Thursday, April 19, 2018

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Build a Banquet


\We each bring something to the table, very time we step onto the mat. An idea, an outlook, a way of moving …
Together, we build a banquet. Why are some banquets more enjoyable and interesting than others? A question worth answering. 

White belt to black belt - every one of us brings something. Make that something - worthwhile. An eager attitude, curiosity, a smile. We each bring something, whether we realise it or not.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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IN DEFENCE OF SPEECH … (a secret!)

IN DEFENCE OF SPEECH … (a secret!)

Here’s something that very few people know.
I was responsible for starting Blitz magazine (and owned it for the first ten issues) - but that’s not the ‘secret’ I want to share …
The secret I want to share is ‘why’ I was motivated to start the magazine in the first instance …

In the mid 80's, I wrote and article in AFA - the Australian Fighting Arts Magazine … which was publicly ’shot down’ by a couple of friends of the editor. When I wrote back a reply to their scathing comments - I was refused that right of reply - and my article was never published. I became so ‘incensed’, that I decided to start my own magazine, so that no-one could suppress my right to offer up an opinion.
A bit of an over-reaction perhaps - but I believe very, very strongly in the whole idea that people should be able to voice their opinions.

Bad behaviour, violence against women, social injustice, cruelty and criminal acts flourish in the absence of the voices of outrage.

When others threaten us into silence - that is the beginning of end as far as I am concerned. Art is about expression … and it is very dear to my heart.
- JBW

Saturday, April 14, 2018

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What goes around - comes around

Karma is code for 'consequences' - both good and bad. When we treat people with respect - do our best to help improve the lives of other people - others tend to reciprocate. This has been my experience at least. I don't believe in the supernatural (I don't begrudge others their beliefs - as long as they do no harm) - I do though, believe in reciprocity. - JBW

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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Certificate of Not Losing your Shit


I am recently reminded of a quirk of human nature - some people, when besieged by the pressures of life, will not allow the stress they feel to effect others … the suck it up and interact with others pleasantly and honorably.

Another certain kind of person, when feeling pressured, bursts like an over-ripe pimple and covers anyone standing within range with a coating of toxic sludge. I have seen this happen every now and then - and must admit to always being somewhat surprised.

We all go through hard times … every one of us. It is a worthwhile endeavour to protect our fellow humans from the drama we might be experience ourselves. Lashing out at others never addresses the drama’s we might be going through - in fact, it almost always makes things worse.

I wear a small patch on my travel bag - it simply states ‘Embrace the Suck’. Another old saying I like - a little corny perhaps, but to the point: 'pressure makes diamonds' - but keep in mind, it can also make bad pancakes!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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Formative Years ...

Formative years ... are, well .... formative! They are formative because we are influenced by the people we spend most of our time with - but think, this doesn't necessarily stop being the case when we become adults. In childhood, we have little or no choice - in adulthood, we do have choice. In short, once we are adults - we have no excuse. Spend time in the company of worthy people!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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Traps ...


On the mat - there are traps waiting for us. Ideally, we have the skills and abilities to overcome those traps. In life, the same situations exists … there are traps waiting for us in our future … ideally, we have prepared a little and have the skills and resources to survive them.
A small trap might be your car breaking down … a larger trap might be a bad relationship, a serious health problem, or some such thing. But traps there are … the future has a way of turning up. We should enjoy our lives and wring every drop of joy and fulfilment out of every day - but also, we should invest a little time, preparing for the traps we have not yet seen.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

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Attention & respect

At the heart of it - any teacher worth anything - must want others to succeed. And succeed beautifully and grandly.
Life can be tough - it can throw plenty of shit on the most carefully planned pathways. A big part of teaching, is to spare others the pitfalls we fell into ourselves. That begins by gaining their attention - and their respect. But that begins - by first giving them attention - and showing them respect. One of the deep truths I have learned on my journey thus-far. Happy Easter to one and all. May the bunny leave you plenty of brown things ....

