Friday, December 06, 2019

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‘It doesn’t matter what you say … ‘


The other day, I read this comment - ‘it doesn’t matter what you say’ … in regard to a discussion I was having. When someone says that - it is really the effective end of any further discussion. 

I thought about it a little - and it now occurs to me, that this is where many people are stuck - in their unwillingness to ‘hear’ and ‘think about’ what other people have to say. There’s a lot of this going on in the world today. Sometimes it evens ends in extremism!

It’s so easy to become ‘stuck’ in our ideologies; our belief systems, and find ourselves in a place where we won’t entertain other ideas/thoughts/possibilities, even if they have merit. This is the space where critical thinking dies.

For myself, I try to always keep an open mind. I want to be ripe and ready to entertain an idea that might be be either completely novel to me - or, an even better one than I already hold myself. This is how we improve! Every now and then, on rare occasions, I have come across this attitude on the mat - my response is always the same - I walk away and make my offerings to those whose minds remain open. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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Opinions ....


We often easily absorb the opinions of those we admire whilst dismissing the opinions of those we don’t like … this is strange in a way, because it’s not the opinions we are weighing up; rather, it’s the person holding them.
It is possible for people whom we dislike, to hold worthwhile opinions - and of course, the reverse is true - it is very possible for people, who we do like, to hold opinions about things that (objectively) might be ridiculous. This is where our ‘heart’ can let us down badly. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

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What many fail to see ...


It is very easy to look at someone and exclaim, ‘they’re lucky’ or ‘they have talent’ , etc ... and miss out on the entirety of the story. Most successes are arrived at via a trail replete with failed attempts, heart-break, scars, difficulties, etc. Getting it wrong, and not being ‘put off’ by it ... is how we get stuff done.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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Fortune-cookie Distillations …


Distilling complicated themes down to simple ideas is a great way to start. Then, if we have more time, we flesh it out from a sentence to a paragraph. Even more time, from a paragraph to a chapter. From chapter to a book. You get the idea. 

When starting out, ‘complexity’ is not our friend … distilling a subject down to a bite-sized ‘chunk’ can help us get ‘on-board’ more quickly. Then, over time, we add both ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’. Here are some simple distillations to give you an idea of what I am talking about: 

Crucifix: Back control done sideways
Closed Guard: Upside-down mount
De La Riva: Half Guard when opponent stands
Spider-Guard: Butterfly Guard on the arms
Darce: Arm-triangle where our chest kills the resistance
Anaconda: Arm-triangle where our leg kills the resistance
Kata Gatame: Arm triangle where head kills the resistance
Omoplata: Kimura done with the legs

Monday, November 18, 2019

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Heel-hooks and Solar Panels …


Often when things start small, and become a successful solution to a problem - then they are taken up very, very quickly on a larger scale - and suddenly, the whole world seems ‘on board’.

Examples:  installing a solar panel system at home - that saves me thousands of dollars each year - I tell my friends - who like the idea - and also get on it ...

Or perhaps, take someone like Eddie Cummings, who starts tapping everyone with heel-hooks - then within the space of two years, every 16 year old kid on the mat is doing the same (and improving on it) …. the idea of starting locally, is something that we can all do.

I like the idea of starting locally - it’s like running an experiment - many will fail, some will get a great result - that result will be seen and copied by others - then we get improvement!

I think, more and more, this is how the world will improve.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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Meaningful Entanglement …


One of the big shifts in our lives - is when we come into a state of ‘authenticity’. What does this mean?

We become more ‘authentic’ when we become more ‘congruent. That is, when we find it more and more difficult to make distinction between who we are and what we do. 

Here’s an example I have used before: 
A ballerina is a ballerina 100% of the time. She (or he) doesn’t leave their ‘grace’ and beautiful movement - on the stage - and then stumble around and bump not things when they are not performing. A ballerina is a ballerina 100% of the time. What they do and who they are become intricately and meaningfully entangled.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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Till Now …


What has worked till now, may not work, moving forward. This is an idea that has started tickling my brain just this past year or so (late bloomer perhaps).
What got us here - may not be what takes us forward. And always, this works on the mat, in our personal lives and … on a global scale. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

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Enact - rather than signal ....

