more happy person. More energy benefits everyone in your life, because it is such an important part of being the best that you can be. I am going to have a series of articles breaking down some of the best physiological practices used by the highest performing people in the world.

Taking care of yourself should be your highest priority. Being a lifelong athlete and martial artist fitness has been a huge part of my life. In the last few years I have dedicated myself to increasing the fitness of my brain, body and breathing. In each article I am going to focus on one best practice for your Brain, Body and Breathing.

The brain is your body’s priority and requires a lot of energy to run the body. oOne of the most important things we can do is sleep 7+ hours a night. There is tons of research on the importance of sleep. Here’s what I did to sleep 7+ hours, increase my energy, focus and productivity.

  • I started going to sleep 30 – 50 minutes earlier. Over time adding 3 hours more sleep.
  • My room is completely blacked out. Blackout curtains and all light sources covered or removed. I also have a nice padded eye mask. Any light seems to wake me, so I take no chances.
  • I do not look at any screen 50 minutes before I go to bed. No phones, computers or TV. Instead I will read or listen to fiction, write and/or listen to relaxing music.
  • I lowered the temperature of my house to 67 degrees.
  • I try not to eat 3 hours before I go to bed.
  • I go to bed and wake up at the same time as much as possible. I haven’t heard my alarm in my house in a long time.
  • I do not drink coffee or any caffeinated drink after 2 pm. Caffeine has a half life of 8 hours and I do not need any caffeine after my morning mushroom coffee.


Regarding our body, we need to make sure we drink a lot of water all throughout the day. You should drink clean water immediately after you wake up. You usually haven’t had any water for 7+ hours so it is necessary to drink when you wake up. Throughout the day it is important to drink at least every hour. If you sweat a lot you have to replace that water and continue to drink every hour. , I do not drink sodas only kombucha or vinegar drinks besides water. Most people do not drink enough water, so…drink a lot more water.

Breathing is often taken for granted. When we sleep we breathe deeply yet, when we are awake most people do not breathe as well. One of the easiest ways to get a jolt of energy that will pick you up is to bounce and breathe. Close your eyes, make a light bounce up and down in place, like you are doing basic footwork, and breathe. You should inhale completely and exhale audibly.

All of these ideas are connected. As we investigate more best high performing practices. You will find that you too will start to increase your energy, focus, health, happiness, productivity, & well being.

Bring up Your Energy

Without a doubt most people want to have more energy. They want to feel enthusiastic about things to come and excited about what they are doing. Drive, motivation, excitement, energy and total focus are all important to finding personal success. There are many videos, books, podcasts, seminars, and courses. Each giving you the information to be your best. Yet, it all starts with your physical health and vibrancy,  your mental attitude and emotional well-being. One of the most important ways to affect all the above is to focus on what is going to give you more ENERGY! Here are 6 simple ways to boost your energy by having great health and vitality. 

1. Get 7+ hours of sleep a night. I use to feel this was a joke. Now, as a habit I get 7 hours of sleep. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. No screens 30-90 minutes before bed. Make sure there is no light anywhere in your room. Set your room temp at 65-69 degrees. Try not to eat 2-3 hours before bed. It took me about 4 months to sleep 7 hours a night

2. Drink 4-5 liters of water a day. The first thing you should do in the morning is drink a big glass of water. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Get a liter container and fill it up and drink it 4-5 times a day, or a 1 gallon jug full of water and drink it down.

3. 2-3 healthy meals a day. The one plate rule at each meal; only have one plate of food. For me I now eat 80% greens and 20% meat and carbs. Of course this is an individual thing. But, if you are serious about your diet, go see a nutritionist. Get a blood and saliva check and see what you allergic to, deficient in and recommendations for you.

4. 5-6 workouts a week. Having a consistent Martial Arts class schedule will take care of 3-4 of those workouts. You should do some kind of strength training, endurance work and mobility training on top of that.

5. Meditate 1-2 times a day. Meditation does not have to be any specific kind but, find something that works for you. There are apps such as Headspace that you can get to help calm down your brain and release tension.

