Thursday, September 05, 2019

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The Price of trying ...



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

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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Live in the NOW? Don’t think so …


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

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

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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Time .... to self-educate


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

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

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

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

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Straight to the Riff …


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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Goals - Shmoals!


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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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Viva Vagabonda

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

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Fuzzy Goals ...

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

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Old Man Jiu Jitsu

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

Monday, June 10, 2019

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We are ‘pattern spotters’ …


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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The Torrent ...

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

Saturday, June 08, 2019

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Martial Artists as Role Models? Not necessarily!

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

Friday, June 07, 2019

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Aspirations …

As a child there seemed to be an almost endless number of people who I aspired to, be like. My father, super-heroes on the TV, sporting legends, etc. As a teenager, my role-models changed - as I myself changed. As a young man, I began to read more and so again, my role models changed; historical figures entered the fray … and my choices grew.
As a more mature and experienced human being, I now find myself being a role model for others … a somewhat disquieting thought, if I am to be totally transparent. My question is a simple one: Am I really worthy of the role?
I try to be. I try to think about things; I try to be clear on the rationale supporting my various beliefs; I try to be open to new ideas, thoughts and positions; I try to be kind to others; I try to continually better myself and fan the flame of curiosity that burns within; I try to be a good husband and father and friend; I try to be of value to others and the community; but is this enough?
I feel that the ‘ideal’ that we strive to emulate - can be somewhat ephemeral at times; a composite perhaps of various people (both alive and dead). Being the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be - does help give direction and bearing to those who strive alongside and behind us - we are after all, (each and every one of us) blazing a trail that others might choose to walk, long after we have gone.
Humans - are wondrous creatures. Such potential. We are petty at times - and at other times - wondrous

Monday, June 03, 2019

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Agility …


As an individual, carving out my own approach to doing ‘life’ - I have the luxury of being able to re-invent my thinking, my approach, my methodology, etc - as I go - and this kind of ‘agility’ has allowed me to get where I want to go, and get the results I want to get - despite taking a faulty step every now and again. 

More traditional pathways - getting a university degree and then finding a job for example … are fraught with difficulties when it comes to things like keeping up with current thinking - or implementing ideas of our own. At university, a curriculum might possibly be out-of-date before even the first year of a three or four year degree is completed. 

Large organisations tend to be slow-to-adapt, change and evolve. As a single entity, I can wake up with a new way of thinking about something and try to implement that right away. 

Being overly-invested in the way we do things - or the current set of skill-sets we may possess - may inhibit us from being agile and adaptable. re-invention of the self requires agility.

Agility … our ability to rapidly change direction and adapt - is perhaps one of the main reasons human beings were able to do so well in the world.

Here’s a wonderful pic by the super-talented Seymour Wang - my boy has this up on the wall in his room (Thanks Seymour). Agility in action.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

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Create your ‘new normal’ ...


Work hard. Train hard. Until that becomes ‘normal’. The dial it up a bit until that becomes your new normal. Rinse and repeat. This is how you move away from the ordinary. 

I’ve had a lot of martial arts instructors ask me how to improve their training, get better results, live better lives, etc. The answer is as easy as I have already stated. Just teach four private classes and four regular classes a week - plus do your own training. When this becomes ‘normal’ - double it. And again. By then, your ‘normal’ is well out of the ordinary. Do the same with other aspects of our lives. 

Create your ‘new normal’. 

Pic: with pals Craig Moorfoot and Andrew Bews.



Thursday, May 30, 2019

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Injury …

Dealing with injuries isn’t just a part of Jiu Jitsu - it’s a part of life. We are creatures playing ‘rough and ready’ on a spinning ball of water and rock … we have to expect our share of injuries throughout life.
We are of course, fortunate in the extreme, in that we now live in a time where we have the miracle of modern medicine on our side. Much of the stuff that would have killed or crippled us 100 years ago, we can attend-to fairly easily now.
My son Felix just broke his tooth in training a few days ago … and although it set him back a bit, we know that we’ll be able to get it seen to …. it’s just a part of the job.
Life, when played hard, by risk-takers, and by people who won’t let small obstacles hinder their choices and actions, will get scars. There’s an old saying - first through the door is always bloodied’ - and so we accept this as just part of the cost of living a life, more extraordinary than most.
If we put our life 'on hold' just because we are injured - we may well find our life is ‘on hold for a lot of the time. I always try to work around it. I don’t think too much about getting that ‘injury monkey’ off my back … I just live with it - and find a way to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

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Your new normal …


We need to understand this basic tenet: normal actions provide normal results - to get abnormal (ideally better than normal) results - we need to climb out of the box.

