Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Importance of the non-obvious

One of the habits I have developed through more than a quarter of a century of BJJ practise - is to better appreciate and understand the critical importance of the non-obvious.

When we think about it - the ‘non-obvious’ is what most-often separates the great from the ordinary. If the secrets of those who out-perform the average were obvious and easy to see - then EVERYONE WOULD BE EQUALLY SUCCESSFUL. Clearly this is not the case - and so reasoning tells us that people who are achieving extraordinary resulted (in almost any fields imaginable) MUST, by definition, be doing NON-OBVIOUS things.

Jiu Jitsu is replete with these non-obvious treasures. I want to discover these treasures - and because I teach for a living - I want to tell my students all about them. The Jiu Jitsu outliers, those true prodigies of the art we share and love, are all collectors and masters of the non-obvious. The problem we come up against is this - they often don’t realise themselves, what non-obvious behaviours they are using to drive them toward the success they enjoy. To recognise (and keep track of) all those nuances in behaviour that elevate us beyond the ordinary, takes an exceptional mind - another (non-obvious trait) in itself.

The embodiment of the non-obvious is EXACTLY what separates there great form the ordinary. We need to keep our eyes and minds open to spotting these behaviours - and over time - we can begin our own collection of treasures! JBW

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Defence = Confidence/Happiness

On the mat, I have come to learn that ‘defence’ is where real confidence comes from. Knowing that you can ‘escape’, prevail in adversity, fend off attack gives you the confidence to ‘try’ things because there is less ‘downside’ if you fail. Defence ability is kind of like having a safety net in a trapeze act; you can ‘have a real go’ because you know you’ll live if you fail. 

Off the mat, I want to build and acquire ‘emotional defence’, which is a real key to success and happiness. Others might throw stuff at you, put you down, resent your success, passionately disagree with your philosophy but if you are emotionally robust, you just let it slide right off you; you just don’t let it stick. 

In my own case, there was a time when I used to really take things personally; if someone spoke badly about me or was overly rude or bad mannered, I would let it eat away at my happiness and tranquility; nowadays, I just let it slide. I have, over time, become a little more ‘emotionally robust’ or ‘emotionally conditioned’ and as a result I do not allow my world to be ‘rocked’ as easily as I once would. I think this is an important skill to develop. 

We develop ‘defence’ - whether emotional or physical - through exposure to attack. This is how all ‘conditioning’ is done. Exposure to stress - adapt - develop. So the next time you find yourself under attack, remember, you are becoming (little by little) stronger and more able to deal with future attack. 


Friday, July 11, 2014

You are Surrounded

A large part of happiness comes from making good choices in regards to the kind of people you surround yourself with. The fact is, we are indeed surrounded (unless you are living in a cave) - by work colleagues, people you re-create with, Facebook friends, close friends, family and a throng of others. It is much easier to be happy when we make careful choices about who we let into our ‘inner circle’. This sounds a bit judgemental I know … but as someone once said, it’s important to be judgemental - just be prepared to be judged in turn. I am okay with that. I think we need to be selective in life. There are loads of open, honest, well-intentioned, positive and congruent people out there … seek them out; spend time in their company. JBW

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Covert Attack & Emotional Robustness

Self Defence has many faces. There's the obvious aspect of needing to be able to defend yourself from physical violence - but there also many other aspects to defending ourselves that we should not ignore. We will all come across people in our lives who are overtly trying to do us harm ... this may be annoying/stressful/dangerous but at least we are fully aware of their intentions. A much more dangerous threat, in my view, are those kinds of people who are seeking to do us harm in covert ways. These kinds of people will smile to our our face but undermine us when we are not looking - often in ways that leave little or no evidence. It's difficult to defend ourselves from such attacks - because we are often ignorant of their existence. This sort of thing is rampant in the schoolyard ... subtle and covert bullying; it exists in business ... machiavellian power plays and 'positioning'; it happens on the mat in schools with bad culture ... locker room gossip ... and it's all bad. Whenever I see a hint of it ... I shut it down. I invite others to do the same. Physical attacks may be dangerous but at least they are obvious ... the other kinds of attacks, those covert ones that litter our path through life with obstacles, hurdles and emotional upheaval - these take skill and experience to recognise and emotional maturity to parry or deflect. Building a robust emotional immune system is an important part of self defence ... an important skill for living successfully and happily. JBW

Monday, July 07, 2014

What we bring to the tapestry?