Instead of signalling our virtue - perhaps we would be better off enacting it. “Acta non Verba’ - old Latin proverb; seems this is not a new idea.
There are already enough people in the world, shouting out their ‘virtues’ - I would rather not add to their number. Instead, I try to ‘live’ and ‘act’ congruently with my beliefs.

Imagine this - a husband who keep s assuring his wife that he is faithful - worrisome! Husbands who are faithful don’t feel a need to keep reminding their wife of the fact.
Those who feel a need to scream to the world, how they are this or that … make me wonder about what’s really going on inside their heads ….

Simply, ‘enact’ or ‘embody’ the things we believe strongly in. ‘Acta non Verba’ - ‘Action, not Words’.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

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I admire excellence when I see it ...


And when it intersects with my daily life - it lifts me - it improves my day - and on occasion, a little of it sticks to me. Excellence, congruence and authenticity are ‘sticky’ - when we brush up against these qualities - a little of each can rub off on us; if we are open to it. And like most things - when we look for things, we find them. Keep your eyes and ears open to qualities like embodied excellence, congruence and authenticity - you sometimes find it in the most unlikely of places.

Monday, November 04, 2019

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Thank the Black Sheep …

Throughout history, we see the great changes in the world, not being made by political parties or groups of people, but rather by passionate and driven individuals.

This highlights the ‘value’ of the idea - the novel idea -  or that person who cobbles together some ideas (that already exist) into a new pattern or configuration. We need to assign value to this ‘cobbling of ideas’ - because it is that which tends to shift the world on it’s axis. 

Paradigm shifts are, as I see it, most-often the result of an individuals efforts - Ghandi, Thatcher, Jesus, Jobs, Darwin, etc. Of course, these shifts will be further ‘calibrated’ by other individuals as time goes by … as so we have the world we are presently living in. The future - will be determined yet, by the black sheep of today. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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You don’t need to be rich … you need to be happy …


‘I want more .. and I want it NOW!’  - so cried Verulka Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And most of us know what happened to her!

If I could wish upon people only one of two things - the choices being ‘Rich’ or ‘Happy’ - the answer is an absolute ‘no-brainer’.

Some studies of shown that there is no correlation between being Rich and being happy - with the exception being, if you are living in real poverty, and then if you get enough money to lift you out, your happiness increases significantly.

I do think it is just smart to save some money and invest it for your future - in the same way that a farmer puts seeds in the ground because he knows that next years crop will depend on it … but happiness is the thing that we can have right now. We need not wait for it. Perhaps this is what Verulka Salt should have been crying for. Happiness - NOW - is a worthwhile pursuit. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

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How eagerly we fight for our stories …


Many of our core beliefs are a product of where we were born … and what ideas were poured in to us during childhood. Well, at least this is how we get our ‘initial shape’ if you like. Born in Mecca? Your’e probably Muslim. Born in Israel? You’re probably Jewish. Born in Rome? You’re probably Catholic. Born in Southern India? You’re probably Hindu - etc, etc. Each of us looks at the other, and in doing so, becomes atheistic about that others beliefs and ideologies. Many many millions of people have fought and died for their own particular beliefs in their own particular stories.

The strange thing that I am continually amazed about, is the deep certainty that people have when it comes to the truth of their own particular story. How strongly we cling - how eagerly we fight - how difficult it is for people to rise above the circumstances and location of their birth. Most of us tend to go along with the prevailing narrative of our environment … but I think, most of the great stuff happening in the world, takes place because someone chose to step away from that.

In stepping away from the flock - and walking our own path - and thinking our own thoughts (if such a thing is possible) - we become a little more authentic - a little more alive - a little more tolerant - and perhaps, a little more useful to the wider world. It’s not easy to break away from the ‘collective think’. It isn’t easy to walk your own path; but the attempt can be rewarding.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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Being of Value …

Being of value to others is one of life's ‘core tenets’.
Being of value brings us fulfilment. It helps define and shape our place in the world. being of value makes the world a better place - and it also helps us make a living. There are innumerable ways we can bring value to the landscape - and when we do, we begin to define for ourselves, a deeper sense of purpose.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

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The Price of trying ...



