Saturday, July 30, 2016

It is nice, of course, to attain or reach a goal ... but the greater part of the value to be enjoyed is in the effort itself - the journey - the planning - the struggle - the inevitable learning the takes place along the way.
The day I was awarded my BJJ Black Belt was a wonderful day - one I will always remember with deep affection; but it still doesn't stack up against the journey I took to get there. That journey was full of struggle, wonder, frustration, awe, epiphany, bemusement and confusion ... I wouldn't of course, have had it any other way. The journey itself, was what gave value to the achievement (such that it is). Enjoy every moment ... good, bad and everything in between. - JBW

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The beautiful struggle

Through the struggle of training we expose ourselves to the possibility of becoming better versions of ourselves. 

Different people react in different ways to the stresses, challenges and struggles of training in an art like BJJ. As I have pointed out before, it is not the stress itself that produces anything of significance - it is our response to that stress that is important.

it is natural to try and avoid stress; after all, it is unpleasant. I do not like it. But I heave learned something about it over the years and it is this; without stress, we do not change. And by change, I mean grow, evolve, learn, improve. 

We stress our body; the physical form adapts and grows. This is how exercise works. The same goes for our mind/intellect/powers of reasoning/problem -solving ability, etc.

Life is struggle; in the natural world this is what has underpinned the evolutionary process. In our personal lives, stress provides us with an opportunity to test our response - and an opportunity to grow/evolve and learn from that response.

BJJ provides us with a somewhat unique form of stress. BJJ is about problem solving; but unlike other problems that are often presented to us in life, in the struggle on the mat we don’t have the time and luxury of being able to sit back and ponder the problem. In fact, the problems we encounter on the mat, are of the rapidly evolving kind; we have little time to ponder on our answer (like we would have when playing chess for example where the problem remains ’static’ while we try to come up with a solution). 

In placing ourselves into the unique environment of the BJJ mat, we expose ourselves to opportunity for personal growth and development. The benefits are numerous and substantial. It might not be easy; it is not supposed to be. it might not be for everyone; but then again, it’s not supposed to be. 

  • JBW

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thinking, Analysis and Action

I like thinking - I think it is important - I there that a lack of thinking underpins much of the drama we see in the world today. One part of thinking, is the idea of analysis ... we look at a problem or an object from as many different perspectives as we can - not just from those angles/perspectives that support a prior held opinion.

If we are trying though, to make a decision about something, we should (of course) try and imagine-forward and calculate the possible ramifications of choosing one course of action over another - and herein lies a potential problem .... taking into consideration even slight variations on how we might proceed, can produce an almost overwhelming variety of different outcomes ... so we continue to analyse ... and fail to ever TAKE ACTION! Paralysis by analysis - this has been called. And it is a real phenomenon.

The thing to remember is this - when we fail to take action - that in itself is an action. We must also understand we need to live with the consequences of NOT ACTING. Consequences arising from inaction are every bit as real as those that arise from taking action.

So, think, think and think some more - but then ... take action (one way or another) and you'll soon have the opportunity to think - and choose - again! - JBW

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Mechanics of Luck

If you succeed at something, you can expect a certain element to accuse you of being lucky. Personally, I find this a little insulting; not because luck doesn’t exist, it does, in roughly equal proportion to ‘bad luck’.

I find it insulting because such people are usually the kind that are not ‘risk-takers’ themselves and just don’t appreciate the work and effort that underpins the success they view as a product of dumb luck.

Watching a martial arts movie is not the same thing as training in the martial arts. Going to school to learn about success, is not the same thing as succeeding in the actual world. Taking action is what ultimately counts; it's what drives us forward and colours the unfolding of our lives.

As the old saying goes ‘the more we prepare the luckier we get’. Or as Louis Pasteur has been quoted as saying “fortune favours the prepared mind”. Both amount to the same thing; the balance of good luck and bad luck can be swung in one direction or the other depending on the choices and actions we take.