Each of us is part of the tapestry of the world we inhabit. We all bring something to the picture … sometimes we improve the tapestry, sometimes we damage it; but we all bring ourselves to bear on it. You only see the larger picture when you step right back from it; up close, it is often difficult to see how one small thread can hold any meaning at all. We step back though, we let time pass and we get a clearer picture of our contribution to the whole. Each and every day, we add to it. A small re-direction of the thread here or there can bring large and lasting changes to the way it all unfolds. Small events can result in large changes. 
Even in one small part of our world, the same process is taking place. On the mat, each night, everyone brings a different thread to bear on the overall picture. Every move, every technique adds to the scene; and the scene constantly evolves and changes. Even one small success in a training session can result in big change to our overall game. One small hip movement; one little grip … the possibilities are endless.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Who are we connected to?

Who we are 'connected' to .... in many ways, defines who we are; both to ourselves and to others who see us. These connections determine the color and shape of the fabric of our existence. We weave, and re-weave as time goes by; the tapestry unfolds. I have known many celebrated people who, beneath the exterior they present to the world, amount to very little. I have met many, seemingly 'ordinary' people, who have a depth to them that leaves me in wonder.
Human beings come in a myriad of varieties; each leaving their mark on us as we brush by them or cling to them as determined by both choice and chance. So marvel at your own masterpiece that you create through the connections and chance meetings that you make in life ... for who are you, without others and color they bring to your own palette. JBW

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time ...

It is easier to visualise a strawberry-milkshake-drinking monkey, sitting on a toaster - than it is to visualise the passage of time. We can picture or visualise objects easily - but time is not an object - is an abstract concept. Most people have a lot of difficulty in visualising abstract concepts. 

Herein lies the most basic reason why most of us seem to be largely unaware of the rate at which we spend this most valuable of resources. As young children and teenagers we view time (at least I did) as a virtually unlimited resource. As we grow older we begin to realise that we have a limited number of grains of sand left in our life’s hourglass and we are spending those remaining grains at the rate of 1 second per second. Not to come across as being overly-gloomy here - but for every single one of us, those sands are running out!

And because it is so hard to visualise the passage of time, most people find it somewhat challenging to deny themselves in the short term (i.e.: save money, do exercise, study) so that they may benefit in the longer term. 

So … spend your time wisely; do those activities that give you joy and teach you something; hang out with the right kind of people; don’t compromise too much with those things that really matter to you; invest in the ‘now’ , enjoy every hour of every day but don’t forget to spend a little of your time planning for the future (it may well turn up).

Time - invisible … but very real! JBW

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Upgrading ...

Renovate just one room … and you will soon find yourself renovating all the other rooms - to match - to achieve ‘congruence’. On the mat - renovate just one technique - really ‘drill down’, dissect and understand it, and eventually, you will renovate your whole game (a lifetime of work).

The next logical step - although undertaken by too few (in my experience) is to then ‘renovate’ the other areas of our lives - away from the mat … our relationships, our financial circumstances, the places we live in, the number of ways we can extract joy from life, etc. It all starts with one small renovation - one small step toward excellence … and we build from there. This kind of thinking is something I try to instil in all of my students. JBW

Monday, June 16, 2014

Distillation ...

The distillation of an evolving and complex idea is something all teachers should trend toward. Complexity is an outgrowth of the question/answer ladder; pulling our gaze ever forward and outward. By unearthing the root idea, that seed from which the ever-evolving and increasingly complex idea originally germinated, allows others to more fully appreciate the idea in it's entirety, and perhaps even contribute to it's further evolution. We should prune back to simplicity if we want to get to the heart of something. Complexity is a distraction. JBW

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thinner and Thinner Slices ....

This is how we come to clearer understanding of things. 

