Monday, August 3, 2009

Get out of the gym and onto the mats for a REAL change

I used to be a member of one of those franchise gyms many years ago. It was so way back that it was only one of a two gym franchise, and still, it was the biggest operation then in Malaysia. I liked it, and went quite regularly but never really lost any weight. In fact, I kind of gained some kilos during my time there. This could have been due to the fact that after the workouts, I would head to the Hotel restaurant in which the gym was located, for a buffet dinner. (200 calories burnt up, 1000 calories in; you do the math…)

There are two problems with going to the gym, or engaging in what I would call individual centered workouts. They are:

1) It is too easy to fool yourself. I could lift 40kilos on one day, then 50 a week later and suddenly I have a notion that I’m superman and can do anything, including saving the world, curing cancer and winning the Noble prize. Actually, all it means is that you can lift a cable assisted set of weights 10-12 times over your head in an air-conditioned hermetically sealed environment. Period.
2) I have no accountability. One week I could be as passionate as Sly Stallone in ‘Rocky’ and the next, I’m scarfing Rocky Roads watching Sly Stallone on DVD in my couch. But hey, I can get away with this because no one is checking on me
3) Lastly, and this is the most worrying. I cultivate the idea that it’s all about me. My workouts. My improvement. The ego gets a major workout

One great thing about alive training in a combat sport is that it strips that vanity of the self away pretty quick. And it teaches one very important lesson that the gym doesn’t – that life is unpredictable.

When I spar in my CMD class, the one thing I have to be is switched on constantly. Total awareness. If not, then a 6 foot 2 inch, 90 kg Frenchman called Pat is going to steam roll me, or if I lose concentration, there’s a chance that those heavy hands from Charles is going to take my head off. Or Adrian “the new Randy Coutere” will double leg me on the mats.

So even if I managed to acquit myself quite well in sparring on Monday, come Wednesday and it’s a whole new ball game. The hunter could become the hunted, and in a matter of two days, I could have gone from hero to zero.

But this is the great thing about the combat sports. Done correctly, it’s ego destroying, and well it should be. I should come out learning some new things about myself and what I can’t and can not do. My training partner is my foil. I get immediate feedback about whether what I do works, if I’ve been cheating on my training and best of all, it’s a relationship

In the end, it’s not just about me. My training partner is involved as well, and if he or she is any good, they will know how to run the fine line between pushing you to the limit and going past that. They will also present with an honest assessment of your abilities. And you should do the same with them. A gym machine or inert weights can’t do that. You can adjust them to suit whatever perception you want of yourself. Not so with a live, active training partner

I know some of my friends who have tried both and gone back to the gym. Sometimes, I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the realisation or sudden self awareness is too jarring for them. It could be they don’t like what they see in the mirror and prefer to go back to the illusory world where they feel that they are a god. The ego likes nothing better than that

Hopefully, I don’t come across as someone who sounds like he’s denigrating weights or other non-combat sport activities. I lift weights, run and swim – and love doing it. It’s just that I strongly believe that people could benefit from the mask removing properties in the combat sports done right.