Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Training the Mind (a.k.a. ReEducating Kai)

photo by Gary Lai
I spend more time training my mind than I do my body.  I joke with one of my coaches that even though I am a girl I am the least needy of all his fighters.  This is oddly humorous to us.  These big muscular manly men need more hand holding and positive affirmation than this silly little old gal. 

When I first began at this fighting life I had a friend who did not want to hear me say that I lost a competition.  I explained that is what happens in competition.  Someone wins and someone loses.  She would reply that even so I should not say that I lost.  We would talk in circles about this on more than one occasion.  Each time ending with me conveying that I fully understand that losing does not make me a LOSER.  She would say, Okay.  Okay.  The way only women can say, Okay.  And I would wonder to myself why she could not believe me.  So worried was she that my feelings of self worth were being diminished by the words, I lost.  I think she must be one of those moms that feel their children should get trophies for participation and that scores should not be kept in their soccer games and that MVPs should not be named.

Another friend of mine would so often attempt to prepare me for loss that I began to wonder if she had any confidence in me at all. She would tell me she admired most the fighters who had gone through many losses and still found a way to prevail.  She would tell me of how a singular loss had negatively affected other fighters she had known.  I would tell her that I appreciated what she was trying to do but that I would like to not talk so much about losing and instead focus on winning.  I would assure her that whatever the outcome that I will be alright but that when I step into the ring or the cage or on the mat I cannot think about how it is alright for me to lose or that losing is even a possibility.  To which she would say, Okay.  Okay.  The way only women can say, Okay.  So very unconvincingly.

photo by Gerald Fontejon
Recently I lost my first Muay Thai match which comes just after my first MMA loss.  That makes two in a row and truth be told it feels more like three, actually four including jiu-jitsu.  A friend expressed his concern about how this may negatively affect the cultivation of a winner’s mindset.  I told him that I am aware and actively working on this and that situations will test me and only time will tell who I will become but right now I am so grateful to be on this journey.  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  This journey that holds so many highs and lows, feelings of greatness and feelings of defeat.  All of it.  I am honored to be here, to live the dream, to have this opportunity.  I take none of it for granted.  This thing I feel so passionate about that tears well up in my eyes even when talking to strangers about what I do. 

When I played high school basketball so many years ago I remember hearing that a major university was only taking players from winning teams.  I was not on a winning team though I felt that I could hold my own with the best of them.  I did not understand then why they would not even look my way.  It felt unfair.  But after thinking about it I could see their point.  With thousands of girls to choose from and so much to teach them why bother with one of the hardest things to teach a person, How to Win.  Of course the physical is required in sports, but even more necessary is the mind.  It is the mind that separates Champions from being the ordinary kind of extraordinary all great athletes are.

In fighting I am often told about padded records.  I am told about opponents being chosen that are not competitive, “Tomato Cans”.  I am told about wins being given to up and coming prospects to enforce the winner’s mindset.  I have seen this happen and it never ceases to baffle me.  That one can find a way to be proud of beating someone you know to be a significantly lesser fighter.  Or to be told you won and to believe it even though we are in the age of instant video replay, video proof to the contrary.  But our reality is our perspective and our truth is what we believe and I suppose that is why these practices still exist.  The mind is a powerful thing.

For me, I do not want my ego coddled.  I am not interested in fighting someone considered A Sure Thing.  I do not want to ever be “given” a win.  Please, not that.  An empty victory based on lies seems an insult to how hard I work, an insult to my intelligence. I want to live this experience with my integrity (“The quality of being honest”) in tact.

For me, after losing, I go through the normal thoughts and feelings most people go through I suppose.  I feel an overwhelming disappointment in the outcome.  I wonder if I am cut out for this, if I have taken on more than I can handle, if I will ever be good enough, if I have let people down, if I continue to lose will my coaches and supporters stop believing in me, will I stop believing in myself.

photo by Gerald Fontejon
The fortunate thing for me is that these thoughts dissipate fairly quickly from me.  Within minutes.  As if I am in an abusive relationship I begin to only remember the good times.  That was fun!  Despair and uncertainty fade fast and the bruises of the ego and the soul are forgotten.  Within a short time I am deconstructing the fight and looking at what I did right and what I did wrong and what I want to learn and practice to be better at this the next time around.  All that was for a moment intensely insufferable evaporates from me at a more rapid rate than the perspiration on my body.   

There are some moments in life that are so impactful that they will leave a definite impression on you, change your course of travel.  However most moments are given as much significance to them as you choose to assign.  I was a complete human being before fighting.  I will be a complete human being after fighting.  And I am a complete human being now while I am fighting.  The wins and the losses will make for a sort of mathematical equation in the future and someday I will look at the sum and all its parts.  But that is to dissect and think about later.  Right now is about right now.

Right now I am drawing sketches, carving and sanding, testing theories, debating concepts, writing rough drafts, editing and revising.  Right now I am designing the fighter I will become.  Deconstruction.  Reconstruction.  Field Test.  Repeat. Over and Over and Over and Over…

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