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A Fighter's Heart

A Fighter's Heart

Author: Sam Sheridan
Rating: 7/10
Last Read: April 2014

Quick Summary:  A guy who has found himself in possession of a bunch of cash and the intention to not work decides to dedicate himself to becoming a fighter.  The book covers his journey through different fights and training camps, and provides insight into the mind of a fighter and the athletes who participate in the sport.

My Takeaways

Fundamentals are important.

Fighting is not totally about violence - even if it is a violent activity.  There can be a sense of peace and satisfaction that arises out of the struggling with others and learning to master yourself.

It captured the idea that life is born of struggle and striving, that true joy and understanding do not come from comfort and safety; they come from epiphany born in exhaustion (and not exhaustion for its own sake). Safety and comfort are mortal danger to the soul.

My Highlights 

I learned one of the most important lessons in life: Keep your mouth shut. --loc 98

I was discovering the key to building endurance: Push on when you feel you can’t, and next time that moment will come later. I --loc 476

This is a guy who kicked so hard that if you blocked with your arm, he’d break it—and yet he had the utter control to not be baited. That’s what I admired, more than anything. Apidej is a devout Buddhist, and he meditated often, and I was curious about that. Something in that attitude seemed like the real warrior attitude, secure in self-knowledge, aware of things that don’t matter and untroubled by them. --loc 624

By doing something repeatedly, though, and understanding it, you can diffuse and defuse the fear. This is true for sailing, riding motorcycles, asking girls out—even getting hit in the face by a man who wants to kill you. --loc 656

It captured the idea that life is born of struggle and striving, that true joy and understanding do not come from comfort and safety; they come from epiphany born in exhaustion (and not exhaustion for its own sake). Safety and comfort are mortal danger to the soul. --loc 698

If only I could find a way to get it to pay for itself—that’s how I had done all my traveling before. It’s a part of my philosophy: You can always get it to pay for itself somehow. --loc 703

You have a specific responsibility to existence, to God if you like, to taste, touch, and smell what there is to experience. You have to do everything. If given an option between doing something and not doing it, you have to do it; because you’ve already done the “not do it” part. --loc 714

All of the old gods required sacrifice, forms of which exist today: Thus the ritual of sacrifice reveals an almost universal attribute of the archaic deity to whom sacrifices are offered: He or she is a carnivore. --loc 1156

“Truth in observation, that’ll win a fight,” he said. --loc 1335

But I fell back on those immortal words at the base of all good decision making: Fuck it. --loc 1448

I think I have a fatal flaw; when I get hit, I just want to hit back, without rhyme or reason. --loc 1555

“Do you ever watch animals, horses and cows and birds?” asked Darryl’s father, a tall, thick, distinguished man with an open, handsome face and gray hair. He made the motions of jostling his elbows for space, for position. “It’s natural, everything fights.” --loc 1807

“You have to learn from everybody, and stay open-minded, learn and watch carefully: Observation is critical. Watch how they grip. Guys who have been to a lot of different schools are very good because they learn so many different techniques. Now there is so much interchange that we have a lot of broad innovation and spreading ideas.” --loc 2105

Being willing to lose is important, to take risks, to find new ways of doing things; I’ve heard this again and again from different fighters. --loc 2108

You know only 5 percent of what there is to know. Fight your own pride and ego and be open-minded and always learning new techniques, new things from anyone. --loc 2231

Love has given him belief in himself. It’s what makes a dog fight past forty-five minutes. Love is what makes us great, and this display of strength, heart, and love is what brings us all to the fights. --loc 2644

I quickly came to understand one of Virgil’s governing precepts, which is fight when it’s good for you. Don’t stand and fight when your opponent wants to. Move around—fight only when it’s better for you. Muhammad Ali’s first fight with Floyd Patterson is a perfect example. Ali just kept moving and moving and moving, and every now and again paused to hit Floyd, and then moved some more. Boxing critics hated him for it, the “cowardice” of it, but it was unbeatable. Floyd didn’t have an answer. --loc 2936