6. While working take a break every 50 minutes. Step away from your desk and rejuvenate yourself.  Such as getting water, doing some light exercise, deep breathing, take a short walk. Anything that will allow you to refocus and regenerate, to invest some energy into the next 50 minutes of work. I have started focusing on these 6 ways to generate more energy. I have increased my health and well-being. I have increased my physical, mental and emotional vibrancy. Start making these 6 areas a habit. You will have more enthusiasm for upcoming tasks.  You will have more motivation and increase your health and energy.

Opera Non Verba, Deeds Not Words…..Just Do It!

Training To Be Healthy : Part 2

Fourth, workout 5-6 times a week.  Start your morning with a 20-30 minute walk, jog, shadow box, carenza, and basic mobility work.  It is important to have a morning routine; something to get your blood pumping, oxygenate your body and limber up your joints.  Along with your regular martial arts training you should do some strength and cardio training. You should have a consistent routine, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Start small and work your way up. This should be easy for everyone. You are already training, now start to be very directed and disciplined.

Fifth, meditate, pray or simply relax at least once a day. If you fall asleep, so be it. Doing something to reboot your brain and body during the day is important.  There are many ways to meditate. It does not have to be some esoteric weird thing, just focus on your breathing and kill two birds with one stone.

Sixth, get more sleep.  This one only took me 51 ½ years to figure out. It was tough at first, but now I sleep 7 hours…most nights.  To sleep well, I have to have everything completely dark and quiet, which everyone should. I could talk about sleep a bunch because I have done a lot of study.  Why? Because as soon as I started sleeping 7 hours a night I felt so much more energized and motivated.

I could expand on every one of these areas, and I am still learning more all of the time.  Now in my 50’s, after fighting more than a few battles, on all fronts, I know the importance of health and well-being more now than ever.  What is stopping you from being committed to your health, your loved ones, family, your personal development and success in whatever you choose.

 

Don’t Fear The Process

In junior high and high school I was a gymnast.  In the beginning you learn how to simply swing back and forth, learning how to use your body to create more and more momentum.

Once you become comfortable with swinging you then learn how to do a kip. This requires some technique and timing.  On the outside, it looks very simple. However, there are many little movements that must be coordinated and timed to complete the move.  Eventually, the goal is to kip up and cast as high as you can so as to let your body drop and allow your body to swing completely around the bar.  Of course, the bar is 9 feet off the ground and what looks so effortless from the outside, is not so easy.  No matter how many times you swing back and forth, at some point you are going to have cast as high as you can and let gravity work. Allowing the process to happen is always the toughest part. Why is it so tough to just let it happen -fear!
What ultimately allows a gymnast to allow their body to swing through the air around the bar is faith.  Eventually, you have to believe you are going to get all the way around.

We all get to that place when doing something for the first time where fear hangs out and you have to choose to move through it.

Most will never become a gymnast or have to swing entirely around a bar. But at some point you will have something in front of you, something new and scary, that you have to face and get over.  We all get to that place when doing something for the first time where fear hangs out and you have to choose to move through it.  Your first class, your first time sparring or rolling live, your first competition, the list goes on.…  Will you allow fear keep you from taking the next step? Will fear stop you from starting something new or will you have faith in the process, let yourself go and just have fun doing something totally new?

I can tell you I have done both. I have hesitated and even prevented myself from experiencing something new. On the other hand, I have ‘casted straight to handstand and let it rip.’ I have taken chances to do new things, meet new people, experience the curiosity and joy of being a complete beginner again.  What is it that prevents you from taking that swing?  Whenever you are at the cusp of doing something new and hesitate to jump, you must not let fear win.  Courage is not about the lack of fear; courage is about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Learning to trust the process will allow you to experience many things that will never be there if you allow fear to control you.  Learn to simply let go.  It’s something I wish I would have done it always throughout my life. Just like when I went for that first giant swing in gymnastics.  

Start doing those things you are putting off, that you may be afraid of, but will benefit your life….you’ll be happy you did.

