Building a Brawler EP9: Simplicity

A 10-week series following John Vallis as he prepares to fight at the Brawl on the Bund boxing match.

Wooooo! Starting to feel it now!


Just over a week until fight night!


Training is going well, feeling strong, confident, focused, and this is causing a corresponding shift in mentality as the fight draws nearer.


The training sessions continue to include a mix of cardio training, drilling and sparring, and I continue to feel sharper in all areas.


I’ve also noticed something interesting happening with my perception of the ‘outside world’ as we get closer and closer to the fight. As it gets closer, my mind is increasingly on the many details involved in preparation, and less so on the minutia of my everyday life. It’s interesting how the challenges of everyday life fade into the background, or in some cases go away entirely, when there is something more pressing and more intense on the horizon that is drawing the majority of your focus, effort and attention. It’s fascinating how the purpose and intention devoted to preparing for all this can precipitate such a change in how you look out at the world around you.


I’ve heard athletes (and other ‘performers’) talk about this before, whereby other issues or concerns seem to dissolve and give way to a focus on the high-risk/reward challenge on the horizon (whether physical or otherwise). I know this may sound bad, but you kinda begin to look out on the world and say, man, it looks so simple, even easy. Of course I know this isn’t the case, everyone has their own shit to deal with, but again, when you place a significant challenge on the horizon, with high stakes, and commit yourself to preparing as well as possible for it, a lot of the other stuff begins to seem relatively mild in comparison.


I feel like this might be part of the reason why high-performance athletes, performers, or individuals are so inclined to pursue the things they pursue, because they ‘get off’ on the grind and determination of the preparation, the thrill and excitement of performing, and the relative simplicity that is bestowed on everything else.


As always, who know’s. It’s actually kind of ironic that the addition of something that represents a major time commitment and added level of stress on top of your everyday life could have this effect, but that’s how it seems!


I’m sure this will ‘snap back’ to a great extent after the fight is done and dusted, but I’m hoping that some of this perspective remains as one of the many benefits derived from taking on this challenge. But for now at least, the simplicity is refreshing.



Alan Leung of Olive Branch Fitness

Name: Alan Leung

Company: Olive Branch

Topic: Mental Toughness


Q: Where does mental toughness come from?

A: Mental toughness, as the word says, a construct of the mind. It’s a growth mindset, that is trained up and hardened through challenges and failures. It comes from life experiences that tests one’s resolve.


Q: What is the biggest barrier to ‘accessing’ it?

A: That is again, your mind. Fear of failure is a big barrier for people in general. When you’re afraid of failing, you won’t try.  You, will always be your greatest opponent.


Q: Can you train it or cultivate it in any way?

A:  Absolutely, you can!  Mental toughness is not a secret weapon that is locked up in a treasure chest that one can reach into and use when the time comes, but rather an attribute of one’s mindset. It’s an acquired skill; a mental behaviour that you have instilled through training that manifests itself through your actions.  For some it may come naturally, but for most, it’s coached and trained up like any other skill.  The more hardship one faces, the tougher they are mentally.   This is why people who are afraid of failing are also mentally not as tough because they haven’t faced the challenges head-on.  In my fitness classes, they are designed to be grueling not just to push your bodies to the breaking point, but is also meant to mentally challenge you.  It’s training you up to be mentally tougher.

Alan Leung of Olive Branch Fitness

Q: How can you deploy it when it ‘counts’

A: When you are mentally tough, it becomes a part of your character – it’s your outlook on life.  But even when facing some of the most formidable challenges, your mental toughness will be put to the test.  And that’s when formal mental toughness training can be beneficial.  There will be situations that are so daunting that may make you freeze up or causes you to panic, like entering a boxing match in front of thousands of people, for example!  By practicing well-documented techniques like visualization, or positive self-talk, you give yourself an advantage when deep down inside, you just feel like running away.



Q: What is the single most important component of mental toughness?

A:  I believe the single most important component of mental toughness is adopting the “never give up” attitude.  I think the 7-times World Series Champion, professional baseball player, Babe Ruth captures my point the best:

“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” is proud to sponsor Dr. John during his training for the Brawl on the Bund!

If you’ve ever tried to buy nutritional supplements in China, you’ve probably been met with a less than satisfying experience. High prices, limited selection, questionable quality, are just some of the common annoyances.


The founder of was particularly put off by this situation, so he decided to see if it could be done better. The result is a budding business that sources top quality nutritional supplements, at an affordable price, that you can trust. Nice and simple.


When I started training for the Brawl on the Bund, I knew it would put unusually high requirements on my body, so it made sense to incorporate a few select supplements to make sure my body was performing and recovering as well as possible. is proud to sponsor Dr. John during his training for the Brawl on the Bund!

Nothing crazy, as I like to get the majority of my nutrients from clean, healthy food, but adding in some extra protein and some well-balanced Vitamin/Mineral supplements seemed like a good way to stay ahead of any physical deterioration that may result from the training.


So I was stoked when IEN offered to support me with some of their great products during training.


Thanks guys! I’m feeling awesome, and ready to rock! is proud to sponsor Dr. John during his training for the Brawl on the Bund!

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