Most of us feel very comfortable in staying ‘on the tracks’ - after all, we are essentially genetically programmed to ‘stick with what is safe and known’ - this is one of the underlying survival imperatives that allowed all of our ancestors to live long enough to procreate. If it weren’t for our ancestors sticking with the ‘tried and true’ - most of us wouldn’t be here.

So I get that it’s difficult to ‘jump off the tracks’ - to try new things - to experiment - to think outside the box … but hey, for me, that’s where the fun is!

Monday, May 13, 2019

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Money … (warning: taboo subject in play)

In some ways I am a slow learner; so it took me a while to come to this particular realisation; but I’d like to share it with those who are interested.
Money is a tool. Like a hammer, or a car. It is a means of solving problems. It can’t, of course, solve all problems, but it does solve many; many more, than say, a hammer.
A hammer is a tool that solves a very particular problem - that of embedding nails into durable surfaces. Other tools are even more wondrous; computers for example - they can help us solve a vast range of different kinds of problems. Money is like this in a way; it allows us to get stuff sorted.
They say that ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ - but, as is often the case, this cliche doesn’t deliver up the full story …
Problems have the potential to make us decidedly unhappy. Money though, may prove to be very useful on occasion, as a means of ‘solving the particular problem’ we have - and thereby drive us into a state of happiness.
It’s a tool. A very useful tool. It allows us to solve problems - like, starvation, accomodation, travel, education, etc. It is a pity that it is in a way, a somewhat ‘taboo’ subject - and people won’t talk as freely about it as they would say, talk about computers, or hammers, or other ‘problem solving’ devices.
As a child (or adult for that matter), I was never educated about ‘money’; I had to figure it all out, by myself. I hope this little post might start some of you thinking a little differently, about this interesting piece of technology we call ‘money’.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

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Schoolyard Scraps - is the principal helping?

Over the years I have had several ‘conversations’ with ‘school principals’ over the rights of a child to legally (and ethically) be able to defend themselves from physical assault …
Sure - I get it that schools have a ZERO BULLYING POLICY - but there needs to be a clear distinction made between that and a ZERO SELF DEFENCE POLICY! The fact is that a ZERO SELF DEFENCE policy is a breach of human rights - as well as a policy that would stand clearly outside the scope of the law. The simple fact is that common law and legal defence trumps school policy.
- if the assault was an emergent event, there is simply no time to go and call a teacher - if it was as easy as that, all assaults in the world could be prevented by just politely asking the criminal to wait, while we call the local police and solicit their assistance. The bottom line is this - we all have a legal and intrinsic human right to be able to ‘defend ourselves’ from physical violence.
- the school policy of ‘zero tolerance for physical assault’ has already been breached when a child is assaulted by a bully - and that is where the civil right of being able to defend ourselves kicks in
- for those few school principles who do not understand this basic legal right - I ask the following - if they were physically assaulted in their workplace, or in their own house, would they simply lay down and accept the assault or would they try to defend themselves? Any reasonable person already knows the answer to this question
- the school has a duty of care to protect our children from physical assault on their premises. When they have neglected to take appropriate action, and students are forced to defend themselves, it raises certain legal questions? For this reason, it is good for parents of victims of bullying to keep records (written email to principles, etc) that show a history of what their child has had to deal with. This can be useful if it ever comes to charges being laid (against the school for example)
- when a child does need to defend themselves against physical assault, the best possible strategies are grappling-based strategies. When the bully can be physically controlled without the need to resort to striking, this offers the best all-round solution. The two most salient reasons are these:
. that the bully is less likely to want to physically assault the victim again after they have been physically controlled to the point of helplessness
. through grappling and control-based strategies, the minimal amount of damage is inflicted upon the perpetrator (unlike striking-based strategies)

Some simple questions for school principles:

