Book Review: The Fighter Within

Introduction

When imagining a prizefight, visions of hand wraps, flashing lights, and similarly weighted opponents may approach the forefront of your thoughts. Truth is, the many walks of life pinned on every corner of the globe engage in battle on a regular basis, evidenced by our daily encounters with stress, conflict, or a decline in physical and/or emotion well-being. After eight years of dedication, Chris Olech bound a collection of practices of martial artists to act as your daily cornermen throughout his tome, The Fighter Within: Everyone Has A Fight (2016).

The life stories and paths to success of the fighters could be emulated in the business world, which mirrored the fighters’ success. (p. 178)

What’s It About?

So, I ask you: what is your fight? What is your place in life? Truly ponder this question; use it and the humility of martial arts to create a better you, whether it be with your family, your friends, your work, or anything else. Let it take over your thoughts and use it to set those goals that you can systematically achieve over time. By the time you reach the final chapter of this book, you will see that these processes hold true for some of the best in the world. (p. 17)

Writing Style

Incorporating a casting call of world renowned fighters and coaches, Olech paints a panoramic mural with his words to portray The Fighter Within all of us does not require a bell (aside from maybe an alarm clock) to announce the need for setting plans into motion.

What I noticed right away was that even the big guys were still students of the game; Demian was enthralled with Rob Kaman’s training, Matt Serra was super attentive to Demian Maia’s techniques, Jeff Joslin was taking in all that Babalu was demonstrating, and so on. It was a great thing to see that they still felt they had a lot to learn, even at the elite level. (p. 63-64)

Instead of passively ascertaining the thought processes of those who have stood at, or continue to strive toward, their martial endeavors, Olech inked his firsthand experience after embedding himself in the same atmosphere as the many former champions and contenders who adorned rings or cages across almost every continent.

I must admit that I was very happy being there that afternoon, so far away from my comfort zone. Life brings many opportunities, and when it works, it works. I believed that I was meant to be there at that point in my life and that I had a lot to experience, learn, and grow with, as a person. (p. 41)

According to Olech, idly picking up what he laid down on the page will, more than likely, not yield the results you may be seeking. Effectiveness pixelates upon an application of instruction and Olech demonstrated this universal truth when detailing his entrance and success in one of Jiu-Jitsu’s most prominent tournaments: Grappler’s Quest.

I had yet again learned how to approach my goals systematically to get the best results. I sacrificed time with my family, took away the things I craved (food), outworked others in preparation, and kept a strong mind and focused on the prize as I resisted situations trying to pry that focus away. This was the winning formula—one that I could also apply to my everyday life experiences and to help others as well. (p. 114)

The Fighter Within modeled the mindset required to champion the daily grind, though Olech cited a favorite author of his to encapsulate the idea:

“Whoever I am, or whatever I am doing, some kind of excellence is within my reach.”—John W. Gardner (p. 101)

Learning From the Best

From cover to cover, The Fighter Within is littered with monumental names in combat sports. The individuals featured by way of Olech’s pen peeled back their layers of wisdom, morphing their impossible feats on the canvas into practices utilized day-in and day-out. Matt Olson, owner of API [Athletic Performance Institute], a gym home to the likes of Sean Sherk and Brock Lesnar, it all begins with a solid foundation,

“The basics must be established before an athlete can progress to advanced levels. You would be amazed at how many pro athletes have so many basic physical issues. In my experience, MMA fighters have the worst agility and hand strength issues when weights don’t come with handles.” (p. 36)

Once the fundamental scaffolds are in place, John Danaher, mad scientist on the mats who can roll with a myriad of topics, as well as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, using a crafty complexity, would advise you to check-in with yourself and your influence on the sphere surrounding you,

“Is there anything more I could be doing to make myself and the people around me happier?” (p. 81)

When Olech sat down with Rashad Evans, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, it may widen eyes to learn how debilitating  Evans’ fear was the night before his fight against, arguably, the scariest man on the planet at that time of MMA: Chuck Liddell. The visualization technique imparted onto Evans from Randy Couture, a former UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Champion, cracked the door that many would rather keep shut, locked, and toss the key.

He told him to truly make friends with the feelings, and imagine the most embarrasing things happening to him. Only then would he be able to compete to the best of his abilities, being content in the fact that no matter what, the sun was still going to rise the next day and the people who loved him would still love him the next day—life would go on. (p. 92)

If Couture’s methodology doesn’t vibe with your style, it may behoove you to soak in the strategy passed on to some of the greatest mixed martial artists to step foot into Canada’s Tristar Gym with coach Firas Zihabi. Zihabi addresses the moment with,

“Flow with the go.” (p. 158)

Over the course of pushing forward, Rich Franklin, former UFC Middleweight Champion, reminded everyone who inserts the many teachings found in The Fighter Within to not get distracted by anything shiny along the way.

“People don’t realize that you get so…[pausing to find the right words] it’s so much a heavy search for results in life that you forget that the journey is the most important. I think with me, that’s what happened. Suddenly, I had the title and the world was moving so fast all of a sudden, and I did not realize what was the most important was the journey to get there!” (p. 141)

Rating

As a fan of martial arts, mixed or independent entities, and a proponent of developing a growth mindset, I valued Olech’s patient tenacity to extend great lengths in order to complete his interviews. By engaging in conversations outside the sterility of the phone, Olech breathed life into a context that would have otherwise escaped; thereby his efforts and quality in creating The Fighter Within is deserving of five out of five stars.

Conclusion

Any doubters who may struggle to conceptualize the finish line while starting down the boulevard of broken dreams can partake in the possibility of taking the first steps. We don’t have to step in a cage or put our pulse on the line to lasso a similar degree of success summarized by Olech

Every one of the events I went through in my life, good or bad, shaped and molded me. My good nature, respectful approach toward people, mental strength, and never-say-die attitude are all attributable to my upbringing and milestones in life. We all have a story; we all have a battle to fight and goals that we are striving for in the rat race of life. (p. 16)

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