Friday, February 16, 2024

Thinking makes it so: Resiliency in tournament practice

Thinking makes it so: Resiliency in HEMA practice

Jordan Hinckley

When focusing on resiliency there are 3 aspects that we must take into consideration. The first is how do we mentally prepare for the stress of competition? The second is how do we keep our focus in the midst of that stress? The last is simply how do we assess our performance afterward in a way to keep moving forward? All three of these are connected as one feeds into the next in a circular fashion. We can think of these three as the Future, Present and Past.

 In this class we will look at all 3 aspects and look at some ways in which we can control the things within our control and as a whole connect these 3 parts in our regular training and practice. 

Future: Why do I compete? 

You are in the middle of a match, those stupid judges didn’t see the last three hits you landed on your opponent, your pulse is high, you can’t focus, “I can win this,” you think, but you cannot let go of the fact that last exchange you hit them 3 times and not one of those was counted by those dumb judges. Are the judges blind? What is wrong with them? Why didn’t the other guy acknowledge it? The director calls resume and physically you are present but can’t let the last 3 exchanges go mentally. You can’t let go of the idea that they are up by several points and you know you only have a few exchanges left if you want to win and time is running out. Your will to push harder is all but gone. Another point is called for your opponent, and with it, the last exchange. You walk away from the ring frustrated and mad at the judges, mad at yourself, and mad at the person who just beat you. 

Let’s face it, the reality of competition is that it can be a potentially stressful situation, so why do we do it? To win shiny things? To win accolades from friends, family, and those in the community whom we respect? Or is it something deeper like to trying out a technique we have been working on in class in a stress testing situation to see if we can make it work when the opportunity presents itself. Maybe we do it for fun, and love of the challenge of it all.

What is within your control?

Unpacking the reasons why we compete or why we practice, we must define what is within our control and what is not. 

We cannot control if we win a medal or not, we cannot control what the judges see, we cannot control who our opponent is, and we cannot directly control their actions.  

If succeeding at a tournament is a question of if you won a medal or not, in a field of 64 fighters, at best, only 4 will go home with a medal hanging on their necks from winning that tournament. Effectively what that means is that 7 or 8 percent of fighters will “succeed” and the other 92%-93% will by that same metric, fail. 

We cannot control what the judges see.  I always tell my students to assume that the judges are biased against you, because if you set out to make every exchange clean, regardless of the points scored, for or against you, you are fencing safely, and this must be our primary objective.

We cannot control who is in our pool, if we make it to eliminations, or what bracket we will be fighting in. We cannot control who is in our class and wants to spar with us but what we can control is how we personally face everyone whom we interact with. 

We cannot control the perceptions of others, even if we win big, there may be people who give us little or no respect for it. Alternatively, there may be people who believe that they were robbed because in their minds they can beat us, and as such they are more deserving of a medal or a big win than we are. 

We cannot control anyone else, but what we can control are our personal actions and how we present ourselves regardless of how it is viewed by others.  

The only thing within our control is what is inside us. How we are mentally and physically prepared, if we are giving our best, and are we fully present in the moment during this match. We owe it to ourselves to give the best we have in this moment. That is not to say the best we may ever have, or the best we can do tomorrow, it means flaws and all, we are compassionate to where we are today. We may be tired, have a headache, or just not feeling at the top of our game and that is ok. Doing our best today means despite this, we are giving it the best we can at this moment. It may not mean we will win but we can be comforted in knowing that we have given the best we are capable at the moment.

We can control our actions in a given situation. If we have been working hard on a technique for a while and the opportunity presents itself to use it, do we have the presence of mind to see it and to act on it?

When I have students who are setting goals for competition one thing that we focus on is realistic goals that are achievable. In a field of 10 of the top fighters in the world, I am not likely to win 1st place, but I can give them my best, fight as hard as I can, with all I have, and make it so that they had to work to win the match.

Writing Prompt: 

  • Why do you compete/practice? What you are doing or plan to do?

  • What factors of your why are always within your control?

  • How do you measure success or failure to that metric?

Present: How do I bring myself back to my goal?

It is the middle of a match, you are not sure what the score is, but you feel like you are on the top of your game today. You just hit your opponent, which the judges didn’t see, and your opponent shortly after scored a point which they did. You are on the edge of the ring, you come back to focus, the director resumes the match and in a moment of calm you walk back into the ring ready to give it your best. 

