Thoughts on Diet – #Paleo?

Have you heard of The Paleo Diet?

For practicing martial artists – indeed, for human beings in general – nutrition is crucial.  Just as a car won’t run well on impure gasoline, your body won’t run well on crap food.  You need good fuel to function at your best.

But when it comes to the human body, what is good fuel?

There are as many theories on this as there are athletes in the Olympics.  More, probably.  They all say something different, and they’re all probably a little bit right, a little bit wrong.

For this, as in most things, I don’t think there is one right answer.  What may work for one person may not work at all for another.

There are certain basic principles to follow, of course:

  • Avoid refined sugars
  • Minimize processed foods
  • Eat plenty of green vegetables

Just following these principles will make 99% of Americans far healthier than they are today.  But of course, athletes, or anyone dedicated to health and fitness, want something more specific and refined to take their training and their lives to the next level.

A caveat before I start dispensing advice here: I’ve been vegetarian for fifteen years.  Technically, I’m a pescatarian, because I eat fish, but since nobody knows what that word means, I simplify it.  I get a lot of judgment from fellow athletes, who think I’m starving my body of necessary nutrients by not eating meat.  It’s possible.  But seeing as I’ve generally felt far healthier since I made the switch in my early twenties, I have no desire to change back.

But that doesn’t mean I preach that as the right way to eat.  As I said – there is no ‘right way’.

The Paleo Diet interests me.  Eating what our ancestors did in the caves, hunting and gathering to survive.  Eschewing grains and legumes and processed foods and the nutritional end products of industrialized agricultural society.  Eating lots of meat and fish and vegetables, and little else.

I can see the appeal.  And I’ve heard from many of my friends and fellow martial artists that this diet does make them feel better and function at a higher level.

If you’re interested in Paleo, there’s an event happening today at Buck Books, where you can sign up and get a whole bunch of books on the subject for practically nothing.  Check it out!  I’ve picked up a couple of the books myself, to satisfy my curiosity.  (I’m thinking of trying out a modified-Paleo, fish-and-veggie-only diet for a little while, to see how it works for me.)

Have you tried the Paleo Diet?  If so, what did you think about it?  If you don’t follow that right now, what nutrition plan or principles do you try to adhere to, and how well have they worked for you?  Hit me up at luke@mindinmartialarts.com and let me know!

 – Luke

P.S.  For a FREE copy of my book The Martial Artist’s Mindset: Mental Practices for Fighters, Students, Teachers, Coaches, and Artists of All Kinds, CLICK HERE!

 

Setting Goals for Martial Arts and Life

Have you set your goals for the new year yet?

I know, I know – it’s November.  There’s a lot of time for that.  And we still have to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas, right?  We’ll think about goals later.

Wrong.

You should be thinking about your goals all the time.  Every day, before you do something of any significance – go to work, train martial arts, prepare a meal, read a book, begin a creative project, and so on – first take a moment to remind yourself what result you want out of that activity.  Not just the immediate result, but the long-term result for your life.  What is your desired outcome for this action?

You’ll find that the mere act of asking this question will help you make better choices.

For instance, what is your goal when you prepare a meal?  Is it simply to put something delicious in your mouth?  Or is it to give your body fuel that nourishes you, that energizes you and gives you the strength to face your day?  Figure out what your outcome is for the food you prepare, then decide what dish to make.

This decision process applies in your martial arts life, as well.  Before you train, you must first decide on your goal for that training session.  What end result do you want to achieve?  There is no one right answer for this.  The outcome you pursue will depend on who you are and what your long-term vision is for your life.  Your goal for your practice may be:

  • To get a great workout
  • To learn a new technique
  • To sharpen the techniques you already know
  • To have a Zen experience of being perfectly present, ‘in the moment’
  • Or anything else!

Now it should be clear that it is far easier to focus on your desired outcomes for particular actions when you have already set your long-term goals.  Once you have the results you want for your life firmly set in your mind, you can choose your outcomes for your daily activities based on how those outcomes serve your overall purpose.