Are they saying it is against their policy for students to defend themselves? Let’s be very very clear on this? Because the answer might raise several legal arguments. All Australian citizens have a legal right to be able to defend themselves from physical assault.
Are they training all students in situational awareness to the point of providing the kind of capability that would allow students to report impending incidents? Because if they are not, how can they reasonably expect a student to report something that is ‘evolving’ so that a teacher can prevent the assault before it occurs?
The school might well have a zero tolerance for bullying policy and so should each and every child. A clear distinction needs to be made between Zero Tolerance for Physical Assault - and Physical Strategies for Self Defence. In my view, a principle who is incapable of making such a simple distinction , isn’t equipped to do his or her job.
Note: I havn't even started on what this pathetic failure of bureaucracy will mean for the future of our young men and women. What kind of people we will become when we are taught by our teachers that we cannot, should not, defend ourselves. What? Our grandparents would be ashamed! I for one - won't stand quietly for this shite!#standuptostandout

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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One Head - One Arm … Four Chokes.


A simple recipe - one head and one arm - only two ingredients needed; but we have a number of variations on how these ingredients can be woven into some of the most commonly employed and highest percentage chokes in BJJ.

They give us the Darce, the Anaconda, the Kata Gatame and the Triangle. 

Many times I have quizzed students on the differences between them - and have received a number of answers (arm penetrates from armpit to neck, visa-versa, the spelling is different, etc)

But I am here to outline the most meaningful difference (because there are differences indeed, but most of them are, in my opinion, simply not very meaningful). The meaningful difference between the Darce, the Anaconda, the Kata Gatame and the Triangle is to have an awareness as to which part of the choking mechanism stops the opponent from escaping/resisting the choke. 

In the Darce - it is the chest; in the Anaconda it is the inside of our thigh; in the Kata Gatame it is our head or our hip (depending on the variation); in the Triangle it is the locking leg. 

Remember this - there are two main elements to most chokes: the mechanism that stops the opponent escaping/resisting/unravelling the choke - and the part of the choke that applies force to the carotid arteries/neck/wind-pipe. Being clear on these two mechanisms for each and every choke, greatly deepens our understanding of how the choke can be applied effectively in training.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

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The first thing ...


The first thing that coaches and teachers need to realise is this: the value of other peoples time. 

It frustrates me when I see coaches step onto the mat without realising this most simple and important fact. Coaches who just go through the motions - and coaches who think their mere presence on the mat is worth the money that people pay to spend time with them, are worthless coaches in my view.

Each of us is the centre of our own universe. We are all important. The time that is allocated to each of us is valuable beyond measurement. Coaches need to ‘get’ that people are trading a significant amount of this valuable resource to spend time with them; students trade their time to make the money they need to pay for the class/seminar, etc - they then trade more time to travel to the training space, and then they trade more time to listen to what the coach has to say ... that there, is a load of time. 

Coaches - pay attention to the real and actual cost of the deal made for this or that student to get there in front if you. Respect that - understand that - and you’re off to a good start.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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Miyamoto Musashi - telling it like it is.


I first read Myomoto Musashi's classic treatise on strategy in the year i finished school; the year my real education began. It is perhaps, an indictment on my intelligence that it has taken some thirty years to understand it. I re-read it every couple years. Here’s another offering from this wonderful book as one of my favourites ... indicative that Musashi was doing 'science' as it should be done .... love it:

'People in the world look at things mistakenly. They think that things they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.'

What is not to love about that wonderful observation? JBW

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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Don’t give it weight ….


Some stuff doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. What is usually called for when we are feeling down about something - is just a little perspective. Other than in exceptional circumstances - most of us are better off than most people living at any other time in history. We have things hanging on our walls inside our houses the show us movies … houses, not mud huts. We have food. We have access to health care. And if you’re reading this - it means you have access to a virtually infinite supply of information on an infinite number of topics. Amazing. Most stuff that we think matters a lot - might not actually matter that much at all, in the grand scheme of things. Don’t give annoyances any weight! 

Monday, March 18, 2019

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Teaching BJJ ....


Teaching or coaching may be a vocation but it is also a privilege. Sure, good teachers strain to to render the invisible - visible; to transmute ignorance into understanding - but they also should be aware that others have placed themselves (usually voluntarily) into their care - and with this understanding, there comes a certain responsibility. When people trade their (infinitely valuable) time, for what a teacher or coach has to offer, it is vital (IMO) that everyone fully understands the deal being entered into. As a professional teacher myself - I see it as a real privilege to be able to assist others on their way - I am deeply honoured that people feel what I have to offer is worthy of their time and attention.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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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 correlation..

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

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