Sunday, February 7, 2010


"To be the best, you've got to beat the best. That's all there is to it."
-- Adam Vinatieri

Analysts regard George St. Pierre as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters anywhere. Boasting a 19-2 record, the 2-time World Champion can beat you in any number of ways. He can beat you standing up, in submissions and by grounding and pounding. But he wasn't always this versatile.

When I think about my own training this morning, I wonder why it is that I'm so depressed that I can't be running, biking or training my lower body for 2 months. I should look at it is a time to recover and set the foundations for getting stronger. I should look at it as a time to put into taking care of so many things that have fallen into disuse, more time to spend with the girlfriend, or in reflection. But then I consider the delicious roast pork that I ate for breakfast this morning, and the fate of all the animals that we consume. Actually, think about the rest of the living creatures that teem on this earth. There are many, many creatures bigger than man. Most of them are both faster and stronger, and in almost all these cases, significantly so. An adult chimpanzee has about a 50/50 chance of beating George St. Pierre in a cage. The disparity between strength, instinct and speed is enormous. Would GSP's skill be enough to overcome an animal who has never trained or watched a video of his opponent? Maybe. Maybe not. Despite all these marks against us, humans sit atop the food chain and there's no opposing argument with a shred of credibility. 

Consider how humans, even paleolithic humans, must appear to the hunted. Wrapped in furs, and wielding crude tools of stone, wood and fire, ruled the world. These tiny warm-blooded animals could gore you with their fangs, claws and horns made of the hardest rock, or they might fire their spines at you from afar. They would track you for days relentlessly pursuing your trail until you reached a river or a cliff and then they would annihilate you all. That is, if these terrible monsters hadn't ambushed you with holes in the ground, or nets, or the rest of their pack lying in wait. If you tried to ambush them at night, they'd turn the darkness to light and drive you off with flames. Flames! And all this before domestication of dogs, sheep and horses, of earthenware, bronze, chariots, iron, firearms, trip-wires, infra-red, radio tracking, helicopters, satellites, submarines... 

But were they always so? I saw an interesting advertisement on the train for a series on the evolution of man. Take whatever side of the debate you want, it doesn't matter to me, but I don't foresee any disagreement on the fact that while our bodies suggest that animals should be chasing us, we're the ones who find ourselves most often chasing after animals. George St. Pierre, who's considering taking a break from MMA so that he could join the Canadian Freestyle Wrestling team (who've been begging for his participation) and represent for them in London, did not start out as a wrestler. In fact, that was the weakest portion of his game early on. It's a testament to his work ethic and dedication that career wrestlers often find themselves subdued by him. The reason that GSP is so dominant, that humanity is so dominant, lies in the fact that we can change.

Take away our ability to adapt, to rise above difficulties and I believe we've lost a fundamental aspect of our identity. I have little sympathy for down-on-their-luck, burnt out athletes who can't play anymore and now face a lifetime of depression. No one has the power to create or destroy our own happiness except ourselves. Though some avenues may be denied, there is always a choice that can be made, a choice that can be created. Don't like sports? Doesn't matter. We can speak of musicians who are told to quit because of tendonitis, a rejection letter from a school or program, an interview that never happened, a review that crushed your hopes, it goes on. The list of failures and disappointments and your life. Both of these go on.

So really, as I look at my time off, should I feel so lost? This is only another adversity. Overcoming it may be unpleasant, but I never trained for the sake of the "pleasant" things in life. How futile it would be to try and control all the vagabond chances in our lives. Has it not been my realization, my alithea, that our responsibility lies only in our response? What choice will I make now? I could choose to forfeit hope, to accept anger and frustration. Or I could choose to bear these burdens and rise above. 

Below is a video of GSP highlights. I chose this one specifically because it also does a good job showcasing his failures and defeats. There's no one who competes who hasn't tasted defeat before. Great players, as a tribute to all their effort, will stand up right away. Average players will stand up after awhile. Those who never amount to anything are the ones who stay down. 

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