Friday, January 20, 2017

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Struggle-Street

Living on struggle-street isn’t a pleasant experience. Getting a vaccine isn’t a pleasant experience either; but our reaction to that vaccine makes us much more robust and insures us against a much more serious problem down the line.
We don’t need to live on struggle-street to reap the robust-ifying benefits. Just take a stroll down there now and then.. Struggle-street is a place to visit; it’s there we find mental toughness, endurance, fortitude, perspective and a host of other fortifying gifts.
The mat (and life) has always provided me with an ingress to struggle-street; but there an infinite number of such places/opportunities to take a stroll down struggle street ... the gym, a book, a hill, the ocean, a mountain, a staircase, a relationship, a bank loan, etc …. opportunities for embracing the suck, abound - so seek them out and prepare for change. Start small, if you have any say in it ... and your reaction to the 'struggle' might well surprise you - it will most certainly change you. This is how we move from a 'fragile state' to a 'robust state'.
JBW

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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Excellence in all we do …

The most important distinction between the adequate and the exceptional is that the exceptional person created for him or herself an essential habit - that of paying attention to detail in the things they attend to. 

Rising to excellence in all that we do is really about a clear understanding of the value of time - our time. The sand runs through the hourglass for all of us, rich, poor, fast, slow, short, tall short, male and female alike. Keep in mind, this simple truth - whatever we are doing, we are trading some of these most precious grains of sand for that thing … in a very real way, how we spend our time represents the real value of that time. So consider, very carefully, what value we want to attach to those sands as they empty from our respective hourglasses … I for one, want to extract the most value I can, from each and every grain. 

if you are there - doing it (whatever ‘it’ is) - do it well; do it with ‘full mindfulness’ - do it as if it truly, truly matters - because it does matter; it’s your ’time’ that you are trading for the doing of it. I want to extract the maximum value form this gossamer moment we call ‘life’ …
I wish you the very same … 


  • JBW

Monday, January 16, 2017

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Lucky beyond measure …

I have lived some good portion of my life in the alleys and back blocks of the world. 

For half of my life, I had few possessions, lived pretty much day-to-day … but always I managed to find a way forward. I was just as happy in those ‘lean’ times as I am today (homeowner, nice car, etc) … because I was living an adventure.

Unlike many people though, I always had a safety net. I always had friends who would give me a place to stay and parents who had a room and a hot meal in the ready. So even my ‘lean’ times, were not all that difficult. There are countless human beings living in this world, for whom every single day is a true struggle for survival; there are countless innocents killed in conflict, countless others wrongfully imprisoned, homeless who have nothing to look forward to, parents struggling to keep their children alive … so for all of us who are able to read this post, it’s worthwhile pausing a moment to consider how lucky, how fortunate we actually are. 

We should always be on the lookout for meaningful and effective ways ti change people’s lives for the better … I am not a far left socialist, I don’t believe in the government taking what I have earn’t (mismanaging it) and giving it to anyone who puts their hand up …. yet, I do want to find ways to help those who need help and those who are struggling through circumstance rather than choice. 

I want to succeed in my life, but never at the expense of others. I always want to keep one foot in those back-alleys of my youth. We all need to remember, for many, the struggle is very, very real.


JBW

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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Trial and Error ...

The ‘trial’ is the easy part - it’s the ‘error’ that provides the challenging bit. 

We can all try stuff, have a go at this or that, embark on a new direction, experiment, etc … that is easy; even fun; but remember, there is always a price to pay for such endeavours; oft times that price is small, others times it might even cost us our life; but there’s always a price.

The thing is to weigh up the risks and get clarity on what the price is actually likely to be. On the mat, when we try a new sweep or attack or escape - the price (if we fail) might mean that we tap. This is basically akin to zero-cost! A slight bruising of the ego - at most.

At other times, say in investing in real estate, we want to have done our homework; we want to have asked (and answered) questions like: what is the area like, how easily will be able to service any debt; what outcomes are we expecting and over what time period, etc.

We try swimming in a pool while wearing floaties … risk minimal. We try swimming in a flooding river with a pack on our back (I’ve done both) … risk considerable. 

Learning to see the risks for what they represent is one life’s great lessons. And guess what? Yep - like any skill; we get better with practise. Take a small risk today.


