Sunday, April 23, 2017

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Each of us are built on the shoulders of others …

It is good (and important) to remember where we have come from. Understanding that what skills we posses, what knowledge we have, comes largely from the efforts of others. We might achieve success or notoriety through our personal efforts but very, very rarely could this be done without the help of many others. Ultimately, this is how society, and human endeavour continues to move forward … we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us … and see a little further as a result. 

On the martial arts landscape, I have seen countless instances of people who have forgotten this. I have seen students (some of my own and many, many students of others) who becoming skilled seem to undergo some weird personality change, to the point where they suffer a kind of selective amnesia; such people forget that they too were once fumbling neophytes; and many behave as if they have been skilled all along and have somehow realised their talents without the help and assistance of others.


Regularly taking some time to reflect on where we came from, thinking about the people who have helped us get where we are (in life and on the mat) is healthy and cleansing for the soul. Over the course of our lives, we are shaped through our interactions with other people … the influence of the people we spend time with, is both subtle and profound. Regarding the kind of people we spend time with … choose wisely!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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Regarding Reading ...

Reading is inexpensive. It provides a pathway to virtually ‘free’ education. It opens our mind to adventure. It provokes our imagination. reading motivates and inspires. It instructs. It transports us. As I read somewhere on the inter-webs …

“You don't need a measure of treasure to fly
to sporting success on a broom in the sky
to Eros alone in the sight of the stars
to space on a ship that's intended for Mars.

You don't need a mountain of money to go
where Peter and Susan await in the snow
where planets contend and defend for a spice
where Alice adventures with Hatters and mice.

You don't need a wallet of wealth and of worth
to start on a journey across Middle-Earth
to fight in the night with your sword and your steed
You don't need a fund or a fortune to read”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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How do they do it?

Depending on how we are going in life or even what age we are at … we often attribute the success of others to a range of factors.
I recently read the following …

The Rich attribute success to Abilities and Hard Work
The Middle Class attribute success to Education and Luck
The Poor attribute success to Cheating and Connections

I cannot cite any hard evidence to support these ideas but my own experience thus-far, tells me it might have a degree of truth to it.

If you are successful - in something or other - the struggling will often tend to explain your success to themselves in a way that makes them feel okay about their own situation. It is common practise for the struggler to accuse the successful of ‘selling out’, ‘cheating’, ‘operating on impure motives’, etc.

As a successful person, on the other hand, it is seductively easy to attribute your success solely to hard work, intelligence and abilities; whereas, perhaps your circumstances were just conducive to success; perhaps you had a lot of help; perhaps you had a great support system or maybe you had a really good head-start.

I know a number of successful people who came out of difficult environments; I also know aa few strugglers who have emerged from privileged environments … it’s not always plain and simple.

The truth - where it is so often unearthed - could for many of us, likely reside somewhere in the middle. The bottom line is this - we can rarely fully know what others people’s motivations, drives and mental processes are … and perhaps we shouldn’t care that much even if we did. What ultimately matters, is what we do, how we think, how we act upon and react to, the world we live in.

If we develop a solid work ethic - spend some of our time educating ourselves - learn to live within our means - we can often rise above circumstance and do well in the world. If were have great mentors, a great head-start or even a helping hand, then we can rise even further. It is not a contest - at least in my view; and comparing ourselves with others can leave us feeling bad about ourselves, bad about those we compare ourselves to; and at worst, living in a state of envy and bitterness.

Imagine you are an animal - you might well learn from the lion, the kangaroo, the butterfly and the ant alike; as each has their own strengths, weaknesses and challenges - a bee has no business comparing itself to a horse - the horse can run, the bee can fly - what actually matters is how each lives in the world. Live well … you have less control than you think …. you have more control than you think. - JBW

Monday, April 10, 2017

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Vanquishing my Oppressor ...

