Things that are super awesome sauce about Morocco that you likely did not know:
In addition to the random need to knows above- the culture is rich, the beaches are lovely, the people are warm, the food is delectable, and the history is awe-inspiring.
I stood like an anxious parent cheering my heart out at the tournament in France as I watched my training partners compete against the best in the region. As the day passed, I came to a strange realization - all of the teens that I knew best, the ones that were at every session and all the cross training, were the ones leaving with medals. The competitors who I recognized from the club but did not know well, due to their lack of attendance, were the ones quickly defeated and seemingly not surprised. As a competitor that hates to lose, I could not wrap my head around their seeming apathy at the losses- to which my husband calmly replied "they know that they didn't put in the work."
It's such a simple concept but one that has taken me years to fully appreciate. When it comes to achieving success in life, you MUST be willing to PUT IN THE WORK.
You need to be the one staying late at the office to ensure your assignment is completed on time- and you get that promotion you are after. You need to go to the teachers and TA office hours to fully understand the material- to get that A you want. You need to attend the extra sessions at the gym - to get that place on the medal stand.
It is easy to convince yourself that you are giving your all, doing all you can, putting in 110%...but until you fully are committed you will never understand why you are not achieving the success that you think you deserve.
So I challenge you- give 110%. How?
Mock others who have reached your goals in the past. What efforts did they put in? What have you not been doing? Who can you mimic? Get role models. Ask for help. Try things differently. Do research. Be honest with your boss/coach about your goals and make a plan to get there. Surround yourself with partners, classmates and co-workers who lift you up and help you work towards those goals. Do not be afraid to fail.
It will be hard. But if you are wanting more it will be worth it.
If you are attending things in life and are satisfied with not achieving highest levels of success, that is totally OK. But if you are wanting more - do more.
I shimmied my feet, readying them to press into the ground. My hands gripped around the bar, finding the perfect grip placement. I breathed in deep, mentally preparing my body for the heavy load that I was about to thrust up. I felt at peace. I breathed in and out.
Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off
You too boy if you fuck with me
The police are gonna have to come and get me
Off your ass, that's how I'm going out
Immediately my zen was ruined as my husband decides that his music should be put on loudspeaker to "PUMP" both of us up. As much respect as I have for NWA, they are not what I feel inspired by when trying to improve my game.
This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that I am surrounded by 'motivational' music that in no way motivates me. More often than not, it distracts me.
Most frequently you find this at the gym...where you know if old man Tom opened because country music is blaring, or if the desperately needing a paycheck George opened because Heavy Metal is filling the room. I've felt old when doing judo with teens who like to train to the newest pop music and I've felt listless when trying to follow along to a training session when Spanish rap is enveloping me. I've wanted to murder co-workers who think that everyone around them will enjoy the new age garbage they so happily share on speakers through cube walls.
I used to think there was something wrong with me. That I should be able to perform optimally despite the environment around me. While overseas I have come to embrace, this is not the case. You will perform your best when you feel motivated, at peace, happy, and enjoying the environment around you.
And you will never have a perfect working/training environment- so you need to control what you can!
In coming to terms with this, I have also realized that my "jams" likely would never make someone else happy either. As I created my dream playlist songs float from Tom Petty aspirational lyrics, to JT and Jamie Foxx uplifting jams, some lady anthems from Sia, angry Eminem, to throwback Backstreet Boy pop, in your face Minaj, and obviously with some calming Cake. My playlist would make NO sense to anyone else. It embodies songs that sing to my soul. They motivate me, inspire me, keep me moving, give me good memories, and remind me of whats ahead. Your story is different than mine. Your soul songs would never align with mine. Nor would they align with our co-worker, husband, or Gym-openers George & Tom. Don't be ashamed if its different than "normal" - if it works for you, then the playlist is perfection.
I realize that these situations are not always avoidable. That sometimes you will be forced to perform and work with the most un-motivating of situations with the least inspiring sounds...
BUT when you can, create your own playlist! Invest in some $1 earbuds or some sound-silencing headphones and get yourself in the jam. Invest in yourself.
Work environments and work-out environments are rarely if ever ideal. Do all you can to make it ideal for you. I've got my earbuds in. so that during my next lift, I wont be distracted by NWA.
Whats your jam? What will you put on play as you prepare for your next challenge?
Training overseas gives you some exposure in terms of what differs from training at home. The fact that you can walk into the smallest of towns and learn that the neighborhood dojo houses 400 students can be quite an eye-opener. As I continue my journey around the world I plan to capture some of the basics that seem to aid with success (and lack of success) at dojos. Here were my insights from France:
Classes are for EVERYONE
The hour to 1.5hour sessions are broken down a variety of ways. By Age (3-4 yr old, 5-6,7-8,9-11,12+), By Belt (White, Yellow, Orange-Green, Blue-Brown, Teen Black, Adult White-Brown, Adult Brown-Black), y Grade in School, and by a mix of Belt/Age. This allowed for class sizes to remain relatively small (about 15 ppl per class) so the teacher could give attention to everyone. It also allowed for students to have multiple classes as options to attend all week and finally enabled them to be exposed to a variety of partners depending on the class they attended. It was lovely to see and worked very well.