Afterward, as I was taking off my wraps, Virgil said, “Fundamentals, Sam, fundamentals. If you don’t have them, you will run into somebody else’s.” --loc 2948

“Don’t let me rush you. Wait for things to be right, be deliberate. You don’t want to be flying down the freeway so fast you can’t see the scenery, because you’ll miss your exit. I’ll try and hurry you up, but don’t let me, stay within yourself, within what you want to do, and wait for the opening.” --loc 3187

Look strong when you are weak, Virgil would counsel. --loc 3421

After the fight, Mike said that his ferocity was all gone, he couldn’t even kill the bugs in his house. He had completely lost the killer instinct in the sixth round. “At one point, I thought life was about acquiring things,” he said. “Life is totally about losing everything.” --loc 3587

I was a big fan of something the English call the “wind-up.” You play someone very seriously with something you know will make them crazy, just to get them to lose composure. I’ve seen him do it to little boys who come into the gym. “Oh, I heard about you, you were the one crying when that Korean kid stole your bike,” and the little boy will be raging, “That wasn’t me!” Virgil used to do that at the juvenile hall with young toughs in front of their friends. The --loc 3877

A woman walked by, and Virgil talked about the sound of her footsteps. “I listen to people walk,” he said. “That can tell you a lot.” --loc 4126

“By becoming aware, you can understand that there is no ownership of body or mind, that thoughts are just illusions, and that suffering can be overcome.” --loc 4278

“Pain is a friend. It is a reminder to mindfulness, and it tells us in the end that it is only pain, another illusion, and this helps our understanding.” --loc 4311

“Mindfulness can be brought to bear on everything, can be a part of everything, of your training, and of your fighting,” Ajahn told me. The monks had no trouble at all with the fact that I was a sometime fighter. “If you are mindful in boxing, then you can be aware and not trapped in a same movement, you can be formless, and formless can not be beat—as long as you are strong inside and have your feet rooted,” Ajahn said. Virgil would have agreed with him. --loc 4462

“Mindfulness will help you see without illusion.” --loc 4467

I had a professor once tell me that man cannot view himself clearly; only less complicated organisms can be completely understood. --loc 4852

The appreciation of gameness, then, is probably both cultural and biological. The love of aggression, a willingness to fight regardless of safety or consequences, is a biological key to success, to domination. --loc 4864

There comes a moment when we stop creating ourselves. —John Updike --loc 5314

Michael Kimmel, in his book Manhood in America, talks about the “homosociality” of the manly arenas (sports, business); for a man, the most important thing is “his reputation as a man among men.” --loc 5342

Kimmel writes that for men, one of the deepest fears is that “others will see us as less than manly, as weak, timid, frightened.” --loc 5417

manhood, that endless test, is a sham, an illusion of sorts; because when you start fighting, you realize there’s never an end to it, there’s always somebody better—stronger, faster, bigger, younger, whatever, something. --loc 5441

Having a fighter’s heart, having gameness, is about knowing yourself and not being afraid of losing. You become a better version of yourself. Nobility is a by-product of that attitude, just like love is a byproduct of aggression. --loc 5498

Cormac McCarthy wrote a book called Blood Meridian in which the character of the judge makes an argument that war is the most essential of human activities. He starts by saying that men are born for games, and that everybody, even children, know that “play is nobler than work.” If that is true, says the judge, then what changes the quality of the game but the stakes? And what could be a more valuable stake than your life? So war, the game you play with your life, is the greatest of human endeavors. --loc 5508

I do not believe that men were meant for games, that that is their highest purpose. Work is nobler than play. I believe that men were meant for work, that their highest calling is to build, not destroy or even protect. Learning to fight, trying to embody the virtues of the hunter and warrior—these things are useful and important, even essential. But don’t be content with being a warrior, be a builder as well. Make something. The true calling of man, real manhood, is about creation, not destruction, and everyone secretly knows it. --loc 5516

Every love can be merciless. --loc 5566

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