Tuesday, September 04, 2018


The Extra-ordinary

Very few people are born ‘extra-ordinary’ - but we can, every single one of us, in some way, do extra-ordinary things; and thereby, live more extra-ordinary lives.
Keep you eyes peeled for extraordinary opportunities - the chance to be in the company of extraordinary people - the chance to depart from the mundane and embrace something more than just the ordinary.

Sunday, September 02, 2018


My First Student

The first student I ever had is still with me; I see him every time I look in the mirror. I walk that student step-by-step through every learning process I can conjure up; sometimes I fail; at other times I succeed. I am as patient with that student as he must be with me. 

If forced to choose between being teacher or student, I would choose the latter. Life demands we become adept at learning - as we begin to master this most fundamental of arts, we might choose to share the how and why of it with others ... this is how teachers are born.

Saturday, September 01, 2018


Another one from my father - concerning learning:

‘Watch what people do before you listen to what they say.’

Talk is in fact, cheap. I have long since noticed my old dad was right (as he almost always was) - there is often a disconnect between what people say they do and what they actually do. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Things that cost nothing …. but make a huge difference:

I had the opportunity to teach group of young man and women a few weeks ago, who were facing various challenges in their lives. We did two weeks of training and whilst I was delivering some fundamental self defence and BJJ training - I also took the opportunity to talk about and try to instil a number of habits/behaviours that would greatly improve their chances of enjoying more success in their respective lives. Sharing a few here …. 

  • Be on time - every time
  • Pay attention - body language and eye contact
  • Build trust by making small promises and keep them
  • Everything is a process - step by step is the way
  • Do extra work - a little more than everyone else
  • Please and thank you - show appreciation
  • Be eminently coachable 
  • Value your time and the time of others - it’s all you really have
  • Hope is nice - but when the lion is chasing you, run - take action
  • Seek out those you would like to emulate - seek mentors
These things do not require special gifts, talent or cost money. So they are things that are potentially within the reach of everyone - and they can make a huge difference in how our lives unfold. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


BJJ for Self Defence? LOL!

I think of the Self Defence component of BJJ as I would, the skin of a rice pudding. It’s there - sure - but the real good stuff is underneath. Besides, I am not going to spend a lifetime of training and study for just the ‘skin of the pudding’. 

Okay, hold it down. I know this may cause a raised eyebrow or two … but hear me out …
People who say, ‘we teach BJJ for Self Defence’  - and who sincerely believe this to be the case - may well find out that they run out of steam/motivation, etc - at some point. Or perhaps they are the kind of person who just doesn’t want to do the work required to develop a deep understanding of the ever-evolving puzzle that is the art of BJJ. To keep up with developments, to drill deeply into a wide variety of topics - requires a lot of time, dedication and effort. Self Defence remains only at the surface of the art; no ‘continual development’ or ‘deep water exploration’ required. It’s the foam of the latte - not the latte itself.

I started out training in BJJ for self defence - this can be likened to doing my first paper-run for money - by now though (one would hope) my reasons for working are hardly for the pay-cheque alone. My reasons have evolved; and so they should. The reason we might start dating someone, may well because we like how they look - but this alone would hardly sustain us for a life-long relationship - there has to be more. Right?

BJJ for Self Defence? Sure - but that is only the initial ‘hook’. After that, our reasons and motivations should evolve/develop. But this requires effort, work and commitment. 

Final thought - I am sure Warren Buffet’s motivation for getting his first job was to  make a few bucks so he could buy something. But is that still his motivation? Hardly!!!

Monday, August 27, 2018


Notice the Mack Truck …

This was something taught to me some thirty years ago - we know the path we are on, isn’t the optimal one when we get smashed by a ‘Mack Truck’. A ‘Mack Truck’ is a ‘bad life event’ - and when we get smacked by one, we need to sit up and take notice. If we keep getting smashed by ‘Mack Trucks’ - this is a clear indicator that we may be on the wrong path. 

Sometimes we get a small smack upside of the head - other times we are hit by a vespa - but when the ‘Mack Truck’ hits - if we survive, we should most definitely change course. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Shaping our Efforts

When we ‘shape’ our efforts we get more precise results. When we settle for ‘general effort’, we can expect very general sorts of results. Shaping our efforts requires that we ‘hone in’ - it requires that we point our attention toward the small details. 
A rough carving, is of course, the first step - then we carve out more detail - and finally we attend to polishing and the very ‘fine’ work. And so it can be with anything that is important to us. Shaping our efforts is like the shift from strategic to tactical. I have learned this on the mat - but now I find it to be something  woven throughout my life.

