Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it …
… then again
Those who forget the pasta are destined to reheat it.
Here’s a slightly humorous example of one two very small changes impacting dramatically on the meaning of a sentence. Similarly, the right one or two small changes in technique and or strategy can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your game.
The improvement in our skill levels increases over time. In, say a ten-year period, we improve greatly; but the improvements we make over time are usually not as gradual as we may think. It has been my observation that we improve by inches and then every now and we make a quantum jump. I am equally interested in both incremental gains and large gains; I have experienced both kinds myself and have seen the same in many others. I consider myself a ‘grinder’, I chip away (at all aspects of my life) and make small incremental changes by week or by month, which usually add up to large and significant changes over time. But I have also experienced large and monumental changes (both on and off the mat) in very short spans of time.
If you find yourself treading water, with no obvious improvements in what you are trying to achieve, try doing something different. It is when I have turned left and as opposed to my usual right, that I have found discovered opportunities for significant and rapid change. Sometimes small differences in the way we do things can result in large improvements. It’s the differences that make all the difference.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Back Choke – perhaps the most iconic of BJJ finishes, remains one of the least understood and used strategies in the current BJJ landscape. When I began my BJJ training, there was a long line of soft-challengers (by this I mean that variety of challenger that comes in insisting they are just curious and want to have a friendly spar; their skills against yours - and then they do their very best to take your head off) walking in the door wanting to pit their skills against a largely unheard-of team of BJJ enthusiasts and practitioners. That was the case prior to the first UFC; post this historical event, that line has largely disappeared; perhaps these ‘would-be’ tough guys are off looking for easier prey. The line is still there but now it is comprised of people who have left their ego’s behind and are sincerely looking for BJJ instruction; so the days of sitting astride yet another hapless challenger, waiting for him to roll over and give up his back to our choke, are largely gone.
In the professional BJJ academy and garage alike, people are rolling on the mat. In the beginning, the neophyte may indeed respond instinctively to being mounted by giving up his or her back; but it doesn’t take long before they realize that this is a bad strategy and they stop doing it. What happens as a result is that regular BJJ athletes are developing sophisticated strategies that are more and more effective against fellow experienced BJJ athletes; and the iconic back Control is quite often put on the back-burner.
On a sophisticated BJJ mat, if we just wait for our opponents to voluntarily give up their backs when we grapple we will be spending much of our time playing the waiting game. If we want to develop a strong and strategic back-oriented game we have to find ways to spend more time both getting and keeping that position. If I watch a mat during free-grappling practise, I don’t usually see many athletes spending a lot of time in back-control; I see loads of guard practice and guard passing; lots of side control and lots of north-south; some mount, of course, but not a lot of back control. There are several easy ways to remedy this situation – from a coaching perspective.
One simple but effective way is to simply have everyone play the paper-rock-scissors game before each wrestle; with the match starting with the winner of the game taking up position on the losers back; then the match begins. A few weeks of this can add up to a years worth of organic-back domination.
Another great way is to teach everyone a wide variety of ways to coerce the opponent into giving their back; from side control, from north-south, from mount, from guard, while passing, etc. The more ways the students have to achieve back-control, the more chance they have of achieving it during free-training. There are many technical and highly effective methods of getting to the back that can benefit coloured belts and black belts alike. The more time spent on the opponent’s back with our seatbelt grip in place, the more able we are to develop strong attacking and Plan-B skills in that position. Perhaps it’ s time to consider getting back to the back …
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Here is a very powerful tool that I have developed over the years to make me feel better when my state of happiness begins to erode. In fact, I have read very recently, that some serious studies have shown that this method has proven to be a very effective remedy when your state of happiness, for whatever reason, starts to take a turn for the worse. For a long time I knew that this works for me – but it’s nice to discover that it is in fact, a very accessible tool that anyone can take ownership of and use with ease. It works like this …
Something is making you feel bad – and your mind starts to do it’s thing and becomes over-focussed on the things that are making you feel that way; pretty soon, the thing seems to take on a life of it’s own and grows in your mind until you begin to feel even worse. You need to re-train your mind and create a new habit under such conditions … here’s how …
Feeling bad about a certain situation? As soon as you find yourself dwelling on it -
DO THESE 3 THINGS
First: Almost every situation offers some positive benefits for you; no matter how grim things may seem to be. Lose your legs – hey, you save money on shoes … that sort of thing. Look hard, find the positives for yourself that are buried beneath the situation – write them down – or at least commit them to memory and smile when you do it.
Second: find the positives for others that will arise out of the situation. There could be ripple effects of the situation that could be of benefit to other people; perhaps even the people that have hurt you, if that is the sort of situation you are in; there are always positives; think about them, and smile.
