Thursday, 20 August 2009


This week and last I have been experiencing change.

No, I’ve not been having hot flushes or moments of dizziness. Well, maybe one or two.

I have in fact taken notice of how many things have changed throughout the past couple of weeks. Some of these are changes imposed upon me, seemingly out of my control, and some are changes I have actively sought.
What has been most interesting is that, only once I had let go of what I currently knew to be right, and what felt comfortable and safe, did I really start to experience the benefits of the change.
I’ll start with a Martial Arts example.

If you were to ask me what I am as a Martial Artist, I would most likely answer, “A Karateka”.Whilst I’ve not donned my Karate Gi for many years, I still consider myself a student of the art of Shotokan Karate and if you were to take a look at my fighting style, I’m sure that would still be evident.The long deep stances may have shortened a little, and the traditional low guard ready for long reaching reverse straight punches may have morphed slightly to more of a pugilist form, but the signs will still be there.

No more so than in my Roundhouse, (Mawashi Geri), kicks.
Having spent 20 plus years developing and evolving the intricate body mechanics of this particular kick and countless thousands of repetitions on the heavy bag and with sparring partners, I’ve been quite content and comfortable with my kicking ability.

However, it is this comfort that I have used as my indicator that this is a time for change.

So, the past few weeks has seen me focusing with more intent on changing my body mechanics and trying to modify, not undo, all those years of muscle memory, in order to take on the Muay Thai shape.A big thank you, at this point, goes out to those who have spent a lot of time with me recently, sharing bruised legs along the way, to patiently help guide me on this journey of change.

Now I could take this article down the path of the benefits and the lessons I’ve learned about this particular new technique and the philosophies behind it; such as, throwing the kick with almost a carefree attitude; being nonchalant in the delivery to a point of almost casual relaxedness; trying less in order to achieve more. The lessons were plenty.

But I’m focusing on the act of Change this week and so I will continue with this theme.What I noticed was that I only started to see improvements in this new technique when I let go of the old, familiar, comfortable, muscle memory that I had become so fond of.
This ability to let go of the past in order to take the most from the present is vital if we are to be able to manage and enjoy the act of Change.
In my other life, I have also had a very busy week of change, but this time, it’s a change that those around me have had to endure or enjoy, depending on whom you speak to.I have been tasked with supporting a large group of individuals as they return to work from a short break to be presented with a whole host of new computer software and applications to cope with.
This has been a fascinating demonstration of the power of change, and how its strength can either help or hinder depending on your own attitude towards it.
Those who welcomed the new software, who accepted it had changed, quickly set about learning it with a patience and tolerance that allowed them to grow. It’s not been easy for them, but it’s a fact that often things have to get worse before they can get better.
For example, try fitting a new kitchen without first ripping out the old one and turning your adequately functioning kitchen into an empty, dusty room. You get my point.Those, on the other hand, who refused to accept the new software, spent most of their time procrastinating at how poor it was and how they wanted the old software back. For a time they were effectively living in the past, reminiscing on how good the old times were which served no purpose other than to delay their progress with the now!

These past couple of weeks have reminded me of a great book I read many years ago, and one which I highly recommend you seek out.

Who Moved My Cheese?

This is a story of 4 mice that find cheese, and day after day take the same route from their home to this vast store of nourishment; until one day when the cheese runs out. Now, without their comfortable, familiar and reliable store of food, two of the mice immediately set out in search for more. Not knowing if they will find any but certainly not waiting around to ponder on where their first supply had gone.A brave and courageous decision, but their ready acceptance to this change in circumstance meant they were able to start their search still fit and energised from their last full cheese meal.
The other mice continued to take the same journey each day, in the vane hope that one day their cheese may return.Obviously, the cheese doesn’t return, and all they had done was delay their chances of finding new food, leaving them hungry and weak in the process.

I won’t spoil the rest of the read for you but suffice to say..

