Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Lions at Play …

On the mat - there are two very different approaches we might take. We could take the ‘opportunistic’ approach - and take whatever subs, sweeps, opportunities that come our way. The Hunter-Gatherer approach. Or …
We could take the Hunters approach. Ignoring the random opportunities and remaining ‘on-mission’ and focussed on catching the technique we are trying to work on/improve. 
Hunting a given technique will see us make huge gains. As we continue to ‘hunt’ it - our regular partners will become more aware and begin to make it more difficult for us; we in turn, staying focussed on it - will need to become more creative about how we set it up, etc. 
Hunter or Gatherer? Both approaches offer something different.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Baking Understanding …

When we learn new techniques, we move from ‘broad strokes’ to ‘more detail’ to ‘advanced nuance’. As we make this journey, we deepen our understanding; we begin to take ownership of the technique or concept. 

In teaching, I try my best to bake understanding into even the initial offering of an idea … in my experience, the sooner students get a glimpse into the deep and more nuanced aspects of a technique, the better. 

This represents a shift away from a ‘good enough to get by’ approach … and toward a habit of ‘paying attention to detail’. This is a journey that all the exceptional have taken. Learning to ’take notice’ - is one of the most transformative skills we can acquire. 

Here’s an example of one of my favourite childhood challenges … pick the one that is different. At first glance - they’re all the same .. upon closer inspection though …

Thursday, August 09, 2018


Useless F#@!#ing Advice ….

I need to say it … as unpalatable it may be to some. There is, in my view, a surfeit of unhelpful advice on offer in our society. The advice may even be correct at it’s heart - but often it can be quite ‘unhelpful’.

There is a road-sign (in Australia) that advises the following - AVOID WINDSCREEN DAMAGE! No kidding brainiacs! As if we were looking for windscreen damage? It reminds me of coaches who scream at their students in competition - ESCAPE! ESCAPE! PASS HIS GUARD! Etc. Again, no kidding! Or people who tell you - be Rich and Happy! Gee - thanks for that! 

People know what they want - people, generally, aren’t stupid; what they really need to hear, is advice on exactly HOW to achieve these things. Clarity on the ‘goal’ is one thing - but clarity on the process we need to follow to get there, is quite another. I love process!

I make a very clear distinction between WHAT we should do - and HOW we should do it! The ‘what’ is often very obvious - and so having people tell us ‘what’ we should do, can be frustrating in the extreme - when what we need to hear, is how we to do those things. 

Less of the WHAT - more of the HOW - and we’ll get many more people achieving; we’ll get them hitting goals and blowing past them. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


How to use Jiu Jitsu ...

Jiu Jitsu is both an ever-evolving submission grappling art and an experience - it offers utility and it also offers a challenging landscape upon which we can forge a new view of how we can operate in the world. 

I cannot begin to even scratch the surface of the multi-faceted gem that is Jiu Jitsu. I have seen countless people begin in an effort to learn how to defend themselves - yet over time, their reasons for continuing their practise have evolved and changed as have their their minds, bodies and in many cases, their lives. 

We learn to use Jiu Jitsu - like any tool in the most obvious ways at first - and then as our appreciation and understanding deepens, we learn to wield it in ways both unexpected, and even potentially, life-changing. 

It is at once a way of moving, a way of seeing, a way of noticing and of way of being … it will change and morph as will our own view of what it has to offer. Embrace the practise - embrace the study - and you will be rewarded handsomely.

Monday, August 06, 2018


Five things you need to know before starting BJJ

For those who are coming to grappling from the striking arts (as I did some 30 years ago), there are a few things to be aware of before you start. In fact, my own foray into the world of BJJ, could have been a little easier if I had been made aware of these things. 
My own introduction to BJJ left me somewhat frustrated; and perhaps more than a little ‘freaked out’. When we limit ourselves to ‘stand up’ sparring/fighting, traits like mental toughness, athleticism and ‘grit’ can lay a large part in the outcome. Grappling however, particularly BJJ, is less reliant on such traits, and technical excellence plays a much larger role.  So my early experience of BJJ, was this – a highly motivated, athletic, mentally tough individual could be completely dominated by a relaxed, un-athletic, weaker, smaller, individual who was skilled in BJJ. This was somewhat of a revelation on the martial arts landscape – and has almost certainly underpinned the phenomenal growth the art continues to enjoy.
So, if you come from a Karate, TKD, Kickboxing, Kung Fu, or similar kind of background – you need to understand that BJJ is very, very different. And because it is different you need to approach it very differently than other kinds of training. Just because you are a good runner doesn’t mean you are adept at swimming; it requires a different kind of training, a completely different type of approach. Here are some things to know, before you start:

Speed Limits
The pace is different; particularly when you are starting out. Stand-up fighting needs to be fast and explosive – ground-fighting does not. Because there is so much connection and friction between the two people wrestling, the pace is much slower than the typical stand-up sparring session. We rely much, much more on our kinaesthetic sense (our feel) than our eyesight. Different!

Too close for comfort
Things are closer, way, way closer. The distance we are used to in stand-up fighting is now gone; it doesn't exist; much of the grappling dynamic occurs at ‘zero-space’ range. So movement and mobility are now a very, very different experience. This also means, there’s no ‘running around’ – in short, you cannot hide. Different!

There will be an outcome
Often, there will be clear winner and a loser; at least much more often than is the case with stand-up sparring (where both people can walk away thinking they have won). On the ground, the goal is to control and submit the opponent. If you ‘tap’ out to a submission – you lose! If you submit your partner – you win! There are clear outcomes. Different!

Tapping like an Irish dancer
You will need to learn how to ‘concede’ the fight – by ‘tapping out’. This is mandatory if you want to avoid serious injury. It will seem foreign at first; but eventually you will come to understand that it is all part of the game. If you go surfing, you’ll need to learn to fall off your board, survive the ‘dumping’, get back on, paddle out and have another go – and so it is with grappling. You will need to tap, in the beginning, you might find yourself doing so multiple times, and at every session. It’s not a problem. Different!

Complexity is your new friend
There is a complexity to BJJ that is perhaps analogous to chess. It has been said, many times, that BJJ is like chess not checkers. At first, this complexity might be off-putting; in that the landscape seems overly complicated. There are too many positions to learn, too many pathways between these positions and an endless and ever-evolving swag of techniques; thousands of techniques. But what might be off-putting at the beginning will be the exact thing that keeps you there for years to come. I have often said ‘it was the simplicity that got me there – but the complexity that kept me there’. You will never be bored practicing BJJ. It is such a broad landscape that it is impossible to get your head around it, as a beginner. Different!
I wish I had have gone into my first dozen BJJ classes, knowing these things. If I had, I would not have experienced the same level of frustration and confusion. BJJ is not a ‘Ground Karate’; it is as different from stand up, striking-based martial arts as swimming is from bike-riding. It is a totally new and different game – and it should be approached as such. 
Enjoy the adventure; put your expectations to one side and immerse yourself in the new. BJJ, might just offer you the opportunity to re-invent yourself as a martial artist – and perhaps even, as a person. The adventure awaits.

- John B Will

Thursday, August 02, 2018


Entitlement …

Everyone wins a trophy - everyone gets a black belt - everyone is deserved of this this or that award - everyone summits Mount Everest!
This kind of world is not heaven as some might think - but rather, in my view, an analogue of hell.
I am all for helping those that need a hand; lifting up someone who cannot lift themselves - but without effort, struggle and earned-reward - there is no … sense of triumph or true achievement. 
The value - is in the earning!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Earning Trust …

And there it is … the secret is right there in the title. ’Trust’ needs to be earned. Someone once told me a simple truth - one I have never forgotten - if you want to engender ‘trust’ - simply make small promises and KEEP them.

It’s usually not about the big stuff. If we tell someone we will call them the next day - we DO it! This is how we build trust. This is how we develop a reputation for being reliable - for being the kind of person, that others can count on. if we can’t keep the small promises - what’s the likelihood that we can keep the big ones? 