So why wait?  If you haven’t already decided on your goals for the next year, do it today!  Write them down.  Write down everything you want to accomplish in 2015, every great thing you want to happen.  And be specific.  This next year, do you want to:

  • Lose 20 lbs?
  • Make $100k?
  • Write a book?
  • Earn your next belt?
  • Win your first pro fight?

Everything you want or think you want, write it down.

Once you’ve done that, go through your list and pick the 3-5 goals you most want to achieve in the next 12 months.  Got ‘em?  Good!

Now that you have your long-term goals, here’s the most important thing:

Don’t wait ’til January 1st to start working towards them.  Start today!

You know what you’re working for.  So keep that in mind as you go about your daily activities.  Before you begin each task, take a minute to ask yourself, “How will eating this meal/practicing this art/reading this book serve my goals?  What do I want to get out of this activity that will enhance my life?”

I hope this process helps you.  And please don’t take this as me preaching or proselytizing.  I wrote this article because I need the reminder, too.  I often forget my goals and get off track.

Now I aim to get back on track, and get a head start on a fantastic 2015.

Keep training hard!

- Luke

P.S.  If you would like a FREE copy of my ebook, The Martial Artist’s Mindset: Mental Practices for Fighters, Students, Teachers, Coaches, and Artists of All Kinds, subscribe to the Mind in the Martial Arts newsletter today!

Tao of Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee and the Training of the Spirit

 If you’re interested in the study of the martial arts as both a mental and a physical discipline, no work is more essential than Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

In this book, Lee – the first Asian-American martial arts superstar and a grandfather of mixed martial arts (MMA) – expounds upon his principles of ‘Jeet Kune Do’ (JKD), or the ‘Way of the Intercepting Fist’.  He sums up his philosophy thus:

Accept what is useful,

Reject what is useless, and

Add what is essentially your own.

This is an approach we can adopt for far more than martial arts training, of course.  I believe Lee means his idea to apply to everything one learns in life.

In TJKD Lee delves a great deal into his philosophy behind training and fighting, long before he even gets to punching and kicking.  His statements are echoed by coaches and trainers in all manner of sports and arts, from boxing to gymnastics to dance.  Take, for instance, what he says on form:

Good form is the most efficient manner to accomplish the purpose of a performance with a minimum of lost motion and wasted energy.

He goes into far more detail on the relation of tension and relaxation in the body for physical performance, but my point is: he knows his stuff.  That killer physique, unbeaten fight record, and mile-long list of top students was no accident.

But again, Lee knows more than martial arts.  He was well-educated in both the Eastern and Western philosophical traditions, and sought to bring them together in the same way he attempted to meld the practices of physical and mental development.

Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere.  The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself.

Lee was against what he called ‘static thinking’ – that is, fixating one’s mind on any one idea, to the exclusion of all others.  From his Eastern heritage he brought the principles of mindfulness, of forgetting the self, of Zen and Taoism and the stoic acceptance of the world as it is.  Yet he melded these ideas with Western ideals of continual striving for self-improvement, and for the elevation of the individual above any established styles or systems.

 

I know a lot of this sounds esoteric.  Lee was, above all, a philosopher and teacher, trying to wrap his mind around difficult concepts, apply them to his life, and pass them on to his students and to future generations.  But he was also immensely practical, and TJKD reflects that.  While he does give us inspiring but difficult-to-understand passages like this:

The mind must be wide open to function freely in thought.  A limited mind cannot think freely.

…He also brings it down to Earth, like so:

Some observations are applicable to all types of hitting.  Hit as straight as possible.  Step in when you punch and make your reach good.  Don’t telegraph any punch.  If you have to set your fist in a certain way for a particular punch, do it in a manner that won’t warn your opponent… After hitting, instantly get back on guard.

Yes, if you’ve been training for a while, this may seem pretty basic… but Lee has a lot more to say on this subject, much of which you may not have heard before.  The way he melds philosophy with practical training strategies is both inspirational and instructive.

In short, this book gets my highest possible recommendation.  Pick up Tao of Jeet Kune Do right away!  You’ll be glad you did.

[And if you’re interested, grab some great Bruce Lee movies below!  (Spoiler: in Way of the Dragon, Lee fights Chuck Norris in the final scene.  It’s possibly the best martial arts match ever filmed.)]

