Katsumodo: I must take my life, the way of the Samurai is no longer necessary.
Cpt. Algren: A life dedicated to honor, sacrifice… discipline…. What could be more necessary?
My parents recently visited me while I have been training up for my upcoming competition: The Battle of Mint Hill’s Strongest (USAW). Naturally, I am focused and impassioned, more than ever at this point as I approach the platform, on Weightlifting. My mother asked me a very simple question that I could not readily… or simply answer in that moment: What do you like so much about Weightlifting? At the time I simply responded with, “A lot of things.” After she left, I thought I’d really sit down and ask myself that question…. What do I like so much about Weightlifting?
In my mind, as humans with a gift of life and limitless thought, the pursuit of self development should never end. You are never fully formed, you are only formed to that moment. Time, moments, and perceptions all change as you grow, and as the flow of time passes. We constantly fight to expose ourselves, to matter, to understand. We burn with intensity so that our voices may be heard and that we may one day understand our place, our god, and the stars.
Many trades in our world offer a gateway to those of us searching for ourselves and for answers. An artist paints, a musician plays, a writer writes, a dancer dances, a warrior fights, a doctor heals, a professor teaches… and an athlete performs. A lot of people will dabble in these things, not truly understanding them or letting themselves fall into them. Always on the safe side of the fence… the pursuit of mastery can be maddening. We are all scared to fall in love.
The sport of Weightlifting is insanely technical. In order to be good with the barbell, it demands the utmost devotion and attention to its practices. I have been invested in athletics for most of my life… and it has all led me to this sport, to this experience… to this pursuit. Why do I love the barbell so much?
It forces you to fall in love, and maddeningly so. Love cannot be rational, it has to be impassioned. If it is not maddening, inspiring, or impassioning… then it is an agreement. We spend our entire lives searching for love, the love you read about in books and hear about in legends. We try, and we fail, constantly. Its corridors are long and twisting. Some dark, some light, some warm… others cold and lonely. The barbell is no different. You have to pour yourself into it, explore it, challenge it, and merge with it. The pursuit of knowledge and training never ends… it is an art that can never be truly mastered… we only have levels of skill.
It challenges the mind in very unique ways where mind, body, and spirit must move as one. In one single lift you must channel yourself. You have to raise your confidence and drown out the Dark Orchestra. An immense amount of discipline has to be developed into even approaching the bar in a certain way. When the barbell begins to move, you are swarmed with thoughts that you have spent 1000’s of hours in order to make autonomous. The shift of balance in your feet during the movement: balls of your feet > through mid foot > to heel > back to mid foot. The different pulls happening: 1st, 2nd, extension, 3rd. The catch, the drive, the rack. Where are your elbows, where is the weight, where is the speed… are you locked out? Can you stand? Can you hold it? 1000’s and 1000’s of hours, years, sacrifices, the endless pursuit of knowledge poured entirely into just one moment… a couple seconds of your life. The barbell becomes, in an instant, an expression of who you are, and of where you are in that given moment. The barbell does not lie.
The barbell does not care what race you are, your religion, your sex, your political beliefs, or even what your name is. Everyone is treated equally. You have either gathered yourself for it, or you have not. You have either trained, or you have not. You can either make the lift, or you can not. It is the most respectful and brutally honest representation of the human spirit I have ever had the privilege to put my hands on. Making a lift that is on the brink of your current abilities is no different than performing a masterpiece on the piano, or painting a beautiful picture. It will be a representation of your skill level, the amount of work you have put into it, your concentration… and your love. You have to let yourself go, and believe in yourself, in that moment, even when everything seems set against you… and if you burn, it burns with you… deadening to the ground in an ultimate display of failure. You can’t just stop there though… you have to, and will… approach it again. Just like when in love… if you make it your priority, if you let yourself go and fall into it… it will show you who you really are.
What do you love?