I was asked the other day what my “training philosophy” was. I think everyone who has been around a while gets asked this from time to time. People want to know what the sort of central idea behind what you do is. I know that it’s something that interests me, and I suppose it’s a way of asking “what makes you tick?” The answers, I find, vary between the profoundly self-aggrandising (Jesus helps me to train like I do) to the extremely mundane (I just train, I’ve never thought of it before). It’s probably unique to martial arts that your answer is expected to be enlightening. That’s something I always found a bit silly- the notion that being good at a sport imbues you with some additional worldly knowledge, or that your philosophy about how to pass guard is going to help someone with their divorce or something. It’s odd. I’ve been at multi-sport coaching conferences with famous coaches and while there are people looking for the silver bullet-type advice that will help them succeed with their athletes, most people are either just interested in anecdotes from famous people, or are looking for technical advice on player management and the like. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone ask a question that was supposed to open their mind to new possibilities outside of what happens in their sport.
Whenever I’m asked this question I’m always a bit stumped I have to admit. I have lots of things to say, but I don’t think any one thing could be described as a central “philosophy” behind what I do or how I do it. I think I used to have one, but then I forgot it. yes, I think that’s what happened. joking aside, the real answer is probably something like “Train as often as you can and enjoy it as much as you can”, but that is incredibly dull. So I find myself stupidly trying to be creative sometimes and come up with more interesting answers. Anyway the other night, when asked about my philosophy, I said “Just get on with it” without thinking, which is this little in-joke around my house for whenever someone complains about something that can’t be fixed. It’s actually something my Father In law said once regarding depression. I don’t mean to be glib about such a serious topic but it made me laugh. We were speaking about someone’s struggle with depression and he spoke the now immortal line, “You know, if that were me, I’d just get on with it”. I thought it was the greatest off-the-cuff remark of all time, and I’ve adopted it for pretty much everything that involves unnecessary whinging. Feeling sore? Just get on with it. Tired? Just get on with it. Can’t figure out how someone is passing your guard all the time? Just get on with it. Feel like everyone is smashing you on the mat? Just get on with it. There’s so much unnecessary introspection going around sometimes that I feel like I’m a character in a Woody Allen movie- and not one of the good ones either.
Someone once told me that you “have to earn the right to be frustrated”. Regrettably, I forget who this was, but he was right. If you’re training every now and again and are getting frustrated by your lack of progress, then you really haven’t earned it. I don’t mean this in a nasty way. If you train irregularly, then you probably have to accept that you’re not going to improve at the same rate as others who train more. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your training. On the contrary, I think if you accept that you’re not training as regularly as others then you might have a better time when you do train. Understanding that due to work, family, laziness, or otherwise, that you are going to progress a little slower than others is a positive thing. You might even find it liberating.
So my central philosophy on training? Train often, train hard, smile and have fun, stay healthy, avoid frustration by just deciding not to get frustrated, and most of all…
…Just get On With It.
See you on the mat,
By the way, depression is of course an incredibly serious condition and visiting http://www.aware.ie//help/information/information_on_depression1/ is a good idea regardless of who you are. Knowing the signs can help a friend, a family member, or who knows, even yourself someday.