I’ve been working quite a lot lately, around 70 hours last week. When you are a full time freelancer work load is often in peaks and troughs, so you have quiet times and mega-busy times. I wouldn’t change it and I’m certainly not complaining.

I find it incredibly hard to shut off from work, it’s my own business after all, and even when I’m out on the bike or walking Bailey I often find myself mulling over programming problems. This can work really well because it takes me away from the computer and helps me find solutions efficiently and then I can just crack on with implementing them when I get back home but it also means that my brain never really gets any respite during these busy periods and sometimes you really need to distract your thoughts to solve deeper or more complex problems.

So on Saturday evening I went bouldering with a good friend of mine. Climbing hard slabs, for me, means total absorption in what I’m doing. I can’t think about anything else and that’s exactly what I needed. That’s why I love climbing.

Image from Awesome Walls Climbing Centre.

Variety is the spice of life

I’ve recently won my first mountain bike cross country race, the Summer Classic. It’s one of my favourite races of the year. I turned up for practice and the course was quite muddy and slippery which aren’t my favourite conditions but I got myself to the start line with the goal of just finishing without crashing. To cut a long story short, I ended up winning the race and couldn’t quite believe it! I’ve rarely won anything in my life as I tend to gravitate towards being competitive with myself rather than other people so trophies (or a drinks bottle and a pair of socks in this case) aren’t really a thing in my life.

Driving home I got quite emotional and had an overwhelming sense of happiness, it was ace and I really felt full of achievement. After a few days though this wore off and I was soon back on the bike training for the next race. Winning that race felt amazing. Training for it, however, is mundane and boring. Riding my mountain bike on the road and hitting power / heart rate numbers for hours and hours each week is dull and it saps the life out of me.

Yesterday I went for a trip down memory lane and took my MTB back to my old local trails and rode through nettles, around a quarry, found some new trails which I had to walk down because I didn’t have the skill to ride them, found what I thought was an old favourite descent but ended up on a different part of the hill due to forest work and picked my way down over branches, got wet and most importantly – I smiled, a lot! This is what riding a bike is about for me and I’ve missed it. Training by numbers for a quick-fix-win is leaving me empty and I’m missing the fun.

Today I’m dreaming about distant high altitude mountaineering peaks, lists of mountain bike trails that I promised I’d ride someday, sea kayaking trips, routes that I want to be able to climb and other joyful and inspiring things. I know the adventure word is a bit of a buzz word at the moment but it’s what I’m craving right now and as they say, variety is the spice of life.

A State of No Mind

Mushin (無心; Japanese mushin; English translation “no mind”) is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat.[1] They also practice this mental state during everyday activities. The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “no-mindness”. That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

Mushin is achieved when a person’s mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction or what is felt intuitively. It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.

Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, those people will no longer even consider themselves as “fighters” but merely living beings moving through space.

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said:[2]

The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

However, mushin is not just a state of mind that can be achieved during combat. Many martial artists train to achieve this state of mind during kata so that a flawless execution of moves is accomplished — that they may be achieved during combat or at any other time. Once mushin is attained through the practice or study of martial arts (although it can be accomplished through other arts or practices that refine the mind and body), the objective is to then attain this same level of complete awareness in other aspects of the practitioner’s life.

Source: Wikipedia

Aldo Kane, Former Royal Marines Commando, on fear

Aldo Kane is a Former Royal Marines Commando and his company Vertical Planet provides safety services for the TV and Film industry in some of the worlds most hostile and extreme environments.

You wouldn’t wait at home for all the green lights to come on before you drove to the gym, so why do it with the most precious of all commodities, your life?

Read his full interview on Sidetracked where he talks about how he manages fear.

Nearly threw up

A hard training session last night and I honestly thought that I was going to throw up after sparring. I’m still resorting to strength when rolling as my technique is still rather none-existent but I’m starting to at least understand the positions that I’m in and the dangers that are present in those positions, not that I can do much about those dangers at this point.

The main thing that I learned last night, though, was that we don’t get anywhere unless we try. I caught myself a couple of times attempting to pass the guard and wondered why it wasn’t working. Then I realised that I wasn’t fully committing to the move. Of course my partner isn’t going to just let me pass his guard without putting up 100% effort to stop me. I need to put in 100% effort in return to make a good solid attempt at getting past. I need to try.

I think we can apply this to all areas of our lives. Sometimes we think we are trying to achieve a goal or to get something done but if we are really honest with ourselves can we really be sure that we are trying 100% to do what we are trying to do? In a lot of cases I’d say that we aren’t trying hard enough, not all the time of course but a lot of the time. So next time you are trying to do something and it’s not working, ask yourself if you really are trying hard enough. Do you really want it? If you do then fully commit.

Looking back, again

It’s been a while since my last looking back post and having just re-read it I thought it was a good time to do it again.

Highlights from 2015:

  1. Bought the perfect cottage with Leanne
  2. Various days out scrambling and walking with Leanne
  3. Continued to build my business
  4. Raced the British Cycling National XC Series Round 1 in Sport category (Sherwood)
  5. Raced the British Cycling National XC Series Round 3 in Sport category (Builth Wells)
  6. Raced the Midlands XC Series Round 1 in Sport category (Cannock)
  7. Raced the Midlands XC Series Round 2 in Sport category (Mansfield)
  8. Raced the Run & Ride Summer Classic in Fun category (Cannock)
  9. Started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  10. Received my first stripe in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (in the last class of the year)
  11. Learned Object-oriented Programming

When compared to my last post it’s easy for me to think that I’ve not achieved as much but when I think about it the above list is a lot more varied than my last one and buying our amazing cottage is a huge accomplishment especially when my business is still rather young. The above list has been a lot more fun as well. My climbing accomplishments are important to me but I’d be lying if I said that I thought that they were 100% fun and why do something if it’s not fun?

2015 Tatami Nova Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi

I’ve recently purchased a new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi for training. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on one as it’s going to be my workhorse gi for weekly training so I opted for Tatami’s Nova gi.

The gi comes with a free white belt and a snazzy key ring and so far I’m really happy with my purchase. It washes up well, is durable but not too heavy and sizes up well, too. Size-wise I opted for an A1 and it’s absolutely spot on. I’m 5′ 85″ and weigh around 145 lbs / 66kg with shortish legs (29″ inside leg) and longer torso. My arms are negative ape index by around 1″ or so. The gi was a perfect fit out of the bag and hasn’t shrunk after washing (you can shrink a little by tumble drying if you wish but I don’t want to). For me this is perfect and I’m really happy with it. It cost me £56 plus shipping from the BJJ Gi Store and their service was great, too.

All-in-all I’d really recommend the Tatami Nova Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi for beginners and seasoned BJJers alike.