How To Develop Intensity By Moving Slow, Relaxing Your Mind, And Shutting Your Damned Mouth
“Not being tense but ready.
Not thinking but not dreaming.
Not being set but flexible.
Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement.
It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.”
– Bruce Lee
Olympic weightlifting in America is taught the way mathematics in America is taught: badly. Teachers and coaches deal in the currency of fear and impossibility. “I can’t do this”, is the most common refrain among students and athletes.
I call Bullshit! Yes you can.
Stop being a pansy. I don’t care what you think. I don’t care what you say. Your words are empty.
I know more about your potential than you do. Accept this now. Don’t ever talk back to me.
You can do math, you can do weightlifting. Your “experiences” up until now are meaningless – they literally have no meaning. I don’t buy into your whining bullshit – your self-loathing – your defeatism.
You can reach your potential; and your potential is HIGH. (You can also do math, of course. While you may not want to, your potential is there. Keep in mind, however, that all of the cool kids are doing it.)
Math Is Lifting Is Failing Forward
“The only difference between a mathematician and everyone else, is that a mathematician isn’t afraid of failure.” – Tom Henderson
My friend Tom said that. He and I went to grad school together. We spent our days studying mathematics and being silly. We regularly discussed the problems with mathematics education, which made double-sense given that our school specializes in math-ed.
Being doers by nature, we eventually put our mics where our mouths were and created Math4Primates – a podcast about graduate-level mathematics for people who know NOTHING about math. The goal was to describe what real mathematicians do in a language that any educated person could understand and find fun – not just math/science geeks. It worked! In fact, it’s still so popular that I’m currently writing a book based on it.
Hard Lesson – we are all more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
Do Stuff – It Works!
The majority of my theories about coaching strength come from only three areas:
- My history as a musician and artist (another story for another time)
- My formal training as a Mathematician
- My 17 years of Zen practice and study.
They all taught me the same thing: doing stuff works.
Crazy, I know!
Learning how to snatch isn’t hard. It’s remarkably easy. Becoming GREAT is hard (duh!), but that’s true for anything that is worth doing.
You can learn how to snatch, enter contests, have fun, and justifiably call yourself a competitive-weightlifter in no-time flat. (We can help you do exactly that HERE.)
Anyone can become a weightlifter. That’s the easy part. All you need to do is get good at THREE things. Just three! Woo!
- Lock Out
- Hit Your Hip
- Be Intense! (1)
The first two you can learn from us in less than half an hour. And if you practice, you can be proficient with medium-heavy weights in less than a month.
The question becomes: how do you become a better weightlifter?
And the answer becomes: Learn HOW to “be intense”.
Building a stronger body is simply not hard. (Go here, put the advice into practice, work your ass off, and you WILL get stronger. Period.)
But, building a stronger mind that is capable of the right kinds of intensity at the right moments is remarkably hard. And yet, THAT is the difference between a serious athlete, and someone who will never reach their potential.
Thankfully, ANYONE can learn how to build a strong mind. That means YOU, Mr. Negative Narwhal.
Fighting Monks Know Strength: Mind, Body, Spirit
Chinese martial arts are divided by many different category schemes. Some of them are based on region (e.g., Northern vs Southern), some of them upon their primary religious affiliation (e.g., Buddhist vs Taoist), and others upon physical characteristics (e.g., Punching vs Kicking).
The split I find to be the most interesting, however, is between the so-called Internal vs external styles. To explain by example, Tai Chi is considered internal, and Shaolin is considered external.
- The internal styles emphasize the Mind: cognitive skills & strengths.
- The external styles focus on the Body: physical skills/strengths.
While this distinction is more academic than a practical description of how these martial arts are truly practiced,(2) it’s a nice way of delineating the 2 paths your training needs to take – to ensure that you are balanced.
How Do You Practice Internal Weightlifting?
To become a great practitioner of strength, you must spend time on the “Shaolin” style of lifting, as well as on the “Tai Chi” style of lifting.
The Samurai practiced Zen. They did this to become greater warriors. The Shaolin Kung Fu masters were/are monks!(3)
Mental Strength + Physical Strength = Badass.
Below are my 5 styles of Mental Training – you will be doing them all.
- Hard Meditation
- Soft Meditation(4)
- Barbell Medition
- Syntax Manipulation
This is much more, but the above list covers the essentials. I will write up an individual article for each one as we move forward.
Now go lift something heavy,
PS. Mental Training is NOT the same as learning or knowledge acquisition. You can be taught the techniques of squatting. But that doesn’t mean that you can all-of-a-sudden squat 500 pounds! Clearly (as evidenced by this blog) I believe in learning and studying. But without practice, learning is nothing more than entertainment. Fun, but without connection to your self-development.
I’ll leave you with another Bruce Lee quote. You can never have too many.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” – Bruce Lee
- I will often say this in the contrapositive: stop being a pussy. It’s funnier. It gets a good chuckle. And because of that, people remember it better. But the REAL rule is to Be Intense! [↩]
- In the real world, ALL serious martial arts are BOTH internal and external. They know (as you now do) that one without the other leaves you a weakling. [↩]
- And often fought the Japanese Samurai directly, as in the 16th century battles that were beyond nuts. [↩]
- This distinction between Hard & Soft Meditation techniques is my own. But it’s an easy way to make sense of the styles and their purpose. Both are essential. [↩]