Transcript for Daniele Bolelli – on Discipline, Surviving Challenges & Martial Arts

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so what interests me in the mindset that

it creates is how do you stay into a

losing fight and so the trick for me was

how do I figure out a way to in a

completely hopeless scenario how do I

conquer this one second you know the

next minute the universe will crush you

in the end but until then just a fun


what’s up guys Xavier katana here and

you are listening to the human

experience we had Daniele but lately on

the show who is a really interesting

person he run his own podcast called the

drunken Taoists and we get into martial

arts he’s written a few books we get

into those so very interesting material

very interesting conversation here with

mr. Daniela bolelli

which you should enjoy thank you guys so

much for listening the human experiences

in session my guest for today is mr.

Daniele bolelli Daniele it’s a pleasure

welcome to hxp

thanks so much for having me on so

Daniel II you are a martial artist you

are a philosopher you run the is it the

Taoists podcast Branca Paris those

Taoism is nice but how is me with wine

is even better okay so you how does what

is the drunken how is the danke part

it’s kind of a joke is because I think

he started out in martial art because my

style wasn’t pulled that impressive in

terms of you know I’m now like the most

super athletic guy I’m okay you know I’m

averaged in that department but oddly

enough nobody could figure out why but

now my game was very good in a way that

I could sometime beat people who were

much better than at least they look a

lot better than me and so the standard

comment was you know you look like the

old guy from the Chinese movie you know

the old drunken Taoist master was just

you don’t think much of him and somehow

he wins and nobody figure out how it

happened so that’s how the whole drunken

Tao is name came up and of like it’s a

tribute to the power of being unorthodox

very interesting so Daniel if you could

just you know kind of give us an idea to

any of our listeners that may not know

who you are how would you summarize your

existence on this planet

that’s a tall order right there I grew

up in Italy I lived there until I was 18

years old I moved to Los Angeles

California at that time I’ve been living

here ever since that was 1992 so it’s

been quite a while despite that somehow

my Italian accent never leaves me

despite the fact that we’ve now more

time in worse than in Italy but still

and eventually let’s see what do I do in

life I ended up each College in a I

teach at Cal State Long Beach and Santa

Monica College I teach mainly history I

ran a couple of podcast I write books

you know lots of different sayings I

think oh I don’t like speaking in one

field only yeah that shows you know

you’ve had a long interest in martial

arts when we opened the conversation

with martial arts what sparked this

interest in martial art you’re involved

in judo right or sure how did you get

into this practice it was the discipline

of martial art the image of martial arts

is that it’s a path to empowerment you

know you got this sense that there’s a

concrete way to become physically and

mentally more empowered now granted the

some of that is high some of that is not

some of that they’re actually sent into

it where it does deliver on the promise

so you know my initial ideas were

probably highly romanticized and so in

that sense like most people who are

attracted to something when you don’t

know yet what the real deal is you

probably romanticize a little bit but

wholly know like well yeah that the path

that spoke to me you know even in

fighting even in martial arts you’re

there’s no way it doesn’t matter how

good you got you’re not always going to

win and there is always somebody who’s

gonna be better and bigger and meaner

than you so despite that martial art

does give you this feeling that there’s

a way to work on bettering yourself and

you find out real quick through sparring

through grappling through testing it you

know it’s not that kind of self

perfection path that you can apply to

yourself because it’s more theoretical

than the martial arts there’s a very


back and I sort of dig that it prevents

me from getting lost in my head and

bring me back to the present moment

yeah yeah I agree a hundred percent you

know there’s there’s something very

primitive and very visceral about you

know just kind of watching two people

bang their heads against each other and

you know it’s this raw sort of

instinctual nature I think that we have

as humans why do you think this is such

an interesting study

you know I’ve studied martial arts for a

while and one of the kind of ongoing

sayings was that if you found yourself

in a fight you’ve already you’ve already

in a way you’ve already lost right yeah

I think the beauty of martial art is

that it really is somewhat of a

theatrical representation of what

conflict is all about now that one is

conflicting the most in the lowest

possible way you know it’s physical

complet to human beings no weapons just

