Moving Party

Standard

I have moved to a new site! Check it out: www.emilykcorso.com

Yes, I have a dot com! Fancy, right?

Emily Corso MMA Site Thumbnail

Blog posts, business, fight photos, and all that jazz will all be over there from here on out. I have a lot of projects in the works– including interviews, essays, speaking gigs, and training offerings (such as my New Year Special on self-defense and Form & Function’s awesome deal on personal training)– that you don’t want to miss out on. If you’re subscribed to my WordPress blog and still want to keep up on my posts, please take a moment to subscribe to the new blog so that you don’t miss anything.

This is what it actually looks like when I move. The neighbors probably think I'm a rabid WWE fan...

Scene from my last moving party: The neighbors probably think I’m a rabid WWE fan…

A friend of mine is a Squarespace guru, and she helped me put the new site together. I’m very grateful for her help, and quite happy with the finished product. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to provide value to my readers, clients, and community using this powerful interface…

But, just as in the gym, no one gets better without good coaching, so please have a look at the new site and let me know what you think!

It’s Official!

Standard
I signed it!

I signed it!

I am very excited to announce that I just signed a multi-fight contract with Invicta Fighting Championships! Invicta FC is the premier all-women’s MMA promotion, and home to the best female mixed martial artists in the world. I am particularly glad to be joining Invicta FC’s ranks because not only are all of their athletes women, but the company is female-owned and female-run as well– and this sport needs more women in high-up positions!

Having never thought that what was once my hobby would take me this far, I’m amazed at the new paths opening up before me as I enter this next level of competition. I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow while working with this powerhouse promoter and being pitted against the best flyweights from all over the globe.

Thanks for supporting me, friends!

Whoohoo!

[Mandatory bicep shot, so you know I mean business]

Howard v. Corso III and New Management

Standard

Better late than never, right? Let’s get up to speed…

On October 11th I fought a very skilled opponent for a third time, and for a third time I came out on top. Katie Howard and I were the Main Event for Prime Fighting IV— a killer promotion that was stacked with fast-paced professional and amateur MMA fights.

There's nothing in life that feels quite like getting your hand raised...

Highlights: I submitted Katie via RNC at 2:02 min into the 2nd round. (In our two previous fights, I beat her with an armbar and an RNC). We also took Fight of the Night (sponsored by Metro Equipment Exchange) and had the honor of being Prime Fighting’s first ever female Main Event. Additionally, I came away with a ridiculously large title belt and the privilege to call myself Prime Fighting’s Female Flyweight Champion.

I haven’t had a fight in or even close to Portland for over a year, so I was overjoyed to get to have friends, teammates, sponsors, and fans in the audience to cheer me on this time. Trying to beat up a stranger, while locked into an oddly-shaped cage, is even more fulfilling when friends are present to support you.

Sometimes I have to ask myself, how did life get this good?

Putting the RNC on Katie Howard again.

Putting the RNC on Katie Howard again.

I am very grateful to Prime Fighting for setting me up with that match– as well as to my friends, teammates, and sponsors who supported me leading up to and during the fight.

In November, I was thrilled to add another excellent person to my team when I signed Bryson Davis of Meyer Davis PLLC as my manager. He is a fellow Reed College graduate and MMA aficionado who has already helped me dig into some great opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, stay tuned for a BIG announcement coming VERY SOON!

Want to know why I'm so excited? Just signed a fight contract, guess who with...

In my next post you’ll find out why I’m so excited about this piece of paper…

An Alarmingly Simple Way to Stay Present

Standard

I wonder... are they texting each other?

Do you ever catch yourself messing around on your phone or frequently using it to check the time while hanging out with friends?

If you’re like most of us, you often pull out your phone to check the time (let’s be honest: watches are mostly a thing of the past) and end up unlocking the screen and firing off replies to newly discovered texts, emails, and social media notifications. Though brief, these little distractions pull you out of the present moment and steal your focus.

