Muhammad Ali: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

On 3 June 2016, singer Paul Simon (one half of illustrious duo, Simon & Garfunkel for those of you under 30 years old) performed at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California. Half way through his set, he began to play the notes to the 1969 classic ‘The Boxer’. Not an unusual occurrence for a Paul Simon concert. However, unbeknown to him and the watching audience, it would mark the end of the life of a legend and begin the immortalisation of a legacy.

Mid-song, Simon cut the music and carefully uttered into the microphone:

‘I’m sorry to tell you this way, but Muhammad Ali has passed away.’

The sound of silence reverberated around the concert halls for an instance and murmurings of grief and disbelief began to ripple not only amongst the on-looking crowd, but across the entire planet. A world in mourning for one of its true heroes.

Much has been written these past few days about Muhammad Ali: the man, the boxer, the social activist, the entertainer, and the champion. Words of praise of the highest order deservedly came from the four corners of the globe. From marvel at his limitlessly talented boxing skill and exploits, to reverence for his action against racial inequality and social injustice. That is not even to mention his infectious persona which concocted countless unforgettable interviews and sound-bites. Amongst his many memorable quotes, I remember very distinctly one which resonated with me. He said:

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

I’ve thought very carefully about this analogy over the years as I believe a great deal can be taken from it.

Almost no one in this world lives without dreams and aspirations. We are all lying in the gutter but, unlike Oscar Wilde, I’d go as far as to say that in this day and age everyone is looking to the stars. We live in a culture that glorifies instant success through X-Factor, Big Brother and the like. During my years on this earth, if I have learned anything it is that in order to succeed truly, whether it be in kickboxing, martial arts or life in general, it comes from putting in ten thousand hours of not just hard work, but smart work. However, even if you find the correct path, is not enough to keep your eye on the goal and hope that that keeps you hungry if you are hindering yourself along the way with small, but very avoidable obstacles. The journey is too long and the road too treacherous. Ultimately and invariably, that pebble will cause you too much trouble for you to take another step towards the summit of said mountain. This is why I always maintain that, in martial arts, performing the basics perfectly is the foundation for success. Allowing errors (a pebble) to enter into your practice (stride up the mountain) will see you unable to attain your target. And this is true and transferable to all disciplines; if you wish to become a master of any art-form or discipline, you must perform deliberate and persistent practice. There are no short-cuts, there are no cheats and there is no substitute.

Muhammad Ali, to me, was a luminary. From a less than modest background he seemingly achieved all that he set out to no matter how precarious the path and he did so through persistence in the face of adversity and purpose in his method and his approach to life. He was a trail blazer who set alight all before him and, in doing so, he helped me to identify an outlook on life that has allowed me to achieve my goals and be proud of not only those achievements, but how I achieved them and my approach to the challenge. And for that, I will be forever grateful to a great fighter who fought to make the world great.


Master Raf

This article is based on opinion:
– the author is not a qualified doctor or anyone who can dispense medical advice.
– any opinions stated are just that and people should consult a doctor before making any dietary changes or changes of any nature prompted by the articles published by or on behalf of Xen-Do.
– under 16’s please obtain parental permission before posting anything online.

Scroll to Top