If we begin with why we compete, the next thing we can ask is how do we bring ourselves back to that purpose when tension is high, adrenaline is pumping, and we feel like we are doing our best just to keep it all together. The simplest thing is a short mantra to bring us back to focus. This doesn’t need to be a paragraph; the reality is the simpler we can make it the better, because we can think it and remember it easily. Even something as easy as “I’ve got this”,  “This is the way”, “Keep doing my best”, “Be here now” or in the case when things went in a direction you had not expected, “So what?” 

In the middle of the match, we do not have time to think long drawn-out mantras to become present, we do not have time to assess everything that is going on in depth, but what we do have time for is to come back to our goal and focus. 

Unfortunately, many of us take the same time to get discouraged by mental scorekeeping, or being mad at the judges for failing to see something we feel we did well. In the short pauses between exchanges there are 2 things we can do easily. The first is to come back to our focus, the second is to get clear about what is happening and what we need to do in order to keep moving forward. Maybe everything is going well, you are meeting their way of fighting with your own and it is working. Awesome, come back to the present, keep your cool, and keep going. This is also a time when a corner coach can help you keep that focus or remind you of your goal. 

Another way we can deal with stressful situations is to go back to our breathing, this may as simple as a few deep breaths in and out, or as complicated as box breathing which consists of breathing in to a count of 5, holding for a count of 5, breathing out for a count of 5, then staying empty for a count of 5. The number of counts does not matter as long as they are the same, but the idea is to breathe in, hold it, breathe out, and hold that before beginning again. The idea of focusing on the breath is one that is used in many places but it is a way of becoming present to this moment and back to right now where you can focus on what is at hand in front of you. 

One thing I like to use is the idea of “So What” because it allows me to have the power to decide how I want to move forward. The question of “So What” can be helpful because all we are asking is what meaning a particular thing has. What does it matter if they hit me in the last exchange? What does it matter if the judges did or did not see something I am doing? Am I trying to impress them? Can I impress anyone else since they are out of my control? Am I giving things the best I have today? 

Writing prompt:

In the middle of the match what is something you can think that will bring you back to your goal? 

What is something that you can think of or recite in the moment to bring you back to the present? 

Past: Assessment of how things went, how to move forward.

In reviewing how a match, or tournament went it is easy enough if you do not feel like you did as well as you had wanted to get stuck in the mindset of “I failed, I am no good at this, maybe I should give up” While this can be a natural effect of things going in a way that you had not hoped or expected, I would suggest a different path. In looking at your performance ask yourself “Did I control the things within my control? Was I able to focus on the task at hand when it happened? Was I flexible enough with changing circumstances to adapt when I needed to? Lastly, and most importantly, did I succeed in accomplishing my objectives whatever they were?

Maybe your why was in pressure testing a technique. Was this something you had an opportunity to do and did so? If your why was just to have some fun sparring with some people you do not get to spar regularly, or make new friends, were you able to do that? What did you do well and you want to continue? What did you do less than you wanted and would like to improve on? In the assessment phase it is easy enough to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I once had an experience when I did not do as well as I had wanted in a tournament and I told my wife I was going to build a completely new training regimen. She asked me what I felt had gone well. 

Instead of building a whole new training program from scratch, the better solution was to ask myself what was I currently doing to make the things that had gone well work, and what did I need to add to it in order to improve in other areas. What I had wrong was the idea that I needed to tear everything apart and build it all over from scratch. Sure, some things needed work but some things were in fact working and I needed to acknowledge those things and if possible, keep up with those as they were working well. Did I need to supplement things? Absolutely, but supplementation is not a wholesale replacement for no other reason than being discouraged at a single factor of my performance. 

The assessment phase is where we can look at how we did in retrospect, and decide the way forward. Did your mantras keep you present in the fight? If not, do they need to be modified?  Were you able to see things clearly? Did your focus stay on the present when the match was going on? Were you able to remember your why and keep it at the forefront of your mind as you faced your challenges?

Writing prompt:

What about your tournament performance do you feel good about? 

What about your performance do you feel could use improvement?

Does this change your Why?

What is your plan to move forward and work on the things that need to be improved on? 