So, think before we speak. if we say we’ll do something; we do it! That’s it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


The value of our time …

This is the most valuable thing you have. I believe, that almost certainly, the value of time is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. The probability of not-existing is infinitely more likely than that of ‘existing’. 
We trade our time - this most valuable thing - for everything that we do. Think about the ramifications, consequences and real meaning of that trade.

Spend it wisely. 

Friday, July 27, 2018


What it means to be authentic ...

Be prepared to say what you think ... and accept that there may be consequences to that. Do the work ... attend to your life and the practise of those things you love doing, with attention and passion … and leave the judgement to others. 

Forget trying to please everyone ... sometimes we need to take a stand. Be open to change, and to changing your position on things. Be at peace with failing. Realise that we are not entitled to anything. Shed any need for the approval of others - think, decide, act and then let the ripples-of-consequence do their thing. Being more authentic is both a challenging and liberating endeavour. 

In a world where people place such value on immediate gratification, superficial cosmetic surgery, outward appearances, on social standing, power and position, etc - choosing to live more authentically may be one of the most transformative decisions we could ever make. 

Embrace your self - your true self - on a daily basis. Eventually, you will shift from who you (and others) think you should be - to the person you actually and really are.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


The value of things ...

It is the effort and struggle that imbues the act with meaning. Without the effort, there is no value. An elevator to the top of Everest is ultimately a very bad idea. The accomplishment of getting there after extraordinary effort is what makes the summiting a singular achievement. Same goes for any worthwhile achievement.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Secret Steps ...

Step-by-step, process-driven instruction, is the way I have always attended to teaching. The technical analysis of a technique, ultimately reveals that as long as the process is understood, then it may be ‘repeatable’ by others, regardless of attributes or talent. Breaking a technique down into it’s component parts builds understanding. One move - becomes - two - then four - then eight as we thin-slice our way to understanding. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Simple Leverage - Leveraging Laterally and Leveraging in another Sandbox

A bit on the art of leverage … as I see it.
Most people, martial artists included have a basic understanding of how simple leverage works. We move a lot with a little by applying force to the end of a lever. Simple leverage.

By ‘leveraging laterally’ I mean we can learn to apply an understanding of leverage we have learned with one technique to similar techniques or the same technique in a different situation. This is the way we deepen our understanding of leverage and begin to make habitual use of it.

Leveraging in another sandbox, in my view, is the very best kind of leverage. When we understand how something works and we peel back the obvious layers and get the the underlying principles that make that thing work, we can perhaps apply those things we have learned in completely different areas of our lives. Weirdly, to me, not everyone seems to naturally understand this.

An example: We might, over time, realise that we can better escape ‘side control’ by trying to improve our situation via a series of small/incremental gains rather than pinning our hopes on one ’big’ move.
Then, when we want to lose some weight, we attack the problem one kilo at a time; by making a lot of small changes in our lifestyle/habits, rather than pinning our hopes on a single ‘magical’ diet. Or perhaps we find ourselves in ‘bad’ debt; so we apply the same thinking again, and make a lot of small changes in our spending habits, save a little every week, invest those savings, and over time, acrue enough to make our debt disappear. 

I can think of dozens of other examples of how we can ‘leverage’ what we learn on the mat, into other aspects of our lives. To me, this is what understanding leverage, should be all about. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Scissor Takedown (Kani Basami)

Illegal - dangerous - fraught with peril? Well, illegal in the IBJJF rule-set but nevertheless, a highly effective concept that is very closely associated with the development of Inside Ashi Garami (aka: the saddle, honey hole, etc). Basically it is ‘back-stepping’ albeit on a vertical plane. 

I was first introduced to this takedown in  1979 - in Indonesia, of all places, and I used it to great effect in sparring. I don’t ever recall someone being injured by it … and I must have executed it 50 to 100 times in sparring - and usually, on concrete or dirt, never mats!

Kani Basami = Crab Claw = Scissor Takedown = Vertical Backstep.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


The Secret ...