go but really in some sense is a

metaphor for all the other conflicts

that we face in life in the kind of

conflicts that every single person ever

will deal with you know conflicts

between your desires and reality

conflict between who you wanna be and

your own limitations conflict between

you know our whole life is made of

conflict so something that strips down

conflict with basic element and

presented to you in a more ritualized

fashion of course is appealing to human

beings yeah you wrote a book on this you

wrote on the Warriors path philosophy

fighting and martial arts mythology

what does that cover what did you what

were you covering that book that one is

is the first book I have written and it

was kind of like at the time when I was

really getting heavy into martial arts

spending so much of my waking time

thinking about it was way to sort of

answer this idea why do we do it you

know what’s the big deal about a why

martial arts why not mates or Iran which

by the way have nothing against those

things but you know like what is that

special about martial arts I endow more

importantly how does it translate to

life so that it’s not just what you do

for an hour two hours in in an enclosed

space but how does what you do on the

mat translates to every

girls you doing life for sure and you

know how let’s let’s continue on that

how do we apply these things that we

learn in martial arts to to life I think

there are a bunch of different things

the one can get from it one theme that I

explored particularly in a different

book the latest one I wrote called not

afraid is the idea of dealing with

failure of dealing with getting your ass

kicked the with you know we all like the

fight that we are going to win nobody

likes to lose particularly while you are

in the middle of me there’s nothing fun

about getting squashed by somebody who’s

bigger and badder than you and it’s very

easy when you realize that no matter

what you try you wanna check out and you

want this to be over it’s very easy to

want out but the reality is the fight is

still ongoing so what interests me in

the mindset that it creates is how do

you stay into a losing fight you know we

can all stay in a winning fight but were

we’re having fun with it is great it

feels good it’s an ego boost but how do

you face what seemed like hopeless

circumstances in this case is just

fighting it’s not the end of the world

but still how do you keep fighting when

you realize that your efforts are really

not going to change the outcome that me

is interesting because it it toughen you

up it makes you monstrously stronger if

you’re able to keep going even when

you’re not gonna get the results you

want that’s a practice that it’s kind of

hard on our ego because our ego Drive

some results on outcome on the part of

the back at the end you know the result

is not gonna come out well so how do you

keep going when you don’t get what you

want yeah that’s so fundamental to kind

of living a balanced lifestyle living it

you know just in harmony with everything

that’s going on just because you know

most of the time I think we face that

sense of failure more than we face that

sense of success right I mean it’s more

like there’s more times that you’re

gonna fail then you’re going to succeed

but when you eventually do succeed

you remember those failures you remember

how I got there

I mean you were writing not afraid there

was an event in your life that was

happening your wife was ill and she

eventually passed yep I’m so sorry to

hear that so you were dealing with this

directly you had this happening to you

while you were writing this I mean how

did this occur and how did this affect

you I mean that was sort of the prime

example of what I’m talking about

beside what you got on the mat in the

rest of life they’re gonna be in the

lives of all of us there are gonna be a

million occasions where you got kicked

in the teeth and there’s not a whole lot

that you can do about the outcome you

know in this case my wife got sicker

rather suddenly and the progression was

very fast and dramatic and the whole

thing was just you know there was

nothing I could do you know there was

nothing I did I couldn’t save her I

couldn’t do something you know was

terminal brain tumor

super aggressive very fast inoperable

there really nothing for me to do and

yet at the same time there’s a million

things for me to do because in the

meantime you know why she was still

alive she needs attention she needs

comfort physically she needs comfort

emotionally she needs a lot of things

precisely because things are going so

bad and so the trick for me was out do I

figure out the way in a completely

hopeless scenario how do I conquer this

one second you know the next me note how

do I make the next me know it’s good I

know I’m not gonna make the ultimate

outcome of this situation good there is

no getting out alive here but how do I

make this next hour a good one how do I

make this day a good one you know that

kind of thing forcing me to go back to

the present moment and understanding

that there are some obvious limitations

to what I can do but at the same time

