Return of the Yamdancers (Pt. 2).

November 26, 2012

If you’ve read through some of my earlier posts, then you know that I’m a big fan of traditional storytelling.  As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reasons that I love lifting weights, ALL OF THE GREAT STORIES!  This story is one of my favorites.  Told to me by one of my first coaches, it continues to guide me as I form an identity with a team of my own.  The story itself is very simple.  And it was told to me well over 5 years ago, so you will have to forgive me for giving you the annotated “Ben Claridad” version.

I now present to you, “Yamdancers.”

Your first question might be, “what exactly is a Yamdancer?”  Well, you won’t find them anywhere; not one trace indicates their existence aside from the lesson provided by their example.  The Yamdancers were an ancient tribe, one of the first to implement agriculture.  As you might’ve guessed, their sole crop, their diet, their entire existence was firmly tied to the growth of the yam.  They ate it.  They traded it.  Children would play “kick the yam.”  There seemed to be no end to the utility provided by this single crop.  As with most early patriarchal tribes, there was one leader: a shaman.  And it was he who led the tribe in their most sacred tradition, “The Yamdance.”  Every year before the rainy season, the Shaman would gather the tribe at the field and they would dance the Yamdance.  The rains would come.  The yams would grow.  As the tribe grew, so did the Yamdance celebration.  It eventually became a week long ordeal, complete with dancing, praying to the rain god, drinking fermented yam liquor (is that even possible?) and all of the debauchery that would naturally accompany such a celebration.  And every year the rains would come and the yams would grow.

Then one year an outsider joined the tribe.  A fool.  He began polluting the minds of the tribe with ideas about “science.”  He explained to the tribe weather patterns and climate.  He explained to them how foolish they looked dancing the Yamdance and how the rains would come no matter what.  At first no one listened to this heresy.  But the outsider persisted.  The more “science” he explained, the more it started to take ‘ahold.  People began doubting the shaman.  And when the time came for the next celebration, no one danced.  The rains came, just as the outsider said they would.  But no yams would grow and the tribe starved to death.  No more Yamdancers.

The end.

But what lessons can be learned from the Yamdancers?  Well, let’s start off with why they died.  With the information given within the context of the story, one could easily determine that the Yamdance was, in fact, necessary.  A widely accepted explanation for why the crops didn’t grow is that the Yamdance served multiple functions unknown to the shaman and his tribe.  As they danced, they turned the soil, thus making it fertile enough for yams to grow (you can tell I’m not a farmer, but just suspend disbelief with me).  Did the shaman know that the tribe must till the land for the yams to grow? No.  Like I said, they were among the first societies to discover agriculture.  They were still figuring out the whole process.  But they had a process and it worked; that is, until an outsider introduced different ideas into the tribe.  Yes, the outsider was correct, but so was the shaman.

This is a story about ideology.  Your tribe, your team, must buy into your ideology if you want to grow yams . . . or in my case, weightlifters.  In a sport like weightlifting where there are hundreds of different ideas on how to reach the same goal, ideology becomes very important.  This concept can be applied to anything: teaching progressions, coaching cues or even training environment.  Make sure that you perpetuate your ideology to your team.  If your training system is snatch, clean and jerk and front squat to maximum every day, DO IT.  Dance your yamdance.  Till the land.  Watch your yams grow.

Are you the coach of a team?  What is your training ideology?  If not, and you’re just training yourself, who’s ideology do you buy into (if any)?

7 Responses to “Return of the Yamdancers (Pt. 2).”

  1. Coach, I will listen to anything you say and do anything you tell me to do! You are the shaman of this team, for sure. I will yam dance like hell for you!

  2. Cam said

    I was really excited to find out what the relevence of all this was. Thankfully, you did not dissapoint.

  3. Kyle Kubler said

    this is a sweet post man, good analogy.
    Since i basically train on my own, whats most important to me from this story is that the yamdancers had a history of success. Time is required to see results and create ideology. I try to remind myself to be consistent with my programming so i have some history of my own.

  4. joe kirsch said

    You’re talking about high bar squatting vs low bar, aren’t you??

    kidding.

  5. Zapata said

    Real talk.

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