Today, I want to talk to you about the way you carry your strength. If you are already strong, this will be an opportunity for introspection. If you are on your way, here is your chance to “reverse engineer” the good manners of the strong, along with their lifting technique.
The Mightier the Rice
Recently I read a book I enjoyed very much. Ronen Katz, SFG II, SFB, gave it to me. Ronen is a sixth dan in Kyokushin karate. He studied in Tokyo under Mas Oyama himself. At the karate legend’s dojo, Ronen made friends with another foreigner on the same quest, Nicholas Pettas.
Nicholas would later become a world-class karate competitor and receive an unheard of compliment from the Japanese, who nicknamed him “Blue-Eyed Samurai.” That was the title of the book Ronen brought to me from Japan. A couple of months ago, Katz taught a seminar introducing StrongFirst training methods in Tokyo. Nicolas was one of the students and he was kind enough to sign a book for me.
There is a Japanese proverb in Blue-Eyed Samurai: “The mightier the rice becomes, the more it bows its head.” The stronger one becomes, the more humility he shows. I have witnessed that the proverb is right on the money time and time again.
Really Strong People Have Class
One day, I brought an acquaintance to Muscle Beach Venice. A skinny middle-aged guy, Bob decided to get strong and asked me to teach him the deadlift and a few other lifts. It was Saturday and a powerlifting meet was in progress. The lifting platform was outside the weight pit, but the competitors warmed up inside. Bob wanted to turn around and leave, but I insisted that we go in.
The pit was crowded, but we did manage to find an empty bar and started setting up. Bob was intimidated, surrounded by guys three times bigger and five times stronger than himself. Growls from the competition platform outside did not help. Bob was loading a bar with 135 when a man with no neck towered over him. The lifter’s voice boomed: “Are you, guys, using these plates? Do you mind if grab them?”
Bob could not believe his eyes or ears. And for the rest of his lesson, he was treated with utmost respect by the shaved head crew that had set up their warm-up station next to us, even getting called “sir” a few times.
Really strong people have class. They never bully the weak. Who does then?—The less weak.
The Way You Carry Your Strength Matters
Rob Lawrence, the master of one-liner, once quipped that the very strong and the very weak will never give you any trouble. It is the guys in the middle who have a chip on their shoulder. Beta males, frustrated with their inability to rise to the top and taking it out on the even weaker letters of the Greek alphabet.
These betas are easy to recognize in gyms by their swagger and their baseball caps turned backward. Just a week ago, I witnessed one make a lot of noise quarter squatting 315—and then walk away and never come back. The unfortunate newbie in gym gloves who later came to the power rack to do his curls got stuck unloading the bar. Next week, he probably quit the gym for a health spa that promised “no gym intimidation” in its ads.
If you are reading this blog, you are strong, or at least on your way to strong. Do not let it go to your head. Do not give the noble pursuit of strength a bad name by acting like a jack. Let your conduct inspire the weak to be strong.