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Two Worlds 24 - Martial Mindset for a Pandemic



After three and a half months of lockdown, I’ve been reflecting on the things I most miss about the world before the pandemic. The obvious things like touching my parents, travel, going to Soccer matches are things I’ve continually processed. This past weekend, however, I started missing something oddly specific.

I missed my martial arts training, and in particular, I missed the practices it embedded within me when it was most honest.

There are three I reflected on this weekend that I thought would be useful.

Learn how to fall.

In HapKiDo, I spent a third of my time training over five years practicing falling. Falling forward. Falling backwards. Falling sideways. Being pushed hard from behind and falling into a roll. A third of my time spent falling, skillfully.

I didn’t enjoy it, but it did etch something important into my consciousness. I will fall. There is no way to avoid this reality. So better to prepare for the inevitable than irrationally wish it away.

Fight from your back.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, being on your back with your opponent on top of you is an offensive position. I hadn’t trained very long in BJJ before the pandemic started, but I remember how weird it felt to be on my back and see that as a position of power.

But it’s true. Being on your back can be a dominant position to fight from if you know what you’re doing and don’t panic. Self-confidence and the right skills can turn any seemingly disadvantageous position into an incredible opportunity.

Perform while fatigued, recover when depleted.

My Black Belt test in HapKiDo took four hours. The first hour and a half is designed to exhaust the candidate. Two hundred pushups, two hundred sit-ups, and one thousand jumping jacks along with other endurance tests are the first gate in the portal towards your Black Belt.

Then, while exhausted, you must demonstrate your competency. You must perform over one hundred moves, ten breaks, and sparring after you have broken your body down. To earn your Black Belt, you must prove that you can perform the things you’ve trained for years to do instinctively and under duress.

At the end of the test, I could barely stand.

I had to take a week off. There was no question I needed to recover. My knuckles were swollen from punching through boards. My hamstring was strained and slightly torn from twenty jumping front kicks. Every muscle in my body ached. But I became a Black Belt, forever changed from enduring the severity of the trial.

I thought of these lessons this weekend because I hit a wall of sorts. I had lots of bad news come my way last week, I was feeling the odds stacking against me with regards to my position in the world, and I was exhausted.

Remembering what I learned on the mat brought me comfort.

These lessons are universal, and perhaps are helpful to you at this moment.

Falling is inevitable, so fall safely.

You may seem to be in a disadvantaged position, but with the right skills and mindset, you can win from your back.

Finally, a hero’s life is a constant cycle of feats of endurance and recovery. Endurance is earned through practice and performed with heart, but we have to give ourselves time to recover and absorb what we have achieved.

Fight on, my friend.

With gratitude,