You are in the middle of a match; your mind is calm and focused. You are fully present right where you are. Win or lose you are having a great time fighting someone who is giving you a challenge. If pressed, you can think of exchanges that were really cool, but most of all, you are having fun being here doing something you enjoy doing. Sure, the judges did not see that cool thing that you just did, but they are people doing the best they can so you cut them some slack and intend to make the next exchange cleaner so they can see it more plainly. You do not know the score, but for you, right now, it doesn’t matter, this is fun, and you are having the time of your life. The table calls match and you go to shake the hand of your new friend. Win or lose, it does not matter, because you have had an opportunity to fence with someone to whom you gave your best because they, and you, deserve nothing less. 

Resiliency is not about the other person, it is not about forcing the judges to see something, it is not about medals or accolades. What it is about, is controlling the things in your power to control and doing your best today, right now, in this moment. We can lose a match and still be undefeated as a person. The things in our control are how we respond to the things that happen around us, and therein lies our true power. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Combat Con 2022 A golden Bronze weekend.

I have started this blog a dozen times. 
It is not enough to simply have a goal in mind, to get where you want to be in life you have to take steps, even if they are stumbling, awkward steps towards your goal. 
Yesterday, I won my first Longsword medal out of our local tournaments, and it happened where for me, a lot of my story began 8 years ago. My journey has not been as quick or easy as some, and has had some moments where I stumbled, times that I gave it my all, and still came up short. 
It all began at Combat Con. 
Before I came here, I was full of excuses, reasons I couldn't train hard, I could not push myself, reasons why I could not grow or do more. 
I came here for  my 33rd birthday, 8 years ago. Getting in my car for that first trip, I realized that things had changed in my mentality from "I can't" to "How Can I?". The difference between the two sounds pedantic but that little shift from impossible, to how can it make it possible, is a mental change that makes a difference. 
It was this place that I finally did my instructor certification, which in a lot of ways to me said, not only do I feel like I know what I know but others see that and believe I do to. 
It was coming back from this place that I had an accident that, though it was hard, made me realize the strength of my own will and how grateful I was to be alive and what a gift that was. 
In so many ways this has been a home for me, and it is only appropriate that it is here that Crying ugly tears I won my first medal in a tournament away from the ones that are our locals. 
In that first blog 8 years ago I said that Combat Con was about community but after these years, and after all this time, the hundreds of ups and downs, the crazy stories, and nights that have gone on forever, to me I have found that I have a home away from home. 
Yesterday I won a medal, it was not the one I have been working for but it was a start, and after my win, when a crowd of people descended on me and I had a thousand tearful hugs I realized that I have bult around me a family not of blood but of steel, I have found people that though I do not see and talk to them often, support me in all of my endeavors, and that is something that everyone needs. 
For me, it all started with a 33 year old who was not as confident in himself, had everything to prove but needed some major growing to do. Walking in the first time, I did not sure what to expect, and found in this event a group of people who genuinely want to see me succeed. 
There is a class that I teach that talks about setting goals, and one of the things that we talk about is how critical it is to create your team, how important it is to surround yourself with people who not only build you up when you are down, but also will hold your feet to the fire when you do not feel like getting up and doing the things that need to be done to get where you want to be. Surround yourself with people who will not just celebrate your triumphs but who will, when you stumble and fall, will help you get up, dust yourself off and keep going. 
This journey has not always been easy,   
There were days, when I was ready to give up. Days that on some level I considered walking away, but knew deep in my heart that I couldn't, wouldn't, at least not for real, no matter how much I wanted to. So I kept going. kept working, knowing that if I stayed focused, it was within me to reach that goal. Now the page is blank, and I must ask myself what I will do with the pages, will I rip them up? Will I burn them, or color the pages in crayon, or marker or will I start anew. 
So here we are. as I look at the blank pages, it becomes a question of what is next, how do I get better for next time, and where am I going to go? The answer is forward, and the answer is Combat Con. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

How to get what you (Really) want.


What do you want?

    This seems like an easy enough question, there are lots of things in life that we want, or feel like we deserve, but how do we move them from the wanting column to the obtained column? Think about something in your life that you desire. This does not have to be a big thing just something you want. 

Have an answer? Cool. 

Now is where it gets harder. 

