Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - Chapter 4 - PHYSICAL PERFECTION AND STRENGTH - By George Hackenschmidt

I now propose to lay before you by own views as to the most direct method of gaining physical perfection, strength, and dexterity.

There are a good many works in existence on training and physical culture, especially in England. Among these there are some very useful ones, but I have missed in most of them certain rules which are indispensable for the attainment of a high degree of strength., I do not propose to weary you with strange expressions and scientific language, but I wish to make you acquainted with a system to which I owe my own strength, and under which ALL other well-known strong men have trained.

In the first instance, I would have you observe the following very important rules, the neglect of which in any system, even my own, would decrease its value: Do You Wish to Become Strong?

Certainly, you will answer, that is my intention, that is my wish, to which I should reply that a simple wishing will not do it. You must want to-in other words, you must act.

You have no idea how much stress I lay on this first condition. The will I should call that incessant inward impulse which spurs one on to the goal. The beginning is difficult, and many a man gets no further than the initial stages. He is not unlike the would-be piano virtuoso, who, after a few lessons, comes to the point when the exercises become more difficult and tedious, when he throws them up altogether. Others, again, put exercises off from day to day by taking firm mental resolutions to begin in earnest and to make up for lost time, on the morrow - which seldom comes.

The question whether anyone can become strong I answer emphatically in the affirmative. I could mention dozens of cases where men of an already advanced age (40 to 60), and under the most difficult circumstances, have acquired quite a considerable increase of strength by physical culture.

I have already pointed out the increase of strength mean betterment of health and increase of comfort, so that every man must profit by such increase of strength, even if he does not intend to acquire it for professional or other pecuniary purposes.

Believe me, excuses which a man may advance, such as, " I am too old," "I have not sufficient time," "My position or my business does not permit, etc.," are all mere subterfuges to cover a weak will power. You Britons have a splendid proverb, "Where there's a will there's a way," and I am a staunch believer in it.

Now, I quite admit that to produce an extraordinarily strong man ( or woman) very many favourable conditions are necessary, but I sincerely trust that the coming generation will average a physical perfection such as that now displayed by athletes, and if so this will be due to the rational physical culture and care of the body, which deservedly finds every day fresh adherents.

The determination to become strong is indispensable for success, and the best proof of this is that among the masses of hard toilers, however strange it may seem, we do not find very strong people, certainly not in the measure as one might expect. As a wrestler, I have had an opportunity of discovering strong men in all positions of life. Manual labour alone is therefore not the source of strength. All prominent strong men have fostered their strength by the aid of strong will power; they wanted to become strong, and consequently succeeded.

I remember a photographer in Germany who confessed to me that although in his youth he was a great enthusiast for physical culture, yet, when he realised that he would have to be a conscript, the idea of which was not only distasteful but even dreadful to him, he neglected the exercises he had once pursued, with the absolute intention of becoming unfit and exempt from service - in which he succeeded. Here is a case of a man who wished not to be strong, and who exerted his will power to that end. The result he attained was, that from his appearance I should call him a withered individual. If a man can to such an extent exercise his will against nature, how much more can he do so to foster a natural process?

As further evidence of the influence of the "Will to Develop Weakness," may be instanced the case of the Russian Jews, among whom military service is most unpopular.

In fact the vast majority of Russian Jews seek to evade their military service, by every means in their power, and find that the only really efficacious method is by being physically unfit.

Now, as is well known, the Jews as a people are one of the healthiest in the world, and one, moreover, which has turned out a very large number of prominent athletes. The Jew, as a man, is usually quite up to the average degree of physical fitness, but the Russian Jews by the deliberate neglect of every species of physical exercise and by means of an absolute determination to become weak, manage to get themselves rejected as soldiers, in numbers out of all proportion to the relative size of their community.

"Wer will kann" (he who has the will has the power) was the motto Herr Unthan, the man without arms, who succeeded in developing his feet in such a manner that he could use them to better advantage than many a clever man can use his hands. Another similar case is the one Miss Rapin, the clever Swiss painter and artist, who was born without arms. My readers probably know of numerous similar cases.

Again, I have come across many young men, who by nature seem very weak, but who, in consequence of physical exercises and a strong will power, became prominently strong.

You must have faith in your ability to make yourself strong.

It has already been proved at the present day that thought constitutes real power. A very clever apparatus has been invented, and is in existence, call the "muscle bed." This automatically registers which parts of the body are provided with a more liberal flow of blood, by the simple impulse, will or thought of the person measured. Consequently, it is by no means immaterial how and what one thinks.

