Conversations with the Master, Tortured Animals and Other Anecdotes

As you probably know, my instructor Master Rafael Nieto was here recently.  We spent a lot of time together during the 48 hours that he was here.

I admire him a lot.  “Raf” as he likes to be called, comes from a Spanish immigrant family who moved to the UK in the 1950’s.  He probably worked in a dozen different fields before becoming a full-time kickboxing instructor.  He is entirely self-made.  Today, at the age of 52, he’s enjoying his life to the fullest.  He takes his dogs out for walks, trains when he feels like it, and goes around the world hiking, diving and mountain climbing.

He and I have long chats when we are together, ranging in topics from martial arts to religion to philosophy to you-name-it!  We also talk about the past, the “good old days.”  It’s been over 13 years since we met, but it seems like just yesterday.

One of the things we talked about was visualisation.  If you’re not familiar with it, it is a technique that a lot of top athletes use to get results.  In fact a lot of top performers in all kinds of fields use it.  I’ve even talked about it in my book, The Ultimate Self-Defence Handbook (you do have a copy, right?)

Anyway, the way it works is that you visualise the thing that you want over and over again in your mind.  You use your imagination.  Let’s use the example of a kickboxer, he would sit there for say 10 to 30 minutes and just visualise the fight in his mind.  He would do that over and over again.  By the time he comes to the actual fight, it almost becomes easy for him since he’s done it so many times in his mind already.

Olympic athletes use this technique too.  If you visualise long enough, and hard enough, you can actually trick the mind into thinking that your body actually did the event, technique or skill for real.  Using visualisation in combination with physical practise is a very powerful tool – a success secret in fact.  I told the students who recently did their Black Belt tests to visualise the event before the grading.

So Master Rafael and I were talking about visualisation.  He told me that one year, when he was going to fight for the world championships, he visualised himself getting into the final match (FYI, in amateur kickboxing competitions it’s not like on TV when the champion “defends” his title against another.  It’s an open competition where you have to fight through several stages until the last two fighters of a certain weight category fight in the final).

So, he told me that he visualised himself getting into the final.  But he said” Suhail, I visualised the wrong thing!  When I got into the final I relaxed, because I reached my goal.  And I lost the fight!  I should have visualised myself winning in the final!”

Isn’t that interesting?  Something similar happened to me when I was doing my MBA.  In the UK postgraduate system, if you get 60% and above you get what is called a degree “with merit”.  Loosely translated, it’s like getting a B or B+.  If you get over 70% your degree is a “distinction.”  Incidentally, I was living in the UK at the time and I chose a university that was just a few minutes away from the kickboxing club in London… but that’s a different story.

I was determined to get at least 60% so that I get a degree with merit.  So I visualised myself getting at least 60%, over and over again.  And guess what, I managed to get exactly 60%!  I was delighted!

But… due to a technicality I did not get the “with merit” title.    It had to do with the fact that I did not attend an exam as I decided to do it a semester later.  So I should have visualised the merit, not the 60% and above!  Oh well, not that it matters at all.

Going Around Bahrain

I try to show Master Rafael different things each time he comes over.  This is not an easy thing considering the small size of our island, but I managed.  One of the places I took him to was the traditional souq in Isa Town.

It was amazing!  I’ve been there before but I never went in as “deeply” as I did that day.  There were people selling all kinds of junk – literally, junk!  People were selling second-hand hoses (who buys second-hand hoses??),  second-hand clothes, broken phones, ancient TV’s and all kinds of weird items, like a used bath tub!  It was quite a site!

There was also a section selling birds and other pets.  I’ve been to a couple of bird markets in Bahrain before, so I’m used to seeing the cruel conditions in which the animals were kept, but poor Raf!  He was flabbergasted.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

There were literally dozens and dozens of cages filled to the rim with birds.  There was one cage where all we could see was eyes and feathers.  After closer inspection we realised it was a cage full of pigeons!  There were also ducks and chickens kept in tight bird cages.  I’ve never seen three or four chickens stuffed in a bird cage before!  Poor things looked miserable.

They had all manner of birds there.  From parrots to love birds to I-don’t-know-what-they-were.  We even saw a big cage full of peacocks!  There were also rabbits, turtles, puppies and lemurs kept in bird cages (Don’t ask me where they got the lemurs from).  And I must admit I’m a bit puzzled why almost ALL animals were stored in bird cages.

The poor puppies we saw were whimpering the whole time!  One puppy was placed on top of a bird cage.  Poor guy was shivering.  It was a fascinating yet sad site.  In the video below you can here Raf saying “Let’s get out of here before I buy a f***ing dog!”

So we left…  Here’s the video:

[sorry video has been deleted when the blog was moved to a new server]

One Response to Conversations with the Master, Tortured Animals and Other Anecdotes

  1. Nick Venter 10 February 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    It is pretty sad how animals are treated in Bahrain, I have never seen so many stray cats and dogs around.

    I have rescued plenty cats and taken them to the BSPCA, driving around Bahrain I can’t believe how many dead cats I count in a day. I have even taken the stray cat from our workshop to get fixed up because every six weeks she would have another litter, that was 50BD well spent! The BSPCA can’t keep up with all the animals that are brought in, why can’t the government bring in student vets from UK ,SA and let them stay a few months and get all the stray cats and dogs fixed to stop the unchecked explosion of animals? or donate some money to improve the BSPCA?(or dont they care?) I have two cats that I brought with me from SA and when It’s time to move on from here the cats will go with….I get so F@#%ing mad when I hear a story about an expat thats just leaves there pets behind when they go back to there country…so why get a pet in the first place!

    thank you.

    ps well done to the new black belts!!

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