At any single moment, it is possible to be attentive. Therefore, if you focus on this moment, and only this moment, you can never have the excuse “I’m tired” or “I’m distracted” or “I’m bored.” Sever the edge between “before” and “after.” Put your complete focus and concentration on the “here” and on the “now.” An effective way to practice this is via candle meditation, or pranayama. Sit at a table and look, without blinking, at the flame of a small candle or a stick of incense. When you can remain still and focused and unblinking for at least 30 minutes, you’ll have made a start. This is very beneficial for the young athlete. Take your thoughts off the demands of the game, and focus on your ability to control your body and control your attention and control your reactions.
A martial arts master taught that the control of emotion was the most important skill. His students wanted to believe him, but they were more interested in the fighting and grappling and weapons. The master taught those skills, too, but he emphasized that the control of emotion was the most important.
One evening, a group of young students arrive at the studio before the master. When the master arrives he holds a loose and precarious stack of porcelain tea cups. He is so focused on the carrying he does not appear to even notice the group of students. A mischievous student thinks, “Here’s a perfect chance to prove even the master can’t always control his emotions.” The student sneaks behind the master and gives him a hard push in the back, simultaneously yelling “boo!” as loud as possible. The other students know the surprise is coming and are still startled by the sudden movement and noise.
The master, though, appears unperturbed. His stride remains unchanged due to the hard push, and he looks and walks straight ahead. The fragile cups remain intact in his arms. He reaches a table and places the tea cups on it. As soon as the cups are secure, he turns and looks at the mischievous student for a good 15 seconds. All is still. Then the master lurches forward as if he’s just been pushed, throws his arms into the air and yells “ahhh” as if he is surprised. “That is an example of control over your emotions. Everything that happens to me, I allow to happen, and therefore I control my response,” he said. Stay in control!
Some simple, initial ways to practice this mastery include: 1) eat spicy foods, or use hot sauces. Control your response; minimize how much you drink. Practice your “poker face.” 2) Take contrasting hot and cold showers. Control your response; regulate your breathing. 3) Do not complain if something goes other than intended. Control your verbal responses to “bad” things. 4) Eat foods you dislike – find a way to move past the feeling of dissatisfaction. Practice control in everything!
Another martial arts master welcomes a new student to his training regimen. The student is excited and eager to learn. After the first class he asks the master, “How long will it take for me to become your best student?” The master thinks, and replies. “10 years.”
The student is disappointed. He thought it might take 1 year, or maybe 2 years at the most. 10 years! Impossible.
The student asks, “What if I train every day and never miss a class?” The master thinks, and replies. “15 years.”
The student is downtrodden and perplexed. He thinks, “I train more, and it takes longer?” The student asks another question. “What if I train twice each day for a total of 8 hours every day and never miss a class?” The master thinks, and replies. “20 years.”
Exasperated, the student asks a final question. “Master, I do not understand. Why is it that every time I tell you I will train longer and harder, the longer it will take me to be the best student?”
The master thinks, and replies. “With only 1 eye on the path of martial arts mastery and the other eye on your goal of being my best student, you will never find your way.” Meaning, partial concentration precludes reaching your maximum potential. You must learn to focus.
Podda became a famous trainer of athletes, professional and amateur, and earned top dollar (he worked with Chris Spielman, whose chapter begins on page 284, among many others). It was said, “He’ll push you so hard that you won’t want to quit – you’ve begun to realize that there is more to you, that you are capable of whatever life demands.” He especially taught young men to learn how to motivate and train themselves. Discover what is important to you, and you’ll put forth the effort required to achieve greatness. Clients were plentiful and the money flowed. Podda said, “I have an intense aversion to conventional notions of success,” and he walked away from his lucrative training business. He liked to train athletes, but as proficient and successful as he was, training was not his ultimate destiny.
He disappeared from the mainstream radar and continued his search for higher meaning and his quest for a higher potential. His “Beast of the East” combative energies within still surged and boiled over, but his paths took a different form. He took up residence on an Indian reservation and spent considerable time contemplating and studying. In times of extreme solitude, he secluded himself in a remote cave, with his only companion a wary mountain lion. Podda took aim