Combatives (and reality self defence training in general) is a serious business.
Or at least, that’s how it comes across. All that talk about violently smashing, pounding, gouging another human being, hurting them, often severely. Occasionally killing them. Talk of do or die, kill or be killed.
It’s all very…well, violent.
But just because training is based around violence and counter-violence, doesn’t mean we can’t still have a bit of fun.
And fun is the one thing that many of us (myself included) are sometimes guilty of forgetting about. We forget to have fun.
Just because it’s fun we’re talking about, doesn’t make it any less important, especially in training. Even more especially in your life.
Most people underestimate the importance of fun, as well as misunderstanding what fun is all about.
When we talk about fun, we are talking about enjoying and being excited by what we do, not necessarily mindless fun, or fun for the sake of it (like with two hookers in a Jacuzzi in Vegas kind of fun), but fun in striving to accomplish our goals, in working towards something important to us, important to our growth as individuals (some would argue that the experience of having two hookers in a Jacuzzi in Vegas is vital to ones growth as well…those people may have a point ).
The Definition Of Fun
Our definition of fun in this context comes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on the psychological state called “flow.” His concept of fun has many components to it, including the following:
- The activity matches challenges with ability.
- Focus on the task is required.
- Focus is possible because there are clear-cut goals and immediate feedback.
- The worries and frustrations of life do not intrude.
- There is a sense of control over actions.
- Self-consciousness is absent.
- The sense of self is stronger after the activity.
- The sense of time is altered.
Training can often be gruelling and extremely uncomfortable on all levels, and if you were to ask someone after one of these hard sessions, what was your experience of it, they would likely reply, “Fantastic, just not at the time.”
The implication here is that although the activity was not at every moment totally pleasurable, the overall experience was uplifting. Enriching even.
You may frequently experience pain, extreme fatigue, nagging injuries, or severe disappointment as a result of your training activities, but you go back to them because you find them rewarding overall.
This was a revelation to me when I first discovered this truth. It made doing the hard things easier. I knew the rewards and the positive emotions and changes that I would feel after doing the hard things would be worth the pain of doing them.
Process Over Outcome
This philosophy doesn’t just apply to training, it also applies to any activity that you may find difficult in life, but which will yield the most growth for you. I’ll give you an example from my own life.
You may have seen the videos that I have posted here recently. Making those videos, for me, was an often-times very uncomfortable process. I tend to communicate better in literally rather than verbally (though I’m working on it), so to stand in front of a camera and communicate my ideas in a clear and concise way was quite a stretch for me. The videos I have done so far are by no means perfect, but that’s beside the point.
The point is the process. It was in the process of actually making those videos that I gained the most from, not in the actual finished products.
I know I’ll get better at doing videos over time because I have faith in the creative process.
But the experience of making them is the real reward, providing me with an uplifting experience that transcends any initial discomfort.
The point I’m making here is that process goals in training are better than outcome based goals when it comes to enjoying what you do and having fun along the way.
Process goals in training include demonstrating competence, creatively expressing oneself, improving one’s self-image, feeling the joy of skilled movement, testing one’s ability (through pressure testing), and, perhaps most important, experiencing fun.
Fun is a major motivational factor for continued persistence in any activity.
One study has also shown that some people are better able to experience fun than others. This occurs when-as a result of genetics or training-they have better control of their mental energies and are better able to focus their attention on the tasks to be done; they are able to set process goals instead of only outcome goals; they have a higher level of self-confidence and learned optimism; and they are less distracted by physical discomfort.
These are the traits you will want to exhibit also if you wish to get the most from your training.
World class performers recognise the importance of fun in what they do. Look at any top performer and you will see that despite how hard they work, despite how challenged they are, despite how under pressure they often are, they still manage to enjoy what they do– they still have fun! Probably more fun than someone who has less stress and strain in their life.
The closer to the edge you walk, the scarier it may be; but the more exciting it is and the more fun it is as well.
“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun, and when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” Joe Namath (Professional Football Player)
World class performers make having fun a priority. They also know that to have the most fun they have to push themselves and take risks.
However, you can only really push yourself and take risks if you are passionate about what you do, if you enjoy what you do.
The discomfort must be worth it to you in some way.
If you enjoy what you do then it is easy to have a laugh and joke during training. When you can do that, learning becomes easier and, you guessed it, more fun.
Al Peasland is one of the best instructors I know. When I trained with Al (along with Mick Tully) on a few occasions the first thing that struck me about his sessions (and what stayed with me about them) was how fun they were. Everything was kept very light-hearted and class participants were actively encouraged to have fun. Those sessions were some of the most enjoyable I’ve had, largely down to Al’s (and Mick Tully’s) insistence on making the training fun, as well as informative.
There is no doubt that we all take ourselves a little too seriously at times. What we should be doing is taking the training seriously and not ourselves. In this way, we will make the most progress and have the most fun.
We are only here for a short time, right? We might as well enjoy it while we can.
And the next time you find yourself taking things too seriously or sweating over the small stuff, just remember….
And finally, a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
We’d all do well to keep that in mind at all times.
Oh, and by the way…
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