Third: Think abou the larger picture of your life. You can still eat food, you can still go for a walk, you can still breathe without assistance, you have a roof over your head, maybe you have a car to drive, a friend, a pet, a book to read – put things in perspective; there are millions of people who do not have such privileges. When we are feeling unhappy, our minds have a tendency to shrink and over-focus on the bad thing that has happened to us; by forcing our minds to consider the larger picture we move away from those negative feelings. Smile as you do this.
This mental exercise takes only a minute or two – and will leave you feeling much better about your situation. Repeat in many times throughout the day. In a day or so – you will have re-trained your brain.
I worked this out for myself a long time ago, by realising, in difficult times, which thoughts made me feel slightly better, and simply focussing on those, rather than the problem I was wallowing in. Please try this for me – as a favour. You will be glad you did.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Well ... my excursion to Europe is most definitely off. I am disappointed in not being able to fulfil the commitment I made to all of my friends over there - but there is just no stopping mother nature when she decides to vent her wrath. I am back home now and and looking at the barest calendar I have seen in a long time - at least for the next two weeks. I am spending the time with my family and at my school - all time very well spent. Nice.
The future I am walking into now is not the one that I had planned but that makes it no less interesting, no less rewarding and no less exciting. I guess that there are innumerable small events (most not as large an obvious as an erupting icelandic volcano) that effect the path we walk on any given day. A traffic light changes, we pause for traffic and the whole world shifts into a new setting. Life unfolds in the way it does and each of us apply our will to making the most of each day as it presents itself. Right now - it's time for me to head off to class - hopefully, I will teach some of my students something that will, in turn, have a large and positive ripple effect on their evolving game. I curse the volcano - they thank the volcano. It is what it is - and it';s all good.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Europe may be shut down but I made it back home from Singapore quite easily.
The good news is that I am with my family again and will be able to hit the mat at my school on wednesday and thursday this week. The bad news is that it is doubtful that I will be able to get a seat to Europe and conduct the seminars we had all planned. I am still waiting, to see if the airways open up - but it's difficult because even if that happens right this second, there is a huge backlog of people who are trying to get somewhere.
One thing I have learned these past few years is this: if there is no solution then there isn't really a problem. Right now, there's no solution, and therefore I see no problem - I just need to practise a little acceptance. Acceptance of those things we can do nothing about is an important tool in the kit we use to create happy lives for ourselves; and I would far prefer to live in a state of happiness than the state I observed so many people living in as I passed through the Singapore airport last night.Yikes again!
If I can get a seat back on a flight to the UK this week - I will head over and get on with the original plan (albeit one week postponed) - we shall have to wait and see what volcanoes and air traffic authorities decide.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I have yet another chance to practice the little understood art of acceptance.
Due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, I cannot continue my trip onward to the UK and Norway, and will have to cancel all of my seminars. My most sincere apologies to all of those people who were looking forward to the training. I have tried every avenue I could think of - flying in to other cities in Europe and driving to the Uk, etc - but to no avail.
This is not, in the truest sense, a problem - because there is simply no solution (that I can find) and so I must accept the circumstances and do what I can.
My plan is to return home to Australia when a seat opens up. I wil have to try to fyulfill my oblgations to the students in the UK and Norway at soe later time in the year ... I will do my very best.
Once again - my apologies to everyone effected. Mother nature, it seems, is still very much in charge.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Some lessons are stickier than others.
In a coaching role, particularly if I am in a one-on-one situation, rather than just digging into my bag of tricks and pulling out a swag of random techniques, I try to identify those technical points that will give the student the biggest bang for their buck. There are certain principles, ideas, strategies and techniques that at a given time are of most benefit to the student. It has been my experience that as a teacher, when I identify the right lesson for the student, it really, really sticks; this usually means their ‘game’ is really, really, ready for that particular lesson. I have been on the receiving end of many a sticky lesson myself; and it is after these kind of lessons that my understanding, game or performance has taken a significant jump.
I can quite often deliver sticky lessons to large groups of students also; but this takes a little preparation at the beginning of the class. I have to get everyone on the same page to build in some connecting or docking points so the lesson has somewhere to stick; it’s not just a matter of pre-framing, but more a kind of accelerated building of a common foundation for a specific topic – then when everyone is there and they both feel and understand how that foundation connects to and is related to their game, then I can begin the sticky lesson.
PS: Sometimes, this doesn’t work for 100% of the class – if I can hit it with 80-90% of the class, I feel I have succeeded. Those I fail to reach in a deep and meaningful way, still get good technique and information that they can store away for a time when they build their own sticky connectors that can accept the info I was trying to deliver.
Time to head off to the mat and try and deliver another sticky lesson …
Best wishes all
People pay for professional instruction. They pay with money and they pay in the giving of their time. Understanding that people are spending the very precious moments of their lives in trade for what we have to offer, goes to the very heart of what it means to be a fully engaged teacher or professional instructor. If the student is present, so should the teacher be
Friday, April 16, 2010
I am in Singapore right now – and having a bitter/sweet morning.