Counter to Single leg I sent up messing around with my friend Gil Melendez. He never saw the old 'Hidden Bottle' set-up - both strategy and tactics in action. - JBW

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Why do standards mean so much to me?

When I was a teenager, I studied TKD, Karate and Olympic Wrestling.  Before I had finished highschooI though, I had become somewhat disillusioned in the more traditional martial arts systems as an effective means of self defence; so when I finished year 12 (in 1974) I embarked on an overseas training apprenticeship that has never really ended. 

I trained extensively throughout Asia for over a decade - culminating in the winning of a World Championship in 1982. After this I continued my obsession with training in a broad range of martial arts and eventually (found a way to ‘eek’ myself a living by launching Australia’s Martial Arts Magazine - Blitz. 

A few years after doing so, I sought out the most difficult martial art on the planet in which to earn a Black Belt …. this was back in 1986; and that art, as you all know, was (and is) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After 10 years of highly challenging training, I was awarded my Black Belt in 1997. 

In the twenty (plus) years since, it has been my personal mission (shared with my awesome wife Melissa) to help others also find the value and sense of self-worth that I have, through the study and practise of martial arts.

On my journey, I have met some truly wonderful people and some that I have also found ‘wanting’; I have met the very best of parents, and thankfully (on only two rare occasions) the worst of parents. I have met champions, movie-stars, philanthropists, philosophers, poets, artists, professional modern-day warriors and a plethora of other journeymen (and women). Some have inspired - others have left me scratching my head.

I have seen humanity in it’s full spectrum; and in so doing, I have come to understand a few things - one of the most important being that the highest value, our sense of achievement and our sense of self-worth is intricately and inseparably 

tethered to effort. 

Wishing upon all of you - the same joy and sense of fulfilment I have found (thus-far) in the struggle

Monday, August 20, 2018


The headlong rush toward mediocrity …

How long has it been since man has stepped on the surface of the moon? 50 years? I imagine there are economical and other reasons - but it does make me wonder if the human race has made a shift - from rugged and driven adventurer to ‘something else’.

People are more ‘protected’ today - they are wrapped in cotton wool - people are very ‘easily offended’ - ‘bent out of shape’ - sometimes even, by mere differences of opinion. Whatever happened to ‘sticks and stones’? 

In the western world - we have made huge gains, yes - but we also have, in my view, lost something of our hard ‘edge’. 

Someone the other day reminded me that many of our grand-parents went to war at the age of 17-18. They slept in the snow - and made life-death decisions - as teenagers. Now I am not saying this is a good thing - far from it - I am just saying this - humans are made of harder stuff than what many of us may realise. We rise from challenge … not from being pampered.

Perhaps this is part of the great appeal of BJJ ... something inside us knows this; and strives toward challenge.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


The differences between us ….

The differences between us are what makes life interesting. Different cultures, foods, languages, arts and beliefs are what makes people an interesting species. 

Yes, different thinking and beliefs also give us war and conflict but it is also those differences that make our lives wondrous. 

Different ‘games’ makes the mat more interesting than it otherwise would be; when travelling, one of the things I like to do is to try different foods; different  cultures offer us different perspectives and allow us opportunity to challenge our own beliefs and points of view.

I like to look for both the similarities between people that seem different - and somewhat paradoxically, the differences between people who seem similar. We are all unique …. the more we look, the more we see. What creatures we are! 


Beyond Basecamp …

When we first arrive at Basecamp - we are the ‘newbie’, the acolyte, the apprentice. In time that changes, as other newbies arrive. We, in turn, become mentors to a degree. We help the newbies with the ‘lay of the land’ - and suddenly we realise that the newbies are looking to us for direction, for guidance, for help.

We no longer just climb upward, we do our best to pull others up with us. The summit, no longer seems so far away. And then, when conditions are right, on the right day, with the right mindset, having done our apprenticeship, we give it a shot. With a little luck and considerable planning and experience under our belt - we do it. 