The cry of the unfulfilled, the uninspired … ’Others are oppressing me!”
Many people that think like this also think that all the things going wrong in their lives are the result of other people’s doing. I have always, for as long as I can remember, been bemused by this kind of thinking. People often find it very, very difficult to own their personal set of circumstances … ie: the notion that their lot in life may have something to do with their choices, their decisions, their own actions (or inactions) and how they see themselves.

Most of the time, such people don’t fully understand what real oppression is. Oppressive regimes and theocracies are real … oppressive laws are real … but these things are most often found in other countries; and are experienced in their fullness on an hour by hour, day by day basis by the people who live there. Almost everyone reading this post most likely lives in a place where freedoms are often taken for granted. Most of us are fortunate in the extreme!

If things are not going well in our lives, it may be worthwhile taking a look within; rather than looking outward for someone or something to blame. There are many things we cannot control, that is true … but here’s the point, there are so, so many things that we can control. There is also this point: many people seem to expend a considerable amount of energy in yelling and screaming about their ‘rights being infringed upon’, about how the ‘system is rigged’, about how ‘hard their lot is’; about how ‘entitled’ they are - rather than directing that energy toward bettering themselves, or contributing to the world in a meaningful way, or acquiring skills that can be useful in life. Energy is in limited supply; yelling, ranting and whining are basically just kid-strategies.

Feeling bad, very often, is a choice! As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus once said “If someone succeeds in provoking you, realise that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” Again, sticks and stones …



JBW

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

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Another bedrock misunderstanding ...


Everything happens for a reason: yikes … seriously? Rather than being overly dependant on the need for things to make sense, we should just accept that often (very often) things happen for no reason - things just happen - random things - chaotic things. A church falls over and kills the fifty people deep in prayer - for no reasons other than sub-standard engineering or bad construction. Acceptance of the fact that life can be a chaotic and often unpredictable experience, can be in itself, somewhat comforting. This is life … a lot of life is chaotic and unpredictable … sometimes stuff happens for a reason , sometimes for no reason that makes sense … it just happens. If anything, we are adaptable … go with that! - JBW

Saturday, April 01, 2017

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Seeking the Meaningful Difference …

Asking a question about the differences between things (that may look similar) is worth doing. But a way better (more revealing) thing to do, is to ask about the meaningful differences between things. There are ‘differences’ and there are ‘meaningful differences’ - and not to be cryptic - the difference between the two is meaningful. - JBW


PS: Seriously … I am not kidding. Pay attention!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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The Luck Formula

A researcher named Richard Wiseman did some considerable study of people that seemed more lucky than others. 

He finally concluded that there were 4 qualities that made people more "lucky" …


  • Being open to meeting new people and having new experiences
  • Having a generally positive attitude (i.e. expecting good fortune)
  • Trusting intuition and gut instinct
  • Being able to see the good in the bad

Here are a few of own observations on the topic of ‘luck’ …

When considering ‘good luck’, it would serve us well to keep things in perspective. The true miracle is that any of us are here at all. The odds against us being here, are astronomical in the extreme. The mere fact, that every single one of our ancestors, leading back to the dawn of life on earth, managed to survive long enough to reproduce, is a miracle beyond the abilty of any of us to fully comprehend. 

Each of us are natural ‘visualisers’. We are amazingly adept at daydreaming and pondering about events that have not happened yet. This is one of the things that sets us apart from the other members of the animal kingdom. We can look forward - we can visualise goals - our imagination paves the way. Being able to see with our mind, what doesn’t yet exist in the present,  is a skill that can make us seem lucky.

I have never liked the ‘poster & stick-it’ note style of goal-setting. The only thing a poster on the wall will ‘manifest’ for us, will be perhaps, a family of spiders who decide to take up residence behind it. Goal-setting is not anything that special, it is simply an inner-knowing, a conscious acknowledgment of what we want to move toward. Even children accomplish this with little or no effort. Plotting a way forward is integral to the concept of good luck. 

