Monday, September 15, 2014

Interpreting BJJ

Elaborating my last post …
I like to teach in a way that is not open to mis-interpretation. A part of this stems from my dislike of ‘vague advice’. An example that springs to mind is the roadside sign AVOID WINDSCREEN DAMAGE …. I can’t stand this. Vague! It is a statement of the bloody obvious but doesn’t tell me HOW to go about achieving the desired outcome. Stupid in the extreme! (in my opinion)
I like to tell people EXACTLY how to achieve something - not ‘kind of’ how to achieve something. This is kind of arrogant in a way I guess … but it’s my thing; driven largely by my need to see measurable results!
On the flip side of things - you can see what I call Impressionistic Teaching. This is where the ‘feeling’ or direction and shape’ of a technique is described - and the step-by-step execution is left wide open for interpretation. It isn’t how I like to teach - but it is, nevertheless, a valid way to teach. The downside is that the more unskilled and less experienced can be left scratching their heads without ever having left the starting blocks - but the upside is that you are forced to think (and interpret) for yourself. 
In my view - the best idea is start with a forensic approach (as is my won’t) and once experience is gained - re-look at the idea or technique through an impressionistic lens. 
Just my two cents …

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Impressionism in BJJ coaching

My own teaching style is based on a very forensic-style approach - I like to examine all the components of a move, understand the purpose and ‘firing order’ of each part of the process - and then find the best choice of words that will successfully drive others toward the same level of understanding. My approach is very forensic and detail oriented. 
On the other end of the spectrum is what I would call an impressionistic approach. My coach Rigan Machado’s coaching style is like this. 
Think of what Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh were trying to do through their impressionist works. There is something about their creations that an explicit photograph failed to convey - with less detail than a photograph, they in some ways conveyed more. 

Personally, I love both impressionism and high-detail … they both bring something different to bear on the subject matter. It is the perspective we get from both approaches that ultimately gives us true insight. JBW

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Our 'Crumby' BJJ Game ...

Imagine this: there is a theoretical spectrum of BJJ proficiency - at one end (the bad end) we are all untalented, untrained, feeble babies being crushed and manhandled by the Mighty Hulk. At the other end of the spectrum, we are all super-humans, with magical understanding of strategy, leverage, bio-mechanics and technique and can effortlessly thwart all attacks and in turn dominate and direct the course of any battle as if in a dream. With these two ends of the spectrum established - we can ask where we (each of us) sits along it’s length? We exist, obviously, as neither ‘babies’ nor ‘super-humans’ - but each of us, in a reality that is unique to ourselves - somewhere in-between. We exist not in the unimaginably horrible ‘reality’ nor in the unbeleivably good ‘reality’ ….. we are in the kind of ‘crumby’ reality - somewhere in the middle. But this is a great thing! In my view, the best thing! For it is in this ‘crumby’ space, that we can learn and grow and have fun.

If we were all ‘feeble babies’ - there would be no point in trying. We would exist is a hopeless place. If we were all super-humans, there would be no point - no reason, no challenge - no-where to rise to. We are exactly where the growth can be experienced, where the joy is to be found, where the lessons are to be learned. We are in the crumby part …. awesome! JBW

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Unnoticed Heroes ...

An instructor’s attention is always naturally drawn towards those talented individuals who sit at the far right hand side of the bell-curve - but this should never be to the exclusion of those who sit to the left.
As with all things - the closer we look, the more we see; I always feel a great sense of admiration for those who do not find learning easy yet persist in spite of this; inching their way forward - very often going unnoticed by their fellow-classmates. 

Effort by those who have talent is admirable; but effort by those who find it all a struggle, is somehow more admirable. Most of us are doing our best; given the circumstances we are in and where we are in our lives - it’s all about ‘moving’ - both on and off the mat. Whether a snail or a cheetah - life moves. JBW

