Around the time I was 40 I was introduced to the name Rodney King and his Crazy Monkey life brand through my close friend Adam Kayoom – who himself a strong advocate of the system. For an outsider it was a clear and precise tag line; if you were interested in improving your boxing or Jits game on the mat, then this system offered a solution. If you were a law enforcement officer, military operator or someone who felt that self-preservation was necessary in your life then there were more realistic classes. The life part to me was good marketing as it softened the brand, while suggesting somehow it would improve your life.
Personally, I had my doubts, it was a martial art program after all and my life was already Ok, notwithstanding I couldn’t see how the experience on the mat would connect to my life. The truth is, we live in a world where self-help books are as regular as my need to consume chocolate, so I guessed, Rodney had some marketing angle on how learning an arm-bar would help me in the more complex world of self-management and improvement. Bottom line I was sceptical.
First Encounter With Rodney
It wasn’t hard to track Rodney down, his online presence was impressive and his reputation was certainly undisputed. I initially sent him an email and explained I was building a retreat in Thailand which would focus on martial arts. As such I was keen to align myself with his brand, and at the time it felt like a good fit. Adam Kayoom had also some previous experiences with Rodney and knew him personally, so I knew what to expect when we had our first call. The character assessment from Adam was pretty accurate as I navigated my way through a no-nonsense facetime conversation with Rodney, where with a strong accent and a stoic face he finished the conversation by saying “fly me to Thailand, let us meet, let me see the retreat and we can talk”
Several weeks later a ticket was sent to Rodney for a trip to Thailand. We then met in Singapore airport and flew to Thailand together. On the flight we sat next to each other, discussing a variety of topics from martial arts to his passion for self-mastery and inner management tools. At that stage I still saw those words and terminology to be separate from the Crazy Monkey martial arts experience that I was looking for.
From that very first initial trip, I threw myself into the Crazy Monkey philosophy of Mat-Street-Life. That was around 7 years ago now. At the time of starting my journey with Rodney and Crazy Monkey I was a modestly successful businessman with my own security consulting firm, a life time of martial arts experience behind me, and a more than average understanding of the street component of surviving interpersonal violence. I‘ll be honest, at that time, in the beginning of the journey with Rodney, and his programs – I had no idea what that experience would eventually bring into my life.
I am now 50 and have been to every summer camp in Kuala Lumpur, made friendships that I will take to the grave, gained a purple belt in Monkey-Jits, a Blue Glove ranking in CM boxing, became a weaponize-your-body instructor and raised the bar of my martial arts game beyond my expectations. But has the whole experience been contained to the rubric of martial training, where has this experience made the transition in a positive way into my life? Is there a nexus between mat time and self-mastery? And does it exist within the framework of the Crazy Monkey approach?
Mat, Street, Life: Not Just Marketing Hype
Along with the development of my physical martial game, there were some unexpected developments in my personal life, from becoming a senior lecturer at the Royal Police Cadet Academy, a senior lecturer at the famous Rangsit University in Bangkok, gaining a Masters in Criminology and now starting my PhD journey in the same field. I have secured contracts with some of the largest companies in the world, while sitting comfortably with academics who listen carefully to what I have to say. Not bad I’d say for someone who left school at 16.
But, have these developments somehow been connected to the pursuit of excellence in the martial arts training gained in the Crazy Monkey world? Was there a personal transformation from the mat that crossed over into my personal life? If so, how and when did it happen?
The answer for me soon became obvious, the mind-body integration experienced when training is exactly the integration needed to flourish outside of the mat. Without realizing it, I had applied lessons learned whilst training and found myself successful in areas in my life that previously seemed impossible to me. I learned that what was needed to show up on the mat and perform at one’s best are identical to those attributes needed in the world of academia, relationships or business.
The secret is knowing how to attune your embodied intelligence through the grit of training and apply it to all aspects of your life. It took me sometime to realize that this is what I had been doing sub-consciously. My realization has been that these results in my life off the mat had come about through the endless conversations with Rodney and other like-minded people, it was the hours and hours of mat time that had rewired my neural pathways to believe anything was possible. And anything was!
What’s The Message Here?
Simply put, you can choose to silo the three areas of the Crazy Monkey experience and excel in your armbar and possibly grasp the impossible logistics involved in navigating someone throwing punches to your face. You may also find yourself excelling at street jits and being able to do a triangle whilst wearing a pair of jeans and trainers. I don’t for a moment dismiss them. But, my point is that the tenacity it takes to get a purple belt is proportionate and equal to getting a masters degree, and should be approached the same way. The mantra of calmness taught by Rodney when riding the storm on the mat, be that in sparring or rolling – is the same calmness needed when dealing with personal issues at work or from your loved ones.
It is clear to me now that the life aspect of Crazy Monkey is not a separate silo, it is a gift for anyone that has clarity of mind to see the physical experiences of claustrophobia, anxiety, panic, depression and frustration, that once overcome and then transferred to their life is where the true magic lies. But, here’s the problem as I see it: most people doing modern martial arts training today seem to be exclusively focused either on competitive success, or self-defense readiness. As such, you can cheat yourself into believing that you have gained more confidence as a result of the martial component alone. This might be the case on the mat, but in my experience this is where it is likely to stay.
The difference in the Crazy Monkey experience is that one of the primary goals is to make the connection from what is learned on the mat, and find ways to apply it to your life. We are always talking about this, Rodney is always talking about it, and together with others we discuss how that can happen. In other words, the mantra of working towards being calm, focused, and present on the mat is not just something we do in Crazy Monkey to enhance our fight performance, but it’s an embodied experience that we seek to show up in all areas of our life. You need in other words to allow the Crazy Monkey philosophy to enter your blood stream and take full control.
Is CM the psychedelic of the martial arts world, you know the kind that leads to personal transformation? For me it has been!
As I have become more open to the experience and possible transformation though the Crazy Monkey modern martial arts experience, it has allowed me to see the world, and my life in a different way. As I became calm on the mat, I became calm in life. As I became more focused in sparring, I became more focused at work. The more present I became in the roll, the more I showed up in life with equanimity.
In Crazy Monkey the tagline is: Mat-Street-Life. But it is in fact the ‘life’ aspect of the experience that has resonated with me most. The secret as I have learned, just like in the roll, is in accepting the present moment with vision and focus. It’s really about looking for your authenticity both on the mat and off.
In summary, several years ago I bought into a martial art brand and ended up with tools to propel my life. It took some time to figure it out, and a lot of flight time and dedication, however, the Crazy Monkey philosophy is clear; work on your strengths, take lessons from the mat back home with you and reflect on them, embrace the chaos and be true to yourself and trust the process.
My personal mantra for anyone who would like to try it, is train, breath, reflect, and embrace your true nature, be true to what you feel and see inside and repeat. If you can share some love on the way, then even better.
See you all at the Tree Roots Retreat, the official home of the Crazy Monkey Programs in Thailand soon.