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“If you don’t look at a workout and think ‘this is going to suck,’ then what’s the point in doing it?”
- George Landolt.
Most of us would agree that our workouts are difficult. Our instructors work us into the ground, usually until we see puddles of sweat in various spots around the floor. That is what we signed up for: a program that would get us into shape and would make us into the badass self-defense warriors we have always wanted to be.
That’s not to say we don’t all have workouts (or weeks) where every workout feels like a struggle to finish, whether it’s a particularly difficult cardio bag (7 x 3 mins AAF, anyone?), back-to- back classes to gear up for that belt test, or just a normal class that feels especially rough that day. I know I’ve started a class or an exercise, and thought, “This was a horrible decision. I can’t finish this.” There are some days where I’m not sure how I’m going to finish a round of an exercise, let alone an entire class. It’s hard to push through the workouts on those days, physically and mentally. You’ll frequently hear our instructors yell out encouragement or how much time is left in an exercise, but sometimes that doesn’t help you push through. A lot of us struggle with how to flip the switch from struggling through the workout to crushing a workout, especially when you see someone else in class rocking the workout.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t last forever. Whatever we do at the gym has a time limit. Our body will always want to quit first. We put it through intense workouts, often back-to- back classes several days in a row. There is going to be routine soreness and exhaustion. Every class you come to and push through, even when you feel like rolling into fetal position on the floor, is a step towards creating a mental toughness that will you get through future physical challenges and whatever else life throws. One of our new instructors, Chris Marks, says, “Every time you push past that pain and tired and ignore your mind when it's screaming STOP, you’l learn you can push even harder, do that one more rep, throw that one more kick, or run that one more mile. When you reach that point, then you’ve found that mental toughness everyone talks about.” You choose what level of work and effort goes into each workout we do. If you choose to push through that last rep or give a little extra on a skill that day, you’re choosing to pursue a mentality Krav Maga stands behind.
The ideas “embracing the suck” and “mental toughness” aren’t empty concepts thrown around by our
instructors to get us to finish a workout. It’s a philosophy with the goal of training us to develop a survivor mentality. Regardless of background and experience, we all joined to learn self-defense. We understand that our life may be on the line at some point, if that hasn’t already happened. Unfortunately, the statistics for violence are high, more so depending on which demographics you fall under. That’s why the training at Krav Maga Spokane is two-fold: train to be physically able to defend yourself and train to be mentally capable of fighting for your life effectively.
We were thrown a realistic scenario in Intermediate class on Tuesday. We had been working on outside defenses (level three techniques for when your hands are out of positions, and you are not expecting an attack), when Brayson told us to randomly throw a punch at our partner. After watching us attempt this for a couple minutes, he stopped us. He challenged us to act a little bit more, to role-play a scenario where we aren’t standing in front of each other exchanging punches like we normally do. This challenge made the defenses more realistic because we didn’t know when the hits were going to come. We missed shots. We forgot about inside defenses. We faked arguments, and imitated any number of people we could have an altercation with. It reflected what could happen despite the reps we do daily. Our mentality had to switch from a routine training exercise to something a little more unexpected.
The students who stick with Krav Maga the longest have taken the “embrace the suck” philosophy to heart. Dustin Scott, another instructor and long-term student at KMS, explained, “The more you are in that state of mind, the easier it will be to think through what is happening when it happens to you for real. In confrontation, we automatically start in a position of disadvantage, which means for most of us, we will not be the ones who decided when and where we will use our Krav. We are training so that on our worst day, we can beat a predator on their best day.” We’re not going to get to pick when we use our self-defense tools. We train for the unexpected. Our instructors talk to us all the time about how to de-escalate or use situational awareness or how to read our opponents. Everything we learn and train for is valuable, even on our worst days.
The workouts are always going to be difficult. There is always going to be a moment where quitting seems preferable than finishing whatever is being asked of us in the moment. I joined because I want to be a fitter, better version of myself. I want to be able to defend myself when the moment arises, and that’s what I train for. Every rep we do, no matter how bad it hurts or sucks, pushes up to the point where we can survive when we need to. That’s the moment we are training for, when our brain switches over and we can dig down to our lowest level of training (which I guarantee will be higher than most people’s if you stick with it) and get out alive.