    Why do you want it? What would having it do for you, or how would it change the way your life is? What is the deeper meaning behind it? The thing is, we don't want things to have them, though we think we do. We want them for the experience that we will get, or think we will get from them. We want to win the lotto not to have a million dollars in the bank, but because of the things we can do with the money, or the feeling of financial stability that it will bring. We want to win big at the tournament because of what it says about us, or what it says about our progress on what we have been working on. The goal is not about the things, it is about what that goal means to us, what it will DO for us. 

    Even things that we want that we feel we will get nothing out of we have some sort of attachment to. You volunteer at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless. You do this to help people who are starving. Cool, that s a noble thing. But down deep there is something in doing it that makes you feel good. We seek the things we do because they provide some sort of validation, or do something for us on some level even if that level for what they say about who we are as a person. 

    So now we go back to the beginning, what do you really want? If it is not about the thing, is there another way you can reach the why without that specific thing? If winning big is about self esteem, then could you reach the goal without winning the gold medal? If it is about how others view you, are there other ways to reach that? Is it possible to let others opinion of you go so it is not important? The key here is to look at the goal and ask, if your objective lies in the why, is there any other way to get there? 

Lets take an example. 

    I feel like I am out of shape because of my weight, so my goal is to lose weight. When I look at the why, it comes back to me not feeling good about how I look and how other judge me. So the why is really that I do not feel good about how I look and how others may judge me. Are there things I can do other than lose a bunch of weight to fix the perception that I do not feel good about how I look? Can I work on my self esteem to feel better about myself? Can I let go of toxic people who are always talking bad about me to build myself up? If the true why is about how I feel about myself then there are many ways I can get there. When we focus on the why, the way forward may expand. 

    There may be many whys and this is something to contend with. Maybe there is a number of whys, Maybe dropping a few pounds is about self esteem, how others view you but also handling medical conditions you have. The reality is that even in these multitudes of whys there may be more than one way to get there. If I want to drop some pounds, dieting and exercise may be a way forward, so may surgery, or certain medications that help, the way forward is can have many paths to achieving the why, so the reality is that there may be more than one way to get what you want. 

    So lets say that I have gone through all of this and the only way I can see forward is what I originally said I want. Now comes the question of priorities. What am I willing to give up to reach this goal? Where does the acquiring of this goal land on my priority list? We have limited time in a day to reach our goals. Where does this land on yours? Is it important enough to lose an hour of sleep to exercise an hour in a day? Is it worth the time away from your family to go to the gym for 3 hours in a night, or spend 80 hours a week selling things to reach your ultimate goal? What are you willing to give up to reach this goal? If you do not have to give up anything, what is stopping you from having it right now? 

    It is ok for your goal to fall low on your priority list, just know that it will always be less important to you than the things that are higher on that list, that is just the reality of it. If you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, and are working 3 jobs to keep food on the table, maybe taking 3 hours in a day to exercise is just not something you can commit to, and that is OK. The reality is that you have to take care of your highest priorities first. 

    This may be a reality check. The reality is that you may have to give something up to get something. Time for time, Money for goods, whatever that is. Set something that fits your timeliness and priorities, but if you need to cut back so you can meet your higher priorities, that is ok, that is life. Do what you can commit to, but make sure it is not at the expense of other things that are more important to you. There is always a cost, what will getting the things you want cost in terms of time or money to achieve. 

    Now lets look at timeline. What is realistic given the time you are willing to devote to reaching this goal? Is this something you can reach in 2 weeks, 6 months, 1 year? What is reasonable for you to go from where you are to where you want to be? If I want to lose 50 pounds in 5 weeks, it is going to be much harder than if I can spread it over 6 months or a year. Timeline is important because it gives us a finish line to reach, but it also keeps us on track. If my goal is to loose 50 pounds but whenever I do it is fine, then why start today? Why even worry about it this week, or this month? Timelines keep us on track. 

    What is realistic? If it is my first tournament and I just expect to win first place just because I want it, I may not be facing the reality of the situation. If my goal is to win all of my matches but I have a hard pool, is that realistic? Is doing your best enough, or does it have to be something more? I am not suggesting don't strive for the best, but if you fall short, how will you handle it? Be specific about your goals, but be willing to modify them based on the reality of the situation.  Having concrete goals is great, but be flexible with it if needed. If my only definition of success is to win all my matches and I have a pool of all top tier fighters, can I be ok with doing my best, giving my all, and letting things fall as they will? If not, then I may be setting myself up for disappointment. All I can do is give it all I have and be proud of what I have brought to the table. 


