Relentlessness

I was watching a really great fight last night, but the way it ended made me reflect a little on fighting and on struggle in general: relentlessness is underrated. You should never lose because you are out of gas.

There are so many things in any struggle that are outside of your control: sometimes you don’t have the talent or the skill to overcome your opponent, and that can be forgiven. Maybe you got sick or got hit in the right place at an unlucky moment (it’s why they call it a puncher’s chance, after all).

But to lose because you were tired? Or because your will broke? To me, that would be much more devastating. Endurance (and the will to endure) does not require skill, talent, or luck. It is absolutely within our control in how we prepare for (and deal with) struggle. Winston Churchill once wrote admiringly of the medieval Scots in their wars with the English; their equipment and training were inferior, they were inherently undisciplined, but the remained very formidable because of their tirelessness and utter refusal to surrender.”Once set in place, they had to be killed.”

I started wrestling late in high school, and was a shitty wrestler down to my last day. I still look back with pride, however, on my experience. I knew I wasn’t any good, but while I tried to refine my techniques, I resolved that at the very least, nobody was going to be stronger or better-conditioned than I was. Those were simply matters of putting in the time and driving myself further over the line, workout by grueling workout. We had holes in my ramshackle team, so I routinely had to wrestle guys 20-40 pounds heavier than I was. I got beat in every imaginable way, often painfully.

No one ever outlasted me, though. Nobody intimidated me. And you know what? That led to more than a few victories. I can remember one match in particular: at a natural 175 pounds, my logical weight class was 171, or even 160 if I were to have done the crazy weight-cutting. I had to fill the gap at 215 for us to have a shot at overall victory. This dude had clearly had to cut to make the 215 weight, and he tossed me around for almost two periods. In the “down” position, I kept standing up, bursting off the ground, but I couldn’t break free, and gradually, he’d rip me right back down onto the floor. Early in the third, however, I burst up again, and this time I got out. As I faced him, looking already to grab his head, something dawned on me: he was gasping for breath, he could barely keep his arms up, and when I looked into his eyes, I could see palpable disbelief.

“How does this guy keep standing up?” “How is he not tired?” “How does he not understand that he’s beat?”

When the buzzer rang, I had him out-pointed. I didn’t pin him, I didn’t “major” him, and dang, it was ugly, but I had taken care of the things under my control, and I got my arm raised.

Only recently have I realized how much I should have applied that to many more things in my life in the years afterward. Training oneself for unlimited relentlessness may not make you the best at whatever you do, and it’s sure as hell not guaranteed to bring home the win in a struggle, but as the English and so many opponents in time (including last night’s loser) found out, it makes you indisputably formidable. If, once set in place, you need to be killed, victory may yet be earned, despite inferior talent, skill, experience, etc. If not victory, then at least respect, from your opponents and (most importantly) from the person you see in the mirror.

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