Last but not least, there were classes held a few nights a week for cross training that were advertised to the neighborhood for fitness. These classes were great not only for the judo students and parents but were a great way to bring non-judoka into the club. These classes not only supplied greater revenue to the club, enabled membership to grow beyond the 400 judoka, but also enabled exposure to "judo" to non-judoka. A few of these fitness class members felt such community/bond with the club that they attended judo tournaments to cheer for the judo players, despite having never done judo themselves! This is a great way to grow your club and the sport.
FRANCE Judo Supports every Dojo
The national judo federation supplies every club with "gear" to keep people incentivized to stick with the programs. This included certificates for when there are promotions, JUDO stickers for members cars, ifo about upcoming events, little trinkets (like bags, pens, ect) to include as a child is promoted to various belts. They also supply an in depth description of what is required for each promotion that all of the clubs seem to follow closely- ensuring blue belts are truly of the same knowledge/caliber across the country. Finally they sent the dojos lots of poster swag which leads me to my next points...
The Dojos were MOTIVATIONAL & ASPIRATION
The walls of every dojo had images of the top French athletes and giant cutouts of Teddy Riner. There is no way kids couldn't feel inspired by these super athletes on the wall. Hell- I, an adult american, was inspired by these superstars all over the walls. It felt like being in a Nike commercial - except one all about judo. The images of these elite athletes holding medals from Olympics and Grand Prix were so inspiring. It made me wonder why USA judo doesn't offer these images of our elite athletes for kids to look up to everyday while training or in their dojos changing rooms. It ensured the kids looked up to these judokas as heros, these events as ones to work towards competing in, and supplied education about the best of the best to the parents as well.
The Dojos were EDUCATIONAL
The walls were also adorned with images of what moves you need to know for each belt, how to each healthy, what the names of key techniques are, and there were giant banners explaining the tenants of judo. I have seen some of these in the USA at various dojos that I have visited but these are clearly utilized by coaches in France heavily (likely because France Judo supplied them to all clubs). I was at a club during promotion week and the kids used the walls as reminders and study guides as they prepared for their tests. The fact that they weren't hung and ignored but were pointed to and discussed led me to believe that these can be used as successful tools if they are incorporated that way by the clubs.
There were obviously lots of other differences but these were the biggest take-aways that I had from France. It is my hope that as my travels continue and my exposure grows that some may find some insights from these international powerhouses which may aid in the growth of their clubs.
I was beyond excited about the owner of the gym and coach of the class welcoming my husband and myself into your facility, so that I could improve my mat game. I love working with new coaches- to have exposure to different techniques, exercises and insights - it has helped me to grow into the black belt that I am today. You should be able to appreciate this, as martial artists yourselves.
As I got prepared for the very exciting practice my husband explained that we were leaving instead. On the way to a different gym it was explained to me that we left because two paying customers were uncomfortable taking a class alongside a woman.
I wanted to let you know that had I been aware as to why we were leaving, I would not have left. My husband is a very kind, respectful man who did not want to cause an issue. I am not him. Had I known that you were whining about being in the room with a woman I would have done exactly what I have done 100s of times before around idiots like you. Proven your insecurities wrong.
I would have trained right next to you. Ensuring that I worked 15 times harder. I would have made sure that my techniques were being executed perfectly, that my speed was increasing with each move, and that my focus was 110% on getting better. I would have crushed any partner I worked with, all while being extremely friendly, respectful, and supportive of their growth. I would have epitomized what martial arts and athletic partnership is all about- making yourself and your training partners better than we were when we walked in the door.
I would have fully respected your antiquated hatred for females and would have avoided touching you. I would have ensured that you were aware that a female being in the room WOULD NOT ruin your training. I would have made you question your thinking. I would have made you look my way and wonder why my skills are so good and why everyone enjoys working with me.
You are not a stranger. I have seen idiots like you my entire life. I have tried to validate an understanding for your sexism- I've heard all the excuses. It's fear of doing worse than a girl. It's not a woman's place. It's not a lady-like sport. Its a religious view or an ideology passed down from your dad. Its out of respect for women so that you don't hurt us. It is a validation of your manliness.
I get it.
Its a lot of excuses...and bottom line is you are uncomfortable.
But I am writing this open letter to let you know- TOUGH SHIT. Life is full of discomfort. Get over it. Get over yourself.
My self improvement literally does not impact you. Focus more on yourself and less on whether a chick is bench pressing next to you.
