Guard the Furnace of Your Passion


We’ve all felt it.

The entire class is firing on all cylinders.  Everyone is brimming with unshakable focus and determination, adding their fair share to the collective energy of the group.  It’s almost palpable.  The Zombie Apocalypse could break out and it would go unnoticed.  This phenomenon is real.

And anyone who’s been training for a while has felt it’s antithesis.  Indifference- the slightly better looking stepbrother of bored.  Ugh.  Something’s missing, like trying to sleep in a quiet hotel room when you’re used to the noisy fan in your bedroom; a void in the usually robust undercurrent of the academy.

It’s most noticeable just after the warmup.  Man, everyone is dragging today.  You can sense it, and it’s dangerous.  Apathy creeps in so slowly and nonchalantly that we pay it no mind until it’s too late.  Like carbon monoxide, or Donald Trump.

This energy field of the mat demands its due.  So if your teammates aren’t supplying their share, you’re solely responsible for feeding the current.  And it’s only normal that you get dragged down too.

So don’t be normal.

Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.  Don’t gauge the temperature of the room, set it.  Ignite a spark in those around you by sheer willpower and enthusiasm.  Each moment on the mat is tantamount to gaining a foothold on the Shark’s Fin at Meru- absolutely precious- and your attention should reflect this.  There will come a day when you’re injured or sick (or worse, stuck at work) and kicking yourself for not optimizing your training time.  You will never be this young again, for as long as you live.

Guard the furnace of your passion.  Like the Spartans at Thermoplyae, it’s you versus an invincible force of unfathomable size: life.  The world is here to knock you down and dampen your flame, so don’t allow yourself a lazy day on the mat.  If this sounds like hyperbole, I assure you it is not.

Experience has taught me that one halfhearted day on the mat can easily become two, then ten.  So kill the monster when it’s small.  Be unmerciful with apathy, for it is a cunning foe, and will do its best to befriend you and whisper falsehoods into your ear.  Before you know it, you’ll be bumping into old training partners at Whole Foods, asking them how it feels to earn a black belt.  They’ll be rubbing your gut and asking when the baby’s due.  It creeps in.  Kill the monster when it’s small.

The truth is that the vast majority don’t make it.  Not because they can’t, but because it’s difficult.  That can change.  You can be a Black Belt.  If you’re able to stave off doubt, ego, laziness, and Netflix, and you actually make it through, it speaks volumes of your character.  You don’t have to be a world champion to be proud of being a Black Belt.  You don’t have to smash everyone lower on the totem pole to be legitimate.  Making it through is proof enough, physical and undeniable, that you have grit.  You are capable.

That can never be taken from you, and it’s so worth it.  So do the thing that’s most within your control, and guard your flame.

author: Peter McHugh

Professor Pete McHugh is the owner and Lead Instructor of McHugh BJJ in Mt. laurel NJ. He is a black belt under BJJ & MMA legend Ricardo Almeida.


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