Enter the Pain Zone, an Excerpt from Sun Tzu for Women, Simon & Schuster
I met my martial arts mentor, Uche Anusionwu, while we were undergraduates at Temple University in Philadelphia. When we met, I had been training for several years and was proud of my achievements. Uche, however, had been training hard from a very young age.
He had practiced The Art of War before I had ever heard of it. His take-no-prisoners approach was to get in and then disrupt, confuse, and destroy. My training to that point had more boundaries and more rules. I was completely overrun by Uche.
I tried to view these sessions as necessary to improving. However, I didn’t get better every session. Sometimes I just got beaten up.
I remember one session in the foyer of my dorm room. A cold, institutional space, it was a tight twelve by twelve feet space. We didn’t have any protective sparring gear. We didn’t fight full contact, but we made good contact. Whenever we’d spar, I’d always come away bruised, scratched, and dinged. I was used to it. This day was no exception.
When you’re losing the fight, and then losing your will to fight, you can feel the pain more vividly. Every thud and lasting hum of every bruised shin, forearm and knuckle echoes. The sting of every busted lip lingers. Each shot that gets through, some in rapid succession, reminds you that you’re losing. The painful sensation radiates deep beyond the flesh and stays fresh in the mind, limiting the desire to launch a proactive response. But when you’re winning—or at least holding your own—adrenaline and enthusiasm mask the pain.
Uche feinted and set me up for a blazingly fast hip throw. I anticipated being dropped upper back-, neck- and head-first on the hard, tile floor. The intensity of the execution of the technique and my fear of bodily harm combined as I let out a solitary gasping sob of fear. The impact was negated as he followed through and caught me as I fell. But the fear and anticipation was anything but soft. I was defeated, for what felt like the twentieth time that day.
Comfort is a Choice
I was tempted to stop training with this person who was so proficient at beating me. After all, if I didn’t train with him, I wouldn’t be reminded of my glaring weaknesses. We all feel better about ourselves when we aren’t immobilized on our posterior, literally or metaphorically.
Or, I could continue, find out what I needed to do to even the odds, and grow. I chose option number two.
After working with Uche for several years, I noticed a marked improvement. I was more aggressive, less fearful, more confident in myself, and better able to execute. Had I not left my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have made the achievements I made in the years since. Today, I’d still be following a formulaic, predictable paradigm that didn’t prepare me for the realities of combat. While the earlier days were tough, the impact these sessions had on my abilities and my confidence is beyond measure.
Yes, by leaving your comfort zone, you’ll get knocked down and banged up, but it beats standing still. The sacrifices may be great, but well worth it.
This is one of the concepts I bring to life in the Sun Tzu for Women Keynote and Workshop. Learn more below…