On the mat, choose a technique - then break it down into it’s component parts. if there are three or four main elements to the technique - try breaking each one of those down into even more elements … slicing thinner and thinner until you really understand the technique. Examine not only the various stages (and micro-stages) of the technique - but understand the timing or ‘firing order’ of the various elements as well; the closer we look, the more we will see. This is how ‘study’ is done. Our ‘natural’ inclination is to ‘swallow’ a new technique as a whole - to gulp it down … and that approach may well serve as initial introduction but it is not how deep understanding comes. Thinner and thinner slices (a termed coined by good friend David Meyer) … the more ‘pixels’ - the clearer the picture … JBW

Monday, June 09, 2014

Automate ...

Habits - to a large degree, shape who we are.
I find refuge in routine. I wake up, I drink my Tiger;s Milk formula … I teach my morning private lesson - I eat a protein-based lunch. At night, I head to my school and teach the evening classes - I arrive back home at 8:30pm and eat dinner, chat to my family and watch a movie out of the corner of one eye. Three times a week - mondays, wednesdays and fridays, I head to functional fitness space with a few friends and do a 30-40 minute Tabata workout. Every second weekend, I am usually teaching seminars. All, pretty much routine-based.

I like routines because they automate my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have spontaneity and adventure in my life - I certainly do - but I like to automate a large portion of how I live. I do so for one main reason, even without thinking - being totally on auto-pilot, I get a lot done. The ‘automation’ (read habit-based living) means that even as I ‘coast’ along, I achieve … I get stuff done. I have automated my training, my finances, my eating … by this I mean, even in the worst case, I find myself heading in a positive direction. One foot in front of the other … JBW

Friday, June 06, 2014

Your tribe ...

Who do we spend our time with? Who do we hang out with? And in thinking about the answers to these questions, keep in mind, it’s not about how ‘much’ time we spend - it’s about the quality of the time spent. Who we associate with, even if it’s only one or two times a week - may well determine and shape how we think, and ‘act’ as we carve out the path of our own life’s story. 
In my own case, as I muse on the idea, I marvel at those people who have very much influenced my own thinking over the years. Some of whom, I actually spent very little time with, yet their influence continues to shape my journey to this day. 

We are people, we are, to a greater or lesser extent, social beings - we interact with each other in a variety of different ways, and to a variety of different outcomes. The great experiment that is humanity never ceases to amaze as we blend, mix and effect each other in a thousand ways. Many of our interactions are, to a large extent, beyond our control - but many are of course, of our own choosing. My advice - choose wisely … be particular, be discerning … the outcomes of our chooses can be spectacularly bad or spectacularly good. JBW

Monday, June 02, 2014

Succeed in the small things ...

I have come to understand this - succeeding in the small things - is the way we eventually succeed in the big things. Those ‘small successes’; really, really, really, matter. 
On the mat - rather than focussing on the ‘whole technique’ it is usually better to remain focussed on achieving just one small ‘step’ of that technique - and then the next, and then the next, and so on … staying invested in the ‘process’ is how great goals are eventually achieved.

So - to be practical - get up in the morning - and get that ‘small success’ under your belt - make your bed! Even one box ‘ticked’ - is infinitely better than no boxes ‘ticked’. The small successes are the key to the big successes - in the same way that ‘keeping small promises’ are the key to being able to keep the big promises. 

One of the cornerstones to success - is to make small goals and hit them. Succeed in the small things! The rest will take care of itself. - JBW

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

As on the mat - so too in life ...

We don't build character on sunny days when all the planets are lined up in our favour. We build character, fortitude and focus during those times when things are lined up against us. We build our character and strength during tough times.  And so it is on the mat - for those who find themselves always on the bottom, always having their guards passed, always being crushed ... understand this - that is exactly how you develop your survival and escape skill-set. You don;'t develop defence by being on top, by dominating, etc.
So when life is challenging - when you are being pummelled, crushed, used, pick-on, bullied, stressed - this is like resistance training for the soul. It might not feel good; but it's how you get strong. We shouldn't play ostrich and just stick our heads in the sand when things go pear-shaped - we should face the dramas head-on and in the long run we will prevail. In fact, this is how we construct who we are. JBW

