Peak Experience

When you seek it, you can not find it!

Olla Chico!

This is one of the best threads I have ever read here. Maslow's influence on the SBG crew is obvious, and although I don't have a mandatory reading list (it's redundent because all the SBG Coaches had already read this stuff before I met them. Which in part explains why I 'recognize' them when I see them. Rather then 'create' them, or 'certify' them. Maslow's two works,

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences

And The Farther Reaches Of Human Nature

Would be at the very top.

We also have a new article posted in our philsophy section on Maslow. As well as the older "Some Thoughts on the travelogue of "life", piece that was written a few Years ago.

Anybody truly serious about this kind of subject should seriously study Maslow's work. If you don't you are just plain lazy and don't deserve the information.

-Matt(Simius Dilerus)Thornton

"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't."
- Erica Jong

Hi Everyone,
The other night I was talking to some of my students about the correct technique and developing power in their punches. Out of this discussion I pointed out that the way you deliver the technique is important but I also discussed the feeling you get when it is right. I mentioned that I just know when a jab was good or a combination; likewise I could just feel when it was bad. It was not just simply someone telling me it was good or bad or even just an after thought on my part. It was really an internal feeling that made me feel it was good or bad in the instance that I did it.

This intense feeling also comes about when I have neglected any part of my game, I instinctively know that I have been lacking in this are, no body has to tell me I just know. It almost seems to be an internal monitor that governs my every action. This feeling is very difficult to explain to another person, but I believe that all athletes at a very high level of performance and one that is in tune with their body and mind experience it. After discussing this issue with them I happened to be reading a book the other night and came across this, talk about synchronicity!

"My imagery is more just feel. I don't think it is visual at all. I get this internal feeling. When I am actually doing the skill on the ice, I get the same feeling inside. It is a very internal feeling that is hard to explain. You have to experience it, and once you do, then you know what you are going after...."
-Brian Oser, former world champion in men's figure skating.

I also believe that most people will never come to this point of realization, most view the technique as purely mechanical and an end in its self and not as something that is intrinsic and alive. The more I though about it, the more I became aware that unless you perform what you do with aliveness you might never reach this level. All martial artists who train in a dead environment will never come to this point. Technique will merely be that, technique. Through competition against world-class athletes Brian Oser came to this point of total aliveness where he just was in the moment, knowing what he was doing was right. He essentially went beyond mere technique!

I then came across another explanation of the same idea,

"If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art grows out of the unconscious.... you must let the unconscious come forward. In such cases, you cease to be your own conscious master but become an instrument in the hands of the unknown. The unknown has no ego-consciousness and consequently not thought of winning the is for this reason that the sword moves where it ought to move and makes the contest end victoriously. This is the practical application of Lao-tzaun doctrine of doing but not doing."

This then reminded me of something I read in one of the Bruce-Lee books (I am adlibbing here),

"Before I studied the art, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. Once I began practicing the art, a punch was no longer a punch and a kick no longer just a kick. Once I understood the art a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick".

I feel that this is a state of being that all of us should strive to achieve, if that is the correct word to use or rather experience the beginners mind. There are people who come to mind who have reached this level, Rickson Gracie in BJJ, Mohammed Ali in boxing to name only two. This ability to be in the moment, to transcend mere technique is one of the highest levels of aliveness.

And the synchronicity continued the whole week;

"All at once I forgot the public, the other bullfighters, myself, and even the bull; I began to fight as I had so often by myself at night in the corrals and pastures, as precisely as if I had been drawing a design on a blackboard. They say that my passes with the cape and my work with the mullet that afternoon were a revelation of the art of bullfighting. I don't know, and I am not competent to judge. I simply fought, as I believe one ought to fight, without a thought, outside of my own faith in what I was doing. With the last bull I succeeded for the first time in my life in delivering myself and my soul to the pure joy of fighting without being consciously aware of the audience.

