Stillpower, by Author (Softcover, 2012)|
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Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Kramer addresses something that advanced martial artists, seasoned climbers,
and real bodybuilders are well aware of and practice regularly. I know, because
these are my three "sports" (I don't approach them as sports, though they are
classified that way).
One of my early martial arts instructors was fond of saying, "To win in a
conflict, you must defeat two enemies: the one in front of you and the one
within you. Of the two, the one within you is the more dangerous." He would go
on to explain that you had to relax, go into a non-thinking mode, and let your
chi flow. Pretty much Kramer's point of view. I taught this, and one technique,
to a student who, after six months of training, took second in his first martial
arts tournament (no minor one, either, it was the Dallas Citywide Open Style).
Kramer's "be still inside" philosophy is a "secret" to excellence in many
areas, from personal relationships to sports to business. But I disagree with
Kramer's apparent opinion that it's "the" secret. It must be combined with other
things. He is is correct in advising, "Stop trying so hard," but he needs to
qualify that with several important caveats. I think he alludes to many of
these, but it would be better if he made a list or in some other way made it
clear that simply having inner calm is not enough. And I think he needs to be
more clear that, no matter how well you prepare, lack of inner calm greatly
diminishes your performance.
That's one way in which Kramer's book falls short. Another is he assumes the
reader knows various pro sports celebrities and their career history. So he lost
me several times when making his point with such remarks as, "The rest, as they
say, is history," when he could have used about the same number of words to
plainly state what actually happened. Like millions of people in the USA, I do
not follow pro sports or college sports. I've never watched a televised
basketball, football, or baseball game in my life. So the "obvious" references
were a complete mystery to me and I didn't feel compelled to search online for
But even without understanding his references to particular pro sports
celebrities, I understood what Kramer was driving at. He built his case in
enough other ways so that understanding those references wasn't requisite to
understanding his message.
These two shortcomings don't make the book a failure. If you're already an
athlete who has all the "hard" training and can't seem to get off your plateau,
the likely problem is you lack stillpower. Kramer's book is exactly what you
need. And I stress "exactly."
This book makes an excellent addition to any athlete's training reference
library. Just be sure you keep it in context and don't substitute inner calm for
all other training. You need inner calm in addition to all other training. You
may need to set aside some of your normal training time so you can focus on
calming your mind. Kramer provides some insight on this, as well.
This book consists of ten chapters, an epilogue, and an appendix. It runs 177
pages, plus contains six pages of endnotes followed by an index.
How stillpower works for me
When I travel, I visit gyms and see "gym rats" focusing on the mechanicals of
what they are doing as if counting plates and reps has any relation to what
their body is actually experiencing. This discipline is good for beginners, but
to really get the adaptive response you must focus much less on the conscious
and let your body do the "thinking" for you. This was what Arnold Schwarzenegger
was talking about when he said, "You must listen to your body."
Back in my younger days, I dominated sparring matches after I learned the
inner calmness that just lets things flow. A once popular song had the lyric,
"Still waters run deep," and this was great advice for the martial artist in my
heyday. Today, it is great advice for any athlete.
In climbing, people hit a fairly how competence limit until they stop trying
to muscle up the routes. I started climbing in the previous century. In the
ensuing years, I have never seen people learn climbing techniques when their
mental focus is on "getting to the top." Only when they move from that external
motivation of result to an internal one of process do they begin to learn and
enjoy climbing. Kramer repeatedly hits on this theme in his book, which as I
write this strikes me as essential reading for anyone new to climbing.
As noted, however, any athlete will benefit from understanding these
principles. It's not just athletes. Have trouble making friends? Stop trying so
hard, and you will find that people click with your inner calm and want to be
around you. Have trouble with a demanding boss? Rather than let the boss rattle
you into making errors, calmly toss the demands back at the boss and ask the
boss to decide what the priorities are. Can't stay on your diet? Your
frustration is driving you to emotional eating, so calm down and your appetite
will shrink to one that serves you instead of the other way around.
If you know you're good, you don't have to prove it; relax and get your best
performance. In whatever you're doing. That's Kramer's story, and I'm sticking