BE YOURSELF, BE ORIGINAL, BE UNIQUE

be unique

When I teach anything – be it writing, martial arts, Documents Analysis and even when I counsel young people about life, career or marriage – I always encourage my students to be themselves…to follow their own path to success. That is the single, most fulfilling freedom you and I can ever enjoy in life. I have come to realize and appreciate the importance of self-acceptance and individuality in the journey to true success and satisfaction. Let me share quickly with you how one simple experience a long time ago helped cement that principle in my heart.

 

Before I got married I used to compete in many freestyle martial arts tournaments and competitions. Back then I trained with a motley crew of fighters, and one of them was a friend I will simply refer to as Master Jim. I admired Jim a lot because he had heart, and though considerably older than the rest of us, he had a speed that belied his age. Jim was also one of best fake out kick boxers I have ever seen. He had a cool trick where during a fight he would constantly drop his left arm, presenting his opponent with a juicy target of an unprotected left side. When you swooped with a punch or a kick to attack his exposed ribs, Jim would quickly drop his shoulder and knock you senseless with a vicious right hook that came out of nowhere. It was a beauty of a gambit, and it worked every single time. I loved seeing Jim use it so much that I decided that I would copy it and use it in my fights. So I started training myself to drop my left guard like Jim did, and quickly swing around with my right. Pretty soon I was sure I had mastered the technique, so in my next fight I tried it, and my opponent knocked me out. I tried to use that trick again in 3 or 4 subsequent fights, and each time I was beaten. It did not make sense to me; Jim used it so flawlessly, and I studied and practiced his style for many weeks. Why couldn’t I use it effectively? It was not until Jim passed away that I found out from his brother that during his childhood Master Jim had suffered a severe injury to his left arm that left him unable to hold that arm up for more than a few seconds at a time. The damage also made it easier for him to drop his shoulder a fraction of a second faster than someone with a sturdy arm, and reach around with that blinding fast right under hook. That technique belonged to Jim, and only he could use it the way he did. I could try to copy it, but I would only be trying to be something I was not.

 

We all admire attractive qualities and personalities in others, and sometimes we try very hard to be like those we admire. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we need to understand that there’s a difference between learning good and useful skills from others, and trying to be exactly like them. We are who we are because of the way we were made, and the experiences of our past that helped shape our character. No matter how much you feel someone else is better than you, remember that you are unique. No one can be better at being you than you. Rather than trying to be a poor copy of someone else, work on becoming a better version of you. Explore the unique gifts and quirks that God has blessed you with, and exploit them to become the best of who you are. Turn your disadvantages into talents that can help you and others, and you will be admired for who you are. Satisfaction in life begins with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Appreciate who you are first, even as you admire the good in others and you will always be happy. Don’t forget that being the best in world starts with being the best within, so don’t drop that guard because you see someone else doing it. Find what works in you, and use it to create what works for you. God bless you this week, continue to stay safe as we work together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. We will get through this.

 

Visit www.ifeanyiubawords.com for more awesome, life affirming content, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Namaste!

FACING YOUR FEARS

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In 2003 I took part in a tournament organized by the martial arts community in the Lagos State University (LASU). I was still a fresh black belt holder then, and I was pretty sure I was good enough to win and get the prize. Unfortunately I was very inexperienced in the psychology of fighting, and I still had some doubt in my abilities. So when I met one of my opponents before the actual fight I was totally unprepared for what transpired. His name was Yemi, and he was an overweight freestyle fighter who had a reputation for being a thug and a bully. He looked me over and told me point blank that there was no way I would last a full round in the ring with him. Yemi taunted and bullied me, and made jokes about how skinny and slow I was. He got inside my head and his words did a lot of damage to my confidence and made me afraid. By the time our fight was announced, I was so scared of fighting him that I kept stepping to the side and trying to avoid taking a hit without making any effort to attack. Yemi scored a series of easy points against me, and I eventually lost that fight. Looking back now I’m quite sure that if I hadn’t allowed my fear to dictate my movements that day, that fight may have turned out to be one of my most conclusive victories because Yemi was slow and lumbering and he kept dropping his guard like a rookie.