 
 

Mindfulness, Sushi, and the Art of Self-Improvement

I have a movie you must see, if you haven’t yet.

It’s called Jiro: Dreams of Sushi.  And it’s amazing.

If you like sushi (I happen to love it), this film will make you hungry.

If you like personal development and the thought of dedicating your life to doing what you love, this film will inspire you.

It’s available on Netflix now.  You can also rent the whole thing on Amazon or YouTube.  Check it out!

The principle this documentary promotes is kaizen, or improvement.  Constant, never-ending improvement.  Dedicating one’s life to his art, to become the best in the world at what he does, and still continually striving to better himself, to reach that unattainable perfection.

I wrote a chapter on this principle in The Martial Artist’s Mindset (see below).  I’ll write a full book about it soon.

Endless Improvement

Here’s a sad truth: the first time, you won’t be good. In fact, chances are that whatever you’re trying to do, be it a calculus problem or a sales negotiation or a rear roundhouse kick, you won’t do it well the first dozen, the first hundred, or even the first thousand times you try.

So why bother?

Because if you’re going to climb a ladder, you have to start on the ground.

Western companies that want to emulate Japanese business models follow a principle called kaizen. The word kaizen literally translates as ‘good change’, and may be applied to any improvement, large or small, one-time or ongoing, in any field. Businesses today, though, use it to refer to a managerial philosophy of constant improvement in quality, efficiency, and other such matrices.

The idea is this: continually making small improvements to a process will eventually yield huge results to the bottom line.

What does this mean for your training?

We’ve all heard the idiom, “Practice makes perfect.” It’s been drilled into most of us from a young age, and most of us probably believe it, in one form or another. And it is a useful statement. There’s only one problem: it’s not true.

Repetition is a necessary ingredient to success – but not just any kind of repetition. If you practice something the wrong way a thousand times, all you’ve done is make it a thousand times more likely that you’ll do it wrong again. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

There’s the rub. How do you get to perfect if you don’t start there?

Kaizen.

It’s not enough just to practice. Simply repeating an action by rote will never get you to your goal. Instead you must practice with an end in mind. That is, you must go into every practice session with something to focus on and improve.

Do you want to make your martial arts game 100% better? You can. But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t magically arise from making the same mistakes over and over again in the hope that they’ll someday go away.

The only way to improve is to practice improvement.

You won’t get 100% better in a single training session, or even a dozen of them. That may frustrate you. The lack of a noticeable difference in skills or attributes from one practice to the next may make you despair of ever accomplishing your goal.

Frustration is okay; we all feel it at times. The important thing is not to give up because of it.

Don’t expect to be perfect overnight. Instead, focus on becoming just 1% better in every practice session.

If you did that, how much better would you get in a year?

Practicing twice a week, getting 1% better each time – would, in simple formula, amount to a 104% improvement in one year.

But the actual results would be far greater than that, because your improvements compound. That is, if you get 1% better this practice, and 1% better than the new, improved you the next practice, and 1% better than that guy the practice after that – by the fifth practice you aren’t 5% better, you’re 5.1% better.

From there, your progress accelerates:

By the tenth practice, you’re 10.4% better.

By practice # 35 – four months along – you’ve improved 42%.

By your 52nd training session, half way through the year, you’re already 68% better than you were when you began.

At your seventieth practice, two-thirds of the way through the year, you’re already a 100% better martial artist than you were on day one.

Now if, for four more months, you continue to improve by just 1% each and every class, by the end of the year you will be 281% better than you were when you started the kaizen process.

281% stronger. 281% faster. 281% better stamina. 281% better timing. 281% more skilled.

All in one year. By improving just 1% at a time.

Sound impossible? It’s not. I’ve seen dozens of people walk through our gym doors one day overweight, slow, weak, uncoordinated – and I’ve seen those same people showing off six-packs, cleaning up grappling competitions, and winning cage fights, in less than a year.

Granted, it’s not easy… but nothing worthwhile ever is. And it is definitely worthwhile.

All it takes is dedication, commitment to practice, and an unwavering focus on constant and never-ending improvement.

Kaizen.

 

Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, and contact me via email at luke@mindinmartialarts.com.

