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Although I’ve won international gold medals in 5 different combat sports,
written 8 books, published 2,000+ articles, produced over 100 videos,
presented at 10 universities, trained special operations units in 3 countries,
appeared on television in 4 countries, taught seminars in 13 countries, been
inducted into 3 different halls of fame, and raise 2 highly dynamic children
from the 1 marriage, my life involves very consistent, mundane, boring,
Routinization isn’t automation. To make something into a routine is to allow
it to grow. If you can track it, you can improve it. Like I say to my kids,
numbers are magic; the only language everyone and everything speaks all
the time. Create a routine, and you can create growth. Not everyone knows
how to craft a routine. And few people know how to teach others to create
their own routines; or they pretend they don’t because that would be giving
away (the illusion of) power; though the only true power in the world is
empowerment, for self and others. Routinization is self-empowerment.
However, to move up to the next level, to transform a challenge into a
routine, takes energy. It often appears like a catch-22: you need more
energy than you currently have to get to the next level of energy. If you have
kids, or reflect back to when you were one, you could stay up too late and
actually be “over-tired” – since you need energy to fall asleep!
Let me give you an example. In 2009, when I decided to come out of
retirement one final time to compete in the 2010 World Martial Arts Games, I
began training immediately. My coaches and I knew that we would actually
need to increase my mental and emotional energy as well as my physical
If you’ve exercised before, you understand what I mean. When you exercise
the right way, you actually have more energy than when you started. Of
course, this isn’t the norm: most exercise programs claim to be “hard-core”
– lauding you for puking, passing out and being so destroyed that you’re
forcing yourself to train through pain and injury. That isn’t hard-core. That’s
self-defeating egotism. Most of the fighters I’ve faced, and most of the
younger generation of martial artists coming up, believe that leaving the
gym incapable of moving the next morning somehow “toughens” them up.
Suspecting (correctly) that I would be facing fighters half my age, and
100+lbs heavier, I couldn’t afford the luxury of ego; especially considering
that although I overcame my childhood joint disease, I’m not invulnerable to
overuse and misuse injuries. I’m probably more prone to them!
I had to take the lesions I learned from the prior decade. Starting in the year
2000, I dedicated myself to logging 10,000 hours of practice in 10 years –
an average of approx 3 hours per day. I met that goal while preparing for the
World Games, but the goal’s ultimate purpose only became obvious when I
made the US Team and began training: the lesson of that decade of
routinized daily physical practice was critical to preparing me for what I had
to endure in the 10 months of preparation to fight at the Games.
To prepare for any real challenge, the bone-rattling, teeth-chattering kind
which threaten to filet the flesh from your skull, you must be more prepared
than your opponents, stronger than any challenges you expect to face.
Some people like to say that you fight like you train. This is the worst kind of
optimism: the reality is far bleaker than that.
Repeat after me: The worst you do in training is the best you can hope
for in performance.
Instead of rising to our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. To
face the world-class competition I was approaching, I knew that I needed to
lift my energy far above any anticipated level of performance.
You need more energy than you currently have to get to the next level. So
that means you need to go where you haven’t been to get what you haven’t
got. It only takes one step across the threshold of your prior performance,
but to be sustainable growth, it’s got to be with good form. You need to
muster as many allies, internally as well as externally, in order to take that
step into the chaos and friction of the unknown. That’s why finding good
coaches, who’ve been there done that and taught others to do the same, is
an essential step in achieving excellence. And that is exactly what I did.
Especially when you’re about to go “off map” you need to have mastered
map-reading (read here: routinization.) For instance, in the four day mini-
cycles of TACFIT Warrior Ethos, you’ll be waving the intensity of your
training so that you can plug into the magically elusive biorhythm of the
universe called the Golden Mean, or Fibonacci Sequence, which when
routinized lifts your energy greater through training.
In addition, you will marry this energy wave to a four-day rhythm of effort
toward your life goals. TACFIT Warrior is the very first time this has been
presented to the public, a secret previously reserved only for my most
private students and core cadre.
