Mastery 101: Mindset Before Technique



If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that in January of this year (2022) I began training BJJ. While I have some striking experience (both TKD and boxing), the only grappling I ever did was some incidental wrestling with scrappy friends…. but nothing serious.


In a recent blog post titled Stubborn as a G.O.A.T.https://www.manuplifecoaching.com/stubborn-as-a-g-o-a-t/ — I discuss some of my challenges as a respected Life Coach for Men suddenly finding himself humbled by the experience of being a clumsy white belt again at the age of 51. One of the takeaways from this post is my admission that pride was getting in the way of progress, and that I needed to stop trying to defeat my opponent and instead learn to optimally survive back-to-back sparring rounds.


After throwing myself under the bus for being a knuckle-dragger trying to muscle his way through a highly technical physical chess match, I then credit myself for at least being stubborn enough to take the blow to the ego, brush my ape shoulders off, and get back in there with humility and determination. And today in class my persistence paid off. New achievement level unlocked: I submitted a guy with a rear naked choke. Dear diary: Friday, May 13th, 2022 — first RNC in the books. Fuck yeah.


What’s interesting is the almost instant parallel to my experience that occurred later in a coaching session with a client. I’ve been working for awhile with a guy who has some serious anger management issues. Having been that guy myself when I was his age, and having worked with mentors whose snake-handling skills were exceptional back when I was mad at the world and constantly foaming at the mouth, I’ve managed to guide this client toward best practices without much collateral damage. While the Man-UP! Life Coaching pedagogy is broad in scope and takes at least a year to unpack, the fact is that two of its most important practices — meditation and validation — are introduced immediately, and form the foundation of everything else we do.


So today in session, this client of mine showed up looking like he’d just had a sauna, a massage, a BJ, and an enema. It was so uncharacteristic that I wondered if maybe he’d smoked some weed or gotten a prescription for SSRI’s from his doctor. Instead, I learned that yesterday and today, for no apparent reason other than just “what the fuck, why not?”, my dude decided to go HARD with both meditation and validation. Specifically, he went for a significantly challenging run with the goal of repeating a series of validating statements over and over, like a mantra, without letting ANY OTHER THOUGHTS steer him off track. He just set out running, putting one foot in front of the other, saying things like:


“You are good; You are kind; You are gentle; You are patient; You are peaceful; You are humble; You are loving; You are blessed; You are healthy; You are wealthy; You are strong.”


Over, and over, and over…. like an unwavering bass line solidly cutting through a maniacal cacophony of jazz horns, guitars, and drums all taking wild simultaneous solos in a seeming effort to not only obscure but completely obliterate any trace of musical cohesion. Simply put, after months of working together, he finally stopped thinking about doing the work and just DID the damn thing. He set out to quiet his noisy mind, and he won the battle.


He reported that while it was absolutely a struggle, he ultimately found in this practice a kind of peace, which came when he realized he had the power to be mentally still, march forward, breathe, and commit with iron discipline to hitting his goal. And doing so gave him not only the euphoria of having done a thing, but the confidence that he could do it again, and the motivation to get right back out there.


Just like me today in my combat-cuddling session, this guy unlocked a new achievement level. He learned that we have all the time in the world to explore technique, but that before we can enter into that flow state, we have to get our mind right. It has to be still. The rest is details. And we have our entire lives to clumsily yet diligently practice them — over and over and over — until we have mastered the art of practicing.