And not only is this a rude habit to get into, but since humans are actually awful at multitasking, it is also extremely inefficient to bounce your focus back and forth between a conversation and your mobile device.

I’ve found a simple trick to free myself from the urge to check on things when I really want to focus: I set an alarm before I begin a new task.

If the distraction arises from needing to be somewhere on time, I set an alarm for a few minutes before I will need to leave. That way, I can carry on my conversation or activity without any reason to look at the time, because the timer will let me know know when I need to wrap things up.

I also use this for quiet activities such as writing and studying. For these sorts of endeavors I want to be able to focus without checking the time on my phone or laptop (which would risk derailment). Setting an alarm is particularly effective in this context because it removes the temptation to use technology to procrastinate, thus decreasing the amount of willpower needed to stay on task. Yet another benefit lies in creating a steady workflow through rhythmic periods of working and taking breaks– and having a planned on/off cycle is less mentally taxing since it further decreases the necessity to self-regulate attention.

But my favorite use for this technique is simply for relaxation. Not only does setting yourself an alarm release you from checking the time you have remaining in an endeavor, but it creates a sense of timelessness. I use this method as a regular part of my recovery process between workouts for tranquil activities like baths (which can be taken either hot or iced), meditation, and power naps.

Freed from the anxiety of having to be anywhere or do anything, the time outside of time that meditation creates can be particularly restorative.

Now is all you have.

“Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.” — Eckhart Tolle

Go ahead and try a few of these “alarming” tactics for yourself– and please comment if you have your own to share!

photo credit: Twm™ via photopin cc

Kill The Thing You Love

Standard
Drink it.

I hear it takes just a little drop…

Many people worry that if they do what they love whole-heartedly, they will kill it.

It must be a slow death. No one has ever said that being handed that first paycheck for publishing their novel felt like getting shot. But perhaps they worry that turning in draft after draft of their second book, facing criticism and rejection and still having to pump out more pages would poison their love for writing. But so what if it does?

It’s likely that you’re not still dating your high school sweetheart or driving that first car you were so crazy about. You’ve gotten over a few books, movies, and albums that you could consume on repeat when you first discovered them. And I would bet you have some favorite foods you no longer order when you go out. Maybe overuse is what did them in, or it’s possible that you just moved on from them naturally.

I’ve found that for each love I manage to kill, new ones always spring up. Old passions walk out into the ocean to drown just as new ones are arriving over the horizon. Author and poet Oscar Wilde addresses the benign inevitability of this lifelong process. He writes, “Some do the deed with many tears/ And some without a sigh/ For each man kills the thing he loves/ Yet each man does not die.”

I’m sure you’ve heard others express concern for killing their love of something. The mantra goes like this: “I love photography (or dancing or cooking or coding!)– but I could never do it for a living because then it wouldn’t love it. I do it for me, but if I did it for work that would take all of the joy out of it.”

Oh, really? It appears that for some, indulging in his or her passion is less important than avoiding pain. But that just doesn’t seem balanced to me.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around the notion that work is a special category, an activity where one should spend half of their waking life doing something that he or she is willing to hate (or at best feel meh about).

Maybe they are concerned that doing something often, doing it for money, doing it under someone else’s scrutiny and advice, or doing it on a timeline will necessarily eek all the fun out of things.

I’m not convinced.

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” Mae West

With the exception of doing something only for pay, all of those work-associated traits make you better at things. Frequent practice, constructive critique, and being accountable to a schedule are all factors that improve performance. Who wouldn’t want to improve at doing what they love, even if it’s just a hobby?

And this mentality applies to activities other than work too. It applies to every dog-lover who feels that actually having a pet would be too much hassle. It applies to every musician who practices incessantly, but refuses to play an at open mic night. It applies to all of the people who insist they train jiu jitsu “just for fun.”