Decision-making, like any other skill-set, can be honed and refined. Unknowingly, each and every day provides us with a myriad of opportunities to practice the development of this skill-set. More often than not, we make decisions with little or no conscious awareness; sometimes the result of a string of such decisions is misinterpreted as ‘good luck’. 

We don’t always have to make great decisions; very often, the way our lives unfold, is determined by simply choosing not to make bad decisions. The elimination of what we do not want to do, what we do not want to have, can in itself be a powerful directive force. 

The world is smaller than we think. Each of us is more connected that most of us realise. We are all related. We are all living, deciding, choosing, dreaming and dying in the same intimately-shared, ultra-thin slice of time. Some things may seem much more improbable to us, than they actually are.

Reliance on four-leaf clovers, amulets and horoscope forecasts is for the ignorant, the superstitious and the desperate. Consistent ‘good luck’ is the result of cultivating the right habits and the development of certain set of skills. 


  • JBW

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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The Unintended Journey

Our habits keep us where we are. They wear deep the trail.
Step away from some off them … and we can find ourselves undertaking an unintended journey.

I remember clearly, some 30 years ago now, making the decision to step away from my usual routine of training in the percussion-based styles of martial art (striking) and making a brief foray into the world of grappling. I’ll just make a quick trip to Brazil, I thought, I little temporary detour from my habits, and dip my toe in the BJJ pool … so to speak.


Thirty years later, I am still splashing around. Sometimes, the unintended journey sets us on a path that leads to a lifetime of adventure and joy. You never know what lies around the corner. - JBW

Monday, March 13, 2017

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Wanting change without being willing to change … WTF?

Why is it that two people can be presented with much the same opportunities - one extracts maximum value from those opportunities and makes things happen - the other does not - why? 
I think there are a few big contributing factors …. and I think that one of them is this: the person who is willing and able to continually re-invent themselves - has a huge advantage over the person who is unable or unwilling to do so.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to create a new paradigm while preserving the status quo. New realities are not created by doing the same old thing, or by being the same old person. Wanting change without being willing to change is nuts. Habits can be good and bad … but they can also be restrictive, in that they bind us to the status quo.

Nature loves genetic variation - for a reason! Genetic variation is what makes us all unique … the less variation, the more alike we all are - the greater the variation, the more differences. I feel that thinking works in much the same way … when our thoughts run along the same pathways and in common and familiar directions, then we cannot expect unusual outcomes.


The cross-pollination of ideas is one way we can change things in our lives; it’s a way we can come up with new ideas, new ways of living, new ways of being in the world. - JBW

Sunday, March 12, 2017

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School …

When I went to school I learned things like, french, latin, algebra, chemistry, english literature … etc.
When I left school I learned of things like logic, critical thinking, organisation, communication, investment, Asian languages, creative problem-solving … etc.

Guess you could say I started late. - JBW

Thursday, March 09, 2017

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Ownership: A prelude to action ...

What stops people from taking action – whether it be hitting a technique in the heat of the struggle – buying that first/second/third property – clearing e-mail from inbox – distributing that new pamphlet for a budding business?

This is a very interesting topic – to myself at least. The difference between pulling the trigger/taking action and endless weighing and pondering is more often than not, the difference between living an extraordinary and successful life and one of mundane sameness.

There are usually a number of factors that inhibit people from taking action (fear of consequence, uncertainty, laziness, etc) – but among the most powerful of them is that of ‘lack of ownership’.

I have talked about the concept of ownership in many of my classes. One of the things I insist upon is that participants remember the techniques that I teach one week after I have finished teaching them. This seems like an obvious and easy request but in my experience, the majority of people cannot remember or replicate what was taught to them in say, a seminar, after even a single nights sleep has come and gone. 

When teaching, I try to maximise the possibility of everyone remembering what we have covered; I do so because I understand that REMEMBERING is the first step toward taking full OWNERSHIP of any form of knowledge. WE need to bring new knowledge into our minds in the kind of way that allows us to DO SOMETHING WITH IT at a later date. One of the first things we need to do is to make a clear distinction between ACCESS TO INFORMATION and the OWNING of it. 