Monday, March 26, 2018

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Equal Opportunity


The mat is an equal opportunity training space. It’s one of the things I have loved about martial arts schools the world over. The rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate and everyone in-between - can all share the mat, the ring, the the dirt floor - the rough and tumble of training does not make distinctions around skin or hair colour, religious persuasion (or lack thereof), social status, bank balances, sexual orientation, etc. The mat doesn’t care - and I love that!

The mat is a merit-based space. And that’s it. So naturally, it doesn’t suit a lot of people. There are many out there who want their ‘mask’ or their ‘trappings’ to mean something … again, the mat doesn’t apologise; or pander; or give anyone a free ride. And I love that!

I have lived in a slum; I have lived in a drain-pipe; I have slept in a palace; I have rented a one-bedroom apartment; I have owned my own home, and the mat never once; gave a damn! I have been happy, sad, excited, annoyed, frustrated, serene … the mat didn’t care. And I love that!

Training has always been the thread running through my life - and hours too, I trust. That constant thread - through good times and bad - through summer and winter … helps forge a better version of ourselves through rigour and study. The mat - doesn’t care who your parents are - what school you went to - the mat is a part of nature - it doesn’t care - it just ‘selects’ - and does so impassionatly. And I love that!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

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The fun is in the mud ...


We develop our immune system, playing in the dump. We develop our instincts after we have taken a few blows and bumps. 
It’s in the mud, where we learn to develop our character, our determination, our dogged sense of purpose, our fortitude and grit.
We don’t develop these, and other wonderful traits, on the sunny days and when things are travelling swimmingly. It’s in the mud - where we build that core of our being that resides beneath the shinier and better-manicured layers of our selves.

Monday, March 12, 2018

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Be micro-ambitious


Small steps - small goals - small improvements. One of our greatest weaknesses is that we tend not to notice small gains and improvements we make - and so we give up - when all the while, we were actually making progress. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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Art - Starry Starry Fight



Trying to define what constitutes ‘art’ is potentially a lengthy, convoluted, even volatile discussion … but one definitely worth having - preferably on a stormy day, in an armchair, in front of an open fire with friends (or enemies).
Irrespective of how you personally, define it … I think it is up to others to bestow the title (of artist) - and not ourselves. When I think of art - I think of exploration - and exploration and development of the self through practise and expression. Some forms of art are perceived by others as valuable and some forms (and expressions) are not … but ultimately, I think we might all agree - it can be a deeply personal journey. Whether others approve or disapprove, is not all that important. - JBW

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

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Circumstances ....


We are all trying to improve our personal circumstances.
But focussing on those circumstances is not the way - instead, improve ourselves. Then circumstances will change.
Study, learn, think, re-invent, improve, seek out like-minded people. Cut the trash, the nay-sayers and the envious loose.  One life people - make it count. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Make those count. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Safety Net …


n the world of the trapeze artists, the safety net allows them to push the envelope and try new tricks; with no fear of dying if it all goes wrong.
Take the safety net away - and the behaviour and learning curve would change dramatically.

In business, a safety net my be a wealthy benefactor who can come to your rescue if your idea goes wrong.

On the social landscape, your safety net might be a small circle of friends who you can confide in and rely on.

There are many kinds of safety nets - but they all have one function in common - they allow us to push the envelope - to test our limits - to try without needing to overly worry about the consequences of failure.

In BJJ - our safety net can - in a broader sense, relate to the presiding culture on the mat. But in a more tactical sense, it is built on our ability to be comfortable in ‘bad’ situations. Our ability to be comfortable in bad situations, or further, our ability to ‘turn the tables’ or escape from bad situations, is our ‘safety net’. The more confident we are in such abilities, the more likely we are to take risks and attack when conditions are less than ideal.

Safety nets - allow us the luxury of taking risks. And risk-taking leads to new discoveries and learning.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Non Conformity and Critical Thinking


I think I swallowed a non-conformist ‘seed’ when I was a child.
I learned the Alphabet backward (Z,Y,X,W,V ...) not forward.
I wore a cord jacket to school and not my blazer.
I kicked and punched but then took the fight to the ground.
I travelled east when the east was running west.

