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

Friday, October 14, 2016

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Check the effects ...

When we are moving and living with a sense of purpose, we can check our ‘compass bearing’ by looking at the ‘precessional effects’ (unintended consequences) of our actions/decisions … if these consequences are of benefit to the world, then we might well assume our course is a good one. If we reap joy, or even make a living, from our martial arts training - and we see other people improving their own lives, becoming more confident, getting fitter, etc by sharing the journey with us .. then it's easy to feel even better about the choices we have made. When the bee flies from flower to flower collecting pollen for the hive - it also serves the larger purpose of ‘cross-pollination’ and benefits the world at large. Unintended consequences, of all of our choices, ripple out into the world - sometimes for good and sometimes not. Taking a peek into the side mirrors to check for these effects can really help keep us true and on a positive bearing.
JBW

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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Plasticity

“You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago” - Alan Watts

Exquisite phrasing! This is something most of us rarely think about; not because we aren’t open or desirous of self-improvement but because for much of our lives we are on auto-pilot. Even Groundhog Day has a certain allure - perhaps we all have a secret love for familiarity and security; even those of us who are born adventurers.

And so it is on the mat. We have a natural tendency to repeat those techniques and strategies that worked for us last session; and so we come up against a subtle resistance to trying new moves and new ideas. 

Even if when we try new things, when they fail (in our first fumbling attempts) we become even more motivated dated to run back to the familiar.

I say this - and I have said it for decades - every day is an opportunity for the re-invention of ourselves. 

Even today!


  • JBW

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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The Mongoose don't care ...

The mongoose is extraordinary in that it is resistant to snake venom. Hence it is able to win in a fight with it’s, otherwise deadly adversary, the Cobra. 

The mongoose developed it’s resistance during a long co-evolutionary arms-race with the cobra. As the cobra developed n increasingly potent venue, so too did the mongoose adapt (through the process of natural selection) and develop it’s own anti-venom defences.

The mongoose could only have developed it’s defenders by sharing it’s environment with the cobra - as they both co-evolved. 

On the mat, we have a similar evolutionary forces at work (albeit on a much, much faster time scale). The more techniques we ban (e.g.: IBJJF rules bans heel-hooks, Judo rules bans grabbing the legs, etc) the more susceptible we are when we do eventually face these things.

If we want to develop a resistance/defence to heel-hooks, we can only do this by allowing them in our natural/everyday environment. 

A constant push toward anti-fragility is the way forward; of we want to evolve as robust martial artists. 

  • JBW

Monday, October 10, 2016

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Our lives are awesome

The sparrow doesn’t make a comparison of itself with an eagle, or an albatross, or a dove. Comparisons lead us down path that is better not travelled. 

We are, most of us anyways, living extraordinary lives. Lives replete with possibility. Circumstances will change; life will throw many things in our path - both good and bad - it is how we view these things that ultimately determines how successfully we live our lives.


Turn into the wind and feel it. Breathe, repeat and marvel at this brief moment in time wherein we live and interact with the world around us. Each moment is precious, though we may not realise it. Each of us is a miracle, though we may not realise it. Life is us - and we it. Revel.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

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Speak your mind

Beware the person who charms everyone … almost certainly, they like no-one in particular.
When you stand for something, you will no doubt make a few enemies; but taking a stance, helps define who you really are. Trying to please everyone, is a sure way of pleasing very few.
Stand up - speak your piece - be prepared to change your mind if someone offers a strong enough argument - but speak your piece and embrace the result. - JBW

Monday, October 03, 2016

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The finite resource …

And of course, the heading I have used here, refers to that most precious of resources … time.

All of us - rich, poor, fit, unfit, happy, sad, big, small, smart and less-so - have one thing in common - a finite amount of time left to us. 

This is an obvious fact, yet time is something many people don’t think much about; after all, we can’t see it, hear it, touch it, taste it or smell it. And unlike gravity or other natural forces, we cannot ‘feel’ it; yet it passes, second-by-second as we move through our lives.

Where we put our attention, as time passes, becomes a more and more important decision as more and more time goes by. Presumably, as we have less and less time left to us - how we spend it becomes an ever more critical decision.

In our Jiu Jitsu practise, we cannot (at least should not) squander our time … most will find it more useful to stay focussed on a technique/game/concept for a while, rather than continually flitter from one thing to another. All techniques are not equal; just like all friendships are not equal. We should perhaps be more mindful of who we spend our time with and what we spend our time doing, as our lives unfold at a rate of one second per second. This most precious resource is not in infinite supply.

  • JBW

Sunday, October 02, 2016

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The way forward ...

Broken, healed, broken, healed, broken and healed yet again ... and so it often unfolds for those who take a serious run at life. As far as physical traumas go ... I have found myself under the knife on five occasions to date; and of course, a hundred other occasions where ice, rest and care were all that was required. Other injuries, not of the physical kind, were attended to by my most beautiful wife ... an angel amongst humans; the love of my life. 