Those who want to carve out a life of verve and adventure for themselves - those people, make their own luck. - JBW

Monday, June 13, 2016

Enter the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

A willingness to step forward, when others are stepping backward is a trait that lies at the very heart of what it means to be a fighter, a fireman, a soldier, etc.. Although this may be a desirable trait, it is by no means an easy one to acquire. Stepping into the arena takes courage; it requires a certain dispassionate view toward outcome; it requires perspective. 

What makes stepping into the arena so difficult is the possibility of failing; or to be more accurate, failing in the eyes of our peers or loved ones. Most people find it much easier to take risks if they can do so anonymously; it is when we are taking risks in front of our own circle of family, friends or peers, that the price tag suddenly seems all that much higher. This is a pity indeed, because so much growth and innovation comes from risk-taking; so when we fail to take risks, we pretty much resign ourselves to a state of inertia.

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

Living, working and training in an environment that allows for, or even encourages, risk-taking, provides us with a sure-fire path to betterment. The more we are 'punished' for taking risks, the less inclined we will be to do so, and the more opportunities for growth we deny ourselves. 

Most of us are very risk-averse; naturally so; for this trait has been passed down through the DNA of our ancestors - if they were not risk-averse, we probably wouldn't be here today. But the world we live in has a very different set of risk factors than the one occupied by our ancestors - we can go to the shop and try a new food, without much risk of dying from it; but how many of us choose to do this? And how many, find great comfort in staying with the tried and true? 

Someone had to ride that first horse; someone had to eat that first olive; someone had to build that first bicycle. On the mat, when we try out new ideas, we are taking risks - but think on it - what price do we pay for messing up? Easy .. tap out; start over and try again? The risk here is virtually zero and the only thing on the line is really our ego. Take our ego out of it; and it all becomes a learning experience.

But there are many arena’s in life; there is the competitive arena; there are relationship arena’s, business arena’s, financial arena’s, innumerable sporting arena’s; the list goes on and on. Cultivating our own personal ability to step into new territory, to take risks and be willing to appear a little foolish almost guarantees us a life of success. 

Learning is just that; learning. It requires that we fail and fail often; but what we get in return for our seemingly unending string of failures, are a collection of successes, that set us apart from the rest. 

The secret is simple; if you want to live an extraordinary life, full of verve, adventure and success; you must, you absolutely must, be prepared to step into the arena and fail gloriously; day after day. It’s difficult to imagine any better advice than this. 

John B WIll

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A Bird in the hand .... really?

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” - an old saying, but one that I find to be incredibly misleading. Or, as to put it more bluntly - incredibly stupid advice!

One of the signs of intelligence that I subscribe to is the ability of someone to take some small pain/inconvenience now, in order to receive a bigger pay-off/benefit later. 

We live in a world where ‘instant-gratification’ is the norm. Get it now! Have it now! One bird in the hand ‘now’ rather than two ‘later’. A little planning and foresight can go a long way. I say no to the bird in the hand now; as I can go an get a net, do a little planning, then head to the bush and get the whole flock! 

Save a little of that money rather than spending it all - or worse, spending more than that which you have earned. Do some exercise now to reap the benefits later. A little planning and forward thinking goes a long way. Imagine if our ancestors hadn’t had the capacity to forward plan for the winters of northern Europe. Many of us wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t.

For those lover son Eckhardt Tolle’s writing on ‘living in the now’ - ponder this; even he has to ‘plan’ his books, plan for his book tours, etc. Sure, live in the moment, extract all the value the present has to offer - but spend some small time planning for a future that very well may arrive. 

For those wanting a little more on this topic - google ‘the Marshmallow Experiment’ - you may very be surprised by the findings. Most people that opt for ‘instant gratification’ - do nowhere near as well in life as those who have the will and foresight to delay gratification in the present for a bigger pay-off at a later date. 

‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ - the philosophy of the short-sighted!


Monday, June 06, 2016

Correlation … zero

Many people mistakenly believe that if they up the intensity of their effort (in a given situation) that this automatically guarantees success.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they have a Black Belt in a martial art, that they can effectively defend themselves.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they have a lot of money in the bank, that they will be happy and fulfilled.

Many people mistakenly think that because a person talks to them and smiles at them, then that person is their loyal friend.