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Seminar Experience ...
I have considerable experience in teaching seminars. This calendar year will see me deliver around 120 seminars. My schedule will see me travel abroad five times as well as interstate, perhaps a dozen times.
I put a lot of work into both the preparation of the seminars and of course, the delivery on the day. It takes a strong work ethic, exemplary communication skills, attention to detail and an ability to adapt to the widely varying needs of those who engage me. The seminar content, and design thereof, is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so to speak; the teaching of seminars is an art in and of itself, and like any art-form, is wide open to interpretation. I believe seminar participants deserve nothing other than an optimal experience. I believe this because I understand (even of they do not) the contract they have made; and it is this: each and every one of us, has a limited amount of time left on this journey we call life – and that time is not ‘recoverable’, it is a very ‘finite’ resource and it is the most valuable thing that each of us has to spend. We, each of us, has traded some of our precious time, to earn the money that we spend on training/seminars; we then spend even more of our time on attending the training/seminar – and so, in knowing this, in knowing the price each person has truly paid to spend time on the mat with me, I cannot but put my heart and soul into the privilege that is teaching/instruction.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A dozen Ways I Don't want to live me life ....

- I don’t want to let mediocrity rule my life
- I don’t want to spend my life chasing glory
- I don’t want to take those I love for granted
- I don’t want to live off the efforts of other people
- I don’t want to let herd-instincts direct my course through life
- I don’t want to lose my childlike curiosity and thirst for 
- I don’t want to allow myself to be blind to those things that really matter
- I don’t want to trade open-minded creativity for closed-minded certainty
- I don’t want to believe in things only because it feels comforting to do so
- I don’t want to be-friend people only because it is advantageous to do so
- I don’t want more money than I need to live well and help others do the same

- I don’t want to spend my life playing ‘politics’ and practising ‘strategic positioning’


Complexity keeps me there ...

The simplicity of BJJ got me there ... it is what attracted me. With only very little BJJ training, I was able to effectively and relatively easily dominate in one-on-one fights with larger and stronger opponents. The simplicity of a fundamental BJJ Gameplan - (positional control - then finish) really appealed to me; it was tested on multiple occasions, and I prevailed every time. A huge return on time invested. BUT ... the effectiveness and simplicity of BJJ was NOT what has kept me there - training week after week for these past 27 years! What kept me there was the complexity of the art.

BJJ is endlessly fascinating. Every week, we unearth a new development; perhaps a new technique we have never seen; or even more fascinating to me, a new 'nuance' or 'detail' that improves something we are already familiar with.

To again wheel out the old 'chess analogy' - even a little knowledge, when pitted against someone with no knowledge, allows us to prevail. But of course, the real fun is to be had against a knowledgable opponent - move vs countermove - the unfolding of strategy - gain through sacrifice - etc.  Chess has a depth to it - a complexity that pulls people in for a lifetime; and so too does BJJ. Mathematically, BJJ has far more 'possibility' than chess - infinitely more ways a contest can unfold - and other factors coming into play like strength, fitness, etc.

BJJ is on one hand - beautifully simple - but the complexity is where the real 'gold' lies. That layer of 'invisible nuance' that we can 'mine' into and in doing so, come to learn not only more about how the art 'works' - but more importantly, we can learn more, much more, about how we ourselves work.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Going backwards to go forwards ... (strategic deployment in a rearward direction)

It is counter-intuitive - it just seems wrong - and that's why so few of us do it with any regularity. Going backward ... in order to better move forward may seem like a futile strategy  but sometimes it is the very best option.
Like most if the  great things I have learned, I learned this lesson on the mat. Guard passing is the perfect example - our instinct, when we are starting out - is to go forward - straight forward, with no deviation. Then as we improve we learn to move left and right as well as forward - and then we add up and down - over and under, etc ... but moving backwards seems to the last thing that most of us are willing to try - and so it is off the mat.
I have applied this mat lesson to my life away from the mat - in many, many instances. Some examples .. of moving back to better move forward could, be ..
- walking in the wild. A straight line to a planned destination is often the very worst way to. Note the animal tracks.trails ... they have worked this out.
- a joyless relationship/marriage. It might hurt to end it ... it might hurt financially and emotionally; but it may also set you on the path to meeting the love of your life.
- investments. It might be a bad time to 'sell' an investment (shares/property/business, etc) but sometimes in taking a much lower price than expected allows us to re-invest (money/energy, etc) into something more worthwhile in the ,long run.