-Juan Belmonte, the great Spanish bullfighter

This "PEAK EXPERIENCE" is something so special, and I can honestly say I have experienced it few times completely in my life. When I have thought consciously about the technique that I was doing or the strategy I was to apply I found myself further removed from this peak experience. Only through constant alive training, where I was no longer consciously thinking about the next move, but instinctively moving almost before my opponent was I able to reach this place.

Buddha spent many years in isolation and meditation to achieve this "PEAK EXPERIENCE" or as he termed enlightenment. Unfortunately for most of us our lifestyles, responsibilities and natural attitudes will not allow us to follow this path of rigor. I however believe that in the martial arts, through aliveness we all can achieve this peak experience even if it is for a moment.

This has really made me excited about training again!




Check out what sport pysch. calls the Flow State. Same deal. Lots of research has gone into the experience itself as well as what is required to achieve it regularly in practice or comp.


I have experienced this once during a IPSC shoot. I could actually hear the subtle click of the timer button, the very first tone before the actual beep...., I almost felt like I was "outside" looking in as my hands did what I had trained hard for them to do. The gun seemed to float, it was wild and then it was over.

Maslow definitely has the best method of explaining peak experience, I have read the various books on flow state, but I always come back to Maslow.

For a different perspective try reading Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals by Brian Enos. Enos is deep into this, as are most competitive shooters.

Could we say the difference between peak and flow would be in concious effort? With peak experience I don't really recall trying, it just is, (not to sound like a fortune cookie) with flow, I get the feeling that I'm trying....

For example, click...beeeeeeeep.... gun goes off...., I don't recall gripping, indexing, sights, target, everything is like its on a screen and I'm watching someone else shoot, guns light, better reload, that was smooth, back on target, hit the stop plate and then some guy is telling me to drop the mag, lock it back and show clear, "damn, you burned boy".

Than it was gone. When I try to recreate that, I feel like I enter a flow state, but its not quite there...

Thats just me, I'm a kinesthetic feeler type so I go on feeling more than thoroughly thought out conclusion.

I have had similar experiences while training in the gym but again, not the same as the experience I described.

That is why I describe peak as just "being" while flow feels more like trying, both are good, peak is great.

Alright, that didn't make any sense and now my concussed head hurts.

-Paul "desnudo" Sharp

Hi Rpratt,
I already know and have read extensively about Flow State or being in the Zone.I honestly believe that I achieve been in the Zone or flow regularly in practice as well as in comp.However I did say that I have only experienced this "completely" a few times in my life, which is diffrent to what athletes reach in training and comp on a daily basis.

This complete experience, which is a Peak Experience not only impacts on your training, but who you are as a human being on the deepest level. It is after all a truism!

I dont beleive the "Peak Experience" I am talking about is as simplistic to explain as flow or been in the zone!

Thanks for the response!


Ahh...ok, your talkin' about something different. When I read your description of it, sounded like the the flow state.

How does it differ from Flow?


Sounds like "chico" knows his Maslow. And we all thought the SBG guys were "knuckledraggers". Actually they are a pretty well read bunch!

I have experienced this once during competition at a grappling tourney. Normally I have a bunch of "self-talk" going on when I compete. The "voices" were silent that day!! LOL

Mosley, JKDFighter and Paul,
You guys got it, hit the nail on the head.Ryan, Paul Sharp answered your question for me, the diffrence between a Peak Experience and just been in the flow or the zone.

Those who have trully experienced a "Peak experience" understand that you may have only achieved this state a few times in your life. What makes it so profound is that it actually changes and impacts your inner being not only in the activity you achieved it in, but in life itself.The flow or being in the zone only impacts that exact activity you are in at that very moment, be it MA or anything else.It is not something that you can conciously bring about, it just happens!