Often, where we think there might be a correlation - there is none. And conversely, sometimes where we think no correlation exists, there is indeed one; or many.

It is easy to think that the only benefit we get out of training BJJ is the ability control and defeat other people in physical conflict; but think of the myriad of correlations that our training can have with the wider aspects of our lives as human beings. 

We learn to problem solve, we learn to build resilience, we learn to interact with others, we learn to recognise small gains, we learn the importance of process, we learn to be fluid in our thinking, etc. it only takes imagination and thinking to realise there are many things we can take from our training into the larger landscape of our lives. 

  • JBW

Saturday, June 04, 2016

1000th blog ... longevity

Many really great things are often only accomplished … over time. While this seems like an overly obvious statement - many people struggle to come to terms with it. People do not like waiting. We tend to want the things we want - right now! 

And although that might not be such a bad thing; the price for getting what we want right away, might mean a way larger price tag in the future; for ‘debt’ can just be a way of delaying poverty. 

A couple of extra reps of a technique in class won’t make a difference over the short term - but over a year, five years, a decade - this habit will pay huge dividends. Saving a few dollars each week won’t make much of a difference over a month or even a year - but over twenty or thirty years (invested) it might mean the difference between being independently wealthy or on a government pension. 

Longevity counts for a lot. Over time, great things are accomplished. Read a book a week … do that for a decade or two … you gain knowledge.

We don’t even have to think in terms of ‘decades’ - we just need to develop habits and maintain them. We are all experts at cleaning our teeth, tying our shoelaces, drying ourselves after a shower - and we gave none of these things even much of our attention. Time took care of it for us.

This is my 1000th blog. I didn’t start out aiming to write 1000 blogs - I just acquitted a habit. Time went by. And here we are. 

Thanks for reading folks … I hope you have enjoyed some of my posts. I for one, have enjoyed writing them.
Bets respect

John Will

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Fools and Certainty ...

Learning requires a willing and fertile mind. We must be ready to adopt new ideas; we should be open to new paradigms. At one time, most everyone thought the world was flat; imagine trying to convince the population otherwise? What a task!
Nowadays though, what was once a heretical belief, is simply understood to be common knowledge. I wonder at how many of our current beliefs and practises will be laughed at a century from now?
The most wonderful thing about children - in my view - is their un-satiable appetite for ideas, knowledge and exploration. A child-like curiosity is key to the acquisition of new skills. Letting go of our certainty can be very liberating act. - JBW

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An uptick in happiness …

Sometimes we are happy, sometimes, we are less so.
Think about what those things are, that make you happy. Sometimes they are small things; things that can easily go unnoticed. 

Identify those small things that give us an ‘uptick’ in happiness; do them more often and attend to them them mindfully. 

We often ignore those small - unnoticed achievements that we make every day. I see this on the mat all the time. People tend to notice the big accomplishments, the grand victories; which happen with much less frequency than the myriad small improvements/victories we hit every day.

You might escape an armbar, stuff a sweep attempt, turn from being flat on your back to being on your side once your partner has passed your guard … small things, but victories nonetheless. 

An uptick in happiness or an uptick in our sense of achievement often starts with noticing the small victories. And large victories themselves of course, are most often the result of the successful stringing together of a series of smaller achievements.

  • JBW

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Latest and Greatest ...

There are some out there who may remember when the highly entertaining and very talented boxer, Prince Naseem, became world champion. Naseem was a cocky fighter, to say the least, and used to fight much of the time with his hands down next to his hips, or even, behind his back. His style was based on his immense (Ali-like) skill at slipping, bobbing, weaving and using unusual angles to avoid punches. Entertaining? Yes. Fundamental boxing? Hardly. 

And here is where the problem lies … not for Naseem; but for those who were starting out in boxing and were trying to emulate his methods.

Today, we have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history. With all that Youtube and other forms of media can offer, it is difficult for the novice to keep everything in perspective. Once upon a time, when we wanted to learn Boxing, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, TKD or Kung Fu … we had to seek out an instructor who (hopefully) would instill in us a good grounding of the fundamentals, before moving on to more advanced techniques and concepts. Now though, we can see a world champion using his favorite technique on Youtube, and make the mistake of thinking ‘well … it’s good enough for him – and he’s world champion – so it must be just what I need to do myself’. Clearly, this kind of thinking is very flawed!