Going backwards to move forwards ... sometimes, this is exactly what it takes to make great gains. JBW

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Acceptance of the past is one thing but acceptance of the future is quite another. It is a healthy practice to accept things that have happened in our past ... we want to live in the present and spend some time planning for the future ... but living in the past, wallowing in it, just denies us a more full and meaningful NOW.
BUT, acceptance of the future, runs counter to all of my instincts. I propose nothing new by proclaiming that each of us is the author of our future ... and acceptance of our situation, the status quo, or of our fate ... is something i rail against. it's easy to be hypnotized by comments like 'thats just the way it's done' or 'that what you ar supposed to do' ... but all the gret discoveries have been made by people who have ignored such slogans. what if the Wright brothers had listened to their nay-sayers; what if we all still lived in  a place where we all just accepted that the world was flat and if you sailed too far, you just disappeared over the edge?
You can't get that job! You cannot make a living from the martial arts training! You cant start your own business! All those who have heard such things and accepted them as truth, have possibly missed out on living a life they would ave found much joy in. There is often safety is accepting the 'way it is supposed to be' ... in not 'rocking the boat' ... but the price you  pay is a lack of the extraordinary; a lack of life adventure. Certiainly there are many, many instances where we don not want to squander time trying to re-invent the wheel ... but there are also many paradigms that need breaking, countless new paths to be taken ... on this adventure we call life. I say ... go go it. Many a new path will terminate in a dead-end ... but evry now and again, you will breakthrough into new territory ... and thats where the real fun is to be had. JBW

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Each - doing their best ...

Each of us … in our own way, does the best we can - the best we are capable of at a given time under a given set of circumstances. And each of us begins each day with a unique construct of both mind and body … no two of us are the same - and yet, in many ways, most of us strive for the same thing - to better ourselves, our circumstances and raise ourselves beyond what we were yesterday. Thinking plays a large part in how well we fare - as does the company we choose - but luck also, plays a large part. The opportunities are different in a small country town from those in a large city; in a country town it is harder to leverage toward financial independence through say, property development - but then again, in the big city we have a greater chance of being injured or killed in a car accident. One path, one set of circumstances takes us further from one outcome and closer to another … our choices can overcome our circumstances, but those circumstances do define how each of us will begin our journey. When someone comes to begin training at my school - I am very and fully aware that their journey to that point in time was theirs alone - and utterly unique. I cannot rightfully expect each and every student to learn the same way, at the same rate or e driven by the same motivation - each is different, each unique - and each will place a different value on what they are learning and each will judge their open progress in a different way. Ultimately, each person walks a unique path - and in most of the ways that matter - each is doing the best they can … given who they are and given the path they have walked thus far. JBW

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not giving in to 'instant gratification' = success!

We are fortunate in the extreme to live in a world, that for the most part, affords us with loads of opportunity and a relatively affluent lifestyle. it does though, come at a price. And one of the ways we 'pay' - is that we have forgotten how to 'work and toil for reward'. Everything comes so easy. We want food, we head to the supermarket - most of us don't go to the trouble of growing and cultivating it ourselves. We live in a 'I want it now - and I expect to get it now' society. This also goes to 'ranking' in martial arts culture. Many people don't see the work as the priority - and many are, in my opinion, over-focussed on getting the new belt - rather than being satisfied and fully invested in the training. Check out the famous 'marshmellow experiment' - in which kids are offered a choice between one marshmellow now, or two if they are prepared to wait just 15 minutes. You guessed it - the majority couldn't find it within themselves to wait. In one version of this famous experiment, the subjects were tracked into their adulthood - and the minority who possessed the 'will power' to wait the extra 15 minutes to get the two marshmellows, were far and away happier and more successful than their counterparts who opted for instant gratification. So it seems, that those who overcome their craving for instant gratification - and swap 'short term gain' for 'long term better-gain' - seem to do well in the game of life. This idea can be applied to so many aspects of our lives ... and, in my opinion, it is skill we can work at and develop. if you are 20-30 years old - and you can forego the short-term pleasure of spending 100% of your earnings - and can put away just 10% of that money and invest it - you will be a millionaire several times over by the time you are 50. And that's just one slice of the pie - developing some will-power affords us many an opportunity to do better in the long run. Please 'google' the marshmellow experiment if you have not heard of it ... I hope you take this important lesson on-board. JBW

