For a very long time, in fact not even that long ago, I was embarrassed to tell my story. I preferred for people to see me as I am now, and to not know the backstory. Over the past few years I have opened up more about my life’s story. Partly because people keep asking, partly because I have needed to heal, and partly because, it is that very story that has led me where I am today. While there is much of my life’s story I have shared, there are still some chapters I am still unable to share because of deep pain, and embarrassment — but who knows in time, with enough inner work, that will change as well.
In 2012 I embarked on a formal educational journey (i.e., my PhD), which I now realise was in fact a culmination of years of informal study. You see, as far back as a decade ago, I began to realise that my personal performance in the ‘fight game’ was largely predicated on what was happening on the inside. Said another way, if I stepped onto the mat filled with self-doubt, anxiety, and self defeating thoughts, it would invariably impact my game. While my research as an academic has been specifically focused on the inner game of leadership, with a specific attention to mindfulness in action — my realisation has been, that these tools expand to all areas of one’s life.
In many ways modern martial arts is an extension of modern living, at least as we experience it in the West. Just like so many of us that focus on the external, and materialistic nature of our existence, so does this seem to be prevalent in the world of modern martial arts. Success sadly is often narrowly defined by the physical, the external, and whom someone can beat. What stays in our minds is the physical techniques, the outward manifestation that we observe in that victory. People then scramble off to learn these physical techniques in hopes that it too will lead to their own success. In a not to dissimilar way, many people focus on the accumulation of materialistic wealth as not only a measure for themselves, but in showing others, that they have succeeded. Success then, is often sadly measured externally, and as a showcase for others to see and admire.
Life is a real pain in the ass, it will kick you between the legs, the second you lose your focus. Lets be real, it will kick you in the teeth, even when you are awake, watching, and focused. Finding the still point in life’s chaos is difficult. Paradoxically the place that I train for stillness, is in the most un-still, chaotic, unpredictable experience in my life — by fighting.
As a martial artist, mindfulness has been an integral part of my training, and coaching for many years — way before it became popular. Today, mindfulness is everywhere, and seems to be the panacea for all kinds of ills, from helping with stress, pain, or just to be happier.
In many ways I share the sentiments of Tony Robbin’s in a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, that, I simply never got into meditation. In fact, for most of my executive clients who come to me for Full Contact Living training, trying to get them to sit still is virtually impossible. Because of this, I started practicing and teaching what I termed mindfulness-in-action. It turns out, I am not alone in the call for this approach.