Book Review – The Unbeatable Man by Matt Furey

Matt Furey The Unbeatable Man Before you click away from this brief review, trust me when I say that this book most certainly relates to achieving success in Girevoy Sport.

This week I’ve been on a (short) vacation and I’ve been catching up on my reading while I relax by the Pacific Ocean on the Central California Coast.  I actually picked up this book a few months ago based on a few reviews I read and thought it might provide a few examples of success strategies or motivational techniques.

How Wrong I Was

The Unbeatable Man is way more the same old “think positive thoughts” mantra that you might be familiar with.  Author Matt Furey describes his high school senior year battle to win his weight class in the Iowa State Wrestling championships of 1981.

At the age of 14, Matt won an all-freshman wrestling tournament between his school and several other, bigger schools.  That tournament turned out to be a milestone for Matt, as he decided to be “the best wrestler in the State, in [his] weight class, by the time [he] was a senior.”

Now I don’t know about you, but how many 14-year-olds do you know who have any idea what they’re going to do the next hour, let alone what they’re going to do when they become a senior 4 years later?

Battling The Naysayers

Of all the places to put yourself out on front street!  And to do it as a freshman in high school, one of he most caustic and negative environments for young people trying to achieve a goal outside of the “norm” of just getting along or fitting in.

Yet Furey set to his task with a laser-like focus, in spite of a less than perfect high school wrestling career. Spending hours in the gym practicing his moves over and over and over again, while at the same time reading everything related to wrestling he could get his hands on in order to glean everything he could from the greatest wrestlers in the sport.

In addition to a single-minded focus to be the best, Matt had a coach who helped him to achieve his best.  In the run-up to the district finals (the state tournament qualifier), his coach said the following:

So remember what the big key to winning is:  It’s taking one match at a time; looking ahead only in the sense of knowing what your overall goal for the tournament is, but keeping your feet on the ground by realizing you have to win one match at a time to get to the finals.”

How This Relates To Girevoy Sport

I spend a good deal of time reading about Girevoy Sport on forums, blogs, and web sites and a common theme I see, is the quest for the “magic” program that will help increase the lifter’s numbers.  What I’m beginning to learn, however, is that there is no “magic” program.

Sometime the biggest obstacle to a goal is your own mind.  We either defeat ourselves or let others defeat us with their words.

Men are especially bad as we let our egos get in the way of learning when we discover that snatching a 24 kilo kettlebell for ten minutes isn’t as easy as it looks.  So instead of learning the correct form and mastering the basics in order to progress from a more reasonable weight to a heavier one, we give up and move to a sport with more instant gratification.

Girevoy Sport is about mastering the snatch, jerk or longcycle one rep at a time and doing it again and again until we meet our goal.  However, it’s easy to become disillusioned when you look at a 155 pound lifter popping up a pair of 32 kilo bells like he’s shooting a basketball.  The first time I tried to jerk a pair of 32s (at 200 pounds) I thought my wrists were going to snap in half.  The guy on the video made it look effortless!  Of course we never see the thousands of hours of practice he went through to get to the point where it looks so effortless!

It takes practice.  First with the 12 kg or the 16 kg.  Soon that becomes easy and we move to the 20 kg.  Then the 24 kg. Then the 28 and the 32 kg.

It could take one year or five or ten!

But you have to do it one rep at a time.

One minute at a time.

The Law Of Practice

During the beginning of Furey’s senior season, his record was a lackluster 7-4.  Determined to achieve his goal, he went back to reviewing the writings of the great Dan Gable.  What Furey found changed his outlook on training and life forever.  Gable wrote that to become better, one had to practice three times a day.

In a nutshell, The Law of Practice states that we can become better than our competitiors if we practice more than they do.  Furey discovered that in order to be his best, he had to practice more than his competitors did.  A lot more.

I know what you’re probably saying right now, “That’s it?”.


Sort of.  And there’s much more to it than that.

But if you want to get better at lifting kettlebells, you have to lift kettlebells.  Lots of times.  If you want to get better at lifting kettlebells when you’re not lifting them, you have to think about lifting kettlebells.  You have to see each rep as a perfect rep.  You have to see the clock tick off each minute as you flawlessly complete those reps.  You have to see yourself breathing in a controlled manner and you have to do this every day — if you want to be successful on the lifting platform.

The Unbeatable Man is not about lifting kettlebells.  It is about achieving the goals you set for yourself through practice, visualization, and a positive mindset.

The story Matt tells is his own story, but one we can all use to succeed in our chosen sport and in life.  I only wish I had this book when I was in my teens, as I would probably be in a much different place in my life now.  Get this book.  Apply these principles.  Succeed.

The Unbeatable Man

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