Sunday, 11 November 2018 18:16

Why Are You Here? Thoughts on Challenging Times and the Self Defence Mindset

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At the start of 2018, one of my goals was to ensure I put out one blog every 2 weeks, which is output that I’ve been able to fairly steadily maintain in 2017. If you are a regular reader, then you may have noticed this has certainly not been the case over the past 6 months.
I’ve always found this hard to talk about, but a close friend and mentor has suggested I put this stuff out and hopefully it will help me sort some stuff out in my brain. I thought I’d share with you some of the reasons I haven’t been writing, and hopefully this will help me get some stuff off my chest and maybe help shed some light one how this also relates to training. This also leads to important questions about self defence and the survival mindset. 

Let’s start at the beginning.

I’ve had ongoing stomach issues for several years, and despite visiting many doctors have never really found out what is going on. The last set of tests revealed that my gut inflammation is off the chart. Literally. There is a chart, and my score is off it. The same goes for gut permeability, which in layman’s terms means there are tons of holes in my gut and so I don’t absorb nutrients well. Add to that a variety of bacteria and other things, it’s created a ton of autoimmune issues. Iron and protein levels that for someone of my age and fitness level are ridiculously low and continue to drop.

What does all of this mean?

Chances are you’ve heard me say I’m tired a few hundred times over the past couple of months, but it’s the honest truth. I’ve been pushing at breaking point for months, and that is why I keep getting injured in training. My body is not getting the nutrition it needs, and very little sleep and to recover (which I’ll get to).
At the start of the year I got a bad staph infection in the Philippines, and ended up having to take an obscene amount of antibiotics, including injections and flushes, for 9 weeks. My little girl was born, which was a massive change to life as I knew it (and the reason I’m still not sleeping). 6 weeks later my mum had to have a tumour removed from her brain (she’s safe!). 6 weeks after that I had surgery to remove a metal plate from my arm. 6 weeks after that my wife had to be rushed to the emergency room and undergo surgery for issues that were still around from our girl’s birth.

In a very short amount of a time I’ve had to deal with two fears I have always avoided; Firstly, the fear of losing my mother and my wife (thankfully they are both safe and sound); secondly, becoming a father. This has been a massive challenge as I have always been a fiercely independent over-achiever. Finding that my attention and time are spent elsewhere, with unrelenting compromise, has been perhaps the biggest challenge I have ever faced. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kid to death and will do anything for her (more on that in a bit). But not being able to do many things which up until now I felt were associated with who I am is incredibly difficult. The very core of who I am is being challenged. Those of you who know me know that I am usually pretty switched on and doing a hundred things at a time, but recently it feels like there is a fog, and instead of seeing 3-4 steps ahead I’m lucky if I can think further than what I am doing this moment.

Unfortunately writing – something that I am very passionate about – has fallen into the ‘I’ll get to it when I have some time’ category, together with many other things I'm passionate about. As a result of this brain fog, I also felt like I didn't have anything important to say. 

If that’s not enough to stress you out, then I don’t know what is. I’ll be honest, I’ve been anxious and feeling pretty dark about future prospects over the past few months. Is this the rest of my life? This has been reflected in my health, which has taken a nosedive over the past few weeks.

Where is this going?

Maybe my subconscious related this to my personal experiences this year, but I’ve been asking one very simple question in all of my Krav Maga classes recently. The question is this:

“Why are you here?”

What do I mean by that?

Why are you learning self-defence? Are you just after something to pass the time? Are you just looking for a bit of exercise, or learning some cool skills?

That’s all well and good, but if your goal is to learn how to defend yourself, you need to sit down and think about why.

You need to know why you fight, and what you will fight for, and how far you will take it if you had to fight for it.

What is it in your life that is worth fighting for?

If you have never stopped to think about it, then you really, really should. I have been doing a lot of this recently, given the tumultuous year I’m having and the massive shift in priorities as a result of becoming a father.

So, let’s deconstruct this a little.

1. What does self defence mean to you?
Is it to feel safe when you walk down the street? Is it to stop someone from stealing your wallet? Is it to protect someone you love? Is it to be able to say to your loved ones that you gave it your all if something did happen? What does self-defence mean to you?!
This is not a ‘one size fits all’. Everyone is fighting something, and what seems easy to you is hard for someone else and vice versa. You need to understand what you think self defence is, and how it plays a role in your life.

I highly recommend watching the Episode on Krav Maga in the Netflix show Fightworld. Interestingly enough, one of the Krav Maga instructors in the show says almost word for word what goes through my head every time I faced violence or what seemed at the time like an insurmountable challenge.

My grandfather is a holocaust survivor. His entire family was wiped out in Nazi Germany’s death camps. The only member who survived was his sister and her young child. The reason she survived was because he escaped Auschwitz, joined the partisans, survived the European winter out in the idle of nowhere, killed a Nazi officer, stole his uniform and rode his bike back into Auschwitz with false paper and got her out.

Krav Maga was created by the Jewish people after 6,000,000 - 75% of our population worldwide, including 1,500,000 children – were murdered.

Consider that gravity of that statement.

This is a fighting system that was designed to help you fight for you life.

What does self defence mean to me? That no one, ever, will do this again. That if my grandfather went through all of that and survived, I have no right to stop fighting no matter what happens - tired, sick, scared or otherwise.

Self-defence, to me, at its very core, means survival at any cost.

2. What will you fight for?
If the first time you’re thinking about what’s worth fighting for is when you are actually fighting, you will be hesitant and that in itself can get you killed. If you’ve never given it any thought, I encourage you to do this now. Write down a short list of things you will fight for, and think about how far you will fight for them.
How far will you take it if someone tried to steal your wallet?
How far will you take it someone tried to beat up your wife or husband?
How far will you take it if someone tried to kidnap your child?
How far will you take it if someone called you an asshole?
How far will you take it in order to avoid having to look your mother in the eyes and tell her that you were raped?
These should all have different responses (otherwise you are probably a psychopath).
Most of us will have at least a few similarities, for example fighting for family and (hopefully) friends.
For me this means my family (yes, cats included) and close friends, my community and my dojo. It also means standing up when I see something bad happening to those around me. 

Do you know what you will fight for?

So where is this going?

Well, here I am, after what has been the most challenging year of my life, and struggling to reconcile who I used to be, who I am and who I’d like to be.

But martial arts help me answer these questions and reconcile those different parts of myself. Every time I step on the mat, I remind myself why I fight.

Even when I’m tired, or sick, or sleep deprived, or depressed – the things I mentioned are things that I would always fight for any time, all the time. If my grandfather kept fighting through the most horrific experiences life could possibly throw at any human being and still managed to protect his sister and her baby, Would I fight if someone tried to hurt my little one? Forget that; after all he’s been through, what right do I have to quit after feeling a little run down? It doesnt mean not taking a break or not looking after myself; but it does mean that when the chips are down, I've already made the decision to fight, and it's a decision I never have, and never will, question. 

So why do YOU fight?

Oh, and more on this here.

Stay safe, stay tuned


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