Thursday, May 16, 2013

Choosing Freedom looks at sports behind the iron curtain

For those of you younger than me, that phrase "the iron curtain" may not mean much. Back when I was competing there was a  Cold War going on with the U.S. and its allies on one side and Russia and its allies on the other. It was a stand-off , of sorts, since neither country risked launching nuclear bombs at the other and get nuked in return, but we all wondered if that might happen some day when some people crazy enough got into power.

As a proxy, there were all kinds of other crazy things - wars in Vietnam, Cambodia - and, of course, the Olympics. In 1980, the US boycotted the Olympics in Russia to protest the invasion of Afghanistan (isn't it ironic?). In 1984, the Soviet bloc boycotted the Olympics in the US. In all of the other Olympics, there was continuous moaning when the U.S. lost to Eastern European athletes.

We were told that they trained harder, had better sports science, more dedicated athletes.

One of those athletes, Leo Frincu, recently published a GREAT book called Choosing Freedom.

To be honest, I originally bought the book simply because he is Ronda's strength and conditioning coach and I wanted to support him. The book is only 3.99 for the Kindle. I figured it would probably be some lame new age feel good-y thing about follow your dreams, blah blah blah.

I was wrong.  It started out with Leo's early years in a kindergarten where all Roumanian children were sent during the week while both parents worked. He talked about being beaten and constantly hungry. Well - I don't want to give away how he went from there to world wrestling champion to American citizen and entrepreneur.

When we watch the Olympics in the US we almost never hear the stories of athletes from any of the other countries. Read Leo's book. For those like me who grew up being told that the medals won by people like Leo were vindication of the Soviet way of life and that we should all train and live like the Eastern Europeans, the book will prove especially fascinating.


Anonymous said...

Might add that I too bought a certain De Mars and Pedro Sr.'s book Winning on the Ground just to support some people I respect (not that it didn't seem interesting, just that newaza was not my main focus on the moment), and was surprised by all the good info and material.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Well, thank you. We appreciate it.

Sylver said...

Thanks for the tip. I had never heard of Leo, and since you mentionned his book was only $3.99 (wasn't, it's at $5.99) I figured I might as well pick it up, hoping to get some inkling of what goes on in the training of Eastern athletes.

Turns out it had nothing to do with training, but it was an engrossing read about refusing to settle and going after what you want in life and it had a number of interesting points about living and succeeding.

The test "Do I really want to be doing this in 10 years" in particular and the reality check about the conditions in Eastern Europe were quite eye opening. It's one thing to "know about it" and quite another hear how they were lived from the inside by someone who grew up in that system.

All in all, it was definitely worth half of my afternoon.

While I was there, I picked your book as well and spent the other half of my afternoon reading it. Funny how that works. I meant to get your book quite a while ago but never got around to it until you send me to pick up someone else's book.

All in all, I found your book to be solid although I was a bit disappointed to realize I was already familiar with most of the content. (But then again, I read your blog from start to finish and I do like my groundwork). On the other end, I still short by a few thousand reps on most techniques and that is the real trick, isn't it?

To me, the whole point about drilling and your definition of drilling is probably the single best take away from the book and well worth the price of the book several times over.

Shockingly enough, I realized that I almost never actually drill anything because none of the places I have trained at do it: we do tons of "drilling" with a compliant opponent, we do tons of fighting starting from different positions and going for 3-10 minutes, but there is never this in-between-thing where you start and do a technique with full resistance 50 times in a row.

One thing I am still puzzled about is this question:
"You have been thrown to your stomach and your opponent is behind you."
That was the only situation I didn't have any offensive option for and I didn't find any in the book either. I can defend myself there, but I sure as hell can't attack. (I can go to my knees and then attack, or go to my knees, recover my guard and then attack, but I don't have any direct attack from my stomach) Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

In Soviet Russia, freedom chooses you. lol