Standing on the top of Everest, we reflect on the journey we have made thus-far. We reflect on how it all began. That first, simple, achievable step - and how really, anyone, virtually anyone, could have done the same. But did they?


Living at Basecamp …

So now we’re at Basecamp. We are hanging out with those like-minded people who share, at least in part, some of our dream. Spending time with those who have ‘been there’, those who have done it, offers us an invaluable insight into ‘what it takes’ without having to undergo so much ‘trial and error’ ourselves. These people become our mentors. 

Rubbing shoulders with people who have made it that far, dramatically improves the chances that we will eventually make it ourselves. When we realise that ‘it’ can be done - and those who have done it aren’t all that different from ourselves, we become much more motivated; we cannot help but take yet another step forward. ’It’, the thing we want, becomes attainable.

In time, life at Basecamp becomes ‘normal’. This is our new ‘normal’. And we can never be the same again.

Friday, August 17, 2018


Getting to Basecamp …

Advice I would offer to those who aspire to achieving (anything)…. forget about summiting Everest; well, don’t forget, but just put that aside for a moment and focus on a more achievable step, that of just getting to Basecamp!

Work backwards from that goal. You need climbing experience, high altitude camping gear, and guidance from those who have gone before you. To do that, you need a wad of cash. To do that, you need a job. You need to save. So maybe, for some who dream of summiting Everest, your first step might be heading to seek.com.au so you can get yourself a job and earn some money.

The post here is a simple, yet profound one (in my view) - reverse engineer the process from your goal to wherever you are right now - and then place all your attention on the most important thing of all - STEP ONE!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Lions at Play …

On the mat - there are two very different approaches we might take. We could take the ‘opportunistic’ approach - and take whatever subs, sweeps, opportunities that come our way. The Hunter-Gatherer approach. Or …
We could take the Hunters approach. Ignoring the random opportunities and remaining ‘on-mission’ and focussed on catching the technique we are trying to work on/improve. 
Hunting a given technique will see us make huge gains. As we continue to ‘hunt’ it - our regular partners will become more aware and begin to make it more difficult for us; we in turn, staying focussed on it - will need to become more creative about how we set it up, etc. 
Hunter or Gatherer? Both approaches offer something different.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Baking Understanding …

When we learn new techniques, we move from ‘broad strokes’ to ‘more detail’ to ‘advanced nuance’. As we make this journey, we deepen our understanding; we begin to take ownership of the technique or concept. 

In teaching, I try my best to bake understanding into even the initial offering of an idea … in my experience, the sooner students get a glimpse into the deep and more nuanced aspects of a technique, the better. 

This represents a shift away from a ‘good enough to get by’ approach … and toward a habit of ‘paying attention to detail’. This is a journey that all the exceptional have taken. Learning to ’take notice’ - is one of the most transformative skills we can acquire. 

Here’s an example of one of my favourite childhood challenges … pick the one that is different. At first glance - they’re all the same .. upon closer inspection though …

Thursday, August 09, 2018


Useless F#@!#ing Advice ….

I need to say it … as unpalatable it may be to some. There is, in my view, a surfeit of unhelpful advice on offer in our society. The advice may even be correct at it’s heart - but often it can be quite ‘unhelpful’.

There is a road-sign (in Australia) that advises the following - AVOID WINDSCREEN DAMAGE! No kidding brainiacs! As if we were looking for windscreen damage? It reminds me of coaches who scream at their students in competition - ESCAPE! ESCAPE! PASS HIS GUARD! Etc. Again, no kidding! Or people who tell you - be Rich and Happy! Gee - thanks for that! 

People know what they want - people, generally, aren’t stupid; what they really need to hear, is advice on exactly HOW to achieve these things. Clarity on the ‘goal’ is one thing - but clarity on the process we need to follow to get there, is quite another. I love process!

I make a very clear distinction between WHAT we should do - and HOW we should do it! The ‘what’ is often very obvious - and so having people tell us ‘what’ we should do, can be frustrating in the extreme - when what we need to hear, is how we to do those things. 

Less of the WHAT - more of the HOW - and we’ll get many more people achieving; we’ll get them hitting goals and blowing past them. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


How to use Jiu Jitsu ...

Jiu Jitsu is both an ever-evolving submission grappling art and an experience - it offers utility and it also offers a challenging landscape upon which we can forge a new view of how we can operate in the world. 