Ronin is doing better though and I chatted him (via mac) last night and he is in good spirits. My youngest son Felix was all nervous about doing his 3 kilometre cross-country yesterday, but ended up doing very well; I wish I could have been there for that. What else … oh yes, a volcano has erupted in Iceland and thrown a monstrous volcanic cloud into the skies over Europe – hence, all airports have been shutdown. That’s the Yikes part! It is Friday here, and I am not leaving for London until Sunday night – so I am still hoping that the right winds will prevail and I’ll make it. I have eight seminars set up in the UK – and the prospect of not being able to fly has put a frown on my forehead – at 53 years of age, as of today, I don’t need any more of those! Things, of course, might have been worse, I could have been standing next to that Volcano when it erupted – that would have been a serious YIKES!
I remember one time in East Java when I scaled a volcano near Ponorogo and climbed down inside the crater (not smart) – I was walking around among the fissures peering in through the sulphurous smoke when it occurred to me that I was having trouble breathing – the long climb up and out left me breathless and coughing – as I reflect on the many silly things I have done to date, it occurs to me that I am lucky in many respects to even still be here.
On the upside, Singapore is a fantastic city – one of my favourites. The people are wonderful, the food is amazing, and the city is an anomaly in Asia. Everything works. I had the pleasure of teaching for my good friend Ursula Pong at the Singapore-American school yesterday. With over 4000 students, the school is the biggest and best in Asia. They offer the students a huge choice of programs for the physical education portion of their curriculum – and on average, they have 50 or so students sign up for a subject. When they offered MMA this year, they had more than 200 students sign up – with half of them being female. Astounding!
I ran these students through some fun training over three classes throughout the day – we had a blast!
Afterward, last night, I took a stroll down Orchard road; bought myself some Vibram Fivefingers footwear and got in touch with my inner ape. Walking around, feeling my toes interact with the ground is a great feeling. Here I am right now, shoes on, feet up and toes-a-wiggling, writing this blog in the most incredible food court I have ever seen in the new ION Shopping Plaza on Orchard road. Volcanic clouds asides – life is pretty damn interesting.
Best wishes all,
PS: Life unfolds in a myriad of ways. The process of the unfolding is sometimes a product of design but more often than not it is the manifestation of our reaction to circumstance. This is not a good, nor a bad thing, it just is. Sometimes we get to paddle, sometimes we are caught in the current, and our ability to adapt to the circumstance in many ways dictates how our lives turn out.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Tomorrow afternoon I am heading to Singapore. Aside from the fact that I have gotten fairly used to the routine of visiting my son Ronin in hospital two to three times a day; and am a little anxious about leaving his side, I am also looking forward to catching up with some friends overseas.
In Singapore, I will be doing some work for the American school (they have adopted my Alpha MMA program as part of their sports curriculum) - then I will be teaching for the Kreation Jiu Jitsu group, headed up by Kon Quek - and then for Jason Quek (no relation to Kon) on the SUnday, before heading onward to the UK on Sunday.
On monday I'll be running a session for Ken Pankeiwicz in London, on Tuesday I'll be heading up to Coventry to teach for Rich Green - on wednesday morning, Geoff Thompson and I head out into the morning mists for our annual walk and talk before breakfasting in the conservatory at Coombe Abbey. Very much looking forward to that!
On wednesday afternoon I will head down to the beautiful Cotswalds and teach for Tony Terranova at Fighting Fit. I'll stay with Tony and his lovely family afterward before heading up to Manchester to Adam Adshead's school the next day. After working with the Factory BJJ crew, I head to a Dave Kari's Voodoo gym the next night - my first time there and I am looking forward to it. Afterward, Mark Collett (the BJJ Instructor at Fighting Fit) will drive me over to Doncaster, ready to teach for Danny Mitchell the next morning. Danny is a great MMA fighter who I met on my last visit to MAnchester. After working with Danny, I will then head to Pontefract, to teach for Helen and Darren Currie and my friend from Newcastle, Steve Muckle, who organized the session.
On Sunday morning, we head back to Coventry in time to hit the mat with Geoff Thompson and help teach his masterclass event. it will be great to co-instruct with Geoff and he and I have become close friends these past couple of years. The day after, I head to Norway, andf meet up with Kenneth Fjeld - Chuck Norris official rep in Scandinavia. After that leg of my visit, I head back home, after a three hour layover in Singapore.