How do you get there? 

    Lets assume that we are living in a perfect world, what steps do you need to do to get you in the right place at the right time to reach your goals. If you don’t know what it will take, ask someone who knows, do your research. Is the bar too high based on your time commitment, or is it just right? Do you need to change the big goal to meet what you are willing dedicate to it, or does your time commitment meet your ability to reach your goal? If you have to move the chains for now, do it, it is far better to reach little goals and add them up, than to set one big goal and feel like you have failed when you fall short. 

    Who is your team? This is not just about support but accountability. If your team won’t call you out when you slip, they are not holding you accountable. That does not mean do not tell other people about your goal, but it means pick a team of people who will check in and keep you accountable. It is easy to be supportive, it is harder to keep someone accountable. Find yours, know the difference between your support team and your accountability team, both support but in different ways. This can be friends, family, mentors, teammates, but if they will not hold you to it, they are supporting you but not keeping accountable to what you say you want to accomplish. 


Except when you don’t, because sometimes you won't- Dr. Seuss

How do you handle falling down. Some days you will fall short of your objective. That is a part of life, how will you handle it when it happens? It is easy enough to walk into a new program expecting to never fail, but the reality is that at some point you won't feel like putting in the work. How will you handle it? Will you get up and do it anyway? Will you take today off and get back on it tomorrow? How will you keep going when you fail, or when you just are not feeling like it? How can your support team help you? I am not suggesting set yourself up for failure, just know that eventually it may happen so be ready from the beginning to handle it if and when it does. 

Keep the goal in mind. If you are trying to save money, does going out with your friends and spending money support or hinder that. If you are trying to eat better, does ordering that pizza help or hinder your goal? Do you need to let your coworkers know you are trying to eat healthier so they do not pressure you to take a doughnut or piece of cake in the break room? If there are people on your team not willing to support your goals, can you avoid them to keep your goal at the forefront of your mind? Some people do this with affirmations and mantras, some do it by reciting something in the morning looking in the mirror, or keeping a card in their wallet that has the goal there. Do what works for you, there is no right or wrong way, only the way that works for you. 

At the end of the day no one else can make you reach your goals. No one else can find the why for you and make you live it long term. If you are not willing to do the work, that is ok, just be real about it and know that it is your choice. You are capable of great things but no one else can make you do it if you are not willing to take the first step yourself. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

460 and beyond

 Day 460 of daily intentional exercise in the books. At this point my plan is to just keep going until Combat Con if not past it. (Why not?)

But why do this? Why is this important to me, what does it prove, why does it matter?
This all began, as some of you know at a low point in my training and practice after an event. I did not do as well as I wanted to. It was not really that bad, I looked at the numbers recently and my losses were not huge, and most of the time, keeping my defense strong lead to matches going to time, which is in my mind a win. I felt defeated though truth or not, so I came back home partially discouraged, partially lifted up by others who had told me how much they believe in me and how they like having me around.

I decided the day I got back that though I felt defeated, the only way to come back and do better would be to train myself more. It can't come from someone else, I have to get up and do the work every day. It could not be just more classes, it had to be something I did for me internally.

But why Intentional exercise, what does that mean to the equation?
When I take time out of my day to train, I am in essence saying that this has value to me. I am saying that exercise is a way that I honor my body, despite all its flaws. It is not always easy, sometimes it is short exercise sessions but the key is to keep going. The intention is about being in the right head space. When I train and am distracted, I just don't do as well. This is the case with cutting, sparring or even video game exercise things. when I am thinking about other things, when my mid is on something else I falter. In sparring this can be as simple as thinking about how bad or well I am doing in the match or how the last exchange went, I can't let that rule me or my opponent is in my head space.

I realized a long time ago a problem with consistent training. If I tried hard and failed, I could point to my training as a reason why I failed. If I didn't, I always had the excuse that if I HAD trained harder I would do better. It is a weird thought. I didn't do well, because I didn't train enough, but if I had, I am just so great that I would dominate. The flaw is that sometimes, things outside of your control happen and you get to decide what to do about it. Somedays you will simply be the best fighter on the field and it is hard to come to terms with that. Some days, as hard as you work the cards are stacked against you and push as you want to, you will not walk away with cheers and accolades.

