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.
More than a decade ago I was obsessed with functionality in my martial arts training. Part of this was driven by the real necessity to know how to fight to survive, and part was driven my childhood trauma. I abandoned everything else martial arts had to offer me, in search for the truth in hand to hand combat. Through those years of testing, experimenting and fighting — I believe I succeeded in finding a method that works in almost all interpersonal aggressive encounters. I proved it out on the streets, outside the doors of nightclubs as a bouncer, in the ring, and on my mat in thousands of rounds of all out sparring.
I have written extensively about martial arts as a catalyst for personal mastery in life. Yet, the opposite is equally true. How you show up in life, is how you will show up on the mat. I believe the mat, and life, or life and the mat are in a constant symbiotic relationship. They are both reliable on each other to be successful.
I have been having loads of discussions with my students lately before class. One topic that has come up repeatedly, is the question,
“How do I define what I do?”
For a long time, I would simply reply, “I am a martial arts coach.” But increasingly I feel this term doesn’t fully encapsulate what I am about (now), and where I intend to go in the future, or even for that matter what I really feel is the ultimate utility of the expression to begin with.
If one could go back to the dawn of modern man one would be struck by two perennial truths. In the one sense humans would seek to propagate and continue the species, and secondly there would be a need to survive. Building off that need to survive would be the leveraging of both self, and environment as means to seek personal, and collective (i.e., family, tribe) protection.
It is hard for many of us to imagine this, especially those of us who live in the relative safety and ease of the modern world. But for our ancestors, life was unimaginably harsh, filled with danger, both real and imagined. It’s not surprising then, that earliest man sought to find the best possible ways, including strategies and tactics to defend himself, and those he cared deeply about (or simply other people he needed to help him fight off the dangers he could not survive alone),