Train hard and fight easy, my friends.

– Luke Morris

Inspiration, Self-Improvement, and Martial Arts Training – New Book Available!

Hey all!

My new book, Mind in the Martial Arts: Why YOU Must Train is now available on Amazon Kindle.

Mind in the Martial Arts 1 - sample cover-page-001

 

I’m really excited about this start to the Mind in the Martial Arts book series project!  I hope it helps educate, inspire, and motivate both martial artists and non-practitioners alike.

Here’s the book description from Amazon:

 

What Are Your Goals?

Do you want to:
– Get physically fit?
– Build self-confidence?
– Strengthen your willpower?
– Learn to defend yourself and your loved ones?
– Become more spiritually centered and mentally tough?

Then you must read Mind in the Martial Arts: Why YOU Must Train.

Who is this book for?

This book will benefit:
– Potential martial artists – people new to the game, who want to learn what martial arts training can do for them.
– High achievers – people into self-improvement and personal development, who are excited to take on another challenge and create a new vehicle for personal growth.
– Practicing martial artists – especially those who are looking for inspiration to get back in the gym or to take their training to the next level.
Anyone interested in martial arts, sports psychology, Zen philosophy, or positive motivation.

Do any of these descriptions fit you? Do you want them to?

Why YOU must train Martial Arts

Martial arts training can make you a better, happier, more kick-ass person.

Benefits of martial arts training include:
– Great physical fitness and health
– Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
– Stronger self-discipline and willpower
– Opportunities to prove yourself in competition
– Self-defense
– Personal development and spiritual growth
– Mental focus and emotional therapy
– A team of like-minded, goal-driven people at your back

Sounds good, right?

What this book provides

Mind in the Martial Arts: Why YOU Must Train isn’t just a pump-up manual for martial artists. It not only lists the benefits that martial arts study provides, it describes how to maximize those benefits in your practice.

In short, this book is for anyone looking to get the most out of his or her life.

Give it a read, put its lessons to use, and see for yourself. You’re worth it!

 

The Author

Luke Morris has been training martial arts for over fourteen years. He is a second-degree black belt in Jeet Kune Do concepts and Mixed Martial Arts under Sifu Dion Riccardo, and an instructor and coach at Victory Martial Arts Academy in Forest Park, Illinois. He has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Hillsdale College.

In addition to this book, Luke is the author of The Martial Artist’s Mindset: Mental Practices for Fighters, Students, Teachers, Coaches, and Artists of All Kinds. He also hosts the Fun with Fiction podcast, and has published a number of fiction books under ‘Luke J. Morris’, available at Amazon.

The next book in the Mind in the Martial Arts series is coming soon. Sign up for Luke’s newsletter at the Mind in Martial Arts website to be the first to hear about that, and to receive great free material on martial arts, personal development, and other cool topics.

 

Topics covered

– Zen in martial arts
– personal development
– self improvement
– physical fitness
– self defense
– positive psychology
– martial arts philosophy

 

 

If you pick the book up, be sure to read it and let it drive you to kick ass.

And please, let me know what you think!  Leave me a review on Amazon, and send me an email at luke@mindinmartialarts.com.

Thanks all.  Train hard, fight easy!

 

– Luke M

Building the Martial Artist’s Mindset – Zen Meditation and Living in the Moment

Hello, and welcome to Mind in the Martial Arts, the blog (and book series) aimed at helping you become a better martial artist and a more effective human being.

These are lofty claims, of course.  Can I deliver?

Read on to find out!

I’ve been training and teaching martial arts for over a decade.  During that time I’ve coached fighters in the cage and on the grappling mat, and I’ve worked with cops and soldiers, stressed-out moms and troubled teens.  I have a degree in philosophy and a black belt in mixed martial arts, but ultimately I consider myself a white belt at life.

Just like you, I’m earning my stripes, and learning as I go.  I’m building my martial artist’s mind for life.

To that end, for this inaugural post, I am including a free chapter from my first book,

The Martial Artist’s Mindset: Mental Practices for Fighters, Students, Teachers, Coaches, and Artists of All Kinds

The Martial Artist's Mindset Cover

This chapter covers the crucial concept of being in the moment, and touches on ideas of mindfulness and Zen meditation.