I am done with that thinking. Some days I do not want to do the work. I am over a year in and somedays I just don't feel like doing it. Then I come back to my promise to myself, I will do the work, and the chips will fall where they do. I have a local tournament in a few weeks. After that I have Combat Con a month later. The reality is I may not win medals at either. I am not the only one pushing myself, training my mind and body to do better, but at very least I can leave it all on the field and give it my best when those days come.

"Except when you don't, because sometimes you won't"- Dr. Seuss
I can't expect to win all the time when I am not willing to put in the work. There is not such a thing as "I have been training for X years so I simply deserve to win." It does not matter how good a teacher I am or how great a guy I am, if I am not willing to push myself harder to reach my goals I really can't expect to be better with time. I may not win, but if I am not willing to train to do better if I win it is just because I had good luck that day, and that is not something to be proud of.

So where do I go from here?
Forward. That is the only direction we really can go. I have fallen in the past, I have made mistakes, but if I am not willing to push harder next time, and keep going, I am stuck in a place where I can't win, and all things being equal, I probably shouldn't. The goal is to keep working, the goal is to keep training and pushing myself to do better, the goal is to do my best every day. I cannot promise it will make a hill of beans of difference, but unless I give it my all, how will I know for sure?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

365 days of intentional exercise, and the greater meaning of Rule #1

    This morning I did day 365 of daily intentional exercise. It has been quite the journey and I was not sure at the beginning I would stick with it this long. It is easy to give up one day, It is easy to say, I am too tired, or there is not enough time in the day to take time for myself to reach my goals. It is easy, to fall off the horse, and say, I just do not have enough fight in me to make it this time. It is easy to get knocked down and from your back, in the mud and the muck say, I have been bested, I live here now. 

    But that is the thing about it, it is our choice to lay in the muck and the mud as it ooozes through our armor and say, I give up, I just can't do any more. It takes gumption to say, maybe today I fell but tomorrow I will get up stare the challenge straight in the face and say "I get to choose when I am done, and today is not that day." It is our choice to endure even when we have been knocked down. It is our choice to get up, wash off the mud, and keep going. 

    The thing is, that this is not about going at a full tilt and doing actual harm to yourself because you cannot take a break, in fact the opposite is true. There will be days when doing what you have promised yourself takes some adjustment. There may be a day when doing something active means taking an easy day of relaxing yoga, or long deep stretches, or taking a good walk to think about things and process what is going on, and what life means for you. I had days when I did that. I had days when I did not feel good so I took an evening of stretches instead of a hard sweat pouring workout. It happens, that is a part of doing intentional exercise while honoring your needs for the day. 

    I teach a sword class called: rule #1 don't die. the class itself is about doing smart things in your sword work so you are not taking bad decisions for the sake of a quick easy point win. In the tournament and sparring sense, it is a class about choosing what you will do in a fight, picking your shots and doing things that are the best for you. In a larger context rule number #1 is about intentional living. It is about realizing that at any moment your life may end. You may walk down the street and be hit by a drunk driver, or you may live a long long life and die of old age after beating cancer twice. The point here is that we cannot avoid our own deaths. We can do things to be safer, but in the end, we will all meet our ends. 

    There are 2 ways to look at it, if we focus on the end, things can look bleak and dark. If we realize that we are on a path that we can enjoy along the way, we can stop and smell the flowers because these may be the last chance we have. Breathe deep, watch the snow fall, enjoy your meals, hug your loved ones, and forgive those who have wronged you. If this was the end, what would be left unsaid, what would you regret not doing, who would you regret not being? That is what the journey is about.

    If this was your last meal, would you be satisfied with it? Life is too short to eat bad meals, or not take care of yourself. This is what the daily intentional exercise is all about. It is about being in your body, being alive, experiencing who you are. Rule #1 is about living your life with intention. That is where it all comes from. Experiencing the struggle knowing that this is fleeting, this pain, this struggle, this workout, this week in school, or work, will end, and when you can stand in the sun on the other side of the cold winter of it, the feeling of triumph will be amazing. 