There is struggle in non-conformity but there is also discovery and a sense of adventure. 

My father was an autodidact, in that he was able to learn, and learn very well, without the need for formal instruction; at the age of 14 he finished 12 grade and in that year he bested all the teachers in his school at chess - playing 10 different games at the same time. He was highly intelligent and carved out a great life for himself and our family. However,  I only recently learned, he ran away from seminary college (yep) as a 17 year old - bought a leather jacket and a vincent motorbike - and rode north in search of his individuality. That’s when he met my mum - and began to find his niche in the world. It is clear where my non-conformist tendencies come from.

I don’t mind conforming though, if I get a positive outcome - and nor should anyone else. There are circumstances though, that arise from time to time, that cry out for us to stand up, to make noise - to take another view. Something my father told me was this - “If you want to be like everyone else, do what they do - if you don’t then don’t”. Critical thinking.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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Work Ethic …


I have both the means and the ‘age’ to retire right now. yikes! Why don’t I?
Well, mainly, I love what I do. There are tough days, sure. There are injuries to contend with (impinged shoulder and hairline rib fracture this last week) - travel - airports - and stuff that is annoying …. but the benefits far out-weigh the inconveniences. So there’s that. But …

The main reason is that I have cultivated, over the years , a work ethic that makes it now somewhat difficult to say ‘no’. And I am perfectly okay with that .. because in part, it defines who I am.

‘Work ethic’ … means deciding and committing; not caving into momentary feelings. If you want to get stuff done … you’ll need this in your bag of tricks.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

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Solve this ...


Why is my advanced class replete with people who have trained for ten years or more? What keeps people into BJJ for such a long time? I think I know ....

Remember when you picked up a yo-yo for the first time ... or tried to solve a rubix cube ... or tried to ride a skateboard? While it was challenging you remained interested ... but once you got the basic idea; and the mechanics of it became familiar to you, the challenge went away and you lost interest. This is because the landscape of the thing was unchanging ... it was a static problem; one that offered challenge at first, then satisfaction as you solved the problem; and then, boredom began to set in ... and finally you probably wandered off in search of another problem to solve.

With BJJ, every day, the mat will throw up new and intruiging  problems for you to solve. Even as you make great progress and become more and more skilled, so do others and they create new and interesting problems for you to solve. The landscape is not static - it is ever-evolving. 

Imagine waking up every day in a new world; a world where you had new and interesting problems you had to solve in order to prevail and stay alive. Call such a situation frightening, if you must, but boring it would certainly not be. Welcome to the BJJ landscape ... it is the perfect world for problem solvers. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Intersections …

We each have our own unique and special lives …. each have our own challenges, our own joys, our plans, our circle of friends, our own particular set of circumstances. 

It is though, at the overlapping, where the interesting stuff happens … where life happens. Those particular aspects of our lives that we share with others, is often where the real growth and change occurs. 


Put one person on an island - they may or may not survive. Put a bunch of people on an island - and we get culture, art and science. We each have the opportunity to bring something to the landscape … together, we bring magic to an otherwise hostile environment.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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What I want for my students …


I may be over-stepping; but I do admit to wanting more for my students that that which they may have come looking for at my Academy. 

I want them to lead them to a deeper understanding of BJJ than I have myself. I want them to have joyful and happy relationships in their lives. I want them to be financially successful. I want them prevail in difficult times. I want them to be healthy, to be excited about their lives, to be adept at living a full and meaningful life. 

In my Academy, the study and practise of the art, is in many ways a metaphor for how to live our lives. Sadly, such is not the case in many other schools. 

The term Academy, is originally derived from the word Hekademia, which was a place in Greece sacred to the goddess Athena - the goddess of wisdom. It has since come to refer to a place of learning, where presumably, wisdom is also acquired. 

I have never aspired to running a martial arts club - a gym - or a hang-out for a disrespectful cadre of fighters … my preference is to hold to the original idea … an Academy; where ideas take hold and lives are shaped for the better.
  • JBW

Thursday, February 08, 2018

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How do we stack up?