So don’t get too hung up on aphorisms like everything in moderation, or worry that immersing yourself in your craft will necessarily result in poisoning it with too much of a good thing. Could it happen? Sure. But you’ll recover. And if things go well and you don’t manage to drown your affections, the positive outcome will be well worth the risk…

“Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

photo credit: ˙Cаvin 〄 via photopin cc

Updates and Gratitude Practices

Standard

Last week things were going pretty damn good.

Cage Sports 31 Griffith 7.19.14

Going toe to toe with Hadley Griffith.

It started out when I beat “Relentless” Hadley Griffith at CageSport 31 last Saturday. Coach called while I was on vacation in early and talked me into fighting a 5’11” seasoned pro on July 19th– meaning I would jump straight into the hardest part of our fight camp as soon as I got back to Portland.

The time flew by, and before I knew it Coach was wrapping my hands, then I was walking down the ramp at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA to climb into the cage again. That went by quickly too when I secured a win via rear naked choke at 1:52 minutes into the first round.

And my streak continued on Monday when I passed my road test and finally got licensed to drive in the state of Oregon. (More about my experience of learning to drive again is here.) Then I came in to Gracie Barra Portland for jiu jitsu practice the next day and was very surprised when Professor Fabiano Scherner promoted me to purple belt at the end of class. Almost eight years of training brought me to that point on a random Tuesday night.

Cars know to share the road when I'm on my way to practice.

Cars know to share the road now when I’m on my way to practice.

Then the Willamette Week came out with it’s Best of Portland list on Wednesday and I was featured in the “Best Moves” category for Best Beatdown. (You can read it the full text of that here.) On Thursday, I took my first steps towards becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by joining the NSCA and purchasing study materials for the CSCS certification exam. I’d hemmed and hawed about getting certified for a long time and I’m thrilled to finally be able to the plunge.

So, on the one hand, it feels like everything has been coming up roses lately. I’m excited to see how long I can make that last.

On the other hand, last week was not particularly different from many others in my life over the last few years. Actually, I’ve been feeling like I’m on a roll for quite some time since I found my bliss.

One of my day-of-competition rituals is to spend some time writing about and meditating on the things in my life that I’m thankful for. I don’t only do this before fights, but it does have particular value for me at that time. It always renews my passion for what I’m doing, puts me in a positive mindset, and makes me feel confident and supported from within. On fight night, it helps me tap into the circumstances of previous successes in such a way that future success feels imminent.

Whenever I need a little boost– and often, too, when I’m already feeling upbeat about how things are going– I put some of my gratitude for down in writing. This can take narrative form like a journal entry, or it could be a list or even a diagram if that’s how I want to organize my thoughts on that day. It can be specific or general, narrow or encyclopedic.

You don’t necessarily even need to write your thankfulness down, though studies show this is actually more effective. I find it nice to be able to refer back to later on, too.

Sometimes I write about everything that is going right in just one part of my life, such as my training:

  • how much my lifting is improving
  • how good it feels to be strong
  • how awesome my coaches are
  • how tip-top I feel about the last sparring session or fight
  • how a new technique is finally clicking
  • how helpful my teammates are
  • how easy my cardio plyos feel
  • how glad I am not to be injured

On other days I try surveying all of the areas where I am seeing success and/ or improvement using broad categories like:

  • friendships
  • health
  • physical fitness
  • finances
  • learning
  • “work”
  • opportunities for leisure
  • relationships
  • competition
  • personal development
  • creative projects

Another way to access the bliss of gratitude is to send a thank you note explaining to someone who has been positive in your life what they’ve done for you and how it makes you feel. If snail mail isn’t your jam, saying thank you in person, on the phone, or publicly via social media can have similar cognitive benefits– with the added perk that it can help strengthen your preexisting network of friends.

Thanks, gno thanks

I suppose gnomes write thank you “gnotes”…

However you choose to do it, honing in on the great things you might otherwise take for granted will help you draw on confidence and strength during moments of stress. Moreover, many people find that taking time for this process on a regular basis boosts their overall mood and brings more positivity into their lives even when they’re not consciously focusing on being thankful.