You are lucky that my husband didn't explain why we had to leave.
Because had I known about your sexism, I would have stayed, and you may have left practice pondering how you survived with a female near by.
Had I stayed, your insecurities may have come into question.
Your mind may have been changed.
The girl who beat up every wrestler who ever avoided being her partner,
The women who lifts more than the assholes who don't want her on the sqaut rack,
The lady who throw judo players that wonder why women are there,
The female who sprints faster than the guys who hate being in the same heat as her,
The chick who armbars the bjj players who don't want a girl partner,
The feminist who works harder because of assholes like you
PS- I got in one of the best training sessions of the month when I left your sexist filled gym. Thanks Karma. Hope you enjoyed your sausage fest.
***To clarify: the gym owner and coach apparently still wanted us to stay despite these turds. Apparently they thought it was ridiculous. This incident was no reflection of the gym itself. Literally just two jackasses...****
In case you are following the adventure...we are in Morocco and will be for the remainder of June. It's kind of special and surreal because this month also happens to be Ramadan and for the first time in my life I am in an Arabic country- so I look forward to sharing my insights on what that is like....along with my learnings from Judo in Africa and some of my outstanding lessons from France!
All Muslims are Terrorists. All Refugees are Sick. All Christians are Zealots. All Blacks are Criminals. All Men are Sexists. All White Men are Powerful. All Democrats are Liberal Hippies. All Poor People are Lazy.
In a society that constantly feels rifled with hatred, segregation, and nonacceptance - I constantly worry for where the hatred views will lead. I fear of a society where acceptance, empathy, love, and understanding is valued less than stereotypes. I fear of future Holocausts as hate crimes seem to incessantly increase.
But then there are moments like last week... where my faith in our society is restored.
It was like a bad joke. A jew & christian walked into a bar... Except it was a Turk, Parisian, American, Moroccan, Asian, and slew of children that were mixed concoctions of the above. No one had the same background. Our upbringings consisted of differences in religions. Our jobs varied from un-employed to financial VPs. Yet the room was filled with love, laughter, compassion and delicious food. Everyone giggled as the children caused spills and typical childish nightmares. The chefs were complimented as everyone basked in delicious ethnic dishes. The group bonded over commonalities, which were plenty-some, as conversations lasted for hours. I could not help but to sit back frequently, quietly, and bask in how magical the evening was.
This is what life is meant to be like. People from all over, finding common ground, ignoring and respecting one another's differences. Finding love and laughter despite them. Little children, of all colors and sizes, playing games and giggling alongside other little humans.
I left with a sense of hope. Hope that despite the constant media onslaught of bigotry that I am hit with daily, that love and acceptance does exists out there. That maybe I need to make an effort to hold these kind of gatherings with my multicultural loved ones. Maybe a path to more acceptance in society starts with dinner parties. Individuals breaking down the societal hate, by finding love and commonality with people who are "different"...bonding over breaking bread. Maybe by doing so I can change ONE persons ill-conceived perception of an entire group of people.
Maybe it will work.
Maybe it wont.
But for me, we've all got to eat...so why not do it together.
I am the smallest in the room.
I am the slowest.
I am the only female.
I am the shortest.
I am the oldest in the room.
I am the least experienced.
I do not speak the language of anyone else here.
It takes me twice a long to learn the move.
My cardio stinks.
The task at hand is super hard.
I've never done it before.
It looks hard.
It is hard.
I am tired.
This is my second session today.
This is my third session today.
I had work earlier.
I am hungry.
I am dehydrated.
I am sore.
I am stressed.
A thousand things in my life are falling apart.
Other things are on my mind.
It's past my bedtime.
It's cold out here.
It's so hot in here.
I am the newbie.
I am so bad at this move.
This move is impossible.
I needed to see it one more time.
I will never figure this out.
I had a really bad last practice.
I had a really bad tournament.
I had a really bad day.
I am exhausted.
I am the smallest in the room.
I am the slowest in the room.
No one believes in me.
No one expects anything from me.
I want to quit.
There are a thousand reasons that I have wanted to quit.
But I don't.
With each pounding step, my thigh swells. The pain shoots through me. All I can feel is the swelling. With each step the soreness fills me deeper.
Then I remember that this soreness, this swelling, this pain...means i am getting stronger. With each painful stride, my legs are being strengthen. My cardio is increasing. My speed is elevating. I breathe in, grateful for the pain.
Welcoming the swelling. Happy to be gaining strength and improvements with each step.
All the sudden...the pain subsides.
I am filled with the powerful thought of being stronger than yesterday.
My breathe eases and my happiness overtakes me. Focusing on the gain instead of the pain keeps me motivated to push even more. The end of the training session doesn't seem as far away. My success seems even closer.
I take another step.
Believer that everyone is special.