We live in a world where oral traditions are rapidly becoming a relic of the past. Many would argue the need for holding information in our headspace, when we can easily access it on the internet, in books or on DVD’s? In my opinion however, these things are just tools that should be not be overly depended upon. 
I feel that the reason people often fail to take decisive action is because they do not properly OWN the knowledge they have momentarily borrowed from outside sources. Once we take knowledge of a subject into our mind and have truly digested and taken ownership of it, some sort of ‘critical tipping point’ is reached and we allow ourselves to ACT.

Consider, how many people go and pay good money to learn how to make money with property investment; yet after the course is done, after they have read the books, studied the DVD’s and listed to the nicely dressed lecturer, more than 95% of them fail to take action. It is one thing to get someone’s head nodding in agreement; it is one thing to have them rep a technique a dozen times; it is one thing to fiddle around at designing a new pamphlet for a new business – but it is another thing entirely to move forward decisively with no hesitation and GET IT DONE.

What is it about us that sees our e-mail inbox overflow with already read e-mails? Personally, I really don’t get it. I have a compulsive need to have my own inbox cleared at the end of each day. I cannot abide by having things sitting there that need to be attended to. I was thinking about this last week and it occurred to me that oft times what prevents us from taking action is that we lack the necessary skill sets to get the job done right now; so we put it off until a later date (when presumably we feel we will have acquired those skill sets).


As Jiu Jitseiro’s we need to OWN our skills and not remain content to just have cursory exposure to them. This begins with practice, understanding, remembering (to the point of being able to reproduce them at a later date) and finally trying to make use of them in our practice. Understanding and Drilling are the first steps to ownership - followed closely by getting that first application under live-rolling conditions, under your belt. 

- JBW

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

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Holy crap, I’m broken …

Life is fraught with peril. There is risk in not crossing the road, there is risk in crossing the road and there is risk on the other side of the road. Risk is a part of life … sometimes, when we take risk, it pays dividends; at other times, the risks we take, demands a price. In BJJ, the price for risk-tasking behaviour can be as little as finding ourselves in a position where we need to tap - at other times, the risk-taking might even result in injury.

I’ve certainly had my share of injuries over the years … nothing too serious, but four knee-operations, one elbow operation and one heart op … that last was a little more serious I guess (all good now). Most of my injuries & subsequent operations have not kept me from the mat for more than a week or two; so really, they have pretty much amounted to some small amount koi forced rest, in most cases.

When someone says, ‘can’t train for a few weeks - got a broken finger’ - I cannot relate. A broke finger doesn’t stop us from working our Guard, it doesn’t stop us from doing a lot of things - in fact, if we decide to tuck the effected arm in our belt and pursue our training/rolling and usual … over time, we might even notice that our Guard improves. Then, when we get the use of our hand back, we make what almost amounts to being a drastic overnight improvement.

Of course, some injuries are seriously debilitating; back injuries for example, might see us on the couch, frozen into immobility. I’ve been on the nasty end of that also … but, as is usually the case, time passes, we get better and are back into the fray in short order.

Being strong - and functionally strong at that, is one of the ways we can drastically reduce the chance of injury - this is particularly important as we get older. Having strength, particularly at the more extreme ranges of our movement, gives us a little leeway when things go pear-shaped. But it is also very importantly to make the distinction between discomfort and injury; being sore after a solid session is okay, being nailed by a good ‘Neon- Belly’ doesn’t mean we are injured and need to take a break - in those instances, we are just experiencing discomfort - this is just a part of being alive.

When you are merely bruised, ignore and move forward, went you are merely bent, straighten up and move forward, when you are actually broken … find a way to move forward - plenty of people, have much larger challenges to overcome than petty injuries - and they find a way and they move forward. Moving forward is how we get places. - JBW

Thursday, March 02, 2017

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Never be so self-indulgent to think the universe cares ...