Hard Work Beats Talent

‘Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard’ Talent is a gift, skills are learned and when combined with hard work that is where the magic happens. We have that saying painted on our walls because it is truth. The mechanics of kicking, punching, knees, elbows, takedowns, submissions, etc… are all skills that are won through hard work, repetition and continual practice. Skills affect your growth as a martial artist just as talent does. If your technical skills are sharpened through hard work you can be very good, maybe even great! However, we have seen countless Academy members with no special talent and average mechanics become some of our best students and even successful competitors.

Talent and skill are important to becoming a great martial artist, or a great anything. However, they are not the most important elements to that success. We have many high ranking students, competitors in BJJ, MMA and Muay Thai, and instructors who are not gifted with natural talent nor have achieved technical perfection. So what is the most important factor when it comes to achievement? It’s called a strong work ethic.

Remember, ‘Practice Makes Habit’, so make a strong work ethic your habit.

What is a strong work ethic? It is the ability to consistently do the work at your highest level no matter what your circumstances are. In other words, no matter what happens, no matter what outside struggles you may have, you are still able to get in and bring all the talent and skill you have to every class, practice or training session. A strong work ethic is simply you doing your best every chance you get with everything you do.

A strong work ethic is a learned skill. Work ethic has nothing to do with genetics, natural talent or whatever you want to call it. It is developed the exact same way any of your technical skills are. If you don’t have a strong work ethic it simply means you haven’t ‘trained’ it enough yet. Anyone can develop a strong work ethic when they decide to put it into practice. 

Remember, ‘Practice Makes Habit’, so make a strong work ethic your habit.

Creating the habit to work hard starts with simple steps. First and foremost, you have to decide to work hard…it is a choice. Next, you must create a schedule and stick to it. Consistency is key! Stay disciplined, come to class and do your best. Do that every class, week after week, making a habit of pushing yourself and let your hard work speak for itself.

Rules For Living Part 2

Rule #4

All Champions Have To Start Somewhere And Quite Often It Is At The Bottom

My first year of wrestling I was on my back looking up a lot! I counted a lot of gym lights my first year of wrestling in Jr High losing 11 matches and winning only 1. I was a real ‘loser’ all around that school year. I got in a ton of trouble and was eventually expelled in the last 2 weeks of school. Incidentally, that made that summer a turning point in my life. My dad, who was athletic, an eagle scout, a successful manager at one of the first computer companies, grew up poor and worked on a farm, put me to work. My dad gave a list of chores to do everyday, and I was expected to finish it. What wasn’t finished was added to the next day’s list. I started my 7th grade year pretty much on the bottom of every area of my life, sports, school and letting my parents down. However, with my dad’s stern guidance and a summer of continuous work something changed in me. I definitely started on the bottom, but the following year my season record was 12-2. In addition, I stopped getting in anywhere near the same amount of trouble.

It is not where you start, but where you end and how you get there

Rule #5

If You Truly Believe In Yourself, Others Will Too

 

After starting from ground zero and working to change my self image, I started winning. More than that I was pushing myself in ‘most’ areas of my life. I decided to set my alarm for 30 minutes earlier every morning and get up and jog. Training was now a habit and by high school I was excelling in gymnastics, doing well in wrestling and my grades were good, but not great. My teachers saw that I was working harder than ever and taking classes more serious, but I was certainly not one of the most studious in the school. They soon began to realize that I was beginning to believe in my ability to be scholar athlete. I began taking an interest in my classroom work and looking at my school work in the same way as my athletics. A few teachers began to really work with me in areas I did not excel. They saw me not just as a high level gymnast and good wrestler, but as someone that wanted to succeed.

 

There are two types of people who begin to attract help from those in the know: those who try hard, fail, get back up and go hard again, and those who succeed and are always open to suggestions to get even better. I was of the first group and I found that people like to help those who work hard to improve, listen and actually follow their advice. When you go to a coach, mentor or teacher and share your goals and ask for advice, criticism and guidance they are in your corner as you fight to succeed. We should make sure our mentors become part of our successes, let them know how much we appreciate all they do and show your gratitude with every new victory.

Judge your successes by what you had to give up to get them