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prime Movers

Our gaze is often drawn to that certain group of people who have ‘celebrity status’ … to those who have risen to prominence through one means or another. There are those who actively seek out fame and notoriety for it’s own sake … perhaps this is an innate ‘survival imperative’ that harks back to tribal society - the bigger your reputation the more ‘power’ you had within the tribe - and the greater chance of survival. Note here; that I am not judging - more power to the ‘seekers of fame’ I say - although I do make a distinction between that kind of person that seeks notoriety for it’s own sake - and those who become well-known for what they have achieved or contributed to society; such people, I call Prime Movers.
Prime Movers make things happen; sometimes for altruistic reasons, sometimes for personal reasons - and very often for mix of both. The Australian martial arts landscape has been shaped to a large degree by prime movers like Richard Norton, Tino Ceberano, Stan Longinidis, Elvis Sinosic, Sam Greco, Ziggy Kelovicz, William Cheung, Rick Spain, Bob Jones, Jack Rozinsky, Frank Nowak, John Taylor and many other greats that I no doubt will have omitted. Although it's not considered good ettitquette to 'judge' - I do - as I am also fully prepared top be judged myself. And I judge a persons notoriety as worthwhile or unworth-while by how they have contributed to the landscape. There are those 'out there' who are notorious but have contributed nothing - there are those who have not sought notoriety yet have become well known becasue they have made great and lasting contributions - to those excellent men - and women - I say 'kudos' - and thank you! JBW

Monday, August 25, 2014

A hyena is not a dog!

The first time we see a Hyena we see it as some kind of dog. That is, we see it through the bias of our world view. Having done so, it is very difficult to move away from that idea … and therein lies one of the main reasons most people fail to make critical distinctions. Being able to see the differences between things that seem similar (if not identical) is one of the things that makes and expert … an expert! In simplistic terms, the more ways you can tell me how a Hyena is NOT like a dog - the greater an expert you become on the subject. if the only thing you can say is that Hyena is kind of like a dog - then you remain inexpert on the subject of Hyena's. We look at a thing - we cannot help but put it into a box that already exists in our mind ... when we train ourselves to look 'afresh' and see a thing for what it is ... we open ourselves to deeper understanding. JBW

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Simplicity - to complexity - to Simplicity

BJJ is addictive because the simplest of strategies can prove to be highly effective. But over time  it’s complexity becomes increasingly obvious - and things can become more than a little confusing. But keep this in mind - as time continues to pass - and you settle into the higher ranks, you will come to understand and appreciate the simple things once again.
For example, you might be exposed to 20 Spider-guard techniques in class over a given part of the training year - but it’s worth paring this down at some point, and distilling all that info down into a two, three or four technique ‘spider guard game’ - one that is easily digestible and ‘connects’ seamlessly with other aspects of your overall BJJ game. Hence - we make a transition from complexity, back to simplicity. JBW

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Gold ...

There are many who will read this post and will be simply unable to relate. I am going to talk about a time when there was no such thing called the internet (yep youngsters - it’s true! Such a time did exist - and it wasn’t all that long ago). It wasn’t a better time or a worse time - it was just a different time.

In the 80’s, there was no internet - in fact, there were no DVD’s! A small collection of martial arts books and a handful of magazines were the only sources of information to those wanting to explore the larger landscaper of the martial arts world. Back then, you had to work for six months to save enough money to leave our shores and train overseas; it wasn’t easy. Travel was harder, money was more scarce; and information about where to train, was practically unavailable. it was a different time; a time of trial and error.

I started my own magazine back in the 80’s - if you live in Australasia, you will know it as Blitz Magazine. The very first copy was written on a commodore 64, the pictures were taken with with actual film, and the bromides (copies of those pics) were glued into position, ready for printing with a gel called ‘Clag’. Travelling to Indonesia, Thailand, India, Japan and Brazil was a difficult task that cost all of my savings and left me penniless after each and every training trip. 

But here is the point I want to make - because it was so difficult, I placed great value on those things that I learned. My first training trip overseas to learn BJJ in 1986 saw me return home with less than a dozen techniques - but I prized those techniques and drilled them endlessly. They were valuable to me because they cost so much to obtain - in time, effort and money. 

Nowadays, any of us can just leap online, scour Youtube and extract techniques and ideas at virtually zero expense. That is absolutely fantastic - what a great world we live in! But remember this - it is very, very easy to scour endlessly and leap from technique to technique without very really mastering much or any of them. More does not always equate to better. So choose wisely, and drill down. Recognize the ‘gold’ when you see it. You don’t have to look too far! JBW

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Falling Forward

Someone once told me - ‘the first one through the door always gets bloodied’. This goes to why the average person doesn’t tend to innovate; there is often a price to be paid for being the first. Being the first, means we are delving into the unknown - fear of failure will pull most people up before they even begin. This can, in my opinion, be largely attributed to the fact that our basic educational system rewards success and punishes failure. Our time in school can often leave us avoiding all activities that could increase the possibility of us experiencing failure. Success - after all - is the catch-cry of the modern world. Yikes!!! I say ‘yikes’ - because that is not how we learned to walk, run, talk, ride a bike, climb, etc. We tried - were happy with failing - in fact we ‘failed forward’ - and over time, learned effortlessly! JBW

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

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’