2018 is a special year for me since it marks my 20 years of practice, but also my 10 years in Hong Kong and the 10 years of my blog (in French) on martial arts. It is therefore a moment to look at what has been accomplished, but more importantly to look forward.
Thinking about it, I realized I had a number of questions that I did not have an answer to and yet seemed rather useful. I racked my brains for several months on these questions or variations of them, to understand how to be more effective in my approach to training and teaching. And then when reading Tim Ferriss’ “Tribe of Mentors”, I thought he was right and that the simplest way would probably be to ask other people to give me their own answers. Not just any people of course, people whose work I value and that I believe are doing great. People who have something extra that is of interest to me. I do not believe that the level someone reaches is particularly related to talent (or I refuse to believe it), but more that it is related to the way you do and approach things. So I asked them the following questions, and to make you better understand my logic I also share with you the idea behind each question.
The answers to these questions will be published in French on my blog and in English on this website.
1. Do you have any morning routine? (It doesn’t have to be related to martial arts)
I like routines. They allow us to calibrate and focus on what we think is important. No matter whether the routine is martial or not, I believe that the way we start our day has an influence on the rest of the day.
2. If you only had 10 min to train, what would you do?
Why 10 minutes? Because it’s short enough to be forced to go to what is essential. In other words the question refers to “what exercises offer the best return on investment in your opinion ?”. Understanding this allows you to better understand what is at the heart of somebody’s work, eliminating everything that is more of a decoration.
3. What is the best investment you’ve made in yourself? In others?
I do not believe in linear pathways or in the fact that things have been easy for people who have become experts in their field. On the contrary, I think it’s because they took risks or did things differently that they got there. In parallel, a teacher invests in himself but also in others, such as his students. Without necessarily expecting a particular return for himself, this investment may have played an essential role at some point in time.
4. In your opinion what are the biggest mistakes that people make when training? On the contrary, what do you think people get easily from the beginning?
Understanding the hardest and easiest points of a beginner’s practice is what allows one to understand the essence of the practice and on the other hand how to approach it.
5. Has any failure you had in the past help you get better at what you do? Do you have a favourite failure you could share?
Failure is part of the life of those who have gone far. But what matters is not so much the failures themselves, but what we learnt from them. What makes the greatest what they are is in my opinion their capability to rebound and learn from their mistakes to go further.
6. When you feel you are reaching some sort of ceiling/stagnation period in your practice, how do you go through it?
We all know periods of doubt and it can be frustrating not to see the end of the tunnel. Knowing we are not alone in this situation is already helpful. But more than that, I think the best people are those who do not stop at these doubts but find a way to get through these difficult times. What are their methods for managing them quickly and efficiently?
7. What do people never ask you that you wish they did?
The questions we think are important and that we ask our teachers can sometimes miss the point. Or at least not really match what the person in front of us has in mind. The idea of this exercise being to understand what great adepts have in their mind, this question seemed important to me.
8. Would you have any advice for your younger self?
Giving general advice to readers can lead to vague or simply politically correct answers because they are just that, general advice. Reflecting on what we missed in our early days and what would have been helpful in moving faster takes the question the other way around. This also avoids the question of how the advice will be received since it is just an advice to self.