Inspiring those who inspire

We begin every year with the classic words: “this will be my best year yet”. Often this is not true, so this year I have decided to something about that. 2010 was a very good year, apart from the last couple of weeks, so 2011 will take something special to beat it. I believe that last year was but a foretaste of what will occur in the next few years, let alone 2011. In my 30 years in martial arts I have spent many of the last 24 teaching and the thought came to me, who inspires those who are supposed to inspire?

Fortunately I have many resources to draw on, from personal relationships to past memories and various forms of media in the forms of books, movies, music and television shows. During January I watched a 3 part documentary called ‘The Brain – A Secret History’ by Michael Mosely; this was a fascinating study on psychology and the experiments that have brought forward our understanding of the brain and it’s functions. I’ve also taught a number of courses for business people and attended the usual diverse number of networking events and gained some new ideas from speakers at them.

However, my greatest source of inspiration has come from my own martial arts students and a number of films. It began over the Christmas period when I was laid up with a leg injury (a calf strain) and watched two films in particular that really inspired me. The first was ‘Freedom Writers’, the second was ‘Coach Carter’. Both studied similar themes: the idea that education combined with a purpose can lead you to a better life; but equally both showed the struggle of individual teachers (Erin Gruwell and Ken Carter) to overcome the narrow-minded view of the educational establishment and their expectation of the students capabilities.

The effect on me was profound. I wanted to try these ideas out. Who to try them on? My own students. I introduced the ‘Coach Carter’ fitness regime: suicides (shuttle runs), push ups and crunches. I wasn’t sure how the UFS students would take this new harsh regime. I was both astonished and proud to say they grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I had to wait a week for my leg to heal enough to take my first tentative steps at running again. Fortunately my calf muscle had healed. I launched straight into my personal fitness regime. Running 4 days per week, weights at the gym 3 days per week, stomach conditioning 5 days per week with 2 rest days. I had been advised that the way to grow muscle and to improve stamina you need a combination of muscles stimulation (exercise), nutrition and rest. Without a balance of all three you can’t improve.

Each week I upped the intensity at the classes – for all students. The children responded, the men responded and so have the women. Each week got tougher; each week the students said they were aching for days, but guess what happened? By the end of the month – last week, everyone who attended agreed they felt fitter and in better shape to face the challenges of the year.

As the students improved I felt I had to lead from the front. At the moment my regime is weights on a split routine: chest – day one, back and biceps – day two and shoulders and triceps – day three. Each week I’m gaining in strength, size and tightening up. My running consists of two 3 mile runs, one 4.5 mile run and one 5.5 mile run. Each week I intend to lengthen the distance. My abs workout has now reached my goal of 1000 crunches per day – done in 2 sets of 500; in the morning I also do a combination of two other abs exercises to give strength and tone to the whole frontal core. I also do lower back exercises to counter balance the pull from the front muscles.

My physical goals for the year are to have shaped up by April and to do the ‘Race the Train’ race in Wales in August. Interestingly I have also been inspired to improve in my business – in the areas I normally neglect: administration and accounting. I’m reading ‘The E Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber and ‘Between a rock and a hard place’ – Aron Ralston. I went to see ‘127 Hours’ and ‘The King’s Speech’ at the cinema. At home I’m revisiting an old friend from the past: ‘Rocky Balboa’. Having watched the film of that name, ‘Rocky 2’ and ‘Rocky 3’; each time my inspiration grows a little more. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ also did the job.

When we look back at our year we often forget what we did in January – this year I don’t think I’m going to do that.

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