Oft times when people fail to participate - it’s not that they are uninterested - it is because they are afraid (to try, or to speak their minds, etc)
I imagine, in times gone by (and still today to a lesser extent) that there would have been a big price to pay in any dominance hierarchy (tribe) for trying and failing grandly. The fear of failure was a powerful inhibitor to taking action. No-one wants to look goofy.
This is not as relevant today - and also, in this day and age, we can try and fail - lots of things - with a low probability of death being the price we pay.
But I get it - fear of failure is a real thing. But those of us who can prevail in that particular battle - will find they can learn a lot and live more effectively in the world.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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Live in the NOW? Don’t think so …


The ‘present’ is the boundary between the what has occurred and what might occur. We cannot live there … 
Consciousness is an emergent event occurring across that boundary.

We gather a little ‘memory from recent past and mix it with a little anticipation about the immediate future - and that’s where we are - Right Now!

Think on it. Read a single word in a book .. it means nothing. That would represent the ‘now’ - the ‘present’; - but the words that came before it and the words that immediately follow - bring those into the mix and ‘meaning’ emerges.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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Time .... to self-educate


I was warned as a youngster - to abandon my obsession with martial arts training - and instead, choose a ‘real job’ to better guarantee the acquisition of successful and bright future. Glad I was stubborn enough to ignore those urgent and all-knowing voices.

Whilst others were (no doubt) padding out their resumes and earning their degrees, I spent my time travelling and training. But looking back, I was also educating myself; I was building perspective on the world, on how it works and coming into contact with lots of different types of people. I emerged with no fancy diploma - but learn I did; and so began my program of self-education. 

Travel, and exploration, is in some ways, a very inexpensive way to learn about the world and about ourselves. And often it comes with an invaluable bonus … time! 

Time is opportunity … it is the way we measure change in the world; and change within ourselves. Time allows us to self-educate … and for most in the western-world at least - opportunities to self-educate, abound.

Monday, August 19, 2019

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Straight to the Riff …


Most youngsters do it - I did it - it certainly seems like the smart thing to do. Commonly, when someone decides they want to learn how to play the guitar - they look to the current ‘legend’ and just start copying what he  or she is doing … they forget about learning the chords and the basics of building a melody - and just start mimicking the legends favourite ‘riff’. By rote.

Cutting straight to the ‘riff’ seems like it’ll just save us time - but in the end , it won’t. Instead of modelling what the aforementioned legend’ is doing now, it makes far more sense to model the path he took to get there. 

I’ve seen this happen, on a very large scale, with boxing, and with BJJ. Cutting straight to the ‘riff’ without learning the building blocks to fully understand how or even ‘why’ - we are doing what we’re doing.

A part of the coaches job - is to walk their students through the evolution of a thing - to shed light on what we are doing, why we are doing it - and as well, of course, how we are doing it. The process of development is as important as the final product. The heroes all walked the walk … the wannabees try jumping straight to the ‘riff’. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Goals - Shmoals!


Rather than focussing on meeting/realising a pre-determined goal - we will be much happier - and perhaps even more productive - by doing things for the intrinsic value to be had in doing something we love or are passionate about or motivated to do. 

This keeps us tethered to the moment - allows us flexibility to adapt and modify our behaviours - its also much, much more sustainable. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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Viva Vagabonda

Some people have careers (business paths that they dedicate their life to ... yikes!), others have jobs (stuff you would only do for pay), others have businesses (a job you create) - and others still, live the life ‘vagabonda’ - and their compensation - time! And that time may be used to find something we love doing - become skilled at it - maybe even eke a living from it. And so, emerges, the respectable vagabond.

Monday, July 29, 2019

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Fuzzy Goals ...