  • JBW

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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I thank Meryl Streep for her recent commentary on MMA - for even though it elicited a push-back from the martial arts community, it has also got us thinking …

So … what is art? What constitutes art? Who gets the final say as to whether something is considered ‘art’ … or whether or not someone should be worthy of the title ‘artist’? Deep questions … put your slippers on, lay back … and if you wish … read on.

My own (visceral) understanding of the ‘art’ doesn’t come from a socratic quote or a google search - it comes from my own immersion in and life-long study of the combative arts. Well … that and a not entirely ignorant understanding of history and human endeavour.

Ancient Greece contributed a lot to the idea of what constitutes art. I am more a fan of Aristotle than Plato, in that Aristotle believed that art offered a pathway to learning through the experience of being an artist. This has also been my own personal experience - so I’ll go with that.
It is interesting to note than much of the early artistic expression in Greece was based around the aesthetic of the athletic form and the beauty to be found in struggle. Just saying … 


Many cultures throughout history (Japanese, Middle Easter, etc) have given far more weight to martial artistic forms than to other types of art - perhaps because human contest/struggle/war often played a far more intimate role in the daily life of the populace. And art, has always reflected culture … it has always reflected what sat in the minds of the population. As it still does today.

So, now … onto the meaty part …

Who labels what is art and what is not? It could be argued that it is the public who confers such titles. No-one would argue that William Blake was not an artist (today) but he was unrecognised in his own day. It was only well after his death, that he became recognised as one of Europes artistic greats. Even he (Blake) said himself, that he wasn’t writing for his contemporaries but for future generations. My point is, art is very often not recognised as such until the population catches up.


If a painter sits alone on a desert island and immerses him or herself into their painting, is that person an artist? Do we need an audience to define the artist? Should the artist care? Personally, I doubt real artists care much. They consider themselves, writers, painters, grapplers, dancers, poets … not artists. I think it’s up to others to confer the title of artist upon them … or not. It probably matters not to the actual artist.


So any who might stand in judgment of who is or isn’t an artist is standing on very thin ice indeed. As this is something the serious artist might well struggle to do him/herself … they’re almost certainly too busy painting, writing, dancing, etc.
The thing about these explorers of the human condition is that they go deeper than most people will ever go, with respect their passion. And this is hugely important … in drilling down, they make discoveries that they can share with the rest of the world … with those folk who are too busy with their lives to do the deep drilling themselves. This is what the artist brings to the world.


As far as martial artists are concerned … many of them spend a great amount of time in deep, deep struggle and exploration. They also spend time confronting aspects of the human condition that most people spend their entire lives avoiding (fear, loss, triumph of spirit, emotional control under duress, etc)


In terms of MMA, football, etc … the discussion as to whether this constitutes sport or art could be a long and hotly-debated one … I will say though, that I think it has a lot to do with individual ’motive’. With deep caring and a willingness to explore and push boundaries, an athlete can transform him or herself from athlete to artist. It probably has more to do with how we go about doing what we do rather than what it is we are actually doing.

The public will judge as time, tide and cultural/political forces permit. 

What has MMA boomed in recent decades? There are many reasons but perhaps it can be boiled down to this …. there is something inside us that yearns to witness the primal struggle. 

We might admit that the MMA/boxing, wrestling contest speaks to some deep human yearning … a human thing that has spoken to us throughout our turbulent and wonderful history. And art … as we know, has always reflected life. 

People understand and can relate to struggle (most can anyways) and so it’s no surprise that beautiful athletic endeavour can speak to us and even transmute us as human beings … and that is exactly what art is supposed to do. 

Lastly, as a life-long teacher and practitioner of the martial arts, I can say without any reservation that I have seen many lives change for the better for their engagement in the combative struggle. I have seen people morph from the angry thug to a beautiful and caring human being … if there is art to be seen anywhere, there may be some present in that wonderful alchemy. 

Do I consider myself an artist? After reflection I realise I do not care whether I am labelled as such or not; I am too busy drilling deep, being mindfully engaged in the transformative process that is my chosen field. Let others judge … I care not.

- JBW



Saturday, January 07, 2017

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THE YOUNGEST OF US MAY LIVE A VERY, VERY LONG TIME … THE OLDER, PROBABLY NOT SO MUCH … SO WHAT CAN WE DO … IN 2017?