    This is the secret of this process, it is about honoring who you are, taking some time alone and doing something for you. I am now facing the beginning of year two, but some days, I know I will not feel like getting up and doing it, but I will because I will endure. To that end, for me, I have written a daily mantra to remind myself of how far I have come, where I am and where I want to be. 

It goes: 

When I wake in the morning, I take the time I need to prepare and face my day with humor, calm, wisdom, and clarity.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”- Marcus Aurelius

At the beginning of the day, I am grateful for all I have before me, at the end of the day, I am grateful for all I have had the ability and privilege to do and be through the miracle of this body of mine. Every day is a prayer, every day is a blessing.

You sir,  are a badass.

I do things every day that help me reach my goals.

I eat good foods that support my health and fitness goals.

I walk proud knowing all the people who are standing behind me cheering for my success.

I walk tall knowing just how far I have come. I have stumbled in the past, but now when I fall, I brush myself off and get right back up again.

I know who I am, I know what I want, and I let go of the past hurdles I placed in my own way to get where I want to be.

I speak clearly when there are things I need or want knowing that the Universe provides as I speak my truth.

I am clear in mind, purpose and action. I drink the water I need, I take my vitamins, and rest when I need it.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.” ― Stephen Covey

I am the Iron boar. I am calm and social, but I am always inches away from going wild if I need to be. I am tough, but under the right conditions I am also malleable and changeable. I am strong, and brave, and willing to face the things that scare me. I learn hard things and do hard things because I am strong enough to bear them. My strength comes from within and that strength manifests in my strong body and mind.

I am a willing to work through the tough times because I know in the end how sweet my triumph will feel.

I know that down does not mean out, it just means down right for now, this match, this tournament, this event or this weekend but it does not mean forever.

I have friends who want to see me succeed, because when I do it, we all rise together.

Maybe today did not go so well. Maybe I fell off my food plan, or exercise today but that is a drop in the bucket compared to how far I have come when I started.

A year ago, I made a decision. I would exercise, I would do something active every day. A year later, here I am. This is the first step, and I keep walking knowing that the only way is forward. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Do something for yourself today.

    Today is day 247 of daily exercise for me. When I first began my journey not only did I not think I would stick with it, I doubted that I had it in me to stick with it this long. So what is the big secret? How is it that I have been able to stick with it all these days, and months? When it all comes down to it the key is to make a decision that you will make a step in the right direction of your goal today. That is it. That is literally all that it takes. Make a commitment today that whatever you end goal is, that today you will do something that will help you reach your goal.  

The way you get to 3 months, or 6 or 9 is to decide that today you are going to do something. Maybe it is a single pushup, maybe it is doing 5 of them, maybe today is all about doing 1000 punches, maybe today, doing something for yourself is realizing you have been cooped up inside all day and taking a walk around the block to just breathe. When it all comes down to it, that is all it takes. 

Some days, you will not feel like doing it. Some days things will feel off, and you do not feel like doing it, especially at the beginning. What it all comes down to is making the commitment to yourself that today you will do something to reach you goal. Sometimes the answer is to do a little less, and that is ok, what matter is to keep with the spirit of the commitment and do something today that supports it. Maybe it is a commitment of taking time each day to feed yourself spiritually, maybe it is taking 15 minutes each day to meditate, or to sit down and read something that makes you think. Maybe the promise made at the beginning is to sit and write your 1,667 words towards your novel. The key is to do decide that you will do something today and honor that promise to yourself. 

For me, I have done a lot of daily exercise challenges from or found a program that I want to stick with. Some days I looked at the book and thought that I did not WANT to do what it was asking me to do for the day. Rather than throw in the towel for the whole thing and skip it, I made a decisions that instead of doing that, I would do something else that I still felt kept me in integrity with my goal.  I did what I could and let that be ok.  Did I push myself to the edge every day going 100%? No. Is that OK? It is. It becomes a question of integrity with my commitment. If I have made a commitment to myself that I will do something every day, what do I feel like is enough knowing that some days it will be harder than others. 

Is it ok to walk 3 miles one day and walk 7 the next, in order to keep in integrity with my commitment? Absolutely. This is not entirely about the end goal, it is about doing something on the path to get you towards where you want to be. I am not doing this so I can lose weight, I am not doing this so I can run a marathon. I am doing it, and sticking with it so that I can honor a commitment I made to myself. On days when the scale does not look so good, and I feel like throwing in the towel, that commitment can feel like the only thing that keeps me moving, one step after another. 

