Training for Warriors: In search of an anthological shape

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[First published in 2009. Scroll down for plain text. Part of the Training for Warriors series, by Martin Rooney*]


anthology 1. Greek. The word
anthologia, literally ‘flowergathering’, has come to denote
a collection of extracts from
literary works

When we read an extensive article or book, we can often miss the underlying individual messages the
author was attempting to convey. If you have been a fan of my
writings in this magazine over the last seven years, you know
that I have used hundreds of quotes from famous philosophers
of the past. Many of these quotes were “flowers” pulled from
“gardens” consisting of huge volumes of these philosophers’
works. The quotes were picked as symbols of the essence of
their philosophies and by standing alone outside of the vast
works, these quotes appear even more profound.

When I was told about the
idea of an “anthology” edition, I
was excited by the prospect of
having to mine my own work for
what I considered its greatest
gems. The following quotes are
my attempt to pull from my own
garden of work what I consider
the blossoms best representing
the essence of my philosophy
and message.
As you read the following,
you will understand that I value
physical training and personal
development as an art. Hopefully,
the extracted quotes will have
the same increase in profundity
as that of the quotes by philosophers past.

You are not a martial artist because you practice different disciplines and can punch
someone in the face. You are a
martial artist when you take the
principles you have learned and
apply them to the rest of your life
in a positive fashion.
Every time you make a bit
of progress, you will find another
ceiling of incompetence to break
through. This is not a disheartening statement, but a principle
of life.
Although honesty, commitment, determination, focus, and
compassion are human principles
most people know they should
live by, it doesn’t always occur.
Principles never change
with time. True power occurs
when you go from just knowing
them to living them.

A beginner’s mind
Whatever belt level you ever
attained, you must always keep a
white belt in your mind.
When approached by new
ideas, people first think up the
reasons why something cannot
work instead of why it can. My
advice is to get excited by that
fact that there is going to be more
that you don’t know than that
which you do know.
All too often, a lack of
mental flexibility leads to a lack
of growth. If you think there is
nothing to learn from other arts
or people outside your small
circle, you are holding yourself

Knowing oneself
Your body is an incredible
informant. Listen to your body. If
you are tired, rest. If you are hungry, eat. If you are injured, rehab.
Failing to pay attention to the
body is asking for trouble.
The essence of training is
the experience of the training,
and what you learn about yourself
through it.
Your ability to control yourself both physically and mentally
under high stress will be the skill
that eventually separates you
from the competition.

Before you can ever treat
anyone else better, you must first
respect yourself.
Respect for teammates,
opponents, coaches and referees
is often nonexistent. Without
them, we would have no one to
train with or compete against.
Knowing this, we must address
our behavior.
Respect feedback. Whether
positive or negative, it is essential
for growth. Get an armbar, it’s
feedback. Get tapped by an armbar, it’s feedback. If the scale says
you are 10 pounds overweight,
it’s feedback.

Just like on the mat, to be
successful in life, you must commit. If you freeze, you lose. You
must put everything behind it.
There should be no halfway in
anything you do.
Most people never commit
to something even though they
are doing it. They show up for
class, but never go all out. Those
people will never be satisfied because deep down they know they
never gave their best.
A fighter who has done all he
can in training, diet and technique
has already won. Then his job is
just to go in and know he has been
committed and done his best.

Training is not about instant gratification. Success is
achieved when you choose a path
of most resistance. I believe that
the athlete prepared to take the
path of most resistance is better
tempered for success.
The Path of Least Resistance does not intersect with the
Road to Success.
Technology is making it
harder for us to stay healthy and
stick to our goals. That is scary
because there will never be
technology that replaces good,
old-fashioned hard work, diet
and practice.

When an athlete is consistent over time, small gains will
eventually equal large ones.
Your consistency demonstrates two important characteristics: discipline and perseverance. With these attributes, you
cannot be stopped from achievement. Without them, you will
never reach any goal you have
set for yourself.
Every journey starts with
one step and every step thereafter
is equally important. Each workout, every piece of food you put
in your mouth, every breath you
take, they all add up. In the end,
there are no little things.

Failing forward
Your life is not measured in
wins and losses. Time between
competitions is when we grow
our resolve, learn our techniques
and harden our bodies. Training is about the process, not the
The L that a fighter is traditionally given on his record to
represent the word “loss” is not
complete. A warrior must also
let that L stand for “lessons” and
I think that the greatest
mistake is to make the same
mistake over and over again and
never learn from it.

