20,000 lbs of snow and the true meaning of self defense…

cabin in the snow

This is a rather rambling post; in the words of Mark Twain, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

First, and most importantly, I really hope that you had a great Christmas (or alternate celebration of your choice).  And that you got to spend time with friends, family and loved ones.

Next, congratulations on surviving the Mayan Calendar Apocalypse!  The end-of-the-world industry seems remarkably resistant to never, ever being correct so I’m sure we’ll be staring down the barrel of another predicted planetary apocalypse soon enough…

Apocalypses notwithstanding, the next big event will of course be New Year’s Eve.

And that, of course, means lots of New Year’s resolutions…

Now ordinarily I just make resolutions on whichever day I decide to do something; it seems to me that a resolution worth keeping is a resolution worth starting on right away. No point waiting until January 1st.

But this year, simply by chance, a major resolution does roughly coincide with the advent of the new year.  And, like a huge number of resolutions being made this time of the year, it has something to do with fitness.

My resolution is to get back in shape…

You see, I’ve been working on various Grapplearts projects like a madman.  Between the top-to-bottom site redesign, several iPhone apps, and the two How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent instructional series, it seems like I’ve been working non-stop all year without a break.

Now of course all this was my own choice and I’m not complaining, but whenever I’m in the throes of a project then my own fitness and training suffers.  I keep fairly detailed notes about my gym workouts and runs.  I’m not fat, and my weight hasn’t fluctuated that much, but when it comes to running, stairmastering, or lifting weights when I review my past workouts it leaves me in no doubt that I’m not capable at performing anywhere near the level that I’d like to be at.

When it comes to grappling I still know the techniques, of course.  The technical knowledge is all still up in my head, but it’s taking that knowledge and applying it on the mats against a good opponent which is the tricky part.  When my fitness is down then my timing goes to hell, in part because it takes longer to make decisions when you’re gasping for breath.

So enough is enough.  Time to get back in shape and get back to serious training.

For the last few weeks I’ve been running, lifting weights, and doing circuit training to get my body prepared for the rigors of training.  It’s good to feel sore all over again!

And today I’m particularly sore because I went up to my cabin in the mountains and found it buried under 5 feet of wet, dense snow.  Check out the photo – it’s actually a two-story cabin and you can’t see the first floor at all, so that’ll give you an idea of how much snow has fallen in the last month.

Cabins are like human bodies: stop doing preventive maintenance and at some unpredictable point in the future the whole thing will collapse.  So in this case, when there is this much weight on the roof, then the snow has to come off because otherwise the cabin’s roof will eventually fail.  And given that my little wilderness retreat has survived for at least 80 years I’d like for that not to happen on my watch.

So I grabbed a shovel, climbed up on the roof, and got to work.

Who would have thought that moving snow off of a slanting metal surface could be so difficult; it took more than five hours of digging to clear that damn roof!

Not only did it save my cabin, but it was a fantastic workout.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that I moved about somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 lbs of snow today.  My whole body is sore, but once again it’s a good sore.

This email is really rambling all over the place but there IS a connection between training in grappling, fitness and shoveling snow.

There’s a debate about how to split your time between training on the mat and straining in the gym that has been going on forever.  Most of the time the argument is couched in terms of what the optimal mix of fitness and skills training is for competition; some competitors spend a lot of time working on their fitness, others simply spend as much time on the mats as possible and figure that they’ll get their sports specific fitness from doing their sport. Everyone has a strong opinion and the arguments get pretty heated at times!

OK, so competitors are all over the place on this topic.  But as you’ll soon see, I think there’s something MUCH more important at stake than simply coming home with another few medals and trophies.

Here’s my thought which crystalized during those 5 hours of shoveling that dense, heavy, wet snow…

The martial arts are inextricably linked to self defense.  You train, in part, so that you can keep yourself safe if you ever get in a violent confrontation with an attacker.

But what about the attacker within?  What about the heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and those other preventable diseases that can either kill you or hugely reduce your your quality of life?

When it comes to preventing those degenerative diseases it really comes down to diet and exercise.  Diet is part of self defense.  Exercise is part of self defense.

What’s the point of being able to cripple an attacker with a single punch if you get struck down by atherosclerosis?  How much good does having a perfect double leg takedown do you if you can’t move half your body after a stroke?

And there’s absolutely nothing that reinforces this point like watching your friends, families and peers get struck down, seemingly without warning.  So that’s why my thoughts turned to about a fifty-year-old friend of mine who recently survived two bouts of a very difficult to treat cancer.

He went through 48 weeks of brutal chemotherapy, which finally got the cancer under control.   But unfortunately the chemotherapy wore him down so much that he contracted a virus which gradually shut his heart down, causing him to suffer a massive heart attack.

Because he was in a hospital at the time he survived the heart attack but ended up in a coma for 2 weeks, unconscious and with his kidneys and liver both failing.  He only survived because he was hooked up to an ECMO machine, which is this crazy life support device straight out of science fiction.

The doctors gave him a 1:10,000 chance of survival.

Not. Good. At. All.

But against all odds he pulled through.   He fought his way out of the coma, got off life support, and is working to get his life back on track again.

Here’s the thing: it’s pretty clear that jiu-jitsu saved his life.

You see, because he loved competing he was fanatical about fitness.  Through countless early morning workouts and battles on the mat against much younger opponents his heart, muscles and determination were strengthened to such a degree that he managed to survive the hammering dealt out to him by fate.

He survived the cancer treatments.  The heart attack.  The coma.  The kidney and liver failure.

Because he was strong he beat the odds.

If that isn’t self defense in action then I don’t know what is.

His determination and ability to survive is hugely inspiring to his friends, myself included.

So yes, in 2013 I’m going to focus more on my own training, both on the mat and in the gym.  Human beings didn’t evolve to only sit at desks and work at computers – we’re meant to move and to be active.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you high and dry.  No, not at all.  I’ve got lots of plans for videos, articles, interviews, tutorials and other really cool projects to give you an edge on the mats and I’ll definitely keep you posted as those develop.  It’s just that I’m going to balance working on those projects with working on project Stephan Kesting!

As we get close to the end of this rambling article I’ve got to give you two important updates…

Update one: How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent in No Gi with Emily Kwok is back in stock again.  I’ve kept the free shipping and I’m so convinced that you’ll find this 5 DVD set useful that I’m offering it with an unconditional one year money back guarantee.  So check it out!

Update two: I’ve produced some well-reviewed iPhone apps, and people have been asking me for Android apps for a long time.  It could be tomorrow, or it could be next week, but we are now VERY close to having the first Grapplearts Android app ready, with 42 of the highest-percentage submission techniques broken down for you and ready to go with you wherever you go.  If you’re signed up to my newsletter I’ll let you know when it’s out.

I want to finish by saying this.  The only reason I’m here and able to do this is because of you guys.  The time you take to read my emails.  The support I get from you on sites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and various forums and discussion boards.  And your hard-earned money should you decided to buy some of my instructional products.

I am humbled by your support, and am truly grateful to each and every one of you

Thank you!
Stephan Kesting

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