I cannot begin to even scratch the surface of the multi-faceted gem that is Jiu Jitsu. I have seen countless people begin in an effort to learn how to defend themselves - yet over time, their reasons for continuing their practise have evolved and changed as have their their minds, bodies and in many cases, their lives. 

We learn to use Jiu Jitsu - like any tool in the most obvious ways at first - and then as our appreciation and understanding deepens, we learn to wield it in ways both unexpected, and even potentially, life-changing. 

It is at once a way of moving, a way of seeing, a way of noticing and of way of being … it will change and morph as will our own view of what it has to offer. Embrace the practise - embrace the study - and you will be rewarded handsomely.

Monday, August 06, 2018


Five things you need to know before starting BJJ

For those who are coming to grappling from the striking arts (as I did some 30 years ago), there are a few things to be aware of before you start. In fact, my own foray into the world of BJJ, could have been a little easier if I had been made aware of these things. 
My own introduction to BJJ left me somewhat frustrated; and perhaps more than a little ‘freaked out’. When we limit ourselves to ‘stand up’ sparring/fighting, traits like mental toughness, athleticism and ‘grit’ can lay a large part in the outcome. Grappling however, particularly BJJ, is less reliant on such traits, and technical excellence plays a much larger role.  So my early experience of BJJ, was this – a highly motivated, athletic, mentally tough individual could be completely dominated by a relaxed, un-athletic, weaker, smaller, individual who was skilled in BJJ. This was somewhat of a revelation on the martial arts landscape – and has almost certainly underpinned the phenomenal growth the art continues to enjoy.
So, if you come from a Karate, TKD, Kickboxing, Kung Fu, or similar kind of background – you need to understand that BJJ is very, very different. And because it is different you need to approach it very differently than other kinds of training. Just because you are a good runner doesn’t mean you are adept at swimming; it requires a different kind of training, a completely different type of approach. Here are some things to know, before you start:

Speed Limits
The pace is different; particularly when you are starting out. Stand-up fighting needs to be fast and explosive – ground-fighting does not. Because there is so much connection and friction between the two people wrestling, the pace is much slower than the typical stand-up sparring session. We rely much, much more on our kinaesthetic sense (our feel) than our eyesight. Different!

Too close for comfort
Things are closer, way, way closer. The distance we are used to in stand-up fighting is now gone; it doesn't exist; much of the grappling dynamic occurs at ‘zero-space’ range. So movement and mobility are now a very, very different experience. This also means, there’s no ‘running around’ – in short, you cannot hide. Different!

There will be an outcome
Often, there will be clear winner and a loser; at least much more often than is the case with stand-up sparring (where both people can walk away thinking they have won). On the ground, the goal is to control and submit the opponent. If you ‘tap’ out to a submission – you lose! If you submit your partner – you win! There are clear outcomes. Different!

Tapping like an Irish dancer
You will need to learn how to ‘concede’ the fight – by ‘tapping out’. This is mandatory if you want to avoid serious injury. It will seem foreign at first; but eventually you will come to understand that it is all part of the game. If you go surfing, you’ll need to learn to fall off your board, survive the ‘dumping’, get back on, paddle out and have another go – and so it is with grappling. You will need to tap, in the beginning, you might find yourself doing so multiple times, and at every session. It’s not a problem. Different!

Complexity is your new friend
There is a complexity to BJJ that is perhaps analogous to chess. It has been said, many times, that BJJ is like chess not checkers. At first, this complexity might be off-putting; in that the landscape seems overly complicated. There are too many positions to learn, too many pathways between these positions and an endless and ever-evolving swag of techniques; thousands of techniques. But what might be off-putting at the beginning will be the exact thing that keeps you there for years to come. I have often said ‘it was the simplicity that got me there – but the complexity that kept me there’. You will never be bored practicing BJJ. It is such a broad landscape that it is impossible to get your head around it, as a beginner. Different!
I wish I had have gone into my first dozen BJJ classes, knowing these things. If I had, I would not have experienced the same level of frustration and confusion. BJJ is not a ‘Ground Karate’; it is as different from stand up, striking-based martial arts as swimming is from bike-riding. It is a totally new and different game – and it should be approached as such. 
Enjoy the adventure; put your expectations to one side and immerse yourself in the new. BJJ, might just offer you the opportunity to re-invent yourself as a martial artist – and perhaps even, as a person. The adventure awaits.