As I was almost certainly born a tad too late to benefit from the leaps in genetic/CRISPR science that will no doubt lead to greatly increased lifespans during the next generation or so. So all I have left is the simple strategy of figuring out ways to extract more value from the time I do have left. So my intention is to try and immerse myself more fully in whatever I am doing; to do my best to try and notice more, and thereby make any experiences I have, all the more richer. I am therefore interested in any ways I can slow down that inevitable stream of sand running through the hourglass … and taking a better look at each and every grain./

There is an old saying - ‘the cat that jumps is not the cat that lands’. In any given moment, an infinite number of changes are taking place in the world (and wider universe) around us.

And every minuscule change in that physical world is contributing to the concept we call ‘duration’ (a measurement of time). Time, we could say,  is the method by which we quantify the changes in the configuration of the universe/reality (as we understand it to be).

There has been some work done on the study of this concept of time …
In one experiment, participants were asked to sit in front of a computer screen that continuously flashed the same image of a shoe. Every once in awhile, the monotony was broken with a picture of a flower. The participants believed that the flower stayed on the screen longer, when in fact it cycled through just as quickly as the shoes. 

The thinking is that the flower seemed to linger because its novelty spurred the participants to pay greater attention to it. And the more attention we give to something, the more memory is laid down, and so our perception of duration seems longer. 

I like this idea. if we are immersed in something (learning/action activity/etc) to the point where are giving it our full attention, then we are ‘encoding’ novel memory and, upon reflection, we feel differently about how time has actually passed. 

I wish each of you a longer and more fully experienced 2017! Make it a year of rich experience and immersion in the moment. very best wishes: 


- JBW

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

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No time machine ... only heating seeking missiles.

We can’t fix where we start in life …

There is no time machine we can use to go back and fix the past - we can’t fix who our parents were, where we were born and a myriad of other things that have preceded our existence to this point. What we can do is attend to our current circumstances, make good decisions, take action and create our future. 

For the whiners, this is an unpopular notion. I though, have long-since realised, that whining or complaining about our past, achieves nothing. I have always preferred to take action.

Decision-making, in many cases much more than circumstances, effect how our lives unfold. This is not a popular notion; many, many people find it easier to blame their circumstances for their lack of success; or point to how others are doing well because of their ‘privilege’, etc. It is difficult for us to ‘own’ our decisions; especially our bad decisions; and I have made plenty!

I am reminded of the gambler who is happy to tell you about their latest win - but who never speaks about their latest loss. Owning our bad decisions can be difficult, but it can also be very, very instructive.

Many make decisions based on intuition/feeling/gut instinct … which can be (sometimes) surprisingly effective. Through use of the ‘rule of thumb’, we can make decisions quickly and more easily sometimes. Others, like to have all the information they can find before weighing it up and making their decision (this is the way I most often like to decide on things) - but this at times, and with certain people, can lead to mental ‘log jam’ and make it difficult for some to ‘pull the tigger’ and take action.

No matter how we come to our decisions though, there his little doubt that these decisions are largely responsible for how our lives unfold. We should own our decisions; both good and bad. Learn from the bad ones and from the good ones alike. 

Someone one told me (Robert Kiyosaki, for those interested) - that our decision-making process is kind of analogous to the way a heat-seeking missile works. It heads off in a random direction, then asks a simple question, ‘hotter or colder?’ - and then makes  course-corrections - eventually, smaller and smaller corrections, until it zero’s in on the target. I remember being impressed by this … as it gave me permission to make bad decisions (colder) but as long as I realised it and was willing to ‘course-correct’ then it could be seen, not only as good, but an integral part of success-seeking behaviour. 

Decide - Own - Learn - Decide again. Oh - and never replace Own with Blame. That is a sure fire way to kill the process dead in it’s tracks.


  • JBW

Sunday, January 01, 2017

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Collateral Benefit in 2017

I wish everyone thew happiest of starts to 2017.
Each of us will make countless decisions this coming year, some good, others less so  … but our decisions are all very important, as they ultimately determine how out lives will unfold. But here’s something to consider … they will also determine how others lives will unfold.

Our decisions and the actions that follow them, have consequences. 