Nature neither loves you or hates you - nature is indifferent. Most of the people in the world are similar in their feelings toward you; just like nature, they are neither trying to thwart you or help you … they are just indifferent.
Pessimists look at that indifference and see it as malevolence; optimists look at the indifference and see it as benevolence … I look and see it for what it is: indifference; I consider myself a realist.
Knowing this allows me to take full and complete responsibility for how my life unfolds. I am responsible for the mistakes and the successes alike. Responsibility … ‘ability to respond’ … respond to circumstances, respond to environmental considerations, respond to outside forces and internal whims/thought bubbles alike … JBW
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Today is the day ...

It is the day you are thinking, breathing, playing, training, eating, loving and scratching your head ... 
Embrace it. 
Tomorrow, today will be done ... but it will be there in the form of the canvas, upon which tomorrow is painted. So it serves in that regard. Make it a good canvas. Make it a great canvas. 
Living is done moment by moment ... in that slice we deem present.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

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When dreams turn to nightmares …

I have worked, played, struggled and cavorted on the martial arts landscape for more than 40 years now. I have seen my fair share of legends, champions, grinders and wanna-bees. I have seen many thousands of people come and go; it has also been a distinct pleasure to see a handful of amazing people go the distance, sustain the long-race and make very meaningful contributions in their own right. A wild ride, it has most certainly been.

One thing that has not escaped my attention though is the surprising number of champions/legends who, after decades of dedication and effort, have failed to see their mat/training successes translate into the other areas of their lives. Gold medals don’t pay rent; fame doesn’t necessarily translate into financial independence or deeply fulfilling relationships. I know quite a number of well-known martial arts celebrities who are well past their prime and don’t even own their own homes. This is not only astounding to me, is is sad and a pitiful waste of opportunity. 

Such a situation may not sound all that bad to many but let me assure you that financial stress in ones 50’s and 60’s can send people spiralling into depression, it can break down seemingly solid relationships, and it can elicit bad-behaviour, envious feelings and can drastically change personalities. Perhaps even worse, after years of public adoration and celebrity-status, to find oneself alone and without family or loved ones, could be soul-destroying to say the least. 

To be excellent at something is a wonderful thing to strive for … but to do so at the expense of the rest of your life, can prove to be a huge mistake in the long run. Trading in just 10% or 20% of our efforts, to achieve balance and success in other areas of our lives is something I strongly recommend. 

Most people dream of turning their hobby into their profession; this can often come at a high price. A passion or hobby, doesn’t always or easily translate into the great living we think we deserve. Don’t let your dreams of today turn into the nightmares of tomorrow. Balance in all things and a little forward-thinking is the trick. Sometimes, for many of us, a hobby, a passion, should just remain that. We may even find a way to make some nice pocket-money on the side … but the leap from hobby to full-blown professional can be a longer and more precarious leap that many think. 

If we are excellent at something we should be able to discover how we achieved excellence. With some thought, we may be able to apply some of that knowledge to rounding out our lives in other areas. 

Thirty years ago I knew I had to round out my martial arts training; I knew there were great gaps in my skill and I sought to fill those gaps. It also occurred to me that there were aspects of my life that could evolve into problems down the track and so likes, I spent a small part of may attention on forestalling those problems. Trading in some small percentage of my martial arts fanaticism to attend to family, to set myself on a path to financial independence, to optimise my health (both mental and physical) has paid huge dividends over time. 


Again, balance, forward thinking, enjoying the now, living a life replete with happiness, love and fulfilment … that, is rounding out our ‘game’. - JBW

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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Deconstructing BJJ

When we deconstruct something, we learn a lot about howe it works. I remember doing this as a kid, when I got a new clock or a microscope or something cool, I would just want to take it apart and see how it works. I guess everyone has done this at some point. What’s inside there? What’s going on here? How does this thing work? all great questions.