just because I’m not gonna get what I

want doesn’t mean that I should just

give up at all over and say okay bye you

deal with it you know that’s um you know

martial arts again is a is a ritualized

context where you can learn some stuff

but then of course the real but the real

big deal is life itself is not what you

do on the ending or or on the mat it’s

very true very

in in the same book and not afraid you

refer to fear as being like a ninja it’s

often able to hurt us without ever

showing its face and this I find this

very accurate I find this very you

nailed it with this can you talk about

that please yeah because we’re all

nobody’s born completely fearless you

know some people are braver than others

about some specific scenes holding half

the same person who may be really brave

in one context may be a big wimp in the

next contest so fear is kind of a

strange creature but everybody deals

with peers on one level or another you

know everybody some people are ruled by

fear a lot more than others but

everybody has to face because when you

have son if you don’t want to lose it

there’s that fear that whatever good

thing you have or happen to you in life

you want it to last you want to be able

to keep it to conserve it and the

reality is that because we live in an

impermanent universe everything we love

that to be taken away from us so of

course there are very good reasons to be

afraid there’s people then also have

other more normal peers rather than just

existential ones there’s the fear of

other people judging you is a big one

most people are concerned regarding what

other people think about them and they

will act sometime without even realizing

it and that’s where the ninja element

comes in fear made certain choices there

are no really the choices you wanna make

but you’re afraid of what everybody else

is going to say if I were to try this

what if I feel are they all gonna laugh

at me kind of feeling you know that type

of stuff will influence the way people

behave what if what if things were wrong

or what if my worst fear materialized

and so I’ll play it safe and in many

cases play it safe means play to a lower

level not to our full potential and

ultimately not only living you know I

was I was on an airplane last night and

that’s enough reason to be afraid right

now I mean oh yeah what’s going on in

the news but there was this moment where

there was you know more turbulence than

normal and the plane was shaking

especially hard everyone on the plane

was a little bit alert and I think if it

would have went like a second past that

you know there would have been

– panic but I was just thinking okay the

person sitting next to me I’m would die

next to this person so I don’t mean have

I taken a moment to talk to this person

sitting next to me no I hadn’t you know

I was too lazy as too tired didn’t feel

like it whatever my excuses were just

kind of woke me up – I mean it might

sound kind of stupid but no it just kind

of made me realize that you know any

moment this can happen in life ends so

quickly sure if you’re not doing the

most that you can with your life in

every moment light and kind of like you

said you know you were reducing things

down to minute by minute and hour upon


that’s such a huge huge thing to kind of

realize especially when you’re in the

middle of a crisis yeah absolutely

because otherwise you got overwhelmed by

it and it crushes you you know a lot of

the positive thinking that you got and

before Husan you know you can

materialize the life you want if you

just think it the right way there’s

nothing to be scared of everything is

gonna be fine

and my thing is like no sometime not

everything is gonna be fine and there

are very good reasons to be scared

because the very worst things you expect

may happen so what you know you still

have to those are the cards you’re given

are you gonna play them you know just

because the sinks don’t turn now your

weight doesn’t mean that the game is

over so how are you gonna deal with that

stuff like sorry to tell you but no not

everything is for the best

not everything is amazing and wonderful

I find both approaches they’re trying to

avoid the reality of how things are it

requires us to stay and of walk this

tightrope when were in a balance between

these beautiful act as you’re living and

the horror of it all and the two go

hand-in-hand do you feel that sometimes

people play it too safe to avoid all of

those outcomes to avoid being in a place

where they’re afraid to avoid being

sharp a place where they’re

uncomfortable you know there’s a very

common statement of growth happens

outside of your comfort zone so I do

people say this

well cuz I mean the thing is there’s a

very good reason for being afraid and

wanting to avoid this issues is because

it’s scale it doesn’t feel good it’s by

definition that means you know getting

kicked around is not a fun feeling when

the reality is crushing you is not a fun

feeling at the same time you know that

fear of oh I don’t want things to turn

bad so I’m just gonna kind of hide my

head under the sand hoping that it just