The latest and greatest technique that this or that ‘champion’ has used in competition, may be the result of decades of training; it may be exactly what that champion needs to do, to counter his highly skilled opponent’s strategy – in other words – it has it’s place; but that place should in no way be confused with what is needed to create a good, workable set of basic skills.

We do have a tendency, to want to ‘get there’; a desire to ‘arrive’, to ‘achieve’ our goals. This is why it’s easy to look at those we wish to emulate and ‘do’ what they are doing; thinking that this will get us ‘there’ sooner. 

The actuality is this – we also need to walk the path; we need to walk the same path that our ‘heroes’ have walked, if we want to achieve the things they have achieved. And yes, we should be able, with the right guidance, avoid some of the pitfalls that our heroes had to deal with, after all, we sometimes have the luxury of being forewarned – but we still need to ‘do the work’. 

The owner of Red Corner Gym in Coventry (UK) once remarked to me, after Prince Naseem won the world title, kids were coming in to the gym fighting with their hands down by their sides. He told me more kids were getting knocked out then, that at any other time in recent history. I am sure it was a surprise to many of them; after all, their hero was fighting that way – and winning world titles no less.

What they failed to understand (those unfortunate who found themselves lying on the canvas) was that Prince Naseem has trained classic boxing for many years (with his hands held up and protecting his face) before mastering his ‘hands down’, slipping and awkward angle oriented style.

We can liken the idea to playing music perhaps, or painting, or cooking. We need to start out with a solid grounding in the fundamentals before we can legitimately and effectively let go of ‘the rules’ and take a more creative approach. There is a large difference between a monkey dabbing random strokes on a canvas and someone who has had decades of fine art experience making the transition into the abstract. 

So before embarking on a mission to copy the ‘latest and greatest’ thing; perhaps we should ask, have we done enough work on the mainstream fundamentals yet. Everything has it’s place – and remember this; the race is long’. 

Final thought ... Don't try to model the end result ... model the behaviour that led to that result.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

A mind stretched ...

Someone once said ‘A mind stretched by a new idea never gains it’s original shape’. 

I love diving into a new training idea. Over the past thirty years of BJJ training, I have had the pleasure of doing so, many, many times. 

I recall with fondness, being guided down many a rabbit-hole …Crucifix, Half-guard, Spider-guard, Omoplata, ect, etc. Quite often, it was my second or third excursion that ultimately revealed just how far a particular rabbit-hole went. 

My first introduction to the world of leg locks was through my coach Rigan Machado, who back in 1993, was preparing to compete in both the National and World Sambo Championships. We spent a couple of months working on various entries, transitions and combinations of leg-bars, foot-locks and heel-hooks. It was early on in my BJJ training; I was a purple belt at the time.

Recently I have taken another excursion down that particular rabbit-hole; this time with the help of Reilly Bodycomb, a Sambo and BJJ instructor who specialises in the ‘leg’ game. And again, the trip was both fun and enlightening.

As a young martial artist, I was never satisfied with ‘status quo’ that traditional martial arts offered. I always craved more; I always wondered what was over the next rise, what was just around the corner, what others were doing in strange and foreign lands. 

I think that we are explorers at heart. Almost every one of us, at least when we were kids, couldn’t help but wonder what was over that hill, around that corner, etc. Sadly though, for many, life gets in the way and our old explorer hat get’s lost amidst a pile of bills, and the stresses of day-to-day work. 

Training, at least for me, takes me once again into that magical world of uncertainty and discovery. What’s not to love about that?

  • JBW

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We evolve ...

As life unfolds - we all change. 
Out reasons for doing the things we do, also change.

When I began my martial arts training, I trained in the hope I would develop magical powers that would see me prevail over the bullies that were making my life a living hell.

My training continued because I liked the feeling of confidence that came with my gradual development as a martial artist. I enjoyed feeling of being more sure of myself; I wanted to walk upright in the world.