Enjoy!

(And if you like the post, pick up the ebook – only $0.99 on Amazon Kindle and Kobo.)

 

Wherever You Are, Be There

 

Before class begins, my students may see me sitting at the edge of the mat with my legs folded and my eyes half-closed. I often do slow stretches at this time, as well, or light, slow-motion shadowboxing.

I use all of these activities as forms of meditation.

Whatever I’m doing to meditate, my focus is on one thing: my breath. Not the problems I had at work; not the bills I have to pay; not even the curriculum I’m about to teach. Yes, all of those thoughts may run through my head, but when I’m in the right state, I don’t latch onto them. My awareness continually returns to my breathing and the feel of my body in the present moment.

I breathe slowly in through my nostrils and slowly out through my mouth. This breathing happens not high in my chest, but deep down in my diaphragm, in my core. To help me concentrate I may count each breath, trying to get to ten without being distracted, then start my count over again. The whole time I never lose my consciousness of where I am, what I am doing, and the thoughts that pass through my mind.

All of this helps me to commit myself to the moment.

To ‘commit yourself to the moment’ means to be aware of the immediate present, to forget regrets about the past and worries about the future, to concentrate on the here and now. Taoists and Zen Buddhists call this practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a state of pure awareness, of clear understanding without the complexity of thought. It means noticing and giving your full attention to what is within and around you.

To live in mindfulness is to focus on what you’re doing and feeling and seeing and hearing in this instant.

Practicing martial arts serves as a catalyst for mindfulness. Working to improve my skills forces me to be fully present and engaged in my current activity. I have to be aware of what is happening around me, of my training partner in front of me, and of every action I take. It’s life or death. I can’t think about my problems, about what I did yesterday or what I have to do tomorrow. My concentration must be 100% in the present moment, or I won’t benefit from my training.

And the demands of training intensify when teaching is involved.

If I want to help my students grow, I must be mindful for all of them. If I am not fully present in class, it will be harder for them to be fully present, as well. And nothing hampers training more than a distracted mind. A distracted mind leads to carelessness, sloppy technique, inability to follow instruction, and potential injury.

This is why I meditate for a few minutes before class, and I suggest that all martial artists – or artists of any sort – do the same.

Take some time to clear your mind.

Sit, fold your legs, straighten your spine, relax your shoulders, and narrow your eyes.

Count your breaths. Is your breathing deep or shallow? Slow it down. Breathe in. Let the oxygen and energy flow into your core. Feel it spread from there to the rest of your body, to your toes, your fingertips, the top of your head. Breathe out. Release the tension from your body as you slowly exhale. Empty your lungs entirely, and let them start their next inhale automatically.

Concentrate on the input of your senses.

Your eyes should be semi-unfocused, looking into the middle distance. Without moving your gaze around or zooming in on any one thing, what do you see?

Open up your ears, without trying to hear anything in particular. What sounds come to you? Don’t think about them or try to interpret them – just hear them.

As you breathe, what do you smell? What do you taste? Again, just experience it, don’t try to judge it.

Move your awareness across each area of your body. How do your feet feel? Your stomach? Your hands? The tips of your ears? Now broaden that awareness. What do you feel in your body as a whole? What does the air feel like on your skin?

Once you’ve learned to exercise your concentration while sitting, you can expand it to keeping mindfulness through your stretches and your solo warm-up. Ideally you’ll soon be able to stay present and associated in everything you do… but don’t worry about that. Worry about now.

Because, ultimately, now is the only time there is. The past is over; the future hasn’t happened. We should remember the past and plan for the future, but we must live in the now. Mindfulness meditation will help you do this.

Try a meditation technique like this before your next practice, and notice the difference it makes. You may find that you can concentrate better, absorb knowledge faster, even keep your energy longer.

Once you become fully immersed in the present moment, you’ll be ready to make the most of your training.   Just remember that this result is not the point of the practice. The practice is its own point. Living in the now is an end in itself.

Do it. You’ll see.

 

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  See you next time!

- Luke Morris

P.S.  Email me at luke@mindinmartialarts.com!  I’d love to hear from you.