These next few weeks will be busy but action-packed. I have set Ronin up with a Mac and I-chat capabilities in the hospital, so if all goes well, I will be able to video conference with him every day; though trying to find internet access whilst on the road can sometimes be challenging. better start packing - classes tonight, more hospital visits, then off to the airport tomorrow lunchtime. Stay tuned ...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
This blog may seem a little strange – well, stranger than usual in any case … please bear with me …
It is my belief that most people who achieve, especially if they over-achieve, do so at a price. Well, perhaps price is the wrong word here – perhaps, in some way, they are compensating for some kind of lack, even over-compensating in some way. The sight-impaired develop better hearing and better sense of touch – as a crude example. Take that kind of dynamic, and move into the realm of the psyche, and you’ll get the idea. Someone who wasn’t liked at school, seeks out a job in life where they wield power (feel more empowered) – someone who was always hungry as a kid, becomes a great chef … that kind of thing. So there is, a kind of imbalance there – the over-achievement and the flaw that drove it.
Now to my point – if this subtle duality snuggles secretly inside us – can we identify it and make efforts to truly ‘move on’ from it’s darker side – in other words, can we have the achievement, without the counterpart that set it all in motion? Can we get a full refund on the price we originally paid for the things we have achieved? Can we have our cake – after having eaten and digested it – expell it fully from our system?
I guess I think of it like rocket fuel; it gets the rocket moving, but after a while, it completely spent, with not a sign of it’s existence remaining – the original motivation may have been fully spent and yet we continue to be propelled forward nonetheless.
It’s late – I am a little sleep deprived – this could have been much better thought out and written.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
As practitioners of BJJ, we all have something in common; we are all probably, people of Action. We enjoy the state of being that action gives us. When circumstances require action, we tend to act – not dwell, not ponder, not pray, not hope – we act. In fact, I think that this is one of the most important ways in which people differ from one another; some people wait, while others act.
Many, many people think if they pray and think and visualize hard enough, then the universe will provide for them. I think this is just so much rubbish. It’s not that I have anything against visualizing, praying or even hoping – but I do very much understand that it’s action that sets us on a path to achieving things. I do not doubt that millions of starving people are thinking and wishing and praying for food, the world over – and I do not see any result. When the ship is sinking – hope is simply not a strategy; while getting a life-vest, a bag full of supplies and leaping into a boat is. The universe will not manifest anything for those who just sit there and ask it for help – the universe doesn’t give a shit. We, each and every one of us, possesses free will; and this free will allows us to choose our course of action – but even after choosing it, we must will ourselves into taking action.
Taking action is what gave us fire; it is what gave us literature, art and it is the tool by which we have carved the countless steps that have allowed us to climb out of the darkness of our distant past. If there is one great skill that each of us should nurture and develop in the short time that is allotted to us – it is the ability to escape the seemingly safe confines that are offered by hope and prayer and instead, train ourselves to take action.
I think that prayer, visualisation, goal setting and even wishful thinking do have their place; these things give us clarity of purpose and open our eyes to opportunity and solution – but it is the ability to act that moves us ever forward.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
A very tough day for my boy today. He was writhing in pain for a large part of the day. Even asked me to knock him out. He is living in a bubble of pain right now, with (from his point of view) no way out. Very tough. Finally, we convinced the medical staff to push him to the head of the queu for a scan on his abdomen. We got he results tonight and they are not the best. Some more of his intestine, it seems, has a very poor blood supply - if this doesn't improve, it could mean he loses more of it in another op - and that could be disastrous - apart from all the heart stuff and infections he has.
We have to wait and see right now - and the there's the infection on his heart valves and then there's the hole through the inner wall of his heart. He has on hell of a fight ahead of him - he has come a long way - ti seems a miracle that he has gotten this far - but I am very worried about how he will handle the news of the strong possibility that if he survives - he will have to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. I wish I could trade places with him. I so wish I could,
Friday, April 02, 2010
How many times have I asked the question “How did you go tonight?” after a training session has just finished. And how many times have I heard the following replies “I lost” – “I won with ‘this’ technique or ‘that’ technique!” It is quite common for to describe a match we just had in terms of either winning or losing – but that is a very small and narrow perspective – after all, the real FUN is DURING the match. The END of a match is just that, the END of the match – and regardless of the outcome, the enjoyment (hopefully) was to found in all the play that happened DURING the match. BJJ has been likened to a game of chess – so again, I’ll expand on this analogy. When two people play a game of chess, I very much doubt whether the full measure of JOY resides solely in the moment of the Checkmate – rather, it is to be found in the struggle and strategy that is the game itself. When we hit the mat and roll, much of the time, someone will ultimately ‘tap’ to the other; and this should in no way, take away from the joy and fun to be had by either partner. The FUN is in the fight – the outcome can be viewed as a momentary pause that allows for a brief acknowledgment of the submission – but it shouldn’t be the moment that determines whether or not we had fun or experienced joy. When young kids play a game of football, soccer, tennis, or whatever – they often don’t seem to pay much attention to who won or who lost – they are just too busy immersing themselves in the act of playing and having fun. From the mouths of babes …