goes away debt not a solution either

because ultimately whatever little

weapon is gonna happen anyway and on top

of it you will have been living ruled by

fear this entire time rather than

accepting that you really can do

anything about the ultimate outcome but

you can have the life you want in the

meantime the universe will crush you in

the end

but until then response yeah it’s kind

of like enjoying the ride just I mean if

you’re worried about the future and if

you have this anticipation about the

future you’re just gonna delay this sort

of inevitable thing and it doesn’t fix

anything in the moment you just kind of

relax and breathe into it which is

easier it’s much more simple to say than

what is actually like ooh yeah has there

been a moment where you have been afraid

and kind of pushed through that moment

I’m not by nature the super hardcore

brave person so I completely sympathize

with the reason why people are afraid

why people want to play it safe by

gannett completely I feel the same way

especially when things are going well

that’s when you’re close the highest

because then we really have reasons we

have a lot to lose when you have nothing

to lose you really don’t have as much to

be afraid of you know it’s when it’s

when we have stuff to lose we have stuff

that we care about that ear goes up

because now we have a more skin in the

game I mean even martial arts or

whatever reason fight you really scared

the hell out of me

mean I don’t mean practice practice is

no big deal but you know actual

competition fight in that we will put me

on edge like I wouldn’t sleep well

before I would get my muscle tighten up

our get all shaky with all of that kind

of stuff so I tried for quite a while to

just keep stepping up seeing ok this is

scaring the living hell out of me

let’s try again ok let’s do that again

let’s do it again

let’s do that again and of course when

you do something over and over you start

at least partially maybe you’ll never

fully conquered that fear by you’re

gonna get a little bit better handling

it in the rest of life you tend to

become a little more adventures you tend

to be willing to try new things because

you don’t let that initial oh but it’s

difficult to but it’s scary oh but what

if I feel kind of thoth in the back of

your head you don’t like that rule you

say well so what let’s go play let’s

find out I love them again a lot easier

said than done I’m not coming from the

point of view of saying just do this and

it’s all gonna be great it’s I get it

it’s art and there are just as many

times when tears stop me in my tracks as

there are times when I overcome them

it’s not that I’m the master of

defeating fear far from it

I tend not to hide so I’m pretty upfront

about my fear and I’m trying to figure

out ways to deal with them that’s about

the best I do you know is being really

upfront about not pretending that they

are not they’re not looking the other

way you know it’s like okay if this is

scary let’s deal with it yeah and I

think that’s a very brave move to be

able to you know kind of

to your perspective into just facing

whatever is going on with you I think

most people are more prone to running

away you also wrote a book on religion

how are you going in all these different

directions and do these connect

somewhere yeah I think to me is like

what I’m interested is now martial arts

or religion or history or any of the

10,000 things that I play with they

that’s not really what interests me what

he interests me is life life is

interesting in all of its forms and to

me wherever there’s intensity wherever

there’s passion doesn’t really matter

what the starting point is it’s all life

it’s all part of the same thing to me

those are just excuses to get the ball

roll and you know but even when I teach

if I’m teaching about the history of

religions or I’m teaching about Native

American history or US or it doesn’t

really matter and these are all like the

specific examples vary but the basic

thing the the key teams don’t change

they are they’re always the same

they’re always life is one it’s we may

speak many languages but at the roots of

it all is one thing yeah it’s very true

I mean you teach human history so is

there a pattern that you see in human

history that we are kind of repeating

now I think there are but there’s I mean

humans are humans and so it’s kind of

like in Game of Thrones – the dragons in

the sand no it’s that kind of power

struggle between human beings constantly

at each other’s throat to grab power and

that’s basically half of human history

right there you know it’s I think that’s

why we’re fascinated with like mafia

movies or something because the history

of humanity is one big mafia fairy tale

you know it just kings and queens are

glorified Mafia bosses essentially and

you know did that game of the struggle

for power that most human beings are

engaged in is a classic thing that

really is not any different whether

you’re looking at caveman or you’re

looking at big empires or today it’s

kind of the same game being played over

and over

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