Rather than focussing on meeting/realising a pre-determined goal - I am much happier - and more productive - by doing things for the intrinsic value to be had in doing something I love.
Any goals I have, such as as they are, exist not in the external world but rather, as ideas in my imagination. Goals are thoughts that I have about possible futures I may or may not inhabit. I like to keep my options open. My ‘goals’ remain - very fuzzy!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

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Old Man Jiu Jitsu

Old Man Jiu Jitsu.
Same as young man Jiu Jitsu ... only, sometimes, we limp off the mat.
I have said it before, and zI'll keep saying it - my personal strategy as a 'mature-age' BJJ Athlete is simple - Denial!
Just pretend you're 25 years old - and get to that mat. Training as if you are younger keeps you younger. It's that simple. Staying in shape is all about attitude.

Monday, June 10, 2019

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We are ‘pattern spotters’ …


We are hardwired to seek and out and recognise patterns … in all facets of life. Some people see the virgin Mary’s face in a loaf of bread or in a slice for toast - there is nothing divine about this of course, it is just that ‘facial recognition’ is crucial to human/infant survival - and so we grow up very, very sensitive to finding ‘faces’ of all kinds, in nature, even in hot cross buns and clouds.

It naturally follows that we spot patterns in things/areas/landscapes that we are interested in. 

I like seeking out the patterns that exist in BJJ. Without such patterns, BJJ can seem like a huge pile of unrelated techniques - very messy, very, very confusing - particularly for the novice (but actually for many black belts as well). In fact very often, the more people learn, the greater their confusion becomes. 

Once we identify certain patterns, certain concepts, a lot of the confusion goes away and things ‘fall’ into place.

For example: Take knee-slice passing - there are many, many variants - true - But all sprout off a single simple idea - we pin the leg to the ground, whilst avoiding the natural knee-shield defence - whilst also finding a way to keep the opponents back flat on the ground (not allowing him to turn on his side. We can keep him flat a lot of ways, head control, collar/choke control, the obvious under-hook, pulling the nearside arm up, hip pressure, etc. And that is where the variants come into play. If we keep the central idea in mind - and realise that most of the variants are just that - slight ‘variations’ that just give us more options to get the job done. The real work is not in being ‘distracted’ by the variations - but rather, getting to the ‘sweet spot’ (the knee-pin and our ‘elbow-knee-wall’ in place to prevent the knee shield). And we need to be able to get to the ‘sweet spot’ from as many different ‘guard situations’ as we can - Butterfly, Half-guard, De la Riva, etc. 

So that is just one example of hundreds - but when we get it ‘organised’ in this (or another) fashion - it begins to makes much more sense. It also then becomes much, much more easy, to ‘connect’ and ‘combine’ one idea with other ideas with - passes, attacks, etc.

Seek the patterns … organise our thinking. Doors and understanding will open.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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The Torrent ...

We are living in the age of information ... our ancestors didn't have enough information, but today we may sometimes come up against the problem of being bombarded with too much information. A torrent of info is the 'new norm' for the youth of today ... but how to sort the fact from fiction, the useful from the useless? Different challenges. But hey ... I'll not say 'no' to information ... we just need to develop the skill of being able to 'make distinctions'.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

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Martial Artists as Role Models? Not necessarily!

Martial artists are no more likely to be good role models than a chef, a baker or any other artisan …
It’s the individual that may or may not choose to live and ethically and morally upright life - sometimes that particular kind of person is a chef, sometimes a carpenter … and every now and then, a martial artist.
As martial arts coaches - as is the case of teachers of all sorts - we do have an opportunity to present ourselves as good role-models for others; but this should never be assumed. I have seen some extraordinarily bad behaviour from some very prominent martial artists. As a consequence, I now have zero expectations on that front.
In my own Academy, I choose to avail myself of the unique opportunity that I have; the opportunity to influence others positively and in a way that, might just result in some of my students living more positive, joyful and fulfilling lives. I try never to preach one thing - and yet do another; I try to be congruent with what I say and how I live my own life - after all, if I believe my advice to be ‘good advice’ then I should always take it myself.
Every now and then though, we find excellent human beings who also happen to be great martial artists. These are my kind of people. Here is such a man, the excellent Gil Melendez - with my boy Felix in San Francisco last week.

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