"Who Has the Thickest Face and the Blackest Heart?"
by Matt Furey
Note: The following is an article that was first published in 1996 for W.I.N. magazine. In 2001, a revision of this article was featured in GRAPPLING. On a regular basis, readers who lost this article asked if I could republish it. Well, here is yet another revision. Enjoy!
How about a prediction that I am willing to guarantee? A prediction that is timeless and true? A prediction that will repeat itself every single year, at every single combat sports event in the world? In fact, how about I guarantee that this prediction will repeat itself in EVERY arena known to man?
Here it is: In all arenas, the person who WINS will be the one with the thickest face and the blackest heart.
Thick face-black heart is a term coined in the 1911 book, Thick Black Theory. Written in China, Thick Black Theory was banned the day it was published - and still is. What does this mean? It means that there must be a message inside the book that gives POWER to people - and those in power don't want them to have it. In a nutshell, it must be one amazing book.
Thick Black Theory has never been translated into English, but the essence of it was summarized in Chin-Ning Chu's book, Thick Face, Black Heart. Let me paraphrase some of the particulars:
Thick Face: The quality of being immune to the criticisms or negative opinions of others. The ability to set aside your own doubts and fears, and proceed as if victory is inevitable.
Early on in any highly successful person's career, whether the person is a combat athlete, a business exec or a politician, he will endure criticism from others. Some people will criticize the art he competes in; others his dedication; others the choice of career or his ideas, whether they are radical or mainstream. Of course, some will even question the successful person's abilities, skills and intellect.
I don't know of a single "success" who never had a moment of self-doubt or fear. Moreover, I don't know of any who did not have detractors. It1s the nature of the game. In fact, the more successful a person becomes, the more detractors he will have.
Truth is, many of the greatest champion athletes have become great because they feared losing. This fear drove them to train harder than anyone else - so when it was time to take center stage - they were ready. In business, many great decisions are made only when you mix a "burning desire to succeed" with a heavy dose of caution.
A thick-faced person isn't crushed by others1 criticism. Although, like anyone else, a successful person likes approval ... he doesn't need it to survive. I am fond of saying, "Eagles don1t fly in flocks. They fly alone." You cannot rise high in life if you depend upon the approval of everyone. You CAN however rise as high as you want or need with the approval of the right people.
What separates the champion or the "success" from the pack is the willingness to run on his own gas. If you believe in him and his dreams, fine. If not - his dream is more important than your opinion.
A thick-faced person does not lose sleep over another person's negative comments. Criticism bounces off his face and goes elsewhere; looking for a thin-skinned person to slap around.
A thick-faced person is undeterred in the face of defeat. He does not let "inner battles" absorb his energy. If he is nervous or fearful, he channels this energy into productive power by focusing on a vision. In short, when negativity comes from the outside, it bounces off; if it comes from within, it is trapped, gagged and suffocated.
Black Heart: The quality of being passionately committed to the actions you must take to achieve a goal - while simultaneously showing no compassion or concern for how others are affected by those actions.
A combat athlete with a black heart is a ruthless person. He may think highly of his opponent, but when the referee starts the bout, he is a competitive animal. He does not care how much his opponent wants to win. He does not care if his opponent cries when he loses. He does not care if his opponent has worked for many years to achieve the same goal. He wants to win more than anyone else - and he is going to win as impressively as he can ... and if his opponent is physically or emotionally crushed afterward, tough luck.
When I tell people about the importance of having a thick face and black heart, I occasionally hear comments like, "I disagree. You don't have to be mean in order to win."
"It's not about being mean, although it could be," I answer. "Truth is, one of the meanest things you can do is whoop someone with a smile on your face; to destroy someone with kindness."
Thick face, black heart can be used for good or for evil. Naturally, I believe it is better for society when a person uses the principles of Thick Face, Black Heart for good purposes. But never lose sight of the fact that this is a quality that is used by saints as well as sociopaths.
All champion fighters have a thick face and a black heart. And so do all successful people.
In boxing we have Roy Jones, Jr. Do you think he feels a bit of remorse when he brutalizes one opponent after another? Not a chance.
In the NFL we have the Tampa Bay Bucanneers and their totally focused head coach, John Gruden. Tell me, do you really think Gruden cares one lick about the feelings of the team he beats? No way.
In the forthcoming recall election in California we are about to witness mud-slinging at its finest. It may end up being the most ruthless campaign our country has ever seen, especially with Larry Flint and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race. Sit back and watch the show.
Just remember, when all is said and done, the person who emerges as Governor will be the same type of person who emerges as champion in an athletic event. The winner will be the person with the thickest face and blackest heart.
[Matt Furey is a world champion martial artist and national champion wrestler who is also the best-selling author of Combat Conditioning. Be sure to get yourself a copy.]