Someone once said something about having loads of excuses and not… eh… doing anything about things… I think it was Abraham Jefferson. Or Ghandi. I was going to start this post with some sort of insprirational quote from some bloke who once did something great, but how hackneyed would that be?
The reason for this post is something I said at training last night about a former sparring partner of mine from way back when. Some of you may recognise him, although you may never have met this person. I think everyone has met someone like him and they’re quite common in martial arts. This guy would find any excuse to stop sparring or drilling. You might be kicking him from one end of the room to the other but soon he’d stop to tell you what you were doing wrong while you were kicking him from one end of the room to the other. It was annoying. Luckily (for him) I never took Paddy’s advice, given to me tonight which was to “keep hitting him til he stops talking and hits back”, although I wish I had.
You see ego is a funny thing and it manifests itself in strange ways. If that guy had ever turned to me and said “stop please, I’m wrecked and taking a hiding here” I would have much more respect for the guy, but instead he couldn’t say that and chose to take another route to save face. I think the worst part of that is recognising a bit of that in myself from time to time. Coming up with excuses not to do the hard work isn’t something I’ve done a lot of, but when times are tough and your head is down, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance sometimes. The difference between my old sparring partner and someone who throws that egotistical behaviour off comes when you look at those times and know what you did and resolve not to do it again.
Do you see that in yourself? I know I do. There are lots of opportunities to not put the work in and lots of excuses to be found. The time you’ll really understand how much you’ve missed out on through poor excuses will come when you have a really good excuse; something that changes that actually prevents you from training. Injuries, job changes, family commitments all keep you from the gym from time to time, and I guarantee you that when they do, you’ll look back on the time you stayed at home to watch the repeat of The Two Ronnies and cringe at an opportunity missed.
So that’s staying at home. But what of the excuse making sparring partner type? You have to have met one, and if you haven’t, take a long look in the mirror because it could be you. Sparring is hard, grappling is hard, but quitting mid round doesn’t actually make it any easier the next time around. Progress varies from person to person but the one constant is that improvement comes from doing. In our gym, no one gets eaten alive in sparring. Things get tough sometimes and you might take a hit or two but as long as there’s big gloves and good partners, you’re not going to get hurt. One thing I repeat so often that people are sick of it is that sparring is a game, just another game. It’s not a fight, it’s not a war, it’s a drill where you practise the things you have learned against someone who doesn’t want to let you do it. In other words, it’s the most realistic drill of them all. Quitting in the middle of it because you’re too tired to go on is a small problem, and can be fixed by doing some extra conditioning. Qutting in the middle of it because you’re wrecked and have decided to teach an impromptu seminar/go to the bathroom/strap up a non-existent injury is a major problem which is really hard to fix. Some people cannot admit to being bested, either by their opponent’s skill or superior fitness. That is a problem because if you can’t admit to a weakness, then you can’t fix that weakness.