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Depth - Intent - Breadth & Adaptability

The art of prioritisation is one that is well worth cultivating.
If you want to build a strong competitive game on the mat – you are best off starting by prioritizing your ‘plan of action’ in each position. When it comes to the crunch – those who act immediately and decisively when a given situation arises, usually do much better than those who do not. The construction on a good ‘game plan’ begins with ‘ordering’ or ‘prioritizing’ the possible actions or paths (read: techniques) we could execute in any given situation.
This is very much in contrast to ‘free-flow’ roiling – wherein we do not want to prioritize but rather react and experiment with different (even novel) reactions to events as they arise.
Neither approach is better than the other – they both offer different pay-offs. Prioritizing (developing a very specific game-plan) builds ‘depth’ and ‘intent’ – whereas Free-flow reacting develops ‘breadth’ and ‘adaptability’.
In life away from the mat – again, both approaches provide benefits. Free-flow living builds character, adaptability; an understanding of the bigger picture – but prioritizing allows us to get things done – to achieve – to build wealth – to hit goals.
And again – it is a blending of the two approaches – a balance of both, that achieves the best results of all.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Innovation - Ideas - Reputations

Innovation is naturally driven by necessity and circumstance, and our capacity for creativity seems boundless; but it is when we are cut loose from the confines of familiarity that we can truly tap into our innovative potential. Becoming more innovative is more about familiarising ourselves with risk, and less about staying with the tried and true.

Ideas spread if they have survival value. In this sense, they are subject to evolutionary forces in a similar way to living things. Good ideas survive and propagate, bad ideas die a natural death. Ideas that other people have about us, also spread and propagate. What ideas these are, depends much on how we go about our work and how we live our lives. Building a solid reputation begins with making small promises and living up to them. JBW

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Defining ourselves ...

We shouldn’t let our ground game be defined by say, our half-guard … any more than we should let the larger aspect of who we are be defined by our bank account balance, the car we drive, etc. 
If our whole ground game is based on half-guard - and we lose that position, we may find ourselves left wanting …
If our whole life is about the business of making money - and we lose that money, we may find we have nothing left to live for. 
But if our whole life is about having fun - and we never spend a thought on our financial future, we may wake up one day and find we have no means to do the things we want to do.
As in all things - what we need is balance.
Having said that though - I do believe in 'going deep', 'drilling down', and 'staying focussed' ... it's just that I don't believe it is healthy to do that forever and allow that one thing to define who we are. We should be like the meerkat ... drill down, go deep ... but come up and take a look around every now and then, and get some perspective.

For those of us who see our martial arts practice as a metaphor for life … we should be able to accept that a single-minded narrow-focus on one thing, can often leave us ‘wanting’ in other areas. We are, at the end of the day, defined by the ‘totality’ of who we are - and not about that ‘awesome-one-thing’ that may or may not set us apart … JBW

Monday, March 17, 2014

How we can raise the bar ...

Have you ever renovated one room of a house? You turn that room from a three-star bathroom to a five-star bathroom … but then what happens? In the end, you realise something … you realise that you can no longer live with your three-star lounge room. So you renovate that - to match your bathroom. Next thing you know … you have renovated your whole house. I suspect that this is something that women intuitively know … and the (often unsuspecting) husband wakes up one day in a fully renovated house, wondering how it all happened; after all, his wife only asked him to renovate the bathroom - the rest had been his decision ... right?

And so it is with our BJJ game … when we deepen our understanding of one technique, when we really pull it part, analyse and even improve it … we begin to sow the seeds of discontent with regards to how we view the rest of our game/arsenal. And so - over time - we raised the bar and improve ourselves. This is one of the outcomes I try to achieve in teaching the seminars (and classes) I run; I try to deepen everyone’s understanding of the given subject matter … hoping that in doing so, everyone will re-consider, re-analyse and re-think their understanding of everything else they know. If you learn to cook a world-class soufflĂ© - chances are that you will re-look at how you cook up your morning porridge. JBW