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July 29, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Look in the mirror and you see yourself.  What you see is the result of systems: circulatory, respiratory, nervous, digestive, reproductive, the works.  They all kick in to make the image in the mirror.  If you’re standing upright they’re working pretty good.

If you are a wrestler then they are working exceptionally well.

What other systems surround us?  If you drive a car or ride a bike you are on the road system.  Different aspects of the road system come with trail bikes, then you’re on a trail system.  If you’re racing in the Baja 500 you’re on a system that is part road and part air.  Those cars fly.

If you buy a ticket to ride in an airplane, you enter another element of the transportation system, and a tricky one.  It doesn’t take a Wright brother to understand how a jet works but I can listen to an engineer explain thrust and lift all day long and he might as well be wearing a cape and waving a wand.

It’s magic.

What is it about metal and fuel hurtling through the air that makes any sense?  Don’t think too hard about it.  What you do want to concentrate on is being on time and making connections to where you’re going in the air transportation system.

Air Force Colonel John Warden wrote about systems in his book The Air Campaign where he introduced the Five Ring System.  Colonel Warden says any complex system can be broken down into five concentric rings. Each ring, leadership, processes, infrastructure, population and action units, can be used to isolate the elements of any system that need change.

Maybe the bird colonel wasn’t a wrestler, but why not give his idea some air time.

Wrestling leadership starts with the coach in the room and grows upward from there to the school AD, the district, the state, then the national body.

The wrestling process is what it sounds like.  Learn the ropes.

Infrastructure?  Training, travel, matches, repeat.

Population?  The wrestling segment of society.

And the Action Units.  That’s you, the wrestler.  You have your own Five Rings.

Leadership:  Make a difference on your team.  Help those who need it.  Encourage others to do the same.  You learn best when you teach what you know because of the questions you get.  Those questions open doors to new ways of doing things.  Take a mediocre teammate out for a run and explain that while he learns the ropes of the wrestling room, he’ll be in great shape to use what he learns.  They’ll remember you for that the rest of their lives.

Process:  Dive into the physics of wrestling, the leverage, torque, and force.  Be a resource for your teammates.  Even the good ones need some science.

Infrastructure:  A team that polices itself is a winning team.  You know your teammates.  You know who’s slipping here and sliding there.  The wrestling intervention is something that works, but that no one wants.  Better it comes from teammates than parents and administrators or police.  Do your pals a favor and point out the benefits of proper time and place.  If you have a teammate that doesn’t understand that, bring in more teammates to help counsel them.  Just keep it cordial.

Population:  When Dan Gable said wrestling’s not for everyone, but should be, he might be talking about the school bully, the strutting football player, the darling of the drama club.  Get those guys into the wrestling room.  The wider the base on the team, the more stable it becomes, and the better time to be had for everyone.  The only thing better than seeing someone pumped up on themselves get taken down a few notches is seeing someone with no hope to succeed start winning.  And the only thing better than that is seeing those two find common ground.  It only happens in wrestling, or so it seems.  Then you start seeing that pattern all over the place.

Action Units:  A wrestling team is unique in that it’s made up of all body sizes.  You need the big guys, the little guys, and those in between.  A big guy gets quicker working with smaller guys.  A lighter guy learns a few big guy moves to surprise his weight class opponents.  The crowd loves a power move from a lightweight.  Do that often enough and you’ll keep them coming back for more.

Your system of success in wrestling is rooted in diet, rest, and drilling ’til the cows come home.  There’s a story told by wrestlers who traveled to Russia of walking past two kids practicing hip throws.  The guys have a two hour practice and come out to see the same two guys still drilling.  The moral is: that’s what is missing in American wrestling.

Maybe The Five Rings is what’s missing.  Take a ring and work it.  Find four teammates and give them a ring.

Make it a contagious system.  If you need more Five Ring motivation, look toward London in 2012.


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