Sunday, February 28, 2010
It’s easy to become lulled into thinking that all we need to do, to be fulfilled and complete, is to find that ONE all-important, last piece of the puzzle. I used to feel this way on the mat. When I just develop ‘stickier’ hooks, my Guard will finally be just right … but then it happens; no sooner do we develop those stickier hooks, than another flaw in our game suddenly becomes apparent to us, on so we embark on another quest.
As is the case with so many things I have learned on the mat, the same dynamic seems to pervade the non-grappling aspects of our lives. It is easy to fall victim to the illusion that all we need is that one vital piece of the puzzle, and everything will finally be just perfect; when in fact, that is vey rarely true. As soon as we have paid off that mortgage, mended that broken leg, disassociated ourselves from that poisonous friend, got those new tyres for our car, etc – another of life’s challenges leaps out to pull in our full attention.
But here’s some advice that I have given many a student over the years – ‘Wherever you are is where you need to be’ – meaning, that if you are stuck under side-control every time you hit the mat, then that’s where you need to be because it presents the perfect opportunity to develop escape and defensive skills from that position; same goes for every position and in fact, every situation. On or off the mat, whatever is going on, whatever the situation we are in, is exactly where we need to be right now. Imagining that we only need to find that next all-important piece of the puzzle before everything will be just right – is not only deluded thinking – it ensures that we continue to miss the point; that being, right here, right now is where we need to be – and where the fun and the real living is to be had.
Last piece of the puzzle? No such thing!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
It’s not my usual habit to offer up instruction in this blog; but here is a quick one for those who are looking to connect up basic striking with takedowns. This simple combo makes the simple connection between the right cross and a High Crotch (High-C) entry to basic double leg. My advice is to work the High-C first, until it is second nature – then add the right cross. The cross sets up the left hand nicely (as it does with a Hook) for the shot at the opponents lead leg. Our head is outside slightly, making it a comparatively safe shot for MMA purposes. Hope you like it,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I think the answer is fairly obvious – we are both! Probably though, we are more the latter than the former. We do! And do, and do, and do! Mostly our lives are pretty full; at least that’s the way it is with me. My day usually starts around 7:30am – cup of hot java in hand, I answer the e-mails that have arrived while I was sleeping. A light snack is followed by seeing my boy Felix off to school, then it’s almost always a two or three training sessions with privates students. A quick shower after that, is followed by another small meal, usually eaten while I attend to the e-mails that have arrived while I was on the morning mat. The afternoon is usually a bit more relaxed but I always have something to do; writing my blog, an article for a magazine, preparing a flyer or something else for the studio, and the odd e-mail. I then check any book or dvd orders that have arrived (via e-mail) and pack them up and make sure to sign them to the good people who have decided to place an order (thank you all very much). The it’s time to pick my boy up from school as my wife Melissa has usually left by now to head into the school to teach the children’s classes. Time for another snack. The it’s into the car and I make my way into the school myself, in time for the evening classes. Melissa and I pass each other in the office, before she leaves and I step onto the mat. Just after 8pm – I leave the third adult class of the evening to one of my excellent instructors and I make the 10 minute drive home. I greet my family, say goodnight to Felix who is usually in bed and reading by 8:30pm and it’s finally time to sit down, eat my last meal for the day and watch tv while I chat with Melissa. My laptop is always on hand, so I usually attend to another e-mail or two before it’s time to switch off for the night. Another typical mid-week day comes to an end – but then, there’s the weekend. For 30 weekends out of the year, I head to the airport, get on a plane and head interstate or overseas to run seminars or training for professional martial arts schools, military and police organizations, etc. In between all of this, I write the odd book, design the odd curriculum and try , as best can, to fit in some wilderness adventure to recharge my battery. In short, there’s a lot of DOING going on … but I am also a human BEING. Believe it or not – although the schedule may seem hectic, it is probably no more hectic than your own. Each of us has this kind of schedule, filled with different tasks maybe – but filled nevertheless. During it all, it’s important to just BE – to be right there, in the moment, fully attending to whatever we are DOING. We are human DOINGS – but we are also human BEINGS. The two times I am most PRESENT – are when I am in the wilds, contending with nature – and when I am on the mat, contending with my fellow martial artists. Just BEING!
Monday, February 15, 2010
I had the opportunity two days ago, to head out to the spinal unit in Auckland, and visit with Haydn Clasby. For those who don’t know, Haydn suffered the most serious accident to have ever occurred (as far as we know) in the practice of BJJ. Without going into detail, his injury has left him wheelchair-bound, with little to no sensation below his chest-line.