We all have our highs and lows; our moments of supreme health and other moments of suffering; but it is important to learn (as we go) about those 'ways of being' that allow us to heal. There will, after all, come a time where all efforts to heal will fail and we will cease to be. This most obvious fact, that many people remain firmly in denial of, should not be something that upsets us or makes us less willing to embrace the time we have left; rather, it should awaken us to the importance of wringing every moment of joy and fulfilment that we can out of each and every waking day. 


It is also healthy for us to remember, from time to time, that there are many things we cannot change (what others say or how others behave for example - and weather!!) but what we can do, is exert some level of control over how we react to those things ….

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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Swelling the ranks

Changing the opinion and beliefs of others via the use of reason and evidence (or violence for that matter) is a surprisingly ineffective strategy. People will fight tooth and nail for their beliefs and ideologies; reason and evidence are like jabs and fakes; they may pave the way for change but are rarely responsible for the coup de grace.
Back in the late 80’s I wrote a number of articles about BJJ, hoping to persuade a segment of the martial arts community toward interest. From my perspective, the functionality/efficacy of BJJ (let alone the complexity/challenge) provided sufficient reason start down the BJJ pathway … but it still took almost a decade before the public started to sit up and take much notice.
The wider martial arts community, even now, has struggled to come to terms with how very difficult it is to prevail over a seasoned grappler in a one-on-one contest. The majority still believe (yes they do) that the grappler would find it difficult, if not impossible, to safely ‘bridge the gap’ and take them down.
I have met several very high profile fighters and martial artists who still think this is the case.
People hold on to ideology like a drowning man clings to a life-buoy. The trick to bringing people into new paradigms of thinking is to get to them early (something the religious zealots have worked out long ago).
Forget the martial arts community - I realised sometime ago - instead, focus on the, as yet, unindoctrinated. Those who have never trained in martial arts provide us with the best source of candidates for the future growth of BJJ.
- JBW

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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Becoming a learning machine ...

This is one of the earliest lessons I took on board, on the way to becoming a learning machine …

I remember with perfect clarity, the day I came to this realisation. I had just watched my instructor execute a technique (over and over) in sparring, against a multiple time world champion, and so I asked him if he could show me what he had done. He proceeded to teach me the technique, in simple terms - e.g.: do this, do that, then this happens. 

Now … I had seen the technique many times before, and understood clearly what he was saying, but I also realised there had to be much more to it than what I was hearing … for after all, he was making it work (again and again) against a very high level/elite athlete.

I pushed for the details - but no new info was forthcoming - and not because my instructor didn’t want me to understand , he did - in fact, he seemed somewhat frustrated by my confusion.

It was then I realised that I was asking for details on ‘nuance’ that went above and beyond the normal level of instruction. I was looking for those small details that had perhaps crept into my instructors own practise over many, many years.

I asked him if he would demo the technique again - he happily complied by asking another high level athlete to spar, and again he performed the technique (multiple times). This time though, instead of just listening to what he was saying, I watched what he was doing … and was amazed at how much more I ‘saw’ in taking this approach.

As if I were a deaf person, I analysed every physical movement he was doing, by looking at what he was doing from every possible angle. I saw several things that had never been pointed put to me … and it became evident to me these things were what made the real difference.

And from that day forward, I have noticed this to be the case:

... almost always, most teachers, revert back to simple heuristics (rule of thumb) when teaching moves (or things) they know well. And even if they have (consciously or unconsciously) evolved/developed that move well beyond it’s first basic form - they still tend to describe it as if they were describing it in it’s original form.

I have written about this before - and can go into considerable depth talking about the use of words (optimal order/intonation, etc) but suffice it to say - using a simple heuristic of my own … I find it better (on most occasions) to look at what people are doing and analyse it for myself, rather than to rely on what they are saying to come to an understanding of what is going on.

Also, this is something I found I I could control myself - I could (and did), over time, dramatically improve my ability to see and analyse. Ultimately, I was beginning to take some responsibility for my own learning.

I urge others to do the same. Learn and train yourself (after you have the general idea of how a technique works) to look for nuance - look for those almost invisible things that make all the difference.

This is one of the things we all need to become good at if we are to become better learning machines.

- JBW

Monday, September 26, 2016

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Order from Chaos

One of the things I love about BJJ (and perhaps this is one of the reasons that many find it to be so addictive) is that as time goes by and we slowly become better at the art, we begin to tease some semblance of order from what initially may seems to be a world of chaos.

I think that many of us feel we are ‘getting somewhere’ when we begin to establish some semblance of control over our world. Certainly, when we feel ‘out of control’ , for me at least, we experience stress - and so we struggle to bring order to bear in as many aspects of our lives as we can.

No doubt, someone will want to re-butt by offering the idea that we cannot control everything (or even much at all) - and although, I would refute this to a point, they would be partially correct … we cannot always bring order to a chaotic situation, and in those times, another kind of learning takes place. But usually, we emerge after such experiences, slightly the wiser, slightly more competent, etc.

On the mat, in rolling, start out by trying to identify those places/positions in which you feel some small amount (or significant amount) of control. The more of these you establish, the better your rolling experience will become. As you improve your game, hopefully, you will spend more time in state of ‘order’ and do your best to ensure that your partner spends as much time as possible in a state of ‘chaos’. 


