Monday night, after a double session of Muay Thai (kick-boxing) and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Florian Martial Arts Center, I had the opportunity to hang out and watch Kenny “Kenflo” Florian, UFC Fighter, training with Benson “Smooth” Henderson, WEC Interim Lightweight Champion.
Watching both men, I thought about their individual journeys and how hard they work to continuously strengthen body and mind preparing to face their next opponents. These guys are living life the way they “want” to rather than the way they “have” to. Kenny’s next fight is against Clay Guida at UFC 107 on December 12, 2009. Benson is taking on Jamie Varner for the WEC Lightweight Championship on January 10, 2010.
In a recent on-line article posted on WEC.tv “Benson Henderson Still Humble After Career Milestone” (21 October 2009), Benson explains that fighters need “deep down desire” and a “no quit” attitude. “It’s something you have to prove to yourself, not just once. The next fight I have to prove it again. And then I have to prove it again and again and again. And then in practice, I’ll have guys coming to my gym that will see me and want to train jiu-jitsu or MMA with me, and then I’ll have to prove myself again in practice.”
Watching them sparring, I realized that both Kenny and Benson practice (at least) two of my 52 Brilliant Tips To Help You Stay Young From the Inside Out
Stay Young Habit #11
- Express yourself to people who listen and who believe in the eventual accomplishment of your goals.
Stay Young Habit #12
- Severely minimize your conversations and time spent with people who rip holes in your goals and dreams.
Here’s what I learned from watching Kenny and Benson:
- Choose people, places and things that light you up and make you happy. There’s a lot of love in our dojo. That’s why I like being there. I feel comfortable. It feels like home. When guys come to train and spar with Kenny, there’s excitement in the air. Each partner has been selected to help Kenny prepare to battle his opponent’s strong points. Pride, excitement and concentration are evident for the people sparring and for all of us watching.
- Spend time with a challenging activity to avoid boredom. Don’t pick something that’s easy for you to do. We all like different things. I like boxing, Muay Thai (kick-boxing), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and – a new one that’s just been added – wrestling. Any one of those sports is challenging enough. Certainly, I could choose to focus on deepening my knowledge of just one. But I like training in all of them at the same time. It keeps my mind dancing, sorting things out and creating new solutions. Training in 4 different skills keeps my synapses firing!
- Achieve Mastery: challenge yourself to improve every day. Fighting is more than physical skill. Staying mentally and emotionally fit is important too. Manage the people who are around you. Stop tolerating people who rain on your parade. Apply the Stay Young Habits listed above to avoid taking “garbage in” (negative thinking or too much drama). It will color your thinking and you’ll start speaking garbage out. People talk themselves out of victory all the time. Sometimes quitting just before the goal is reached.
- Train to fight another day. Choose training partners you trust to drill and spar with. Neither person should end up injured. Remember that line from the Karate Kid movie, “there’s no pain in this dojo”? We don’t play that way. We’re honorable and respectful to each other or else we get sent home.
- Build knowledge over time with experience and great teachers. Show up. Practice. Get technical. Prepare for the worst that can happen. However you drill in practice is how it’s going to show up during the match. Except with another guy charging you, it might not look as pretty and perfect as it does during a friendly sparring session. Be patient with your progress.
- Learn from different people. Don’t get in a rut believing that you can get everything you need in one place or from one person. Variety is the spice of life. Different sparring partners arrive on a regular basis to challenge Kenny. Each one has areas to develop and strengthen. They learn from each other. One strong man learning from another. Play to your strengths and learn how to overcome your less developed side.
- Never give up. If the goal is worth having, press on. Anyone hearing you say, “I give up. I’m just too tired,” should be given permission to playfully “thwump” you and say “Snap out of it and get back to work!”
- Keep progressing. Move steadily towards your goal. Stay focused on the outcome. Don’t get distracted by injuries or other setbacks. Take breaks when you need them. Organize your life to support the accomplishment of your goals. Think of ways around issues and problems as they arise. Let nothing deter you from your goal. Overcome all obstacles!
- Believe in yourself. Others can accompany you on your journey, but ultimately, when the bell rings, what happens next is completely up to you. You’re the only one facing your opponent. All of your supporters are watching and waiting anxiously to see what the outcome will be. Life is exciting!
- Relax and consider your next move. Trust in body memory. Your body will respond the way it’s been trained to respond. It’s very difficult to make good decisions when you’re uptight, not breathing, afraid, and feeling cautious or confused. The work has been done. Be confident. Trust yourself to do your very best. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Next Fights: Florian vs Guida
UFC 107 December 12, 2009 in Memphis, TN
Varner vs Henderson
WEC January 10, 2010 for the WEC Lightweight Championship in Sacramento, CA
Share your thoughts! Do you see any lessons that I missed that you’d like to add?
photo credit: all photos from Cheryl Ragsdale’s personal collection.