Here’s the secret - and although it’s a simple one, it is one that has nevertheless eluded many. The secret is this - get yourself to training. If you wait until you are fit enough, ready enough, for the weather to be just right, for your schedule to free up or for your friend to be convinced to start with you …. you may find yourself waiting forever.
If you are already training - then try extracting more value from your time training. Do those few extra reps, that extra roll, put yourself in bad position, start a training diary, try to get an extra training session in each week. 
The secrets are simple - make a start whether the time is perfect or not - and extract the maximum value from each session you attend; never just go through the ‘motions’. Your time is valuable beyond measure.

Thursday, June 28, 2018



Self defence is a concept that plays a pivotal role in why many people begin martial arts training. But we do need to consider the different ways in which we might need to defend ourselves in life. We are often attacked in ways other than just the physical.

Unfair dismissal from the workplace for example … you should know your rights and know how to take action should the need arise. There are very strong laws in place for your protection.

People trying to shut down your right to free speech … again, it’s good to be clear on your rights and obligations in this area. You have a legal right to an honest opinion; no-one has the right to bully you into keeping your opinions to yourself. Just don’t be malicious. Tell it like it is.

Financial pressures … we need to shore up our abilities to deal with this. Financial pressures can put a lot of stress on people and families - learning how to be fiscally responsible is a very important life skill. Have a plan, stick to a budget - don’t spend more than you earn.

And of course we have physical assault … this speaks for itself. The laws are there of course, but they may do you little good at the moment you are being physically assaulted. Learning to defend ourselves from physical harm is a worthy life-skill that also affords other benefits, such as confidence, socialisation, better communication, etc. Plus it may keep you alive.

Defence of the self is a large topic … one that embedded in human behaviour since time immemorial.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Inconsequential things …

We all have the same amount of hours in the day. We all spend our energy on those things that we deem to be important. We all, spend too much time, on those things that are essentially inconsequential. In my view, one of the tenets of wisdom is to recognise this and make the necessary adjustments.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Just do as little bit …

Just take a single step …
Just lose a single kilo …
Just save $100 …
Just read one page …
Just do five pushups …

Doing just a little, is infinitely better than doing nothing. We achieve things by taking that small initial step - and then repeating, etc. Having an ‘all or nothing’ mindset serves only to shackle us; I used to have this mindset myself - and it really held me back. Just do a little - it often leads to a lot!

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Giving Back …

My father once told me “you can’t look after anyone else until you first get your own house in order” - and again, I was told by author and investor Robert Kiyosaki, “you can help more people out of the back of a Mercedes than you can out of the back of your beat-up volkswagen”. I didn’t get either at the time … but I do understand a little better now.
When we are struggling to keep our own heads above water, it is indeed difficult (for me anyways) to attend to the helping of others - and even if we could, we might well not have the means to do so. Being able to get our own house in order is perhaps also a sign that our advice might well be worth listening to by others who might find themselves struggling.
Here’s the thing though - helping others ‘rise’, ‘prevail’, ‘overcome’ or ‘become better versions of themselves’ - is reward in and of itself. We are individuals, to be sure (sounding a little Irish there) - but we are people/human beings - having more in common with one another than we have perhaps, differences.
I myself have been ‘helped’ by others, given a ‘boost up’ at a time when it counted. Affording someone a little time, a kind word, some piece of advice or some other thing that helps them on their way, is a very human thing to do. The world becomes a slightly better place for being this way. And, like any other skill/character trait, we need to practise this a little … before it becomes part of who we are.
I like something my great friend Dave Meyer told me once - his original martial arts instructor (Sensei Jack Seki) told him that by studying the martial arts and combining that study with the development of good character, makes the world a slightly safer place for people to live in. I love that.


Time will go by whether you want it to or not. Barring accident or illness (for my younger readers) - you will one day wake up as a 30, 40, 50, 60 year old. You can be that older version of yourself with or without a BJJ Black Belt; with or without financial resources; with or without the memories of having done that trip, having climbed that mountain, having written that book … either way, you will (barring accident or illness) wake up as a 30,40,50,60 year old. If you want to wake up that day, with that stuff done … commit now! Time is passing either way.
Pic: Commitment in action - 'wedding' and 'head kick'.

