Failure and Resilience

In October of 2012 I participated in Craig Douglas’ ECQC coursework . This was the 2nd time I had taken this class, I had also attended Several of his other classes, Edged Weapons Overview (EWO), Armed Movement In Structures (AMIS), In-Extremis Knife (IEK), and Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC) more than one time.

I wasn’t new.

After my first experience training Force on Force with Craig I started attending a local MMA school, getting in shape physically, and “doing the work” as it were. It was over a year later and I had managed to do more work on my own ego than on my actual fight skills though. I came in a little boastful, ready to show off.

On day 2 the illusion I built of who I was came up against reality.

There it is. I’m the guy on the bottom gassing out, grunting, overwhelmed and suffocating in that helmet.

I was the host that weekend. Many of the attendees knew me, trained with me, and I can hear them laughing. It was a crushing experience. I’m no stranger to real violence, and I FELT victimized, weak, powerless and humiliated on such a deep level that it sincerely fucked me up for some time to come. I couldn’t sleep that night, I’d wake up sweating feeling like I was suffocating. I had to go back for day 3, and I was terrified.

When it came time to get back in it, to man up, to put the helmet back on I broke down. I couldn’t do it. I was shaking and embarrassed. I backed out.

I was face to face with a decision. I thought about stopping, never going back there. Sell the guns, stop training, just walk away. I couldn’t lie to myself.

Craig called me. He talked to me. He shared his experience with me. I got messages and texts from my training partners. I had hard dudes tell me about how it felt to see yourself show up in some other guys highlight reel. I was told no one gets good without failure, without tough times.

When I was younger I never really understood how I would hear about successful writers working for ages with nothing but rejection letters, or those that struggled, those that tried and tried, and failed and failed, and never stopped. I’m quite sure I never realized winning was hard. Figured those who where good at some things where that way, came that way, or simply worked hard to get there. I’m sure I never really internalized that many people try hard, fail hard, and come back again and again and what that process might feel like.

I posted about this openly on a forum of like minded individuals, Total Protection Interactive , and support and feedback was overwhelming. I couldn’t ask for a better group of hard ass dudes to walk this path with. I’m forever grateful.

The next week I found and joined a legit BJJ school Stout Training Pittsburgh, Team Renzo Gracie and started training all over again. No stopping, no letting the failure overcome me, no chance to sit in it, right back to work.

I felt it was time to update this story, years later and I still get messages about it or see new guys going through the same thing pointed towards that post. That failure was the best thing to happen to me.
“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.” – J.K. Rowling

Here I am at a recent BJJ tournament. It’s no highlight reel, I didn’t win that match, but Im a far cry from where I was and I’m out here in the arena testing myself.

There is one way to assure you don’t lose. Stay the fuck home. I’ll be out here putting the work in.

Shawn Lupka

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