Haydn, I have to say, is an inspirational individual. I cannot fail to be astounded by the stuff this man is made of – to describe his outlook as positive, would be doing him a disservice. He is a man with a mission!
In a way, it is almost like Haydn has just been born into his second life. He is consumed by a need to gobble up any information that will help him live and thrive in the new world that is his life. He has learned crucial things, as all newborns do; things like how to swallow or cough or effect a turn of the head. His mission right now is to learn how to BE and DO in a new environment and in a new body.
It is my firm belief that people with a mission, are among the happiest and most fulfilled people on the planet. Happiness is not about wealth, not about what you have – and apparently, not about whether you can walk or not; happiness has got little to do with these things and much, apparently, with things like having and achieving small goals that are personally meaningful to us. Right now, Haydn’s short-term goals are to do with things like raising his arm to scratch his forehead or shooing away a fly; ultimately, he wants to be able to get from his wheelchair to his bed, unassisted – these are the big goals that fill Haydn’s world. In the long-term, he has hinted at wanting to get out there and inspire and help people who have suffered similar misfortunes – although I hesitate to label this particular accident as a misfortune, because despite what we may think, Haydn himself comes across as an individual inspired and driven with a sense of deep purpose. I predict he will help many people, and that the world will be a far better place for having him in it.
On a personal note, I would love to see Haydn write a book or make a documentary on his courageous and inspiring journey. I for one am in awe of his sense of self and the grace that pours forth from him. Haydn is one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. For anyone wanting to make a small donation to the fund that his friends have set up – please CLICK HERE
Inspired and full of awe …
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Finally, the third book in my ROGUE BLACK BELT series, passion & purpose, arrived today. I think this is my best writing to date; and for those who have a love for BJJ, this book will be far and away the most interesting.
The most difficult part of the whole process was coming up with a way to finish the book; after all, it is autobiographical in nature – and I am – at least at the writing of this blog, still alive! After much deliberation, I decided to use the last chapter of the book to kind of sum up some of the most important life-lessons that I have learned over the past 15 years or so. I sent the last chapter to my good friend Geoff Thompson in the UK (prolific author and inspirational martial artist) who after reading it, has spent several e-mails trying to convince to me to expand my last chapter into a book in it’s own right. I shall seriously consider this advice – after I get a little feedback from my readers.
I know you will enjoy this book; it comes straight from the heart and has not been edited, apart from a spell-check and some grammatical corrections.
My wife is sitting down next to me as I write this, and she has started reading … I wonder if I should move a little further away?
Anyways, and lastly, a huge thank you to those hundreds of e-mails from those who have read the Fear & the Engine and Challenge & Ownership. I very much appreciate the wonderful and inspiring comments – I am so glad to have been able to make a positive impact on so many lives.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
If there was a ‘official slogan’ to best describe the new-age throw-away culture that seems to pervade the world we live in – perhaps it would be ‘The Next Best Thing’. Most people spend a considerable amount of their time pondering on the next best thing … the latest mobile phone – the latest song to come out – the latest pair of jeans – the latest car – the latest move on the mat, etc.
For many of us, this provides a certain kind of motivation – in wanting the next best thing, we become energized to move forward and achieve … but quite often, the satisfaction we feel, is only temporary – as we suddenly realise we aren’t all that satisfied, and we begin our search for the next, next best thing - after all, the un-chewed grass always looks a little greener - at first.
Sometimes, the search for the next best thing can be a fairly harmless exercise – perhaps it’s just another mobile phone, or camera. Sometimes though, it is harmful, in that we walk away from much more important things, like family, a good marriage, good friends, from people who have counselled us or mentored us faithfully, to search for the next best girlfriend/wife, group of friends or salesman who cheerily promises us the world, and more.
Now I am all for everyone trying to improve their position, but it’s important to draw a careful distinction between ‘improving our position’ and ‘seeking out the next best thing’ just for the sake of experiencing a ‘change of scenery’. Some changes are important, indeed, necessary for our growth as human beings - but change just for change sake can often lead to regret or the beginning of an endless cycle of searching.
On the mat, especially with our addiction to all things Youtube – it’s easy to be hypnotized by the next best move. It’s nice to be aware of it, even take some level of ownership and understanding of it – but consider carefully before dropping your whole game for the sake of trying out this ever-more-tantalizing next best move. The never-ending search for the next best thing can also be contagious. Many people do not want to shift from where they are without the support of their friends – so they try hard to convince others of the benefits of the next best thing, in the hope that their choice will be made by others and therefore, ratified or justified to some degree. We decide to head out and buy an I-phone, and so we try to convince everyone else to do the same.