 

Everyone has a fear. No matter how strong a man or woman is, or no matter how bold and confident a person is, there is always something that they are mortally afraid of, something that puts them at a disadvantage. As children the sight of a cane was enough to fill us with panic and send us running and screaming; as we grew older our fear of corporal punishment was replaced with other fears and anxieties, depending on who we are and how fully our personalities formed. For many people their greatest fear is the fear of being alone and without family or friends or someone to love, while for others it is the fear of poverty and lack…and this fear pushes them to do whatever evil thing possible to make money. For others still their biggest fear is the fear of the world seeing them for who they really are. These people go to great lengths to present themselves as the complete opposite of what lives within them. Yemi made me feel fear, and because of that fear I was defeated even before I even stepped into the ring. The trick to overcoming fear is to remind yourself that the fear is in your head. Jesus reminded his disciples that even though they would have troubles and difficulties, he was always with them and he would send them a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Whenever things begin to go bad for me and I find myself gripped with fear I remember Deuteronomy 31:8 and most of the time that is enough for me to grin and surge ahead.

 

I like to present myself as bold and confident in the face of difficulty. Sometimes I tend to overdo it and come across as cocky…even arrogant. This is not usually my intention, but I have come to discover that in life the admission of fear or the succumbing to fear often brings about the circumstance that we are afraid of. Don’t let your fear dictate your actions or define your thoughts. Remember your creator and hold onto whatever word or teaching in your religion that deals with the overcoming of fear. Surround yourself with people of courage and face your fears squarely, and you will find that fear is just a bully without any real power to hurt you. For me, my biggest fear is the fear of failure, but I face that fear every day and continue to do more and more. Face your fear today, and I promise you that you will surely overcome it. Check me out on www.ifeanyiubawords.com for more messages that deal with courage and confidence. Cheers!

ROLE MODELS, MENTORS, AND RIVALS

 

Role models give us something to aspire to, rivals give us something to aim for                                                                                                                                                                                  Ifeanyi Uba

I can never forget the first day I stepped into a martial arts dojo; I was awed by the sight of my late master Vincent Makanju holding up a pair of kicking pads, while master Chris and master Nekan took turns hammering away at the pads with lightning fast, and very powerful kicks. I knew right away that I had to become a fighter and be able to throw beautiful kicks like them. It wasn’t easy to learn though; the training was tough and painful, and I sustained quite a few injuries in the process. The fact that I had trainers who demanded nothing less than 100% effort, 100% of the time made me want to quit more than a thousand times. But I didn’t quit for 3 reasons: first, I had been bullied a lot in secondary school and I wanted to learn how to fight back…like my heroes Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen and Muhammed Ali: second, I had the best teachers and mentors who believed in me and put me through hell to make me better: and third, I had rivals like Olakunle and Blanka who saw me as an opponent to defeat on their own road to greatness. No matter how much pain I was in, I knew that my rivals were right there with me suffering the same pain and learning the same lessons. And if I let up, they would surpass me.

 

Whenever I teach a class – it doesn’t matter what I’m teaching:

it could be financial management, personal effectiveness, or even martial arts or creative writing – I always stress to my students the importance of mentors, role models and rivals. If you are ever going to be the best at anything in this life, you must have all three. Role models give you something to aim for – something to aspire to…an absolute value of greatness that you want to reach, and if possible surpass in your lifetime. Lebron James and Kobe Bryant saw what they wanted to become in Michael Jordan. So you must see the target you are aiming for in someone else.

 

Mentors set you on the road to greatness. These are people whose lifestyles and work ethic give you a template to follow to success. They teach you what they know and encourage you to do more. I have always been blessed with excellent mentors and teachers who took me under their wing and molded my talents into skills. They showed me what was possible, and how I could attain it in the shortest amount of time possible. Without mentors we find life harder and our goals more difficult to achieve.