We all like comfort, reliability, and consistency. These things are great as they help us to plan and become efficient at what we do. For example, how many of us take the same route to work every day, even when it becomes tedious and boring. We continue on because we become familiar with the average time it will take, and can plan our day around it more efficiently.Repetition is also the key to success, so there is a lot to be said for having constants in your life and continuing to work and develop on the same thing.

However, we also need to have one foot on the starting block of change. Always being ready to adapt and move on to new things, new ideas, new software and new kicking techniques.
It’s said, you cannot steal second base without letting go of first and this is no more evident than when experiencing change.Only when we let go of what feels comfortable can we start to experience the benefits of the new. Yes this takes courage, but no one said it is easy.

And as Dr Spencer Johnson says in his book,

“The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese”

Author Philip Crosby said

"If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow."

“Change should be a friend. It should happen by plan, not by accident.”

So be prepared to change, whether it is imposed upon you or better still, act first and make the change.

Until next time

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

'AS IF' Attitude

I have entitled this weeks article “AS IF” Attitude, but it could equally have been branded Intention or Commitment.
As always, inspiration for my articles comes from many sources and it’s always nice to see that various areas of my life often serve up the same menu of messages and directions. It gives me reassurance that I am on the right path or at least have a balance in my life that means I am surrounded by the right influences.
It’s said that..

“Good men usually have around them people who expect them to be better than they have any intention of being.”

..and I fully believe that this should always be our aim; to have great influence in our lives in whichever direction we turn. Do You?
Anyway, I digress, so back to the plot.

In NLP, we use the phrase “AS IF” quite a lot when we want to change the way we feel about certain events or occasions, for example.
If I have an event, or an occasion that I am particularly nervous about, I will apply an As If Attitude to this via deep concentration, or relaxed meditation.I will muse over the forthcoming event and then take myself past it to imagine myself As If it had already passed with a successful outcome.

If you feel you are not good enough, skilled enough, or experienced enough to accomplish a task, imagine yourself As If you have all the skills you need. Chances are you probably already do anyway. Imagine how your life would change if the outcome was a success. Shape your thoughts As If the event had now passed and everything went according to plan. How would you then feel?

In reality, we all do everything with an As If attitude it’s just that often it’s not quite the right one. We can enter into things As If we are going to be victorious, As If we are not going to succeed, or As If we couldn’t really care less, and many other attitudes in between.
So really, this article is about having a positive As If attitude rather than any random As If mindset.
Using the As If attitude will change the way you approach something and also change the way you feel about something.

On the Self Defence Forum this week, one of the members had posted a link to an article which suggested, through “extensive” research and trials, that positive thinking may not have a positive bearing on the outcome of an event. In fact, it went further to suggest that it could lead to negative results as the positive suggestions spoken internally by the test participants didn’t lead to a better result and so they became despondent.I’m sure the test results did give this feedback, but what I would suggest is that it’s not simply a matter of repeating positive phrases to yourself, you also need the right intention and the right mindset. Words will do nothing without intent and commitment behind them. So saying “I will succeed” must be coupled with faith that “I will succeed” and then an attitude As If I know I’m going to succeed, and knowing already what I expect to feel like when I Do Succeed.

This may all seem like positive claptrap but I use my final source of inspiration this week to highlight exactly what I mean.

During training this week with my instructor Terry Barnett, we started with some pad work, drilling some basic trapping techniques.
I won’t go into the intricacies of the drill here, except to illustrate my point.
Our first round was to simply trap and counter with a back-fist onto the focus mit.
Once we had this smoothly and efficiently with good body mechanics, and importantly, commitment in our back-fist strike we then expanded the drill slightly.
This next round the pad holder blocked our back-fist, cutting off its path to the pad, such that we then had to clear the obstruction and continue with a second attack to the pad.Again, we drilled this for some time.
This is where the drill became interesting because, what we noticed was how our initial back-fist attack changed once we knew it would be blocked. Our body mechanics, our positioning, our forward motion, or lack thereof, all changed as we began to pre-empt the block and better set ourselves up for the clearance and second attack.
This lack of commitment was exposed when the drill changed so that the pad holder was allowed to choose at random whether he would block the initial back-fist or allow it a clear path through to the pad.

