Most of my formative years (high school, college) have been in the United States. It’s in the U.S. that I was introduced to wrestling. For better or for worse, wrestling coaches (at least in my experience) are warrior philosophers. There is a definite aura of introspection, wisdom, and insight about them. Every sentence they put together, no matter how cliche and it’s usually cliche as hell, somehow always rings true in a way that nothing else does (at least for me).
And what school of philosophy do wrestling coaches hail from? It’s the school of Animal Farm’s horse Boxer, whose motto in all matters of life was “I will work harder”. It’s the Gable ideal. Americans romanticize the athlete who often takes himself to the limit and pushes beyond it. One way to view that is “toughness”. I think another way to view it is passion. And in my mind a passion for a goal doesn’t have to channel itself into toughness. It can be channeled into an obsession with perfect technique, an obsession with drilling the crap out of a set of moves until all you are is that set of moves. That system is your identity. It’s what you eat, sleep, think about.
I understand this kind of existence, and hold it as an ideal, not for sports, but for my academic life. But it very much influences the way I approach grappling. It’s important to be real tough, but you don’t have to be the toughest dude out there. It all depends on your personality, and where you’re best at channeling your passion for a goal.
So, it boils down once again to a question for the wrestling coaches: are you a Cael Sanderson or are you a Dan Gable?