This happens in martial arts schools all the time. For whatever reason, a student decides to join another school, and in an effort to convince him or herself that he or she has made a good decision, he or she talks his decision up to others and tries to have them make the move as well. This has happened to nearly every good instructor I know, including Jean Jacques Machado, Rigan Machado, Benny the Jet Urquidez, Tino Ceberano, myself and countless others. It is often heartbreaking for the instructor, who may have put in years or even decades of effort into training their student; but it is simply the way of the world in which we live – people are always looking for the next best thing and probably, they always will.
On the flip side of course, the next best thing might be something very positive; like deciding to learn another language or bettering our situation for our families – we should just be mindful of living congruently and making decisions carefully, before we head out in pursuit of the next best thing.
Live well everyone, make decisions which are best for you and your loved ones; but remember, one of the great secrets to real and lasting happiness is to learn to find deep enjoyment and contentment right where you are, right now – with the friends, family, stuff (and techniques) you already have.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
I remember when I was first introduced to the choke. It was back in the mid 80’s – by grappling and American Stunt legend Gene LeBell. I went around to have dinner at Gene’s house in Los Angeles, accompanied by then Word Kickboxing Champion Stan Longinidis. After we had finished dinner, Gene invited us upstairs to take a look at some of his training memorablia and discussions soon turned to his old-school pro-wrestling career and the famous Gene LeBell sleeper hold. I couldn’t help but ask if I could experience the technique first-hand – and anyone who knows Gene LeBell, knows that he is always ready to oblige such silly requests. He sat me down, slapped on a back-choke and asked me to count backwards from ten. Five or six seconds into the distracting exercise, the lights went out, and the vivid, technicolor dreams began.
When I came to, my eyes beheld the strangest of sights; there was Stan Longinidis, standing up on top of Gene LeBell’s sofa, as if he’d seen a mouse; mouth open and breathing more heavily than a world champ should. What a great experience. Suddenly I became a huge fan of the choke. It slipped quietly from the ‘theory’ column to the ‘practical’ column – and I knew I needed to master this art. That very same week, I sought out my first BJJ class. And so my serious study began.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said “you can never bathe in the same river twice”. He said this, inferring that everything changes, the river you step into now, is not the same river you step into even one second later.
Buddha, I can only guess, would have agreed, and probably would also have pointed out that the You that steps into the river now, is not the same as the You that steps into the river a minute later. The river has no permanence and neither do You – in fact, nothing has permanence.
The BAD: This can sound gloomy to some; we strive to hold onto our relationships, our health, our situations, our possessions – but none of it is permanent; eventually, all of it will decay and dissolve. If this sounds a bit gloomy – let’s consider the Good aspects …
The GOOD: If everything is changing (including ourselves) then every day, every minute, provides us with opportunity to embrace a new way of being, a new way of seeing, a new way of doing. This is exciting. By understanding that nothing is permanent, we learn to embrace the possibility of change – and that is one of the reasons why life is such an adventure.
Every time we hit the mat – indeed, every time we perform a sweep, an escape or an attack, we are a little different, a little transformed, from the moment before. Every time we practise a technique, we should be open to seeing it differently and understanding it a little better. Change is good – this is how we learn. Whenever we learn something, the neural pathways in our brain change slightly. And every time the neural pathways in our brain change, we are open to seeing things in a different way; impermanence is at the very heart of change, growth and development.
The UGLY: The only Ugly part here is the way we tend to marinate ourselves in negative feelings when we really don’t have to at all. The realisation that nothing is permanent and everything changes makes it a little easier to accept things as they are, and not as we think they should be – and a little easier to live in a state of peace with ourselves and our fellow human beings.
Live well …
Monday, February 01, 2010
Having a plan is always a good idea. On the mat, the best competitors have a plan. But just like any plan – say, running a one hundred metre race – you first need to get to the starting line. Think of it like this – the sprinters must all journey, from all over town, each via different routes to get to the venue on race-day. They then, each of them, must make their way to the starting line. From that point, they know exactly what they are doing. Same thing goes for a solid post-purple BJJ game. Your starting point may be the Seatbelt Grip for example. You have an endlessly evolving number of ways to get there – but once there, you automatically slide into your pre-determined plan of attack. This approach gives you the best of both worlds:
- you are always evolving, coming up with novel and interesting ways to arrive at the Starting Line. So plenty of scope for creativity and experimentation.
- Upon arriving at the Starting Line you launch into the same old Attack Sequence. This gives you potency, and over time, a deep level of expertise and confidence in your systemic attack. Safety in the familiar.
The diagram I have hastily constructed for you may serve to better illustrate my point. I trust this will assist in your game development.