Thursday, 17 December 2009

Don't Look Down

Have you ever climbed a high mountain?

I can’t say that I have although I would suggest that I’ve climbed quite a few proverbial mountainous ranges in my time, whether that be the tough challenge of a real fight on the cold honest pavement, or battles with some internally dark times and a few other things in between.

I can’t speak from experience when I say how tough it is to climb a real mountain but I can equate, from my own experiences, some of the analogies that I have heard fellow climbers talk of.

Have you ever been up high and to avoid the fear that the dangerous height triggers told yourself “not to look down”?

“You’ll be fine”, encouraging friends will say, “just don’t look down”.

And they would probably be right.

The problem, however, is that, when scaling your own Everest, whatever that may be, only looking up can be quite a daunting thing. When dragging yourself up each leg-aching rung of the life ladder that will lead you to your ultimate goal, the top can appear so far above you that you never seem to get any closer.

The soul destroying feeling that you are working at your maximum, tirelessly towards your dreams and never feeling as if you are making any headway can be hard to continually handle.

It can be very frustrating, and it can pull you back down like a dead weight in your rucksack, triggering all the negative emotions that make so many people stop in their tracks, turn around and head back down for base camp again.

On these occasions, this is where we need to ignore the advice "Not to look down" and take a good long hearty look below us.

Take stock of just how high up you already are.
See how far you’ve already come, how many hurdles you’ve already climbed over and just how far along the path you’ve actually trodden.

In a previous article, “It’s all about the journey”, I spoke at length about how we need to enjoy the journey and not become fixated with the end destination, and this week’s article is no different.

We can become so focused on the end target, the summit of our ambitions, that we allow ourselves to become disheartened if it seems to be taking us far longer than we had planned or hoped.

Trust me, if you were to ask those closest to me they will tell you I am the absolute worst at this, but I am working on it and that is why I am writing this article.
We need to stop every now and then and take a look back down. It can often be surprising just how much we’ve already achieved.

Things that were huge accomplishments at the time, but somehow, their difficulty and rewarding achievement has faded as time has moved on.
We’re on the run up to Christmas as I write this article and it’s always a time when we look back over the year and have a review of the things we’ve done, the places we’ve been, the good and, hopefully the not too many bad times we’ve come through.

So there’s no better time than now time to review your progress on your own ascent. Treat it as a milestone to stop and measure your successes and achievements, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how far you have come.And if your end goal still feels so far away that it seems un-reachable, then why not take a rest and enjoy where you are right now.

Unless you’re comfortable and able to cope with and enjoy the view from the height you’ve reached this far, there’s no point in racing on any higher anyway.If you can’t appreciate the level you’ve reached, why should you be given any more.

The trick here however, is not to get too comfortable with this period of respite and reflection.

If we stop for too long, admiring our handy work thus far, we may get stuck and find so much comfort that we lose all will to continue on to our original goal.

There’s lots of options here and far more than I could cover in this short article. For example..Perhaps you are now truly happy with where you are, in which case there’s no need to move on anyway.Perhaps, by continuing on, you actually aren’t happy with your lot and you really need to accept that perhaps this is as far as you will ever get anyway, so accept it and enjoy it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we can often lose confidence in our ability to reach our goals and the best way to keep ourselves motivated and on track is to stop, take a breath and look back on how far we’ve already come.

Celebrate and enjoy the progress you’ve made, in whatever it is you desire.Enjoy those around you; enjoy the person you have become.

Then re-kindle the passion and the drive that has taken you this far and re-light it to give you that boost you need in order to press on and venture higher.
So, whatever your own Everest may be, remember to take a look back down every now and then – good luck with your climb

Thank you for reading

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Sunday, 6 December 2009



Like most of my articles, I get inspiration for the general theme from either something that has happened to me recently, or in the past. Something I’ve read about, something I’ve questioned, or even something that a friend may have mentioned in passing.

This week is no different, and it was on our weekly journey south, for another night of training, that my great friend Mick told me about a tough day’s training he’d had on the mat with another of our friends, Brian.

It reminded me of the countless times I had been in a position of vulnerability as a student with my long time instructor Geoff. Struggling to free myself from another of his elbow snapping arm-bars or closing my eyes and regulating what was left of the breath in my body as he squeezed out the last of my oxygen reserves in a classic choke hold.

Trust me, if you’ve ever been in such a position where the only option left for you is to tap and submit before everything goes dark, you’ll know how vulnerable, and totally at someone else’s mercy you are.

I’ve been fortunate and unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have been on the delivering end of similar chokes and strangles when working the doors of Coventry for many years and knowing that ow the life of a complete stranger lies, quite literally, in your hands, is a very sobering thought.

From many many hours on the mat, I know there is now way I would willingly put myself in the same vulnerable positions with a complete stranger off the street as I would with my training partners, students and instructors. Why? Obviously because I have complete Trust in them, as I hope that they do with me.

I posted on my facebook profile a questioning status of TRUST IS... and received many fine responses from my friends. Alot of which surrounded the martial arts, as you might expect and all eluding to the same thing
The trust we have when we are training with someone who is in a controlling and winning position. The trust we place upon them to be fair, to be respectful, to be compassionate, to be gentle and dare I say, to be loving in the lesson they provide.

My instructor Terry talks about loving as an instructor, and I think this has been another inspiration for this particular article of mine. For, as an instructor, it is the love of the arts and the love of teaching, the love of passing on the truth as I see it and the love of seeing my students progress that spurs me on to be the best instructor I can be.

But all this Love will be wasted if Trust is missing.

The trust a student places in a teacher will directly reflect how much they will learn. This is a trust that must be nurtured and cherished, for just as I put my life in my strangle holding partners hands for a brief moment in time, so a student places their entire education, learning, growth and direction in their instructors hands for a lifetime.
What a teacher says to a child can stay with that child forever, and as a martial arts instructor, what I pass on to my students in their very first lesson can shape their impression of me, the arts and it’s place in their lives forever.

For any teacher, this is a very powerful position to be in and also a fantastic opportunity to help guide and direct students towards whatever it is they wish to achieve.

It’s been said that Trust can take 20 years to build and 5 minutes to knock down, and it is this juxtaposition of great power and fragility that I see Trust as one of the most important attributes an instructor must give to all students and conversely, students to their teacher.

A trust of a student means they must always receive the truth, in the form of honest training from solid foundations. If we talk Physical Self Protection then the techniques taught must be tried and tested, they must work and must not be created simply to bolster a small syllabus.
If it is the arts that are being taught then they must also be taught correctly, with integrity and accredited to those who have invested their lives before us to develop and evolve them.
If it is personal growth then an instructor must teach with empathy, compassion and with love to build a trust that will allow the student to go forward with courage born from faith that their teacher has given them the right lessons and the right instruction.

So yes

Trust Is when you know your partner will release the moment you tap out.
Trust Is when you turn up to your first class, knowing nothing and placing your future in the hands of your instructor.

So I guess my message this week is a simple one.

Who trusts you?

George MacDonald said
“To be trusted is a greater compliment that to be loved”

What I love the most about this whole process is that it also works in reverse.

For me, personally, I would say I learn as much from my students as I do my teachers. Everyone has something to teach, and who better to learn off than my students whose trust I have built up and honoured.

TS Elliot says
“Those who trust us, educate us”

So finally I say

Who trusts you and what can they teach you?

Thank you for reading

Stay Safe, and Have Fun

Al x