In my own experience, I have both learned - and viscerally realised - that when my choices benefit others, my own life gets better. I may decide on a course of action - that at it’s core is based on self-interest - but if it is a good decision, others will also benefit from it. Collateral benefit is one of the best reasons to embark on any course of action. 

As the bee collects the pollen, the flowers benefit from cross-pollination … one of the beautiful truths underpinning the natural world. 

Wishing all a wonderful year ahead - one that propels you forward and helps others along the way.


  • JBW

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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Seeking our Identity …

In my more formative years, I spend quite a bit of time in South Asia. If I had have been asked, at that time, why I was travelling to Indonesia, Thailand, etc … I would probably have talked about my quest to learn about the martial arts of those regions. What I was actually embarking on though, was a quest to find myself, a quest to help crystallise my identity.
Young people are all trying to figure out who they are? Such a puzzle marks the transition from teenager into adulthood. Most cultures that I know of, historically had some form of ritual that marked this transition … but in western society (at least in my own case) we are largely left to figure out what those rights of passage might be for ourselves. Challenging, to say the least!
Where are the guidelines for these rights of passage? I propose that they are contained - in their myriad forms - in the various sub-cultures that we expose ourselves to 9or are exposed to), in young adulthood and continually, throughout the course of our lives.
And this brings me to my point, most of us, expose ourselves to a variety of sub-culture groups as we mature - unlike the tribal situations of old, where most people were born, lived and died within their respective groups, in today’s world things are different. The tricky part is that the rights of passage cannot be universally agreed upon (not should they) - the best thing though, is that we always have opportunities for a do-over. We can always choose new friends, surround ourselves with new groups of people, visit other cultures, immerse ourselves in a myriad of forms of learning.
My advice is simple … choose wisely with whom and how you spend your time. As we build ourselves, we don’t chisel away, as with sculpture - we build on, we add and we modify. We should think about the quality of the clay we are using to form the latest (and best) versions of ourselves. And the types of clay available range from the downright toxic, to the marvellously authentic and interesting.
The New Year is as good a time as any to think about the clay we will add in the year to come … so Happy Choosing to each and everyone - as we slide from this year into the next.
- JBW

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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The rise of the Snowflake

Times they are a changing … apparently. And so they should - but not all changes are for the better. I am talking about the rise of the ’snowflake’ - that delicate breed (found in campuses the world over) that recoils in horror from ‘micro-aggressive discourse’ - who screams and whines at the slightest use of so-called ‘weighted language’ - who, apparently requires a ‘safe space’ and ‘calming/soothing’ activities like clay-modelling and colouring books when confronted with ‘harsh opinion’ or ‘non-inclusive’ nomenclature. OMG!

I wonder how these delicate creatures are going to cope when the real world knocks them to the pavement and delivers a couple of good kicks in the guts? 

I have always welcomed duress; and I imagine my own father thought I was soft, after what his generation went through. 

My aunt, who was a very high-level educator (here in Australia) used to say that we would be way better off getting out of our own culture and travelling for a few years - before beginning our study at university (college for my USA friends). We need to get out there and get our scars - we need to harden up - to grow a thick skin - to build a robust emotional immune system. The world can indeed be a tough place (for the non-immunized) … I fear for the poor little snowflakes.

So … my advice to the snowflakes is this ‘man up’ … oh shit- I think I just offended someone! 


JBW

Friday, December 23, 2016

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Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Throughout much of my life, I have talked up the concept of ‘excellence’; I have spoken about the benefits of leaving ‘mediocrity’ in our wake; I have bemoaned the widespread philosophy of ‘good enough to get by’ … but in doing so I have on occasion been misunderstood. So allow me to clear something up …

If we learn to look and learn to see, we can find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It is possible to find the extraordinary beauty in the day-to-day aspects of our lives; we don’t need to climb Everest to bathe in the amazing. Extraordinary acts can be simple things, small things that might even go unnoticed by most. Offering a coffee to the mailman-woman - a small extra-ordinary act that might turn their day around; going for a walk with someone and offering advice with no thought of recompense; being mindful whilst undertaking an activity that we usually pay little or no attention to; fasting for a day or two and then really tasting a meal that we carefully prepare for ourselves; etc.

You don’t have to be wealthy to experience the extraordinary; you don’t have to climb a mountain to experience the extraordinary; you don’t have to win a gold medal, buy a new house, or deadlift 300kgs … the extraordinary can be hidden from ordinary view, but it can surround us at every turn … secreted behind the thin veneer of ordinary, day-to-day life. Lift the curtain today. Be extraordinary.


