Today Exist Anew is featuring a guest post from professional fighter, coach, and owner of The Academy in Portland, Maine: Jay Jack. Jay is one of the pioneers of mixed marital arts, fighting successfully well before the glitz and glamour of the current UFC. Jay has fought and won in numerous MMA organizations including Ring of Fire, Gladiator Challenge, and the USWF. Jay has been instructing martial arts of various disciplines since 1992 and has produced many decorated athletes and programs.
At Exist Anew we talk a lot about living a “self-defined life” and placing into question conventional notions of how people should live. This is not intended to be a bunch of esoteric bullshit but rather a concept based in action. Most of us can acknowledge that there is something we need to change, something that just doesn’t feel right. The thing is, change usually involves a great deal of risk and uncertainty, and in fearing the worst, we often do nothing.
Given his unique background and experience, we asked Jay what he would say to someone struggling to change and dealing with uncertainty. He enlightened us with the following:
Caution and progress are mutually exclusive. You can only have one to the degree you’re willing to let go of the other.
I say it all the time in martial arts. Turtling up is a great way to defend being punched (caution). But when in the turtle, you’re not doing anything to make the punches stop (progress).
And, you have to mean it! By that, I mean that you can’t sort of punch while really wishing to turtle. You have to commit to the punch. You have to give yourself 100% to taking that risk. Otherwise, you just left caution behind for nothing!
But, honestly, this isn’t a boxing lesson.
For me, martial arts have always been a microcosm of life. Almost like that book “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten”. The way I live life, everything I needed to know, I learned on the mat!
Obviously, I’m talking “life lessons” here. Clearly, I didn’t learn math or English on the mat. But I learned “how” to live.
That little boxing lesson from earlier…… That clearly has application in life. You can’t go into that job interview “sure” it won’t work. You have to commit to that “punch” you’re throwing. You can’t make progress trying to “cling” to caution.
So…. clearly, I’m saying GO, GO, GO!! No caution, EVER! Head down! Windmill!
Not, so much. The trick is the play between the two. Yes, all progress is from having taken the risk. But continuous progress….. Longevity…… That takes caution! You have to be able to come out of that turtle and throw! And then get back in it, and regroup.
I always think of it in my head as a gunfight scene in a movie.
If they just ball up behind something and never come out…. All caution. No progress. If they just walk all smooth forward while shooting (think Terminator)….. All progress. No caution.
You need to use a bit of both.
And here’s where it gets philosophical.
You have to believe 100% in your plan to succeed…. And completely willing to fail.
If you don’t believe it can work, you won’t really commit. And then it won’t work.
If you don’t want to risk failing, you won’t really commit. And again, it won’t work.
You can’t ever be so down on yourself, that you can’t see the possibility of it working. Or so dependent on your current success that you can’t try to improve.
I’ve done both.
When I was a kid, life was scosh difficult. (Waaagh! yes I would like some cheese with that whine) My point is that because life kinda sucked, I was willing to take risks. Or so I thought. See what I learned is It’s not a “risk” if you have nothing to lose. So while I seemed like a “taking my shot” kind of guy, really, I hadn’t had to take any actual risk. I was just plodding forward shooting, cause I was gonna get shot anyway….. may as well go out like that. That’s not true risk.
Consequently, I made a lot of progress. I’d managed to accomplish a lot of really cool things. And that’s when it went downhill. I started taking less risks. Well, I should say as my life improved, I actually had things to risk!
Once things go “well” for a while, it’s hard not to want them to keep going well. Then, you start changing decisions to reduce risk. At some point you look up and realize you’ve been “turtling” for a looong time! And sometimes, if you’ve been “safe” for so long….. You completely lose your courage to take the risk to move forward.
You are what you do most often.
You can’t get so comfortable you stop being willing to take chances. And you can’t be so sure you’re going to “go out swinging” that you never take the time to make safe when you can.
I guess what I’m saying in this rambling post, is this…..
Be safe when you need to be. Be willing to lose it all to take a shot.
And everything you need to know about life you can learn from fighting.