“Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!”
These words – Maori for “It is death! It is death! It is life! It is life!” – begin the most traditional version of the haka, the daunting pre-match challenge laid down by New Zealand’s All Blacks. They have the power to reduce your average 18-stone mountain of muscle to jelly.
Next up come the British and Irish Lions, who’d better grasp the true meaning of ‘strong and stable’ from the very start of the second Test. To face 15 large men puffing out their chests, slapping their thighs, stamping their feet, sticking out their tongues and shouting at you is hardly ideal preparation to get in the Zone – unless, that is, you’re one of them.
“It’s a pretty powerful way to start work,” says long-serving All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick in an interview for In The Zone. “But it’s not for the impact it has on opponents. Sure, it’s about throwing down a challenge to you, but it’s more about us coming together. It’s the power and unity it generates, for our country, friends, family and the players who have been before us. The haka is about us feeling good.”
No wonder the All Blacks are the greatest team in rugby union history. Yes, it is their national sport, but the impact of this public declaration of collective force is immense. It’s similar to Muhammad Ali’s “I am the Greatest” mantra – which he recited before he beat Sonny Liston and knew it to be true – or Michael Johnson’s gold shoes, worn before he’d won any individual Olympic medal. Say anything loud and proud enough and the result is an uncanny increase in its likelihood of becoming reality.
Read In The Zone for a full investigation into the power of the haka with contributions from current All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen and record-breaking captain Richie McCaw.
Find out more in my article from the London Evening Standard earlier this month...
Thanks to everyone who has published extracts and quotes from In The Zone in print and online. Here are a couple more links to articles where you can find the wisdom of some of the sporting greats featured in the book.
Forever Sports magazine features quotes from Michael Phelps, Novak Djokovic, Steve Waugh and Daley Thompson
Motorsport.com includes some of the exclusive interview with the late Dan Wheldon about his famous victory at the 2011 Indianapolis 500
Keep an eye out for plenty more press features on their way over the course of this busy summer of sport...
Mindfulness. Pure focus. Total concentration. That magical sensation of quieting the mind and living in the now…
These concepts have only recently breached mainstream Western consciousness, yet over the last decade they have gained ever greater prominence. But it’s not just about sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop, or even staring at a candle in the living room. The path to ultimate inner peace can appear anywhere – and a shortcut is often found in conditions that are diametrically opposed to any idea of ‘calm’.
Sport is a classic example, especially those involving extremes of speed – such as the world’s fastest form of motorsport, the Red Bull Air Race, where single-seater planes twist, spin and loop just metres above land and sea.
In the new book In The Zone, Germany’s reigning air race world champion Matthias Dolderer insists: ‘You’re so focused and concentrated there is nothing else that can distract you. You don’t have time and you are fully 100 percent concentrated on what you’re doing. When you fly, whatever happened before this is gone. Actually, to fly in the racetrack is the best way to get rid of all distractions.’
Mindful? Focused? Concentrated? Check. This clutter-free mind is crucial for sport, hence why techniques to induce this state of mind are now commonplace. Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson used this approach to mould his successful Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers teams, while Nico Rosberg admits he turned to meditation to find the mental strength to beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 F1 world championship.
But really there’s nothing new about this hunt; ‘Zen’ Buddhism is a derivation of the Indian Sanskrit ‘dhanya’ meaning meditative concentration. Today Japanese air racer Yoshihide Muroya makes for a good example as a practitioner of zazen, which translates as ‘sitting meditation’.
‘Meditation helps me because it’s mental training,’ Muroya tells me for In The Zone. ‘At an air race I do it every morning. I use it to focus on myself, just to calm down and take away the extraneous thoughts that have been going through my head. In racing there’s no time to think so you need to be focused and automatic.’
Something must have paid off: Muroya heads to his home race in Japan’s Chiba this weekend looking for a repeat of his debut win at the same venue last year. He also won this year’s latest race in San Diego to raise hopes of a Japanese motorsport double in a week following Takuma Sato's Indy 500 win. Best of all, Muroya insists we can all reap the rewards of ‘looking inside’ even if our own office moves rather slower.
‘Meditation is good for flying and it’s a big help for life too,’ he smiles. ‘Everyone can benefit from it. We all have so much going round our brains all the time and we normally look outside so it’s quite difficult to look deep inside. But it’s really good to calm down and looking inside helps make life easier for anyone.’
Read In The Zone to hear more from British Red Bull Air Race world champions Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb plus Canadian racer Pete McLeod, among 100 exclusive interviews with stars of world sport
Clyde Brolin spent over a decade working in F1 before moving on to the wider world of sport - all in a bid to discover the untapped power of the human mind.