image credit above: Dimitri Otis, Getty Images
I made this Vlog the other day in response to a realization I had. In short, I had a really good sparring session against a young man at the gym who I don’t really know. Because I don’t know him at all – I’ve seen him training for a month or more now but don’t know anything about him and haven’t talked to him or worked with him – I don’t have judgments about how we ought to match up together. When Pi Nu matched us up for sparring, the result was that I was far more free, because I wasn’t filling my head with thoughts about how he’d already proven stronger than I am or how I did well against him last week so I should do well again today, blah blah blah. Just a blank canvas.
Pretty immediately I realized that I’m more skilled than this guy. He’s bigger, at least a few kilos, but I was able to relax and try out different elements of my techniques that often get left out when sparring with the boys who I already have histories with. For example, I’ve never landed a mid-kick on Dtee, who is super tall and rangy and fast, so the moment we touch gloves to start sparring I already think to myself, “I can’t mid-kick him.” I don’t have that with this kid.
Most surprising was the thought, “wow, okay; I’m better than you are.” I never let myself think this. Part of it is how I was raised and part of it is monitoring and editing my thoughts so that I don’t think too immodestly, but that’s never helped me. Never. And, in fact, this thought and allowing myself to both think it without judgment and also roll with it allowed me a degree of freedom in my sparring – experimentation, relaxation and confidence – that I rarely experience. So, it let me realize that clipping the wings of my thoughts so that I never think too confidently has absolutely hindered me in training; and in fights. The thought, “I’m better than you are,” was in my head. I didn’t say it out loud, but I allowed my belief in it to play into my actions and it did wonders for my freedom in that session. And as long as I’m not thinking, “I’m better than you are and so it’s not worth my time to work with you,” or “I’m already awesome so I’m set, I don’t need to improve,” then there’s no harm in the thought. Further, as long as I don’t hold on to that thought as another pre-judgment about how I should do when matched up – for example, if I think I’m more skilled and then I’m getting kicked all over the place and I get all tied up in my head thinking, “I’m better than you so what’s wrong with me?” which is a useless thought – but rather just let the sparring and thoughts flow, then there’s no harm and certainly a lot of benefit.
The lesson for me is about being careful what I think. I don’t help myself at all by thinking disparagingly about myself, or by creating these biographies and storylines that cannot be amended – like how I think I can’t kick Dtee – so my habitual tendency to think “modestly,” even in my own head, isn’t a useful habit. Think whatever you want in your own head. Just stay open. Pick the thoughts that grant you the most freedom.
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