When I reviewed my own gratitude list from last weekend it was immediately obvious to me that I was already on a roll before that awesome week even started.

Take a moment today to write down some of the things you are thankful for. Then let me know: is it possible that you have also been on a roll without noticing it?

photo credit: Ernie Sapiro

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc

Breathe

Standard
Paying attention to your breath: it works in yoga and when you're getting hit in the face!

Paying attention to your breath: it works in yoga and when you’re getting hit in the face!

In combat sports we re-learn how to breathe.

Boxing coaches will teach you to breathe out with each punch. Jiu jitsu instructors will remind you to breathe steadily through the entire match. Short breaths are good for explosive movements like strikes, while deep, relaxed breathing facilitates the sustained movements of grappling.

While advice like “breathe while moving” might seem obvious or redundant, it isn’t. This is because many new combat sports practitioners simply find themselves unconsciously holding their breath. And since new athletes often don’t yet possess good cardiovascular conditioning, their level of perceived exertion skyrockets because they accidentally forget to breathe while under stress.

Usually, respiration is an automatic process regulated by that little knot of grey matter located towards the back of your skull which connects your spine to the rest of your brain. This is called the brainstem. You can think of it as your lizard brain: it controls the extremely basic, unconscious functions (such as your hear rate, breathing, sleep cycle, and ability to maintain consciousness) that all animals have and which will hopefully run on autopilot all of your life.

But respiration also has a voluntary override. This post will address the technique and benefits of learning to toggle this override.

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you know that yoga is so much more than just stretching. A good yoga instructor will cue you to bring your awareness to your breath and draw it into your chest, abdomen, and nostrils. This is because learning to control your breathing, especially in difficult or strenuous circumstances, helps still the mind and re-focus your efforts.

Breeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaathhhhhe

In between rounds my coach and corner, Nick Gilardi, helps me regain my composure, raising his hands and saying “Breeeeeaaaathe.”

Even in less intense circumstances, bringing awareness to your breathing will teach you to notice the mind’s tendency to leap around from one thing to the next. By beginning to observe this habit in yourself you can learn to shut it off and thereby become more fully present in the moment.

While yogis and practitioners of formal meditation call this “mindfulness” or “Being,” many athletes refer to it as being in “the zone” or in a “flow state.” Though combat might seem to be about as far away as you can get from peaceful meditation, the two are not so different because being in the zone is just a form of moving meditation. With complete presence comes the ability to respond calmly and without hesitation as events occur.

As you learn to control your breath and incorporate this into your training you can begin to let go of the conscious override and let it shift back to being a mostly automatic process. (Which happens to be how many such functions work: they are conscious while you learn them, then they switch over to being unconscious once the skill is acquired.)

An added bonus to this approach is that steady breathing increases oxygen intake, which in turn improves athletic performance. This also helps regulate heart rate, improve recovery time, and bring oxygen into the blood to help muscles function. On the psychological side of things, it’s benefits include decreasing anxiety and shifting attention away from pain. This allows for more efficient allocation of mental resources, especially when learned well enough to be automatic.

It's a nice sentiment, but a strange place to put the reminder....

It’s a nice sentiment, but a strange place to put the reminder….

Practicing MMA will teach you to keep breathing when you feel the adrenaline flooding into your body, to keep breathing when you’re taking hard shots the face, to keep breathing when you’re three rounds into a fight and still not sure how you are going to seal the deal before time runs out.

Of course, learning to keep breathing under duress comes in handy in a variety of less dangerous (but no less intense) situations, such as job interviews, presentations, performances, and networking events– to name just a few. Set aside a few minutes to practice each day and you’ll likely find numerous ways to use this skill in your daily life.

photo credit: Nicholas_T via photopin cc

photo credit: Deanna Wardin @ Tattoo Boogaloo via photopin cc