Structure and Form Before Intensity

I was in the gym this morning grinding out sets.

While I was resting between sets, I found myself thinking about how important it is to make sure you’ve got form down before you load weight onto the bar.

The examples of what happens when people try to take on (or given) too much is everywhere:

  • Pop-stars self-destructing
  • Movie stars getting busted for driving really drunk
  • Lottery winners ending up poorer than when they started

The martial arts are no exception.

People think that black belts know some devious secrets that aren’t available to other people.

But that’s not the case.

The human body is bound by physics just as everything else in the universe is.

There’s nothing supernatural in the martial arts (yeah a lot of instructors genuinely think there is, but it’s all physics).

What allows black belts to move in seemingly faster than possible ways is discipline and practice.

The black belt maintains proper structure through discipline which does things like shorten lines of travel and anticipate likely responses based on physiology.

Practice allows the black belt to move effectively without much more thought than: “ribs,” “nose,” or “dump them.”

Continued success requires practice

I recently put out some meditations on making changes.

While some success is a matter of luck. Continuing to experience success over and over requires a lot of good habits. You create those habits through making changes.

If you want success with money for instance, you need to practice good habits like:

  • Keeping a budget
  • Contributing to savings regularly
  • Cutting spending on things you don’t actually use/want

Then you need to keep those habits going and before you know it, you’ll have things like:

  • An emergency fund
  • A fund for a vacation
  • Money for regular expenses
  • An ever increasing retirement fund

As a side effect of things like those, you’ll have less stress to deal with because you’re covered for eventualities/possibilities.

With habits like these, you also learn to handle having windfalls and increases in pay. From places like that you can easily handle the cash flow in such a way that you make good choices.

Contrast that with someone winning the lottery. Everyone I know that has expectations of winning at some point makes choices like:

  • Spending the last of their paycheck on cigarettes and lotto tickets
  • …while they have no food at home
  • …or gas in the tank to get to work
  • …and are a month behind on rent/utilities

What are they likely to do if they were to actually receive a lot of money suddenly?

  • Buy a bunch of stuff they can’t afford in the long run (high-end cars require high-end maintenance, big houses mean big property taxes)
  • Spend a lot of money on people who are fair-weather friends (after the money is gone, they’ll be gone. Or worse they’ll rob them before the money is gone)

Even if they try to “invest” the money, they won’t know good investments (they’re playing the lottery after all).

Getting time “under the bar”

There’s no replacement for time under the bar in the gym.

You have to get in and do the reps and increase the weight over time.

Steroids only help you recover faster, you still have to do the work.

The human body has to become accustomed to a level of success before you can operate at that level effectively.

Or as the Starting Strength Model states:

Stress + Recovery = Adaptation

Meaning you have to be exposed to a stress, then rest and you’ll adapt and be able to expose yourself to a greater stress.

That means you need to cut yourself some slack if you don’t get things immediately. But you need to keep pushing yourself to get better.


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