Most people are afraid of
change. Change in life is inevitable. It is not the changes in life
that decide our destiny, but how
we respond to those changes
when they become apparent.
The same old exercises
may no longer stimulate the warrior both physically and mentally.
That means it is either time to try
something new, or make the old
something more difficult.
All too often it is easier to
just stay where we are. If you
want to get to another level, you
have to give up your old ways and
dare to do something new.

A good athlete works on
what he is good at. A great athlete works on what he is not good
at, until he turns even his weaknesses into his strengths.
Only work your strengths,
and you will be limited. Work
on your complete foundation,
and you will rise above your
A fighter can have great
strength, speed and power, but
that is only as good as the ability to
demonstrate those characteristics
over time.
I don’t want to give the impression that just getting strong
will make you a better fighter.
Although it might keep you alive
a little longer, the key is to develop
strength while developing high
level technique and endurance.

You may wonder if there is
a perfect strategy for every competition situation. There is not.
Although great strategies can
be developed and yield a fight
plan, any experienced competitor
knows that plan is always subject
to change.
I have learned to become
as critical of victories as of losses.
This helps me to be a better
coach and helps our athletes
constantly push toward personal

Deep down, every warrior
has a vision of what they want to
be. Whether you call it passion,
purpose, calling, destiny, or vision,
I guarantee you have felt its effect
on your own life.
There may in fact be something that you don’t know right
around the corner ready to create
a major setback for you. Your job
is to anticipate and make sure this
setback is less likely to happen.
Don’t let what you don’t
know be the eventual reason for
defeat. In life, we are all at some
level of ignorance about everything. The goal is to be at a higher
level than your competition.

Any coach can make you
tired. Not every coach can make
you better.

You never want to look back
and know that the reason for a
loss was not being physically
Training to me is a process
of trial and error followed by recording and re-evaluation.
Every training session, and
every rep and set of that session
should have purpose. If not, you
are wasting your time, not improving, and running the risk of

Anything you choose not to
do because you think it is difficult
is simply difficult because of the
perception you created.
I want my athletes to constantly challenge the expectations
they have for themselves. Simply
put, if a fighter has low expectations for himself, that is as far as
they are going to go.

The biggest breakthrough I
had later in my athletic career was
realizing how important recovery
was to success and the fact that
recovery had many forms that
could be manipulated.
You cannot rush physiology.
Recovery is the time that allows
the body’s adaptation to occur.
Without proper recovery, proper
progress can never occur.
Whenever there is a plateau
or injury in training, progress
has stopped. When progress is
stopped, someone somewhere is
getting ahead of you.
When you are resting, you
are not doing nothing. You are
doing the most important thing,

Without your health, you
have nothing. If you are ill, you
cannot enjoy any of the things
many people place above sound
nutrition in their hierarchy of
I believe that food is our
greatest medicine. Unfortunately,
nowhere is there a greater lack of
discipline than when it comes to
The person with the bad
diet might not suffer tomorrow,
but be sure they will suffer the
eventual consequences.

We must not forget that
nothing replaces good, old-fashioned hard work and that we have
the possibility to do anything if we
have enough passion and put our
heart and soul into it.
Want a degree? Go study.
Want a black belt? Hit the mats.
Want to lose weight? Eat less
and exercise more. The possibility is within you, you just need
to believe.
We should do the most with
what we have been given. Unfortunately, most people go to the
grave with their best works left
in them. Most people never gave
their all and leave a little bit too
much talent, skill and possibility
on the proverbial table of life.

We dream of hitting the lottery, getting more to do less, or of
our lives being easier. Without the
challenges, obstacles, troubles,
tragedies, failures, mistakes,
problems, dilemmas, and even
catastrophes, our lives would be
less, not more.
The warrior who comes
upon a roadblock should not see
it as a stopping point, but an obstacle that can, must and will be
overcome to reach a higher level.
Options and obstacles actually surround us every day. Which
one we determine them to be will
actually determine our destiny.
A warrior gets fired up for
the greatest obstacles because he
knows they are his opportunity to
find his greatness.

Being honest with your self
is one of the hardest things to
do. Many find it difficult to state
things as they really are. To blame
one’s circumstances on outside
forces is much easier than holding
oneself responsible.
You must first accept the responsibility of being the only one
in control of your destiny. Where
you are in life is exactly where you
are supposed to be as a result of
either the things you have or have
not done.
I believe we are all on a warrior’s quest. This doesn’t mean
we are all here to be fighters in
the ring, but I do believe it is our
responsibility to fight to find our
true purpose in life.

* Martin Rooney is the founder of the Training for Warriors system and has trained champion fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC and Olympics. His TFW fitness program is used in over 175 facilities in 25 countries around the world. Information about TFW certifications at

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