Later on I wanted to be emulate some of my martial arts heroes; I saw them for more than what they actually were, and felt if I could be like them, that I would live an extraordinary life.

Later still, I continued training for the pure challenge of it. If it wasn’t easy, I was drawn to it. The puzzle of it all fascinated me. The more deeply I delved, the more I discovered; and quite abruptly, I realised that it was the intellectual challenge that really fascinated me.

Nowadays I train for a set of reasons that differ greatly from those that initially drove me. 

I love the puzzles. I love drawing analogies between the complexity of martial arts training/learning/study and the living of life. I love creating order out of chaos. I love designing structured training models. I love leading others to learning and to an understanding of things. I love seeing things; noticing details, and revelling in the process of discovery. I love achieving outcomes through the art of teaching. I love the opportunity of being able to effect positive changes in how people view and live their lives through the sharing some of my own more meaningful discoveries. 

As we go through life we all change, grow and evolve; and although many of us may be fortunate enough to maintain a passionate pursuit throughout the course of our lifetime, our reasons for entertaining those pursuits will also change and evolve over time. There is wonderful joy in change. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stress ... the way forward!

Stress is not good - it’s the stress-response that is good!

When we place stress on our musculature, we are uncomfortable - it doesn’t feel good. But then the brain/body does it’s adaptation-thing and our musculature changes (e.g.: gets stronger) in order to cope with that stress when it comes again. 

The same goes for all kinds of biological (also read: neurological) stimuli … we get a small dose of that vaccine (disease) and it triggers a response that builds/improves our immune system (immune response). When people talk crap about you on the internet, over time you develop an immune response, and become more emotionally robust. 

On the mat, we get squashed, arm-barred, choked - but over time, develop the ability to stave off these things and survive - even prevail. What was once extraordinarily ‘uncomfortable’ becomes ‘palatable’. We develop ‘toughness’. 

In short, you need a dose of the ‘bad stuff’ in order to get the ‘good stuff’. So next time, you experience discomfort/stress, remember, that you are essentially an ‘adaptive’ machine - and the ‘good’ stuff will soon follow.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Choice follows on the heels of knowledge

The more information we have the more choice we have. Knowledge is ‘potential power’; having specific knowledge about a thing does not, in an of itself, guarantee that we make progress or improve our lot; we still need to take action and do something; but having knowledge gives us a larger pool of resources from which to draw; in short, it gives us more choice.

Choice is wonderful things; something that many of us take for granted. Most of us have a choice in where we live, what clothes we wear and what food we want to eat … all choices that are not available to many other people on this planet. 

Most of us are born into circumstances that allow for a plentitude of choice. But, so much more is available (again, largely due tot he circumstances of where and when we were born) to us; we can learn more about almost any topic we wish to become more expert in; and very often, that opportunity to learn comes at virtually zero cost.

Learning is exciting - it can be a lot of fun - it is something that comes naturally to children and is often seen as a chore to adults. The trick is to see it for what it really is - an opportunity for self-improvement. And it’s right there - every day; right on front of us. 

  • JBW

Monday, May 09, 2016

What made all the difference ...

On the mat: Realising the importance of ‘process’ and ‘paying attention to detail’. To realise any goal, we need to work a ‘process’ and each step in any process is vital to achieving the next. Keeping our attention focussed on the end-game or goal is a sure-fire way to miss the step-by-step detail of the process we need to follow, to get there. The steps of a process are like pixels in a photo - the more steps, the higher the resolution.
The dark arts (money stuff): Understanding the importance of delaying gratification.The main difference between rich and poor is the ability to delay gratification in anticipation of greater rewards down the road. As the old saying goes - “Don’t eat your seed-corn”. And if you insist on having it all right now - remember this - Debt is just delayed poverty. it’s not about how much you earn - it’s about how you utilise what you earn in a smart way.
Relationships: Without doubt the single most important decision you can make in life is in deciding/choosing who to spend it with. The right person should be a ‘partner’ - in that they bring things to the table that you cannot - and vice versa. The right person should be your best friend. You should feel that when you are with the right person you are a better version of yourself than you otherwise would be.
Perspective: We have one life to live. it is amazing that we are even here. Consider this: every single one of your ancestors (running back to the beginning of life on this planet) succeeded in staying alive, long enough to procreate. Wow! And so, he we stand; the result of a mathematical miracle ... and time continues to pass; the sand runs through the hourglass as I write this, and as you read it. What we exchange those precious grains of sand for, is a very, very important decision. You cannot get even one grain of sand back, once it has fallen. Spent each and every one wisely.
Who we hang with: In deciding who we spend time with, we shape our lives and the way they are likely to unfold. Be discerning; choose wisely. - JBW

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Acta non Verba ..