Rendering order from chaos - both on and off the mat - is just another way we enrich our lives and our life-experience.

- JBW

Thursday, September 08, 2016

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Nothing in return ...

Rigan was talking to me today about the kind of person that comes smiling to your face - all the while, driven by selfish motives - and how we can all do with less time spent with such people in our lives.
I have to agree; life is short, we all know that. The older we get, the more we realise the truth of it. Forget those people that undermine you; forget those who back-stab, whisper and denigrate you; the world is also replete with people of good character and integrity.
Helping each other; with no thought of what we get in return, is the way to living a happy and more fulfilled life. This conscious experience we call 'life' is a rarity - a miracle of sorts - if people really understood how precious we all are, we would treat each other much, much better than we do.
Giving before others feel the need to ask is a wonderful way forward. hep someone out today ... for the pure joy of knowing you made their day a little easier. Best respect to all - JBW

Monday, September 05, 2016

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Those Halcyon days ...

I think back to when it all started for me … in 1986.

BJJ was a great splash of colour in a martial arts landscape that, to me at least, was beginning to undertake a rather washed-out look.

But it was yet, an undiscovered country of sorts … at least to those living outside of Brazil. Consequently, training (apart form the single exception of the goings on in Rorion’s garage on Torrance) demanded a plane trip to Rio and a dive into a landscape unfamiliar in the extreme.

The sounds, smells, sights and kinaesthetic experiences of the mat were at once overwhelming and intoxicating. The trips up to Teresopolis to train at the farm with Carlos, Jean Jacques, Roger and Rigan and John Machado and their cousins Rilion, Crolin, Carlos and Renzo Gracie, were enlightening, amazing, and humbling in the extreme.

My crystal ball though, was apparently in a state of disrepair; it was either switched off or broken, for there was no way I could have foreseen the remarkable explosion of growth that BJJ has enjoyed, post UFC #1.

There weren’t as many BJJ academies back then (in Rio) but there were certainly enough to constitute a landscape big enough to evolve rivalries. My friend Rigan Machado took me around to visit some of the main clubs (Master Helio Gracie’s Academy, Carlson Gracie’s Academy, Jacare’s academy and one or two others). I soon discovered that, competitive rivalries aside, there was a real feeling of brotherhood between BJJ schools; the kind of mutual respect that we might imagine to have existed between kings of warring nations. I had never before seen the like of it, in any of my martial wanderings (which were numerable and wide-ranging).

BJJ, as we all can assuredly attest to, is a strange animal in the martial arts kingdom. We fight and struggle with each other and in doing so, build each other up. As someone stated recently, 'slap hands, fist-bump … simulate murder' ... after which, we hug, limp home with ego’s deflated and somehow summon the courage to return for more the very next day.
What a tribe we are …
- JBW

Saturday, September 03, 2016

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Living authentically

I have been on the receiving end of criticism many times. I call with perfect clarity, the time (in the early to mid 80’s) when I was trying to cobble together a holistic approach to martial arts training. I was advocating for a blend of stand-up striking, clinching, takedowns and ground-fighting. Several renowned names in the martial arts community, publicly announced that I didn’t know what I was doing. One even wrote (in print) ‘the mature martial artist doesn’t mix his martial arts’ - yikes!

Luckily, for me, I chose to ignore their opinions and forge forward on a path I instinctively knew would lead to a more well-wounded and functional approach to the art that so many of us now enjoy.

Someone once said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” I think that is a great statement. We should question the status quo, we should experiment, test and question … that is how science is done; that is how progress is made.

An old friend of mine once said “the first through the door are often bloodied’ - another true observation! I say, be open to new ideas but also follow your heart. if there is no path leading in the direction you need to go - carve one. Others will smooth it out for you layer - but push forward! Warning though: this way to live often comes at a price. But then again - I'd pay that price 100 times over. To thyself be true.
- JBW

Friday, September 02, 2016

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Heroes of the modern world

I refer here, to the women of the world; that most excellent half of the human species.

I was listening the other day to one of our female leaders bemoan how difficult it was for her to succeed in the male-dominant world of politics. She is probably correct in what she said but it made me wonder whether she has paused to consider the monstrous challenges that hundreds of millions of women in other countries are facing every day. 

I refer to that vast, downtrodden population of women who live in countries/theocracies where they are subjugated; virtually enslaved, denied education, with no control over their reproductive choices and perhaps most distressingly of all, often repressed to the point where they consider such punishments to be a normal state of being.

I would (as most of us must) see women have an equal voice, equal pay, equal respect, equal opportunities as are enjoyed by most men. All who read this may mutter ‘of course’ but this is in fact, not the case throughout much of the world we live in. 

I was also listening, just yesterday, to a panel of men talking about possible solutions to inequality and poverty in Australia - and it occurred to me, the solution to many of the things they were talking about might be quite simple - and it revolves around a simple notion - put a woman in charge! 

Women are natural caretakers, often have a fairer hand, and are capable - given even just the slightest chance - of raising society out of poverty.

Respect where respect is deserved.

  • JBW

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