  • JBW

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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Learn to Earn

I love that my son Felix heads to the local supermarket every friday, saturday and sunday - to stack shelves and earn himself some pocket-money. He has a great work ethic - he fully understands that we need to ‘earn’ things in life: we need to earn money (to make our way); we need to earn any skills we might want; we need to earn our happiness; we need to earn the trust of others, etc. Anything worthwhile needs to be earned. My father taught me the value of earning as I am now trying to do in the case of my own son. Something earned is also something valued.

On the mat we need to learn the technique; then we need to drill the technique; then we need to pressure-test it; until we finally take some level of ownership of it … in other words, we need to earn it. 

All the great stuff is earned. When we earn it, we enjoy it, we appreciate it, we understand what we have traded for it and in doing so, we attribute value. Learn to earn … a serious skill in and of itself. 
  • JBW


Monday, December 12, 2016

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Feeling Offencded??

I abhor the erosion of free speech. I oppose any who would condemn the idea of free speech. Nowadays people feel they have the right to be legally protected from what others might say. Holy shite! That sort of thinking heralds the beginning of the end of free-speech!

We should be able to openly express our views; if others are offended by our views, then the responsibility lies with them to deal with that. I don’t like the censorship of ideas; I don’t like people being burn’t at the stake for their ideas; I don’t like people being threatened for drawing a cartoon that offends a segment of the population; I don’t like the fact that someone can be vilified for stating what they think. To temper this belief - I also think that civilized people shouldn’t go around offending others for the sake of it; but if we are arguing for a belief of some kinD, or defending our position on something, then all bets are off (in my opinion). 

People, in my view, should be free to say what they like about me; about my beliefs, opinions, etc - and I , of course, should be free to defend my position (if I can) … words are words. If I am offended, then that is my problem … I should be able to defend my position with rational argument. Our grandparents knew better … ‘stick and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me’. The new generation needs to harden up a little methinks …


Saturday, December 10, 2016

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The seed/root idea …

Think about how we learn basic math - we began with the fundamentals! Think about how we learned to read - again, the fundamentals. How to we build a house? We don’t start with he roof, then the walls - no we begin with a foundation. Almost always, this is the best way - starting at the beginning.

In martial art systems - particularly in the world of BJJ - it is very easy to begin with the fourth, firth or sixth iteration of something, rather than with the basic idea. Even if (and it’s a BIG if) the instructor does start out on a given topic, right at the basic/root idea - if we miss a class or two and he is three iterations/variations in by the time we show up - then we are up against it!

When I introduce a class to a topic - or teach a topic on a seminar - I almost always try to begin at the very start; IE.: I familiarise everyone with (to the best of my knowledge) how the idea/technique first popped into being. Why are we doing the technique? Under what set of circumstances? And then how are we doing it? Once those aspects of the topic have been squared away (if there is time) I progress to other iterations of it, or other entries/set-ups/variations, etc.

This idea - was given to me by my coach and friend of 30 years - Prof Rigan Machado. He coined it - the Seed idea. 


  • JBW

Monday, November 21, 2016

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Getting the order right ...

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the way we are introduced to certain subjects/topics/ideas throughout the course of our learning, is rarely the optimal pathway. 

Sometimes it is, of course, if a learning-pathway had been mindfully designed but much more often we are learning as though pulling books at random from the shelves of a huge library.

Looking back at say - to be topical - the theme of ashi-garami/leg control - I learned many drills, attacks, some defences, combinations, entries, etc - over a period of time. In reviewing what I have learned, I now realise - that there are three simple drills that I learned (10 years in) that would have been immensely helpful right at the very beginning. I also realise that that some of the variations I learned would have been much better learned after I had better understood some of the basic concepts. In other words, it is now very clear that I was picking up pieces of the ashi garami puzzle, at random, trying to make them fit together without even a view of the bigger picture.

Seeing the front of the jigsaw puzzle box gives us immediate context and overview. This really helps when we are trying to re-construct it from a random pile of pieces.

In the case if ashi garami for example - I think it is important o first understand context - ie: why and under what set of circumstances are we deciding that this is in fact a good option/course of action.

