Not very people know about a secret of mine. I stopped answering questions about it for a couple years because it started to draw too much negative attention to my company. Since there are families depending upon my company for their livelihood, I went quiet. But I believe in the past few years, with the proliferation of certain studies, it may be time that I can finally discuss it again.
Here it is: in the 10 months of preparation for the 2010 World Martial Arts Games, I sparred twice.
Why would I take such an audacious risk when my entire company’s reputation was on the line at one of the highest level multi-event combat competitions in the world? Because I believe in the power of the mind, but I needed to prove it. As a skeptic even of my own beliefs, I needed to test my faith in the power of the mind in the most dangerous bodily arena in sports.
Every day I practiced my mental imagery of the technique which I would hit from every and any angle. Over and over. I drilled my movements solo, and on partners, but only sparred dynamically twice.
A caveat: I had 20 years of martial art and wrestling experience competing already, including at a world championship level for those twenty years. Knowing very well what uncooperative resistance would happen, this is an approach I do not advise for others.
Sparring can also be more dangerous than competition, because most people don’t realize that sparring is preparation, not competition; so many people are merely out to see if they can hurt me and make a name for themselves; others just get swept up in the emotion of it, and forget control and lose the developmental benefit of facing competitive resistance. At 40, facing people half my age and even 100lbs heavier, I could not afford to come into the tournament already under-restored. I had to be fully recovered and 100% to win at my age at that level of competition.
I am first and foremost a philosopher. Although an unpopular term in today’s world, it merely means a love of wisdom. For me, this would prove the distinction between having a MIND-FULL and being MINDFUL. Most of the times in my life, my mind bombarded with “what if” scenarios so feverishly that I constantly ran frenetically amok putting out little fires here, there, and everwhere… without sustained effort and intention upon any one specific goal. Not only did this fail to bring me peace of mind, magnifying mental and emotional distress, but it also demonstrated itself to be the worst physical practice, leading only to mediocrity, if not inferiority.
In martial art, we learn the impact of the Hick–Hyman Law: the more options you have, the longer it takes you to choose the most appropriate selection; or said another way, we suffer self-paralysis by over-analysis. Seeing this in the micro of combat sport, it was easy to observe it infiltrate my my educational studies, my professional project development, even my relationship growth. It was better to be the master of one, than a novice in too many.
Visualize what you want to achieve so clearly that you sense what it feels to move your shoulder there, and your knee here, place you foot here, and your elbow there. Practice your mental acuity daily and consistently. Do so with singular focus upon the goals in your nutrition, vocation, and the seemingly endless stream of domestic tasks which seem to manifest.
And when it comes time to move on to the next task in your day, set aside the previous completely… like serial monogamy. The key to excellence is in specialization, in being mindful. And the gate to accomplishing all of your varied tasks lies with what coaching psychologists call “attentional switching” - completely shift to the new focus and let the other percolate on the back-burners.
I still Thank God that I was able to win the gold at the World Games. But for me, it was not a victory of one man over others, but rather of Mindfulness over mind fullness.