Thinking About Thinking
Well the 100 X 100 club has got off to a nice start and we are well on the way to getting 100 people doing 100 press-ups a day. It is a simple concept, people do it for fun, it costs nothing to join and is guaranteed to make you fitter, stronger and healthier, if used as part of a calorie controlled diet and exercise regime. It is not a panacea, a cure for all ills, it is a small change to your whole life, it only takes a few minutes but it could change your life. Some people are doing 100 sit-ups as well or instead of the press-ups, some 100 dips. From America, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, China, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England we are creating a small community, the 100 X 100 Club. It is a club of do’ers occupied by thinkers, let me explain.
How can simply completing 100 press-ups alter your life? We I started as a little experiment on myself for myself. During my recent holiday in Austria I was reading Charles Duhigg’s excellent ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change’, it is very informative and entertaining. In the introduction he begins with an outline of the life of a 34-year-old woman, she started smoking and drinking when she was 16, had struggled with obesity, had a massive debt problem and had never lasted in a job for a full year. Her life was a mess, it got worse, I will not go into detail but she had a massive breakdown and reached rock bottom. Whilst at her lowest ebb she had a particular moment when she knew she had to change, she needed a goal. Read her story, her incredible story in the book, it may inspire you. She became “lean and vibrant, with the toned legs of a runner. She looked a decade younger and could out exercise anyone in the room, did not smoke or drink, had no debt and was coming up to her fourth year as a graphic designer.
It all started with one small change that she made to achieve a goal she set herself. Making that one small change led to her making other small changes and these changes combined to result in massive change as described above. What is interesting in Duhigg’s book is the science, how neurologists were able to map her, and others, brain activity and see how new neurological pathways were being created, the old urges and habits to smoke and drink were still there but they were overridden by the new pathways being created. Duhigg looks at how we experience habits, take a listen:
Think about things you do by habit. Think about those habits you should change but cannot, because they are a habit. That is rubbish, you just need to make a decision, set a goal and act upon it. It will take perseverance and willpower for sure, I like training, I do physical activity daily so adding 100 press-ups to my routine is not that drastic a change more an expression of my desire to keep improving, (or at 53 to stay in the game). Setting myself a new goal has altered my start to the day, it is part of my Battle Plan, my Will to Win (see previous posts). Creating the 100 X 100 Club includes others, it becomes a social thing and a source of reciprocal support. The contributions on facebook by those who have joined in are great, I hope they read this blog and that they then reflect differently on what they are doing, they can then place it in the wider perspective of why we do things at all. We do them for reward, whatever the stimulus, desire to be more active, to be fitter, be stronger to have great abs if responded to leads to the reward. The 100 X 100 Club is as much about positive thought as positive action and positive thought is an incredibly useful tool to possess.
Positive thought is an essential tool for martial artists to possess, it can lead you in many different directions and greatly enhance your training. It will not make learning difficult techniques easier but will strengthen the willpower to succeed. Bruce K. Siddle looks at the formation of neural pathways when he examines the neural basis of survival response programs in his classic ‘Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge: The Psychology & Science of Training’. Siddle goes into more detail than I will but essentially he describes the mechanics of how the brain creates circuits that become memory. In my opinion both the texts mentioned should be compulsory reading for all martial arts and self defence instructors for the following reasons.
When we first see a new technique we softwire that information into the brain, we create a picture in the mind’s eye, our short-term sensory store. Our brain then begins the process of seeking out appropriate connections with other cells, previous experiences, habits. We then practise this technique and the more we practice it the more we hardwire it into the brain. We literally do hardwire as the connections with this newly programmed cell and the links to others are myelinated, that is each time we practice the technique/programme we harden a little more the sheath protecting the passage of information and this increases the fluidity and speed of the technique. This is a bit like rocket science but think of your teaching and learning experiences. When somebody demonstrates a technique effectively and you can see this from a number of angles, when it is explained simply and clearly then we are enabled to practise it and to enjoy the pleasure of learning something new, then we repeatedly practice it, then we are programming the brain like we programme a computer.
I had to step in to teach Ju Jitsu last night at very short notice as our Sensei pulled a muscle at the start of the warm up so I stepped into the breach. As part of our warm up I put together three off syllabus techniques to get body and brain functioning using some infighting techniques, then people started some syllabus work. We have a format for demonstrating technique, we do it slowly once to the four points of the compass so that people get the opportunity to create the picture in the mind, then a couple of times more quickly to show the required outcome. Then people practice and repeat for a number of times. It is a good method that has been well-tested and the success is evidence by the students learning. You cannot divorce doing from thinking, they go together in everything we do even when we act subconsciously through habit. At our Ju Jitsu Club and in my self defence business, good practise underpinned by clear understanding of theoretical principles ensures we get it right most of the time, do you? I drove past the local MacDojo yesterday as some of their students were walking towards it in their Gi’s (make them do this so they are walking adverts) and my heart sank. It sank because I have seen the really poor skills they provide their students with, it is expensive trash, hard sell, poor product. There will be no intellectual underpinning of the teaching as it is spreadsheet driven, and when I see there students I genuinely feel sorry for them, they are sheep being regularly sheered.
In a way, perversely, it inspires me to keep trying to achieve excellence in all I do, it may be unachievable, but I will try. Often other martial artists from other schools have said the MacDojo owners should be challenged but I recall a quote from Albert Einstein that goes:
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”.
Do you have time for that? I do not, I like to share my time, actual and virtual, with smart people, like the ones reading this blog 😉 This blog started with an attempt to get people doing something different, creating a new habit, encouraging them to experiment. Maybe a future blog will be informed by discussion of the limitations or the inspiration of the 100 X 100 Club on those who choose to play. Do’ers do, thinkers think but remember do’ers think and thinkers do too. Never underestimate the power of thought, I leave you with a clip from youtube that may blow your mind, give it a go, focus your attention on thinking about thinking for 10 minutes, then think about what you just read. Toodle pip,Garry.