Thursday, 17 June 2010


This weeks article is about Control, or more specifically, Self-Control.

Self control is the ability to control one's emotions, behaviour and desires in order to efficiently manage one's future. In psychology it is sometimes called self-regulation.
No truer is this than when faced with a tough sparring partner, who seems able to place his gloves on your face at any moment he so chooses.Whilst your deficiency in technical ability may have no answer for this barrage of attack, your own self control can determine how you respond and react to this unwelcome punishment.

Many will have heard the phrase, “Being able to take a shot” and most of the time this is centered around ones ability to receive a heavy blow and not buckle or slip into unconsciousness as a result.

I prefer to consider ones ability to be able to take a shot is someone who will not react emotionally or have their following course of action directed and governed by this temporary defeat.

"As strong as my legs are, it is my mind that has made me a champion."
- Michael Johnson

As a fighter, the best thing that can happen in a fight is for your opponent to allow your connecting punches and strikes to effect their emotions, enraging them or frustrating them, because, when this happens, they become even easier to hit.

When an opponent loses their temper or becomes annoyed with your ability to tag them, their technique becomes less important than evening up the score and so their form becomes more scrappy and more open.

It’s this simple lesson that we can all take and apply to all of our challenges, whether that be a more skilled and talented sparring partner, or life’s punches and kicks that never seem to end and always seem to find their target.

Developing the self-control to refrain from reacting, enables us to be able to think rationally and therefore Act rather than React. As a result, when we take conscious action, it will be more focused, decisive, functional and controlled.

When I think about control I only have to look at my other day-job to see just important this is.
As you know, I work for a formula 1 team.

The formula 1 car being the product this team design and then race. This vehicle is fantastically astonishing and impressive in many ways, none more so than the sheer power and performance it can generate.
With an ability to accelerate from 0 to 100mph in less than 3 seconds, and top speeds of nearly 200mph, it is an extremely powerful machine.

And so, with all of this power, it needs great control in order to harness is, direct it and not let it go spinning off the track.

Control comes from many elements, one of which being the steering wheel, which is estimated to cost around £30,000 to manufacture and over 1 week to assemble. A complex and obviously, important piece of equipment, essential to the control of the car.

It’s this analogy, the value placed upon the need for total control, that I relate back to my martial arts and those skills developed in sparring and other areas of training.

As we become more talented and gifted martial artists, we develop more power, and this power needs to be controlled. Not only when on the mat or in the ring but also when we are out and about in our everyday lives.We are learning to become fighters and with that comes great responsibility to control our emotions, our behaviour and not allow situations to dictate our reactions.

Self control can be developed in many ways, not just in sparring and being able to take shots without responding inappropriately.
How about taking yourself into the gym when you would rather be supping beer down the pub?
How about pushing yourself for another round on the bag when every inch of you wants to call it a day and hit the showers?

And if you can do that in the gym, then why not in every other aspect of your lives?
Sparring is not just teaching you how to avoid being hit – there are far greater things to be learned in this simple exercise.

Who’d have thought that being hit in the face could deliver such wonderful lessons?

“The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.”
- Tennyson

Stay safe, have fun


Thursday, 3 June 2010

What Are You Thinking?

Some recent events have prompted me to start this weeks’ article with a favourite poem of mine

State of Mind Poem

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you won’t;
If you like to win, but don’t think you can,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in a state of mind.

For many a game is lost
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work is begun.

Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind;
Think that you can and you will;
It’s all in a state of mind.

If you think you are out classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of your self before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.


The biggest message from this poem is the fact that in order to achieve you first have to believe. (Thanks to Darren Checkley for this perfect phrase that is the basis for his own Personal Trainer business)Your mindset is probably the most important thing to get right first if you are to embark on any journey or any event that you wish to have a successful outcome.

If you don’t believe me, then let me give you a little description of a week I’ve just had to help illustrate this point.

It started with an event, that I won’t go into, but one which basically left me feeling very down, very upset and very angry. That’s as much as I will say about the matter, but quite simply, I was left with a week of sleepless nights while I ran thoughts and conversations around and around in my head, as I often do when in times of turmoil.

So, lets just say I was in a “not so positive” place when I embarked on my week-long journey of replacing a bathroom in one of my rental properties for a wonderful tenant who has been with me for many years and really did need a nice shiney new bathroom.

It started ok – the destruction of ripping out the old suite and smashing tiles off the walls was quite therapeutic. Sadly, however, even this day of bashing and physical exertion in this room, with only my self for company, was not enough to release all of the frustrations I was immersed in.

So when it came to the more delicate tasks of fitting the new suite, and all of the jobs I normally enjoy doing, it started to go a little downhill.Not to blow my own trumpet but I am actually quite a good DIYer, having done a fair bit of property development, so ordinarily, replacing a bathroom in the space of a week, with some extra help from my equally talented father, should not have been a problem. But immediately, things started to go wrong.

Without boring you further, a brief list of some of the hurdles I encountered included, fitting the bath only to have to remove it to fix a leaking pipe, several visits to a well known store to collect more fittings to complete the installation, re-siting the toilet as it didn’t fit, switching sinks due to incorrect sizes, fixing leaks, unblocking pipes, tiling the floor and then re-tiling it to fix broken tiles.And so the list goes on.

Most of these issues, as they arose were followed with many expletives and a few “why me’s”.It seemed nothing would go right with this job. Every task was a chore, made harder by one problem or another, set back on top of set back.

It most certainly was a stressful week and I was left pretty much wrecked by, not the physical exertion but the mental pressures I had struggled with all week.I complained that it was as if the bathroom was fighting me, which logically is a ridiculous thing to suggest.Lou hit the nail on the head when she said that, most of these problems were because I was in a bad place and nothing to do with the bathroom itself. Of course, she was totally right.

My negative mindset was the catalyst for the problems and acted like a magnet for DIY disasters, made worse my the frustrations that ensued after each additional set back.

So, if you want something to prove that thinking positive is a pre-requisite for having positive things happen, then look no further than my week of negativity to see just how many negative things happened when my mind was in the wrong frame.

The universe craves balance and so if my week of negative thinking gave way to negative results, then it is safe to assume that positive thinking will bring about positive results.
So I ask you to spare a moment to as yourself – “What are you thinking?”I’m now through it, over it and past it. The bathroom looks great, the tenant is extremely happy, and my following week was full of great training, great times with great friends and several pieces of great news that have given me renewed positivity again – just in case you were at all worried - ha ha
I would like to leave you with a little quote of my own based on my past two weeks of very opposite states of mind and paralleled results

Choose your thoughts wisely, for;
Whatever you Dream of you give power, and;
Whatever you fear you will also give power, and;
Whatever you give power to will be attracted to you

Gandhi said it far more eloquently

Keep your thoughts positive,
because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive,
because your words become your behaviours.
Keep your behaviours positive,
because your behaviours become your habits.
Keep your habits positive,
because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive,
because your values become your destiny.

And remember
“sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the man who THINKS he can.”

So, do your best to stay positive folks, you’ll be amazed what can happen when you do.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x