Eg; Imagine we are standing over our opponent - who has an open guard - we grab his foot, fall backward and try to establish the leg/foot control ... we should ask, is this an optimal strategy when we are taking our first fledgling steps into the world of ashi garami? I would suggest that it is not!

And this is where 'rationale' comes into the design! As in life, before we choose a path, start out on a journey, make a decision ... we should, ideally, be able to provide some rationale as to why we have made the decisions/choices we have ... rationale.

Think about it ... we are on top (essentially dominating) .. so why choose falling back as a first option/foray into the footlock world ... it's kind of like splitting tens in blackjack - you would want to be confident. You cannot know, with certainty, that you have improved your situation by foot-grabbing and falling backward (ask shamrock , circa 1992)

So, how about we start out taking another approach (actually a very old-school approach) ... imagine we are laying on our back with opponent standing over us (one foot either side of our chest) ... by securely grabbing his ankle, just that, we improve our situation as he cannot properly mount us. Then by threading our foot, up and around his leg - securing the ashi garami position - we reduce his mobility and start to control the distance - we find a way then to dump him on the ground - and then we stand up (or stay down and attack his leg/foot if we have skill). In this scenario, there is little doubt that we have improved our situation every step of the way ... 

So, I would suggest that this would be a better starting point for an early ashi garami lesson than any set-ups we might apply from the top. Hopefully you get where I'm coming from.

I refer to this (and I got this idea from my coach Rigan Machado) as the seed/root idea of ashi garami. Then we design and build from there. Often, certain foundational drills/warm-ups would precede even the seed/root drill - to better prepare the student for success in their initial efforts of replicating the seed drill.

My thinking is that this theme 101 approach - to almost any subject - is a great way to go. It builds a solid foundation - and gives context and meaning - providing a basis upon which to heap all the future design iterations and variations and favourite versions of that theme that we will not doubt be exposed to as time goes by.


This approach can be taken with almost every subject. Food for thought; projects enough for a lifetime. - JBW

Saturday, November 19, 2016

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Not sure about that …

“An angel (that only I could see) told me … to tell you (stuff that only I can hear) … so you better rally in behind me (because this is not going as well as I thought it would) … oh, and of course the world is flat, and only 6000 years old and trust me (you’re going to love this) when you die, you go to a party in the sky and will be re-united with your long dead pet … it’s going to be awesome!”

Even though I have been thirsty at times - I refuse to drink the cool-aid!

Skepticism is not disrespect - it is simply a manifestation of an innate desire to know a little more … we want evidence and we like to think we make decisions based on reason. 

We (at least in my case) are not taught to be skeptical in the modern school system. I think it should be a class; right along with a class on ‘organisation’, ‘communication’, ‘creative problem solving’ , etc.

Within the martial arts sphere, skepticism plays an important role. So many (perhaps even the majority) of instructors, are selling self defence solutions that would very likely fail miserably under the scrutiny of real world pressures. 


A healthy skepticism is important if we are to do well in life. Remember, an important distinction to make is the distinction between fact and opinion. We are, after all, largely programmed by cultural, familial and environmental factors. So although my ‘soul’ is comprised of hundreds of thousands of tiny robots - I do have the ability to design some robots of my very own. Think about it.

- JBW

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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Small Victories

What's not to love about seeing others overcome obstacles. We all have obstacles, demons to wrestle with, personal challenges that take an effort of will to face up to. Life is often synonymous with struggle; seeing people prevail in difficult times is an uplifting sight; it gives us inspiration to overcome drama and challenge in our own lives. I love prevailing myself. I love helping other people prevail; I love seeing other people prevail; prevailing in big things; prevailing in small things … 

Weirdly … to me at least, I do see lots of people prevail in small things yet fail to recognise they are doing so. Very often, it is the small victories, that pave the way for larger accomplishments. 

Losing that one pound (if you need to lose weight) is an accomplishment - and of course, it’s impossible to achieve bigger goals, without hitting loads of small milestones along the way. 

Small victories … what’s not to love?


_ JBW

Monday, November 14, 2016

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My robots are awesome …

As a result of cultural, familial and environmental influences, we are to a large degree - programmed. As I have written previously, ‘I do indeed have a soul but it is comprised of thousands of tiny robots’. 

