The art of gains
Muscular gains, strength gains, better health and performances, it’s impossible not to gain from strength training and all the better habits that goes with it. My interest from martial arts came very early in my life and one of the very first books I bought with my own money was The art of war from Sun Tzu.
After reading many versions of it, relating to business or other aspects of our lives, I’ve used it in combat, business and also built a version of it towards strength training.
Here are a few quotes that had a great impact on my life, training and habits.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
In combat, this cannot be any clearer. But in training, most people will avoid their weaknesses. You are your own worst enemy in training, always fighting that little voice in your head trying to make you do less then you are supposed to.
Most fighters study their opponents before the big fight. You must apply the same principle before every workout, before making your programs. You know your weaknesses so don’t let them define your strength.
In the gym, one of the best ways to crush your weak points is to train with a stronger partner. Your ego will probably get a beating as well, but if your ego is more important than getting bigger and stronger, I can tell why you have such weaknesses.
‘‘To be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.’’
As we study our opponents, we also know the date of the dual, the big fight. We have only one thing in our mind, the ultimate fight night.
In training, we set goals so we don’t waste our precious time. The best trainers always have a plan B. Injuries, planning mistakes and what we call ‘’life’’ happens and can throw curve balls to the best of us no matter how well the plan goes so being prepared for any eventualities is in fact, the greatest virtue.
”If the mind is ready, the body will follow without any great effort.”
Your state of mind has a lot to do with your practice. The ultimate goal of all martial artists is the perfect practice. That is when technique meets the mind and the ultimate outcome is extreme fluidity and effortless execution. The best way to visualize such a thing is in the movie Matrix, when Neo realize that he is the chosen one and easily executes all the techniques he learned, effortlessly against the agents, with extreme fluidity and agility.
There will be some moments in your workout and practice, where you will find it easier, more fluid. Almost like a déjà vu kind of feeling, like something you already experienced before which we perceive as easier and known territory. I’ve read many times in old martial ways writings, the perfect practice, and some kind of moment of enlightenment.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing a few of these moments which were not planned, and I think they never do. This is why it makes them so special and why the ultimate goal is to experience them as often as possible through constant practice and study of our ways.
Everything seemed almost too easy, automated and even slower than usual, almost as if I knew what was coming my way and had all the time in the world to react and conquer. I controlled the situation and how I reacted to it. A great fighter can almost follow the opponents breathing and hit at the right moment. The best way to explain the feeling is like having a perfect balance between mental, physical and spiritual capacities, a perfect balance between memory, technique and execution.
In training, we can have a little more control over our abilities by keeping track of our progress. There will be workouts where everything seems easier. A training journal will have many relevant details about those greater workouts and may have many answers to how you can maximize your results for the upcoming programs and workouts.
‘’Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.’’
You know how to achieve the best practice. Fighting will be much easier and so are your workouts. Cry in the dojo, laugh in the battlefield.
‘’Know yourself, and your enemy, a thousand battles, a thousand victory.’’
The best of the best always study their opponents before the big fight. They will use their strength and weaknesses wisely.
In training, the same goes with our own weakest and strongest abilities and this goes in many areas of our lives. For instance, your schedule may not allow you to train more than 4 times a week. Overlooking this simple but very important detail may impact your ability to recuperate and may cause great damage to your health in the long run.
Follow the wave and be realistic. Nothing is temporary. Don’t risk it all for the sake of pride. Use these periods to rest and reassess.
For those who burn the candle from both ends, having a few tricks up your sleeve can help you come back faster from those sleepless and restless nights induced by overbooked schedules. Magnesium will help calm your nervous system down and ease your mind. Working late at night on that bright blue computer screen may have a part in it, messing up your body’s perception of sleep so melatonin and magnesium can help improve your sleep quality.
‘’In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.’’
I was very fortunate to have a sensei that challenged me relentlessly. I wish you the same in your practice, in the dojo and in the gym. Get someone to do your workouts. In fact, your workouts should scare you a little, make them challenging. No one in the history of mankind complained about being to strong.
‘’A leader leads by example, not by force.’’
This one is for all the ‘’show off’. You are a strong motherfucker? There might be a few who are looking up to you, they want to do what you do and they would kill to have your skills and/or strength. You have the power to influence the next generation so do it correctly.
There was always those little self-proclaimed alpha’s that came in the class who thought they were able to fight with the best of us. Technique, skills and methods can only be tested in combat. This is where experience count. Knowledge and composure will prevail. These are the type of situation where the students learn the most from the sensei.
‘’Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. ‘’
‘’Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.‘’
The best tactic is to use the unfair advantage. Discover the weakest link and use it to your advantage. Use techniques that will make your reach your goals faster. They won’t be the easiest, they never are, but then again, they will help you gain the advantage.
‘’Swift as the wind. Quiet as the forest. Conquer like the fire. Steady as the mountain.’’
Control the elements.
When fight day comes, wouldn’t it be stupid to eat like you didn’t care? So in training. It could be one of the most expensive lessons you can learn. Eat and live as if you were going to be tested every day.
‘’He who knows when he can or can not fight, will be victorious.’’
One must learn when to calm down, to take it easy, rest and restore, take a break from practice and training. This is where efficacy of the periodization principle lies. Our body (and obsessive propensities) does not always recognize the early symptoms of overtraining. Many would want us to believe that overtraining is just an excuse for the weak, but that would be their weakness. Know when to ease off the accelerator and throughout the year, plan periods of rest, regeneration and refocus. You don’t have to wait until you crash and burn, keep progressing by implementing this principle. This will prevent many overuse injuries and will add many more years into your practice.