We immediately noticed how, when we anticipated the block, if it never actually came, our back-fist was poorly executed and often didn’t reach the intended target.

The purpose of the drill was to throw each technique As If it was going to hit the pad; As If it wasn’t going to be blocked, which is how it would be thrown in reality.Once, or if the attack was blocked or covered, then we had to react to the new situation, clear the obstruction and continue with our forward motion and attacks.

There are lots of analogies in this simple drill and I have picked only one which is the As If attitude, but some others could be..

- To make every action a deliberate one.
- To not expect or anticipate failure.
- To be flexible enough to change our course of action when a block or hurdle is thrown in our way.
- To accept sometimes our first course of action won’t achieve its intended goal but to carry on anyway with a revised plan.
- To not try to continue forcing something through that simply cannot work, particularly when the situation has changed such that our original plan is no longer valid.
- To not be disheartened when our actions aren’t successful.
- To be sensitive to change, only so that we can identify it quickly and adapt and modify just as speedily, rather than be sensitive where we are unwelcoming and uncomfortable at the first signs of change.

The list could go on but I need to get back to my original plan.
We proceeded with every action As If it was going to achieve its desired result.So our initial back-fist had to be thrown As If it was going to be successful, and only when/if it’s path was blocked would we then adapt, clear the block and continue to attack.
When I translate this to my own area of Martial Arts, the Self Protection and dare I say, “Reality Based” arena, this As If attitude is probably one of the key mentalities that will make the difference between win or lose.

For example, should the need arise and I have to throw a pre-emptive strike, every single shot I throw will be with the commitment As If this one will be the knock out shot. I have to have massive intention and massive commitment with both the technique and my attitude; otherwise it most certainly will not achieve the desired result.

I throw my punch As If my life depends on it, and it probably most certainly will do.

The paradox with this however, is that I also keep an attitude As If even this first shot is still not enough. I must maintain a posture and a self control after my first shot As If the guy is still going to be conscious and upright and still posing a threat. Without this mindset and self control, I will over commit with my first technique and could end up in a vulnerable position after my failed first shot.

It’s a very difficult balance to get, to fully commit a technique with 100% intention that it will work, but also have a backup plan, just in case it doesn’t.

When we look at the specific mechanics of a good pre-emptive strike, we should always be throwing our shots, As If the pad or target was a little further away than it actually is. This means we will be punching through the target rather punching onto it.

Look at the best 100 metre sprinters and you will see they run the race As If it’s actually 110 metres. They sprint through the line not up to it.
And I would argue that anything you wish to achieve, anything you wish to accomplish you should apply the same commitment and intention and the same As If attitude.

Try treating or imagining your boring 8 hour day at the job you hate As If it’s going to be 9 hours. You’ll be pleased when you finish work earlier.

A silly example perhaps, but it brings me back to the As If mindset and the tools we use in NLP to achieve successful outcomes.
Visualisation techniques use the same principal.

"Before you create something for real, you must first create it in your mind and this is where visualisation comes in."

But successful visualisation relies totally on having the As If attitude, in order to see things As If they are already there and outcomes As If they have resulted in what you desired.
How many times have you experienced yourself or witnessed others who have had a negative, self doubting mindset before they begin a task, only to see themselves fail. Some would say this is a self fulfilling prophecy, and they would be right.After all..

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.”

But what really makes the difference is when you apply the As If attitude. Enter any task As If you are already capable and already experienced enough. Have the mental approach As If you ARE going to be successful, and the results will follow suit.

So when I throw the back-fist at the pad, I do it As If nothing is going to get in its way and I do it As If the target is further away than it actually is. My action will then have total commitment with total intent.

And if I take this As If attitude and apply it wherever I need conviction in my actions I will, without doubt, increase my chances of success.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x