Something I also know - or rather believe, for I cannot know with 100% certainty - is this: we can, with an effort of will, and though choices, life-experience and learning, create new robots; the addition of which, can dramatically change the way we live in the world.

I am proud of my new robots; that small horde I painstakingly designed. They represent my efforts to carve out for myself something semblance of that thing that some could call ‘free will’. 

Remember though … we only own some of them.

- JBW

Monday, October 31, 2016

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From one thing …

‘From one thing know ten thousand things’ - one of my favourite quotes from Miyamoto Musashi’s book on strategy.

Anyone who has ‘drilled down’ into any subject sufficiently, will undoubtedly have discovered and come to appreciate a set of underlying principals in play. In appreciating these principles, it is then only a small mental leap to appreciate how these same principles may be applied elsewhere.

Hence - to know one thing is to know ten thousand things.

The easiest and most obvious value we can extract from this idea - is to look for what I call the ‘simple migration’.
In BJJ training, this is pretty easy; for example if we learn how a single leg take-down works; we ask how this knowledge/understanding might allow us to ‘migrate’ our understanding into other parts of our game.
Some examples - using a standard single leg as a starting point.
- The Basic Single
- De La Riva Guard to Single Leg
- Single Leg from Z-Guard (knee shield)
- Single Leg as we escape side control with underhook
- Single Leg escape from Knee on Belly
- Single leg Escape from Mount - via Deep 1/2 Guard
And so on …
Just a way to think of it; using our knowledge of there Single Leg to weave a common thread through a wide range of techniques.
Then there is what I call the ‘complex migration’. This is to muse on how we might use our understanding of the Single Leg in the other (non-grappling) aspects of our lives. Eg: an understanding of leverage, importance of process, need for paying attention to detail, etc.
Best wishes all … read Musashi’s Book of Five rings if you have not; a lifetime of deep study right there … one of my very favourites.
- JBW

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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Fledgling attempts …

When we cast our minds back, we can come up with a myriad of examples of our (human) fledgling attempts at technology/art etc, that we laugh at now. 

Phones, planes, software, etc … remember the Atari game - Pong … that was released in 1972 … for a 60 year old, that doesn’t seem like all that long ago.

It is interesting to note that probably much of what we think of as ‘cutting edge’ right now - will also be looked back upon as ‘fledgling attempts’ by future generations. 

I can imagine their incredulous looks as they ask ‘really, you had to steer the car yourself?’ .

We stand on the shoulders of others - and future generations shall stand upon ours. We are fortunate in the extreme - and should never take our fortune for granted; for in many other parts of the world, it’s all people can do to make it from one day, to the next. 

We should all spend some off our energy trying to help those who have great need. Our fledgling attempts at improving our lot, should not take our attention away from the fact that small acts of kindness (that might mean little to us) can help others people’s lives tremendously.


  • JBW

Monday, October 24, 2016

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My soul is made of robots ...

Yes - we have a soul - but it’s made of lots of tiny robots. Someone else said that … not me … yet I very much like it.

Basically, this quote refers to the idea that for the majority of the time we are basically all running on auto-pilot; we are driven by the programming that was installed in each of us by the culture we were born into, by what our parents taught us, etc. 

It is very difficult, if not impossible for most, to break from this programming and actually ‘think’ for ourselves. Hence. most people’s stubborn willingness to hold to an ideology that has been thrust upon them from the day of their birth.

This of course, opens the way for an interesting discussion on the concept of ‘free-will’ - if such a thing actually exists.


I do have soul … but it is just constructed of many thousands of tiny robots.

- JBW

Friday, October 21, 2016

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Learning new Stuff

Now that I am an adult, I find myself really enjoying the ‘learning process’. it’s fun for me; but it dod not used to be. When I was in school, learning took an effort - an effort I did not enjoy. 

When I first travelled to Indonesia (at age 18) it was rather effortless for me to learn the language because I had both context and motivation. I was living in an area where absolutely no-one spoke English; so I had to learn. And I did, and quickly and without effort. Like a child learns I guess.

Nowadays, when I have to learn something new, I first try to establish the ‘big picture’ - I want to see where this new knowledge is going to sit in the larger scheme of things - it really helps me to have ‘context’. I need to create a kind of ‘filing cabinet’ for the new ‘file’ I guess.