 

Rivals keep you on that road to success. The thought of losing to someone of equal ability is hard for most of us to bear, so we compete. We challenge, and we struggle not to be outdone because second place is never as nice a place to be as the top. Unfortunately society now rewards marginal efforts and mediocre results. We need to train ourselves and our children to see the importance and benefits of healthy competition, so that with the image of our role models in mind and the help of our mentors to guide us, we can strive to outdo our rivals and go in search of new ones.

 

So, which are you? As a rival you have a duty to bring out the best in yourself and in your competitors. As a mentor you are bound to teach and train your protégé to become great, and as a role model you must uphold the standards of excellence which you have provided for those of us who seek to become as great as you. I encourage you today to continue towards excellence; find yourself a role model to be like; seek out a mentor to help you; and pray for rivals. Because let’s face it…

 

…it’s just not fun throwing kicks at a bag that doesn’t kick back!

YOUR STANCE DETERMINES YOUR STRATEGY

In martial arts one of the very first things you learn is how to stand and position your body, your arms and your legs. This is called a “stance” and stances are very important in every fighting style. Boxers need to keep their feet close together for balance and their arms protecting their face, whether it be a cross arm cover, peek-a-boo block, orthodox forward or southpaw, your stance will determine your entire strategy for the fight. Karate-ka use rigid forearm blocks and extended low stances to maximize fast upper body strikes and powerful kicks. Muy Thai experts use a raised knee stance with elbows and fists cocked to deliver deadly hits from their iron hard joints, while Taekwondo-ka like me utilize an ‘L’ stance with more weight resting on our back legs, enabling us to throw lightning fast kicks while still maintaining our balance. Even those of us who have no knowledge of martial arts can recognize different Wushu (Kung-fu) styles when we see them on TV; Snake style for precision strikes to specific nerves and muscles, Tiger and Eagle claw for power and brutal technique, or even the gracefully unpredictable Drunken Fist and the deadly Praying Mantis and Monkey Fist for distance fighting. The point is that how you stand will determine how you will fight.

Similarly, your stance as a Christian determines what you believe in, where your focus lies and what direction most of your prayers will take. Old time Pentecostals believe in aggressive prayers and holiness above all, and their speech, dressing and lifestyle shows that. Orthodox Christians believe in submission to God’s will and intercession for lost souls along with corporal works of mercy, and we can see this in their doctrine and their passion for helping the poor and needy, as well as the prisoners and sick. New age Apostolics believe in freedom of spirit and embracing the word of God in whatever form it comes, as well as a visible and audible praise and worship lifestyle. There are so many other spiritual stances out there and they are all valid, but they are not all for you. some of us have a passion for lost souls and so we find ourselves worshiping with people who pray a lot and stand in the gap for our generation; some of us believe that our place is to take the battle to the devil everyday and maintain a Spartan existence like a true frontline soldier, so we locate ourselves with the old style Pentecostals; while some of us are mature enough in spirit to be able to live right there in Sodom with the sinners and not be influenced by the sin, but spreading the gospel with a smile and changing cities from the inside out. You need to find out your spiritual stance and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the direction of your divine assignment, where you will do the most damage to the kingdom of darkness.

Before I fight someone, I look at their fighting stance. From their fighting stance I determine where their power lies, and where their attacks will focus on. Then I make them change their stance: if you are an outside fighter I close the gap and make you fight me close quarters; if you are an inside fighter I dance you around and make you come to me, if you are right handed I stay on my left and neutralize your advantage. This is exactly what the devil does; he makes us change our stance so that we cannot fight him effectively, and end up confused and spiritually frustrated. But thank God for the Holy Spirit, who directs us and shows us what to do. Check your stance today, and if you find that your arms have dropped and your legs have become wobbly, brace up and get back into the fight! (read 1 Corinthians 12-14) Cheers!the stance pic