How we stack up (against others) in society - does, in many ways, determine how we feel about ourselves. This is both a truth - and at the same time, a tragedy.

For billions of years, countless groups of animals have lived in tribal hierarchies; including humans …. and all are hardwired to do their best to ‘rise’ within the boundaries of their respective environments. 

Humans though, are unique in the animal kingdom, in that we have the ability to transcend our ‘instincts’; to transcend our suffering; to conceptualise the abstract; to express complex things in simple ways - so surely, surely, we can understand this - we each have the capacity to feel great about ourselves, without comparing ourselves to others. 

Monday, February 05, 2018

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Character …


We don’t build character in the arm-chair - we build character in the mud. We build character, fortitude and grit, during the tough times. Tough times are like resistance training for our ‘character’. 
Our reaction to adversity is what makes us stronger, more resilient and more able to deal with future adversity. Embrace the suck. - JBW

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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Risk and Investment

A life without risk - is hardly a life worth having. 
Standing up and taking our first few steps as a toddler - was a ‘risky’ thing to do … but the pay-off was awesome. We suddenly saw the world from two or three times the height - than we did while we were still crawling around on the ground. We covered distance more rapidly. Plus - it was fun!

Not taking a risk is in fact, a risk in itself. Think about it. We are in fact, evolved/built for survival in a risky world.

Risk is also closely related to investment - and visa versa. And when I say ‘investment’ - I am not just talking about investment from a ‘financial’ perspective … 

Everything we do can be seen as an investment. The most precious thing we have - is ‘time’ - (millionaire and pauper alike) and when we spend it, we are ‘investing’ in ourselves. I have said it before, and I will never stop saying it - the best investment we can make, is the investment we make in ourselves. Be there! Invest fully. Wring the most you can out of the time you are spending - on whatever it is you are doing. When we are just ‘going through the motions’ - we are trading our time for, essentially, no return. 

Nope! No! Nyet! Yeh-Na!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

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Nothing new here …


Take a close look at this ancient Cambodian stone relief. Once we realise that the protagonist has secured not only a back-choke on his adversary - but also a body-triangle - it might well occur to us that much of what we consider to be ‘new’ and ‘cutting edge’ on the martial arts and BJJ landscape - has perhaps been done before … invented, forgotten re-invented, re-forgotten … many, many times. Train Hard - Train Smart - Stay Humble. - JBW

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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Friend or Foe …


This is how you recognise a real friend … you find yourself in need of help, it’s inconvenient for them to give it, but they do so anyways.

Foes are a little more difficult to spot - because they can come in a variety of disguises - but ultimately, these are the one’s that are trying to do you harm. 

Someone who doesn’t like you but isn’t trying to do you harm - isn’t a foe. They’re just someone who doesn’t like you. And that’s ok.

There is a monumental difference between, say a bear, walking 100 metres from you, looking at you sideways and walking on … and a bear that is charging you with the intent to do you harm. 

True friends are one of life’s rarities … and although I have been duped on more than one occasion, I feel I am among the most fortunate of men, for having some wonderful, reliable and selfless friends. They inspire me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Facing up …

It is healthy - liberating even - to face up to our weaknesses and frailties. I have, very often in my own life, been a serial denier. I denied I was a tad ‘anti-social’ - I denied that I needed to be fiscally responsible - I denied that I was overly selfish on occasion … but seriously … once we own up to these (and other) frailties (for that’s what they are) we can better manage them - or even do something about them. Central, to the idea of being authentic, is that we take ownership of not only our strengths - but of our weaknesses. - JBW

Monday, January 22, 2018

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Compare ...


 We are all good at comparisons ... we are natural at it; and inclined toward doing it. The thing though, is this - compare yourself to last years version of YOURSELF - and not to others.
That's the healthier thing to do. And then ... make small improvements. Move away from the un-useful aspects of last years model (of ourselves) - and toward a more idealised model of ourselves. After all - we know ourselves intimately - and so the comparisons we make - should (if we are honest with ourselves) - be very accurate - and highly detailed. - JBW

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