Then I break the new idea down into a series of steps or smaller ‘chunks’ - and I try to set those chunks into an optimal sequence (the right order) - so I can ‘unpack’ it at a future date, without losing many of the bits.

When we learn stuff, we need to take ownership of it. To do that, we need to find ways to apply the idea, as soon as we can in the real world. This is a huge step up from mere intellectual ownership. it’s one thing to understand the concepts of buying an investment property and renting it out - it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. We can learn a new language at school or from a book - but to speak it in the back blocks of a foreign country - is a different thing.

We can learn a new technique and drill it until we are comfortable with it and understand it - but again, we take our sense of ownership to another level by applying it in live-rolling.

learning how to learn is one of the best things I have ever learned.


_ JBW

Thursday, October 20, 2016

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A critical Mass ...

This idea coalesced for me after reading Buckminster Fuller’s A critical Path - not an easy read!

One of those strange phenomena at work in the world and in our lives is the idea that when things reach a critical mass something ‘large’ happens.

On the mat, we are are exposed to more and more ideas/techniques and yet not much really changes - UNTIl - we reach a sort of Critical Mass and then we ‘leap’ forward in spectacular fashion.

The same sort of ‘explosive’ and ‘spectacular’ outcomes can be seen almost anywhere .. 

Notice that the smallest parts of our physical body are not really alive - and yet the entire organism is undoubtedly alive/conscious.

The smallest parts of the physical form are not free to make choices but the entire thing (consciousness) is free to make choices.

We are made of trillions upon trillions of small things (cells) that neither know who we are or care who we are - and yet WE know and WE care.

So it is worth noting, that often when we are working toward something, and it seems that we are not getting anywhere - if we persist, we may well reach a critical point, where the truly spectacular is likely to occur. 


  • JBW

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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- focus on the small steps, the process, not the goals
- to build trust, make small promises … and keep them
- true love is not a myth
- passion and purpose are life's trudriving forces
- going deep builds understanding
- going broad builds adaptability
- failing is learning in an ugly disguise
- problem-solving is often about the 5% improvement
- the extraordinary life is made by doing extraordinary things
- a ‘good enough to get by’ attitude leads to mediocrity
- life is about living
- being overly attached to stuff and outcomes causes unhappiness
- risk-taking is how increase the square footage of adventure in our lives
- people are more interesting that they first appear
- the universe won’t manifest anything for you, taking action will
- ‘loyalty’ when it’s inconvenient to be so, is true loyalty
- ‘generosity’ when there is no hope of ‘payback’ is true generosity
- possibilities are endless; our fears are the real limiting factor
- ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ is a question worth asking
- investing in ourselves is the best investment of all
- everything comes to an end; even pain, sorrow or unhappy moments
- there is much more to everything that what we initially think
- time goes by whether we want it to or not
- each day is an opportunity to re-invent
   ourselves
- John B Will


Sunday, October 16, 2016

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DESIGN ITERATIONS ...

Don't model the behaviours of the expert - model the pathways they took to become that expert. Ideas and inventions bloom on the landscape, are taken up by early adopters, often improved upon, whereafter they are reborn, and on and on it goes. BJJ techniques also go through multiple design iterations as they are pressure-tested on the mat and evolve into the current versions of themselves that we all know and enjoy. What is not all that apparent though, is the fact that quite often, the original version of a technique becomes overlooked by the modern practitioner as he or she remains focussed only on the latest iteration of the idea with little or no knowledge of it’s ‘history/evolution’. Personally, I enjoy working through the history of a technique, from (what my coach refers to as ..) the ‘seed’ idea all the way through to the latest/greatest version. It is well worth re-tracing the evolutionary footsteps of a technique; in doing so, we:

- get a much deeper and more well-rounded understanding of it’s strengths and weaknesses

- may find that in many instances, the original/basic version of the technique is actually more practical and easy to apply. Techniques often become over-specialised after they are subjected to the evolutionary forces of the counter-counter-to counter ‘arms race’. (This process unfolds more quickly in a closed-environment)

- get to, albeit at an artificially accelerated rate, follow in the footsteps of the person who ‘developed’ the technique to a high level.

To conclude - I offer this - rather than modelling ‘current performance’ (of an expert, model the pathway that expert took to arrive at where he/she is today. Model the process not the outcomes … JBW

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