Changing the opinion and belief of others via the use of reason and evidence (or violence for that matter) is a surprisingly ineffective strategy. One would think that reason and evidence were an obvious way to get our point across … after all, w;re all open (even hopeful) of having our minds changed, right? Wrong!
People will fight tooth and nail for their beliefs and ideologies. Reason and evidence are like jabs and fakes; they set the scene but are rarely responsible for the coup de grace.
I think we change opinion through actions - not words. And I don’t think this is any way a new idea … consider the old latin saying ‘Acta non Verba’ - actions not words.
We set example though our behaviours; by how we live. Are we congruent in the way we live; do our actions match our words?
This is one of life’s worthy goals - to bring our actions and the way we live into complete harmony with the words that come out of or mouths (keyboards).
If we are spouting words like integrity and honour, while we are undermining others - we are living a lie. If we are talking about generosity and respect, while we are tight-fisted and bad-mouthing others - we are living a lie. If we talk about excellence, whilst we are sloppy and unmindful in our day-to-day living - we are living a lie.
The goal is simple … more congruence equals better living. Work toward a life where words and actions are in full accord.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Change Can Suck ...

I have found that creating change in other people can be difficult. Reasoned argument rarely works when discussing politics, religion or even philosophy. People are mostly, very wedded to their ideologies and will becoming very creative or even violent, in defence of those ideologies. This should come as no real surprise however, when we stop to think how difficult it is to create change for our very selves. Most of us are loathe to change.

I am theorising that change is difficult because for most of our ancestors, trying new things would have come at a significant cost. Eating that new food was risky, meeting that new tribe was risky, moving to that new environment was risky. So we have a little voice inside us, that for a very, very long time has been whispering - stay where you are, don’t try anything new - stick with what worked for you yesterday. 

In short, there is often a heavy price-tag for taking risks. 

On the mat, this can also be true. Try a new technique; have it fail, get smashed in return. Go back to what we were doing before (old routines)

But let’s stop for a moment and consider this question … what is the ‘actual’ price-tag of trying something new? Well, nowadays, you can pretty much bet that if you try a new food you buy in the supermarket - you will not die a horrible death as a consequence. So the price tag is small. 

On the mat, you try a new move, it goes badly and your opponent taps you out .. hey, not heavy bad price-tag; cheap in fact. A little ego bruising is all - if that; if you care enough. So next time, you think about creating a new direction, trying something new … consider the price tag - consider how small it might actually be. And go for it! - JBW

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In … over our head

When I was in my 7th year of school - I underwent a very extensive IQ testing program, the end result of which, saw me installed in a special class. My dad was all excited about this - and so was I - for a bit. We were exposed to Astronomy, High level math, English, French, Italian and Latin … all compulsory languages we needed to learn; etc. 

Most of it I found easy - except for the math. I struggled badly at math - I would have to say, I sucked. I just didn’t ‘get it’. I resorted to ‘memory tricks’ to fumble my way through - but I was ‘miserable’! I began to think they had stuffed up the IQ test - and I shouldn’t have been in that class at all. 

But here’s the main point - if we don’t like the subject matter, or have no interest in it, then a high IQ may not help much at all. In fact, it could be argued that a higher IQ gives us a greater potential for regretting under-achievement; or for being able to rationalise why that particular subject is of no use to us … that was at least, my own experience. I still struggle with math - partly because I don’t seem to have any gift for it and also because I find no ‘joy’ in it. I run from math problems. On a side note - I cannot ‘draw’ to save my life either … completely useless. But I do run toward certain other challenges. 