Deconstructing technique though, can be challenging. There are many aspects of a technique that can be difficult to spot; things like ‘feel’, ‘weight distribution/focus’, ‘timing’, etc. Even after we glean and understanding of the various ‘elements’ of a technique, we need to ascertain the ‘firing order’ of these elements.  To shoot a ‘low single’ … do we fold, drop, post and grab - or is it drop, fold post or grab … or drop, post fold and grab? The latter, is of course, the correct answer - but in thinking it through and examining it carefully, we begin to appreciate that the ‘firing order’ is very important.


Deconstruction of a technique, is like any skill; the more we do it, the more we practise, the better we get at it. Deconstruction is one of the pathways to deeper and more thorough understanding. Have at it. - JBW

Monday, February 20, 2017

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Mindful effort vs desperate effort

Although I admire the effort that many people put into getting what they want … I lament over how that effort might be better spent. Effort is awesome but it doesn’t necessarily equate to progress. Making progress requires mindful and purposeful effort.

Begin by gaining clarity on what you want. Then ask yourself what would it look like if you were almost there? Take note of that, for it represents your last step. Repeat the same thought experiment again and again, until you arrive back at wherever you are right now … then ignore all of those ‘more clearly defined’ steps, except the one right in front of your face. Put your intent and effort into making that single small step. The rest of the steps remain 'fuzzy' until they become the 'very next step'.

Mindful effort is the key to making progress toward the things you want to achieve. - JBW

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

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Thriving ...

Thriving is what life seeks to do. But what does it take to thrive? All the good stuff … yes, true enough; but it also takes a little hardship. The hardship is what propels us forward, what immunises us against attack (emotional, physical, etc). The hardship - the suck - provides us with a baseline from which we can transcend/emerge/grow.

Many of us know what it’s like to live in ‘survival mode’ - but our instinct (rightly so) is to extricate ourselves from such circumstance and seek out an existence that allows us to thrive instead. Thriving though, can come in many forms … it might be a cup of tea in the garden, a great conversation with a good friend, a roll on the mat, to win a contest, the pleasure we take from a good book, etc. Thriving isn’t just about bank balance and physical trappings - in fact, I have known people with plenty of that stuff, who I would say were not thriving by the slimmest definition. 

Ask and answer this question: when do you most appreciate a simple thing like a warm fire and a hot drink? The answer obviously, is after you’ve been out in the cold experiencing the opposite … thriving is done by moving … moving from cold to warm, from no options to many options, from unhealthy to healthy … etc. And here’s the main point - to thrive, we need a certain amount of adversity in our lives.

  • JBW


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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The white house on the hill ...

It seems to be a very, very human trait, to seek out the opinions of those who validate our already held opinions. I still catch myself doing this from time to time. Yikes! But something my father taught me as a child … is to look at an idea, a belief, an argument, from all sides - before forming, my own opinion. 

I remember waking with him one day in the Melbourne northern suburb of Fawkner (where we lived) - there was this house, sitting atop a small rise in a place where he used to walk the dog (dog’s name was Caesar). He pointed to the house and asked me what colour it was … ‘white’ I replied. He said ‘It’s white on the side we can see - sure. What about the other sides? Go and check.’ I remember running up the hill, Caesar running with me - to check it out. Sure enough, the house was white on all sides … I ran back to my dad and let him know. He then began telling me just how important it was to always check things from all perspectives - and how it’s just too easy to make assumptions. A great lesson - one that I didn’t really value to much later in life. Thanks dad!


So now, as I find myself forming an opinion, I try to seek out someone who holds an alternative view - before coming to my own conclusions. The devil’s advocates view, will either modify our own perspective or help to strengthen it. Look at everything from all sides … perspectives are many and often entangled. - JBW

Friday, January 20, 2017

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Struggle-Street

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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Excellence in all we do …

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

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

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


  • JBW

Monday, January 16, 2017

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Lucky beyond measure …

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

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

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

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

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


JBW

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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Trial and Error ...

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • JBW

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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

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

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

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


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

So, now … onto the meaty part …

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- JBW



Saturday, January 07, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


- JBW

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