Peak experiences are not only found in MA but anywhere.As Paul Sharp described his IPSC shoot.I think JKDFighter wrote something really profound, and it would be good for all in JKD to sit up and take note of his statement, "Also, I feel that only when you experience and start to understand this (The Peak Experience) can you fully understand what Bruce meant JKD to be and what he was trying to teach in all of his writings. "JKD" is much, much more than just cross training as some mistakenly think. Things make so much more sense after the "peak experience".

I think when more of us get to this point we will stop all the political b.s. and waste of time arguments on who is right and who is wrong. It just wont be important anymore.Actually we won't even need the name JKD at all, we will simply want to train, purely for the liberation of self!



TTT for the Official SBG reading list

smartmonkey - if you have the time I would be grateful if you could post a reading list on this forum or your SBG website.


Since MA training is relatively new in my life on the grand scheme...I feel that these moments for me are few and far between. But I have experienced this state frequently in other endeavors.

I played soccer at a high level in college and after college. There were many moments when, in the heat of competition I would turn with the ball and find there were 2-3 0r even more players intent on stopping my forward progress. With out a thought (no time to think really) I would be on the other side, confused opponents tangled behind me. My actions were effortless. If on the other hand I turned and then tried to plan a strategy on the fly, rarely was I successful. Too much thinking, not enough being.

Thanks Rodney,,,This is deffinately something we all should cultivate in our lives.


Hi Laughing Lion,

Alan Watts wrote many books you can find just about anywhere. However, like Krishnamurti, the message loses about 90% of it's meaning when it gets written down and becomes 'dead'. So, if you can find yourself taped lectures, and VHS footage of Watts, or Krisna J. . .of which there is plenty, I highly reccomend taking that route.

Save the printed word for the scholars like Campbell, Pagel, Wilbur and Maslow.

-Matt Thornton
"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."
- Napoleon

smartmonkey - please excuse my ignorance, but who is Allen Watts?

Great thread. I experienced this feeling a few times playing football in high school. Especially during one big game.

hi Laughing Lion, I plan on putting one up eventually under the 'philosophy' section of our website.

In the meantime I would highly reccomend anything by Maslow, Allen Watts, Krishnamurti, Viktor Frankyl, Joeseph Campbell, and Michael Shermer.

-Matt(mono loco)Thornton

I would have to concur with that. I did like Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow, the psychology of optimal experience". It's certainly on my reading list, and within my book shelf. But I prefer Watts, and Jung's original works, which contain the same raw material. I also find Jung's synchronicity theory more interesting.

In regards Watts. . .I have heard that before. But personally I have always found his lectures on video to be fantastic. He has a very dry, and wity sense of humor, as well as being very glib regarding concepts most people have a hard time verbalizing. Again, with Watts, or K I would go video/ audio over written word.

-Matt Thornton

Thanks smartmonkey and asinger.

Is the state that is being spoken of in this thread the same as the one people aim to achieve through meditation?

For example with breath counting meditation where you simply count one when you first exhale, then two with the second exhalation and so on, but you are not allowed to think of anything else but your counting. Of course because the brain finds this boring it constantly distracts itself with other thoughts and you have to keep pulling it back and after twenty minutes of this you feel like you have been lifting heavy weights with your mind. The ultimate aim is not just to get into a state where all you are thiking about is counting but to go one step further and empty you mind of all thoughts.

To me this means switching off your conscious mind. The conscious mind can only think about 5-9? things at one time whereas the unconscious mind can deal with 15,000, so if you are consciously doing something that requires thinking about more then 9 things at once you will fail. When you ask an experienced driver to consciously think about their driving they go back to driving like a beginner.

So once you have consciously learnt to do something you need to achieve that non conscious state to perform effortlessly and allow the unconscious mind to operate without interference from the conscious mind which is no longer needed.

Does this have any relevance to what's being discussed?

Anyone interested in NLP?

"He who climbs the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary" - Nietzsche

I am not too familiar with Maslow, but find Watts very dull and "airy".

Krishanmurti however is TBMOC!!!

Noone has read anything from Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi? Or is it that noone wants to type his long ass name?