Let’s look at a corollary the mat; one that plays out in so many BJJ academy’s …

Someone with little to no skill, is thrown in the deep-end on the day of their first class. If they have a natural kinaesthetic bent, great spatial awareness, co-ordination, ect … they will probably thrive. On the other hand, if these are not abilities they posses, they may struggle - they may even be ‘miserable’ … and ultimately quit.

Many schools do not offer a ‘start-up’ , Introductory or Novice class - and this may be due to logistical constraints. If they do cater for beginners though, then it’s a wonderful situation for the students, they can all dip their toes in the water, without fear of drowning, and slowly build the foundation needed to experience success in the more challenging environments/classes. 

We are all different - we are all unique - each of us will ultimately walk their own individual path. Some are 'naturals' at this thing, but struggle at that other thing. In recognising this ... perhaps we can move away from being so hard on ourselves - so self-critical, that we start buying into the idea that we cannot achieve. Walk easily ... the road is long ... and full of possibility. - JBW

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Entitlement ... nope.

I rail against those who live with a sense of entitlement. We are entitled to very little - if anything. Living in hope that the state or the government will look after us, is the way of the mindless lemming. We need to create our own lives, think for ourselves, come to our own conclusions visa the use of reason and evidence.
We each have the opportunity to carve our own niche in the world. 'Just keep plowing that filed and giving us your money and God will look after you' said the medieval priest - and the largest part of the population bought right into it. And now - it's the government - 'Just keep plowing that field, and give us your money, and we'll look after you' the state says - and people are buying right into it again.
Fat priests, fat politicians ... same old same old. We all have potential and opportunity; and when coupled with a will to do something, we can live extraordinary lives - better lives than have been ever possible in human history. We cannot afford to sit back with our hands out waiting to be given stuff we think we deserve. We need to move, think, create and strive ... that's how good living is done. - JBW
"Deserve's got nothin to do with it" - Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven
"The only thing you deserve, is what you earn" - JBW

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Planning ...

The deferral of gratification is one of the hallmarks of intelligence. Probably stemming from an evolutionary imperative experienced by early migrations of humans into colder climes ... they had to 'save' some of their food for winter, plan, work co-operatively for future outcomes, etc.

So I wince when I look around and realise i am surrounded by the 'I want it now' ethos (as beautifully illustrated by the obnoxious Veruca Salt - in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).

Planning - whether for a time that lies only a few seconds in to the future (as on the mat) - for a time that may lie a year or two into the future (saving for something we want) - or a time twenty years into the future (retirement strategies) ... is very important. It is one of the things that separates us from the 'less intelligent'.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Behind the curtain ...

We choose. We decide. We look around us, at others, we select those that are successful and we might well make the decision to emulate them. We pick 'role models'.
Great care should be taken however - in who we select as 'role models'. On the surface, some people people may look like the type we might wish to emulate - but when we look deeper - when we lift the curtain - we find ourselves disappointed.
Consider how we worship 'celebrities' - we lap up their lives, in an effort to feed our souls and dream that we may be like them - yet when we look more closely and apply critical thinking ... we see that more often than not, it's a nightmare we are leaning toward, rather than a dream.
Aspire to 'lifting the curtain', I say ... look beyond the glitter, the salesmanship, the 'production' ... become more discerning about who we want to 'model'. - JBW

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Starting Out - The Jiu Jitsu ocean

When people begin their journey in the BJJ world, they often feel a sense of frustration and helplessness – it’s my guess that most of the ones who keep going are the ones who recognise that others are feeling the same way – and besides, they look around and see proof that others have acquired real and demonstrable skills and therefore it might only be a matter of time before they too will acquire these skills.

I have had a lot of students over the years, ask for advice and direction on how they should proceed in the formative years of their training … and although everyone develops slightly differently (there is no specific cookie-cutter approach), there is a way to look at it that makes sense and seems to help a little …

How do we start – the answer is easy: one position at a time. We choose a position that we think is attainable (it may be the guard, sider control, mount … whatever) and we focus on getting there from as many situations as we can. We focus first on getting there – and then we focus on being able to maintain that position. Once we can get there, and keep it – we begin to build attack skills from there.

