Martial Artists: Are You a Shredder?

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Jimi Hendrix was the ultimate shredder

Jimi Hendrix was the ultimate shredder on the guitar

Urban Dictionary


surfing: performing a series of cutbacks requiring seemingly impossible adeptness.

To play so amazingly fast on guitar you almost destroy it’s strings.

Sometimes you learn lessons in the strangest places. I learned a few behind the bar. Fresh out of bar tending school in San Diego, I had a big break. The school, impressed with my scores on the exams, and especially my pestering them every day for a job, hooked me up with one of the busiest and best bars in San Diego.

I was impressed by Steve, the manager. He was fast, personable, and funny. But the next day, a blonde surfer dude with a bit of a swagger walked into the bar. Steve said to me, “Dave is a shredder”. I asked him what that meant, and he said, “Watch him work. He gets it done. He is in a league of his own”.

That night, I trained with Dave, and I soon knew what Steve was talking about. Dave was in well #4. He was handling the orders of three cocktail waitresses, plus the busiest section of the bar, all by himself. I was his bar back, which meant gofer, running to and from the back with the supplies he needed. He was getting orders by the dozens from the waitresses, memorizing them (no writing or anything allowed, it was too slow) and cranking them out within seconds, meanwhile cracking jokes to the people at the bar, spinning and tossing the the bottles behind his back, and collecting one heck of a lot of money for the establishment. We were truly “in the weeds”, which meant snowed under with people five deep at the bar waving $20 notes, before long. While other guys in the bar, including myself, were getting stressed out, Dave kept his cool, and just switched gears. He was in the zone, and within minutes, we were caught up. The rush was over. I was exhausted.

That night, I knew one thing. I wanted to be a “shredder”. I later asked Dave for his secrets to success. To this day I have applied many of his secrets, as they work in any field, especially martial arts. Here are his secrets.

Enjoy the Present

Dave lived in the present. While most bartenders were university students or in between careers, Dave was a pro. He always wanted to be a bartender, and he wanted to be the best. He had a great sense of humour, and every night he had at least ten or twelve people at the bar, where he held court. His stories, jokes, and personality had that bar full every night. He rarely drank. Sometimes he had more than one attractive woman at the bar competing for his attention. He introduced people, creating many friendships. His customers loved him. Dave loved bartending.

Drill like a Demon

They had us do drills in bartending school with water and food colouring in bottles and plastic spouts on the end. I threw mine away after graduating. Dave still had his. He had a game, timing himself to see how fast he could pour different combinations, and of course, tossing the bottles up in the air, catching it behind his back, and other tricks. He showed me how to do many of them. He knew how to breathe fire, his most popular trick.

Know Your Stuff

Dave had over two thousand drinks memorised and he was always looking at recipe cards and trying to create his own mixes. He explained to me that the better you knew them, the faster you could work as you did not have to recall how to make them, especially under pressure.

Get in your Discomfort Zone

Dave always asked to be in well #4. He and Steve were the only ones fast enough to handle the demands of that well. This kept him in constant practice under pressure. He loved the challenge.

Work Without Fear

I asked Dave how he kept so cool under pressure, and his answer surprised me. He said, “I don’t really care what people, including the boss, think about my performance. I am doing my best, and if they don’t like it, I will go down the street and get a better job, because I have faith in my abilities. So what is the worst that can happen?” He was not worried about making mistakes, spilling drinks, or offending customers. He was super relaxed and this is what gave him the ability to work with reckless abandon.

Have a Bit of Balance in Your Life

On his days off, Dave was learning how to fly small planes. It was his way to chill out after busy nights behind the bar. It was his other passion, and he jumped into it with gusto as well.

Dave made a big impact on me during that time in my life. I never approached his skill and speed as a bartender, but before long, I was working well #4. Once or twice I thought I heard Steve say to the new bartenders something about “shredder” as he pointed my way.

Dave, last I heard, was flying 747’s for Delta Airlines. If there is an emergency up in the air, you hope you have someone like Dave flying your airplane. This wizard behind the bar taught me much about life and success.

Are you a shredder?

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