The challenge comes not on the discipline, but on the continual returning to
and increasing of the routine. No matter how masterful you become at
routinizing your growth, it always feels difficult; it’s just that after a few
cycles of a routine, you don’t mind as much.
For example, when you go for a run for the first time in a long while, you hit
that first several hundred yards, and your breath starts to become rapid and
shallow, your head pounds, your heart races, little aches cascade in and
around your body. You’ve hit circulo-respiratory distress. Unfortunately,
most of us stop here thinking this is the “end” of our current conditioning,
when actually this is the chrysalis moment where we are about to cross
through and experience a “runner’s high” – a biochemical and
neurophysiological phenomenon that makes us feel like we’re on top of the
clouds and could continue forever.
Literally, what’s happening is that because we didn’t stop at the distress, our
brains grew more complex (called “neuro-plasticity”) in order to make what
we had refused to quit doing, more efficient… easier. Just like my mother
used to say, “everything’s difficult until it becomes easy.” I had thought this
was some trite flippancy, but in reality it’s a colloquial way of describing one
of the universe’s most sophisticated transformations! God bless mothers.
This is the result of daily training. Consistent, mundane, boring, grueling
practice. The body, mind and spirit adapt. They grow. They gain more
energy, complexity, sophistication and potential than they possessed before
you trained. You just have to resist quitting. You must have faith that what
you’re about to do will result in the creation of more than when you started.
And if you lack that faith, then start with smaller routines in order to build the
courage and conviction that you will grow from every challenge you prepare
for, and eventually… every challenge you encounter, apparently prepared or
Some more words from martial arts instructor and Sufi master Mushtaq Al
Musashi said "The Way is in training"
When Musashi uses the word "Way" He is referring to a rather specialized
meaning. The word in Japanese is "Do" and it is hard to give an exact
equivalent in English.
We can perhaps understand it a little better by contrasting the two Japanese
terms "Jutsu" and "Do". Jutsu (also spelled jitsu) means "art", "technique",
"method", "strategy", while Do means "path", "road", or "way", and implies a
way of inner development.
So while Ai-Ki-Jutsu would mean "Mind-Spirit-Method" and give you good
techniques for making people fall down and hurt themselves, Ai-Ki-Do would
mean "Mind-Spirit-Way" and would suggest that you are working on inner
development through making people fall down and hurt themselves.
So when Musashi says "Way" he means a set of skills that provide a
structure for self development, such as Tea ceremony, Flower arrangement,
Archery, or Fencing. The important thing to remember here is that pretty
much any set of skills can become a "Do", it is all in the approach.
Then we have "training." What does Musashi mean by training? Again it is
a somewhat specialized meaning.
"Training" in this sense is not just learning a skill, but continual refinement
So when we train (with Musashi's understanding) we strive for greater and
greater integration of body, mind and spirit, of structure, movement and
There is no theoretical "upper limit" to this refinement, it is incremental, and
as one progresses it also becomes more ephemeral.
So when Musashi says "The Way is in training" He is speaking of an
ongoing process of refinement in one's chosen art. This refinement has no
end to it and this kind of refinement in fact evolves as you do. As you
progress there becomes less and less of the superfluous, leaving only what
I’ve published twenty-four novels, worked in television, film, stage,
magazines and newspaper, won national awards and been a New York
Times bestseller--twice. Earned three black belts, was Kung Fu columnist
for Black Belt Magazine, competed nationally in Korean-style karate, taught
Tai Chi for twenty years, and talked down muggers twice my size. I’m a
stress and success counselor who has coached international champions,
princes, captains of industry, and movie stars.
And all of that stuff is just the product of wanting to know as much as
possible about three things: human motion (martial arts, yoga, RMAX),
communication (writing and teaching), and human identity (self knowledge
and relationships). And the approach was simple: to learn one new thing
every day. Just one. To improve myself in my alignment of body, mind and
spirit by just 1% a week.
Multiplied over months, years, and decades, it has led me to heights I could
not have dreamed of. Not because I myself am unusually talented, but
because I never quit, and knew that if I kept taking one step at a time in the
direction of my dreams, I would eventually be exploring strange and
And so it has been.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?