- John B Will

Thursday, August 02, 2018


Entitlement …

Everyone wins a trophy - everyone gets a black belt - everyone is deserved of this this or that award - everyone summits Mount Everest!
This kind of world is not heaven as some might think - but rather, in my view, an analogue of hell.
I am all for helping those that need a hand; lifting up someone who cannot lift themselves - but without effort, struggle and earned-reward - there is no … sense of triumph or true achievement. 
The value - is in the earning!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Earning Trust …

And there it is … the secret is right there in the title. ’Trust’ needs to be earned. Someone once told me a simple truth - one I have never forgotten - if you want to engender ‘trust’ - simply make small promises and KEEP them.

It’s usually not about the big stuff. If we tell someone we will call them the next day - we DO it! This is how we build trust. This is how we develop a reputation for being reliable - for being the kind of person, that others can count on. if we can’t keep the small promises - what’s the likelihood that we can keep the big ones? 

So, think before we speak. if we say we’ll do something; we do it! That’s it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


The value of our time …

This is the most valuable thing you have. I believe, that almost certainly, the value of time is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. The probability of not-existing is infinitely more likely than that of ‘existing’. 
We trade our time - this most valuable thing - for everything that we do. Think about the ramifications, consequences and real meaning of that trade.

Spend it wisely. 

Friday, July 27, 2018


What it means to be authentic ...

Be prepared to say what you think ... and accept that there may be consequences to that. Do the work ... attend to your life and the practise of those things you love doing, with attention and passion … and leave the judgement to others. 

Forget trying to please everyone ... sometimes we need to take a stand. Be open to change, and to changing your position on things. Be at peace with failing. Realise that we are not entitled to anything. Shed any need for the approval of others - think, decide, act and then let the ripples-of-consequence do their thing. Being more authentic is both a challenging and liberating endeavour. 

In a world where people place such value on immediate gratification, superficial cosmetic surgery, outward appearances, on social standing, power and position, etc - choosing to live more authentically may be one of the most transformative decisions we could ever make. 

Embrace your self - your true self - on a daily basis. Eventually, you will shift from who you (and others) think you should be - to the person you actually and really are.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


The value of things ...

It is the effort and struggle that imbues the act with meaning. Without the effort, there is no value. An elevator to the top of Everest is ultimately a very bad idea. The accomplishment of getting there after extraordinary effort is what makes the summiting a singular achievement. Same goes for any worthwhile achievement.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Secret Steps ...

Step-by-step, process-driven instruction, is the way I have always attended to teaching. The technical analysis of a technique, ultimately reveals that as long as the process is understood, then it may be ‘repeatable’ by others, regardless of attributes or talent. Breaking a technique down into it’s component parts builds understanding. One move - becomes - two - then four - then eight as we thin-slice our way to understanding. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Simple Leverage - Leveraging Laterally and Leveraging in another Sandbox

A bit on the art of leverage … as I see it.
Most people, martial artists included have a basic understanding of how simple leverage works. We move a lot with a little by applying force to the end of a lever. Simple leverage.

By ‘leveraging laterally’ I mean we can learn to apply an understanding of leverage we have learned with one technique to similar techniques or the same technique in a different situation. This is the way we deepen our understanding of leverage and begin to make habitual use of it.

Leveraging in another sandbox, in my view, is the very best kind of leverage. When we understand how something works and we peel back the obvious layers and get the the underlying principles that make that thing work, we can perhaps apply those things we have learned in completely different areas of our lives. Weirdly, to me, not everyone seems to naturally understand this.

An example: We might, over time, realise that we can better escape ‘side control’ by trying to improve our situation via a series of small/incremental gains rather than pinning our hopes on one ’big’ move.
Then, when we want to lose some weight, we attack the problem one kilo at a time; by making a lot of small changes in our lifestyle/habits, rather than pinning our hopes on a single ‘magical’ diet. Or perhaps we find ourselves in ‘bad’ debt; so we apply the same thinking again, and make a lot of small changes in our spending habits, save a little every week, invest those savings, and over time, acrue enough to make our debt disappear. 

I can think of dozens of other examples of how we can ‘leverage’ what we learn on the mat, into other aspects of our lives. To me, this is what understanding leverage, should be all about. 

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