A simple analogy I sometimes use is to liken the start to being dropped onto a world that is entirely covered by water – you start treading water, learning to float until off on the horizon and island emerges. You make your way to the island – and once there, you are much, much better off – after a while, the island becomes familiar ground.

Eventually, other islands appear, some bigger than others, each offering unique opportunities. as we become more familiar with other islands, and we begin to develop the skill to get from one to the next, the world becomes a much more inhabitable place. Eventually, much of the water becomes replaced by familiar ground – although we may find ourselves in deep water from time to time, we are never that far from dry land.

BJJ is just like this – it takes time, it takes effort but eventually you mostly find yourself inhabiting familiar ground. So for those starting out on their BJJ journey – although you might be treading water right now – it won’t be long before you spot your very first island on the horizon. Everyone starts this way - you are not alone.


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Seeing the Invisible ...

I have long since developed a habit of looking at what instructors are doing rather than just listening to what they were saying. This is for a number of reasons but one of the main ones is that more often than not, many of my instructors spoke little or no English. So I learned to look. But that’s not the interesting thing!

Here’s what I have come to notice over three decades of martial arts LEARNING:

Virtuoso’s (the people we often try to emulate) DO NOT start out being Virtuoso’s. They start out with basic skill-sets like everyone else. 

They come up with simple – non Virtuostic (is that even a word?) descriptions for how they do their thing – before they become the Virtuoso’s that we admire. Then they evolve, the improve, they reach their Virtuoso status – and then – AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM – they continue to describe how they do their thing with their OLD AND AND PERHAPS EVEN OUTDATED DESCRIPTION. Yikes! How inconsiderate of them.

It has been my observation, that very, very few people EVOLVE their description (their: ‘HOW TO’) of what they do at the same pace as their actual technique. In fact, if I listen to their INSTRUCTION – I see that it oftens bears little resemblance to what they are ACTUALLY doing. This can be frustrating for many people. 

One of the most skills we can acquire is to get better at unravelling what the Virtuoso’s do; pry it apart to gain understanding - and help others better understand it also.

it’s so great to see others - dare I say … ordinary people achieve above-ordinary skills. I derive immense joy from having people shift from ordinary and cursory practice – to extraordinary and insightful practice.


Monday, April 04, 2016

Leverage ...

Many martial arts systems, BJJ in particular, are built on an understanding and application of the principles of leverage. What does this mean though?

For years I thought I could answer that question – but the more I knew, the more aware I became that I didn’t really know. So let me take you through a sped-up version of how I came to understand what I currently know about leverage …

Firstly, I knew the word. I could use the word ‘Leverage’ in a sentence that made sense. At this point, I had absolutely no idea of what it really mean’t. I had some vague picture in my head of a guy trying to move the earth with a giant lever – who knows what he was using as a fulcrum, or where he was standing at the time???

Then, at some point, I realised that leverage had to do with ‘levers’. Slowly, ever so slowly, it dawned on me that the art of applying leverage was about achieving a lot with a little, about moving a larger object with a smaller object through some arcane use of these things called levers.

After quite a long time (in BJJ practice) I began to understand that the levers we are using (in that art) are in actual fact – the bones. I began to understand that in trying to move an elbow, I was pulling or pushing on the end of a lever known as the ‘humerus’. I also began to realise that if we wanted to move a lever, we had to apply the force to the ‘end’ of it – and not the middle of it. Basic stuff I know – but still, I admit this took me a long time to truly understand.

Slowly I began to understand how to more effectively apply force to, and move, the levers that were the opponents ‘bones’ – on the mat. My Jiu Jitsu life became easier.

Now, if we get that leverage is ultimately about getting a maximal result from a minimal effort – then it becomes easier to look at the broader aspects of our lives ‘off the mat’ and seek out opportunities to apply leverage there – in our relationships, with our finances, in fly-fishing for trout, etc. Are we getting the best result for the effort we are putting in?

I hope so – because this is a natural application of one of the skills we learn on the mat – at work in the larger part of our life. Leverage …. so much more, than just a word.