Ten Basics …

Gain trust by making small promises and keeping them.
Embrace the day but do a little planning for the future.
Venturing broad gives you context and perspective.
Relationships shouldn’t be based on ‘hard work’.
Industriousness often trumps intelligence.
Pay attention to whatever you are doing.
Drilling down gives you understanding.
Most great achievements take time.
Be careful who you spend time with.
Small steps will get you there.

Letting Go …

It is a common human frailty - one I have been guilty of myself - to refuse to ‘let go’ of some perceived insult or injury to our person/reputation/character, etc.

I have though, since learned, to let go of ‘toxic feelings’ that have arisen from something that is now ‘downstream’ from where I am currently ’splashing around’. 

The problem with ‘holding on’ to drama is that it prevents us from full appreciating the ‘now’. Living in the ‘future’ or living in the ‘past’ both prevent us from enjoying our lives right ‘now - but if I had to choose between one of these two extremes, I would choose the ‘future’. And I would do so for a simple reason, the future is something I have a say in creating - the past is irrecoverable - it is done; we cannot change it. Don’t spent a moment dwelling in the past … it’s about ‘now’ and the many ‘future nows’ will have. 

Learning to ‘let go’ - is one of the keys to unlocking a better future and a much more excellent ‘now’. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018


The Ruffian Way …

  • Take threats seriously - even if they are weak
  • Keep your word - there is real worth in that
  • Pull the trigger when needed - don’t endlessly ponder
  • Embrace difficulty - that’s how we build strength
  • Be first - but expect to be bloodied
  • Start with your gut - end with your mind

Monday, May 07, 2018


Detail, Delivery & Design

A question I am often asked (post seminars) is how I come up with my particular coaching/teaching approach? Here’s the answer I most often give …

As an instructor, the choice of the techniques that I decide to teach is of course important, in terms of it’s relevance to the student or class  - but it is only a part of the equation; the delivery, the detail and the design of the class are equally important.

It has has been my experience, on hundreds of occasions, that when I take a look at something I am already familiar with but from a new angle or perspective - it’s at those times, I make the greatest gains - and reap the most benefit.

Arriving at the ‘optimal’ way of thinking about something - is a kind of magical moment. Understand though, there are always a number of ways we can think about any subject - but there will be ‘one way’ that will kind of make everything fall into place for us … at least, this is my own experience. 

On the mat - I pick a topic (butterfly guard, half guard, spider guard, kimura, back-taking, ashi garami, triangle chokes, etc, bubble-defence, re-guarding, etc) … I then look at all the main applications of that topic I know - and then I un-puzzle it and try to create a ‘seed’ or ‘core’ (foundational) class for it - and then I look at the rest of the puzzle and try to organise it into an optimally palatable order. Hope that makes sense … a lot of people ask me how i set up my approach - and this is the basis of it. 
Best wishes and good luck.

Saturday, May 05, 2018


Inherited teaching style vs Developed teaching style

The hard truth is this - most ‘teachers’ teach, the way they were taught. Perhaps they had wonderful teachers, whose teaching-styles were worth emulating - perhaps not; but in the same way that we all strive to make improvements in the thing we are studying (martial arts, architecture, medicine, etc ) we might also strive to improve the methods by which we impart that art to others. 

There are the simply mechanical aspects of teaching; things like, communication - room control - class design - breakdown and analysis - motivation, etc …. but there are also the more ephemeral aspects of passing on information to others; very, very human things like wonderment, engagement, curiosity, joy, etc. 

It is a wonderful cake we bake - when we coax others toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of a thing that has mean’t so much to us. teaching is a duty - but it is also a privilege.

Friday, May 04, 2018


That Magnificent Scuffle

What keeps me on the mat has in fact, got very little to do with self defence. It is much more about the ever-evolving complexity of the art; about the endless assortment of problems coming down the pipeline each and every day we train. 

What keeps me on the mat is the desire to become a better, more capable and more adaptive learner; to develop a deeper appreciation of complex problem-solving; for the pure challenge of it; and the opportunity to develop mental and physical robustness. 

The landscape inhabited by grapplers is an ever-changing and extraordinarily challenging one. The very fact that we willingly choose to step onto it, is testament to the human desire for self development. May all of you reap such rewards from the Magnificent Scuffle, as do I.

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