Banish, therefore, all your sad or miserable thoughts, and keep on with your physical training, without thinking for one moment that you might not succeed.

Govern Your Thoughts

This rule is absolutely necessary in all stages of life if you wish to succeed, for without concentration of thought, you are courting failure. How many people are there who are, so to speak, the shuttlecock of their thoughts! Every moments hundreds of ideas and thoughts rush through their brain, causing an expenditure of energy without adequate return in results. Just fancy a man at the Bisley rifle range taking aim and shooting at the same moment as he thinks of something quite different. Do you think he will carry off the King's prize, or indeed, any prize? No, he will not even hit the target. If, therefore, you wish to become healthy and strong, you must give your thoughts to the full and without restriction in this direction, even to the most insignificant performances of your daily life. Concentrate your mind upon the idea of acquiring health and strength!

To give a few examples. The ordinary mortal may be reading his daily paper or book while taking his meals; his mind is occupied with what he is reading, instead of being bent on acquiring nourishment. He neglect proper mastication of his food, bad teeth, hence arise - indigestion, non-assimilation of food,bad teeth, and other ailments. Many people who suffered from painful chronic indigestion have been cured of it by the simple remedy, however strange it sounds: thorough mastication. Another man will train for years according to a fairly good method, but he neglects to devote his mind to his movements.

Instead of clinging to the one important thought, "I will become strong," or "I will strengthen this particular muscle," he allows his thoughts to be distracted from the main point: the result is useless training, simply manual labour without increase of strength, but, perhaps, decrease. Every wrestler will admit that thoughts are his powers; whilst one is measuring one's strength and skill with an opponent, one's thoughts must be concentrated on the game, otherwise defeat is certain. A wrestler whose attention or thought is distracted, invariably loses.

As I mentioned before, it has been proved by experiments that thought can influence a livelier rush of blood to certain parts of the body, hence the hot head and cold feet of the brain worker.

A physical culture pupil will profit by this knowledge, and avoid, for instance, erotic thoughts, for he who has erotic thoughts and steers his blood into organs which are superfluous for our purpose, instead of into the arms and legs, which he intends to, and should, make strong.

One ought to avoid all unnecessary worry and exciting thoughts, and to cultivate a firm tranquility of mind. I have formed the conviction that all unnecessary sorrows and cares act in all circumstances harmfully upon one's constitution. Melancholy reflections will in no way influence Fate, whereas one may weaken the constitution by the waste of energy while indulging in them. The best is to do one's duty conscientiously, and to leave the rest to Him who guides our destiny.

He who wants to become strong can succeed in conquering his failings and mastering his shortcomings by regulating his life accordingly.

Hindrances to the Acquisition of Strength

Under the heading I would include the consumption of alcohols and tobacco, coffee, etc. Alcohol is, in my opinion, a nerve poison, which is not assimilated and requires a great expenditure of energy for its excretion. Furthermore, it decreases energy and deadens certain inner forces, of which we may be unconscious and which otherwise may be of great service to us. For instance, we may be tired, that is, our senses bid us leave off and rest, and thus collect fresh natural energy. But under the influence of alcohol, we are easily induced to act against our natural instinct, and as each action is followed by a reaction, the latter shows itself in various disagreeable and eventually harmful shapes, depression of spirit, bad humour, bad digestion, loss of appetite, and so forth. Alcohol therefore, or any similar stimulant which has an unnatural effect, must be injurious.

The consumption of tobacco is the most useless vice which exists. Nicotine is a direct poison to the heart, and, like alcohol, is very harmful.

I will admit that I can see no crime in an occasional indulgence in a glass of wine or a cigar; the main point is simply to be able to keep one's body and mind under full control. You may compare the connection of body and mind or soul to that between the mesmerist and his medium. It is a well-known fact, that the oftener the medium submits to the will of the mesmerist the more easily the state of hypnotism is reached. If, therefore, the more easily the state of hypnotism is reached. If, therefore, the mind or soul submits to suggestions of the weaker organ, the body, which bids him to have a smoke now and again, to neglect physical exercise to-day, or to repeat this suggestion with easier and possibly increased success. Hence to obey your body weakens the will, whilst to control it gives one strength of mind.

Moderation in sexual intercourse is very important. Sexual abstemiousness should be strictly observed during the early stage of manhood and development. He who observes this recommendation will soon benefit by the immense prerogatives of chastity. A few years ago a colleague of mine said to me: "Nonsense, that is only human nature." This "clever" man, however, reached only a secondary position as a strong man, and now, at the age of thirty, he is actually degenerating as an athlete. Coffee is a stimulant and, as such, would be better avoided entirely.

Iron Nation
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