When I started it was about not letting anyone else down. When I first began I had lots of people cheering me on. All these months later it is less about letting them down, and more about not letting myself down. At the end of the day, it is a promise that I have made to myself and when I let a stumble happen, it is only me who I let down. I have made a promise to myself and I deserve to make good on that promise. 

What I suggest is not to look at the long term goal alone. It can feel like a lot to swallow if you have a large weight loss goal, or if you want to write a novel in the next month, but the way to eat an elephant is one bite at at time. Choose where you want to be in 6 months from now, and ask what steps do I need to do every day to get there. Make a commitment to do that thing every day, not starting tomorrow, not starting next Monday when the weather is better, the air is clearer and you feel like it. Start today. At the end of 6 months, you will be six months further in your life whether you start today or not, why not start today and be 6 months older and 6 months closer to your goal? Why wait for the doctor to tell you that you have to make a positive change to begin working on it? Begin today by dedicating yourself to something. If it changes with time that is ok, the key is to be true to your word that you give yourself so that 6 months from now you can be proud of just how far you have come. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Getting back on it.

Where it all began:
I have not opened up a lot about my tournament performance at SoCal. 
Walking into it, like usual, I had not practiced enough, but felt like I have been fighting long enough that I just should do well. It is messed up, but the word I would use is entitled to a win that I did not earn. 
That is not to say my performance was bad, it was truly OK, it just was not extraordinary. 
I hit a wall, I was discouraged, I felt upset, but I had no one to blame but myself. 
I wanted to quit, but not really. I had friends who would not let me quit, I had friends who would would be sad if I quit, and I knew in my heart, that I really did not want to quit, i was just discouraged. I just wanted to DO better, as if somehow it was something that was owed to me for time in or something. I had to ask myself if I had a student who was discouraged what would I say to them?
From those ashes came this realization, if I am to get better, I have to apply myself. If I am to get better, if I am to lift myself up, I must build myself through training. I made a promise that I would start when I came back exercising every day. Accountability was key, so I found some friends who would keep me accountable. I had spent a lot of time on the bench sitting out drills and sparring, if I was going to get better, this had to end now. 

Getting started: 
The key was to start somewhere, anywhere. In the past I have spent time doing some workouts from Some of these I had printed out and had in a binder, the thing now was to just pick one and stick with it. For the first 30 days I decided to do ones called the fighters codex. It is a 30 day program that is a series of exercises every day. 
I have been down this path before. I have had great plans to reach my goals only to have a rough day turn into 2 and then 5 then quit all together. This path is not unfamiliar to me. I have started this program before, only to hit a day that it was too late at night to exercise. I have worked until I was just not feeling well so I took a day off. I knew that if this was to be successful, I had to stick with it. 
Day 1 was not easy, but I did it. then the days kept going. 
Day 9 I hit a wall and pushed myself as far as I could, but stopped before it was all done. 
Day 11 I finished the day, and finished day 9. 
I have added, supplemented my workout with other things. 
In the past, I have taken a day off when I did sword, or if I had a long night at sword. 
This time has been different. 
Day 14 (Yesterday) I got home late after taking another sword class and getting some good sparring in. Normally, this would have been a night to throw in the towel, take a night off, not this time. this time I am in it to do as I have said I would. 
Day 15: Tonight, I am halfway to the goal. I woke up not feeling well, after dinner when I started my exercises, it was harder than usual, push ups were harder than normal. I was hitting a wall, but this time I thought, do what you can do, do something, because something is better than nothing. 
Some days are harder than others, but I am sticking with it. 

When I started out, I had 161 days until Combat Con. I am leaning in and realizing that the only way to get where I want to be is to stick with it. I am halfway there. The weight is not coming off as fast as I want but at this point it is about doing something, anything to reach my goal. In just over 2 weeks, I'll start my next program that runs 60 days. For tonight, I am breathing a sigh of relief that I am halfway there, and have stuck with it. That does not mean that the next 15 days will be easy, far from it. 2 days from now the exercise is to do 2000 punches, so it is is far from an easy road forward, but when I reach the goal, 2 weeks from now, I am going to be proud of how far I have come and that is a start.