A path less travelled ...

Ultimately, the martial arts are a lifestyle choice that can provide huge gains in fitness, confidence and self esteem. But that’s not why I got into it. For me, back when I was a bullied teenager, I just wanted to kick some butt!

I think my imagination was first fired up when I read a Modesty Blaise comic strip at the age of eight; Modesty and her partner Willy Garvin were teaching spies and covert operatives to fight, in some underground lair, wearing black pyjamas. Hey, what a cool job, I thought!

Later, when I began my martial arts journey as a teenager, I didnt dream that one day I would be making my living from it. It was just my passion, my first true love, my obsession. But turning a passion into a business that can provide both wealth and lifestyle, can be a tricky task indeed; a task that I didn’t seriously undertake until I was in my 30’s.

Between the mid 70s and the mid 80s, I spent most of my time in the backblocks of Indonesia, Thailand, India and Japan, getting a grounding in the fundamentals of my craft. What set me apart form the crowd back then, was an adventurous spirit fuelled by discontent and cynicism. I was never happy with the status quo, there always had to be something better just over the horizon. And quite often, as it turned out, there was! One of the advantages of my far flung travels and somewhat exotic approach to training was that people seemed to be really interested in hearing the stories I had collected every time I returned home for a bit. I woke up one day and decided to research the viability of publishing some of these stories in a martial arts magazine that was being produced at the time. They published one or two, but not all; and so I decided that the way to ensure that all my stories were published was to start up my own magazine.

So from my lounge room, with an Atari 64 sitting on my rickety table – I put together the first edition of Blitz magazine – now the leading martial arts publication in this part of the world.

I was a one-man-band at that time – editor, writer, researcher, advertising sales manager and receptionist. I am thankful for those early days, as I was forced to become computer savvy and develop word processing, composition and layout expertise – not to mention, accounts management, sales skills and the myriad of other things that I previously had no knowledge or understanding of. I still have a box of dog-eared manuals laying around here somewhere. The physical aspect of the martial arts training kept me sane through all of it. Those were great learning days.

Eventually I sold the magazine and had another good stint of overseas training; this time on the other side of the world – the USA and Brazil. My approach to martial arts was now evolving into a professional blend of Kickboxing and BJJ .

But in those days, the general population didn’t appreciate the difference between sport and reality-based fighting and so business was hard going. Although I was eking a living by teaching each night at my Geelong-based school, I was approaching the whole enterprise from a martial artists/fighters perspective with almost no consideration for the business side of things. I guess my passion and enthusiasm got me through – it was certainly not due to my business acumen.

As the running of my somewhat unprofessional school wasn’t enough to get me a new car or a deposit for my own home, I had to diversify my efforts to make financial headway. I began teaching private lessons as well as the usual evening group classes. I also began travelling interstate to conduct training seminars for various martial arts schools owners that were looking to broaden their approach and take on new ideas. These were some of the best schools in the country and so the profile of BJJ began to grow.

I founded our Association, BJJ Australia, which has now grown to a membership of more than fifty schools throughout Australia and New Zealand. With interest in BJJ growing, and not having put my publishing skills to the test for a few years, I decided to write a series of books. Now as far as publishing goes, if you have a small market, and you want to make more than 10 cents a book, you need to publish and distribute yourself. That means having faith in yourself, doing your own print run and selling to whomever you can to get your money back so you can print more and hopefully make some profit. It also means setting up a website and gearing up for e-commerce. This has now become an integral part of my business. I love internet sales – the work is done once; and from then on you reap the rewards – true leverage!

Nowadays, I do more than 70 seminars both interstate and abroad each calendar year. The gigs vary greatly; from teaching at Chuck Norris’s annual Martial Arts convention in Las Vegas to the Tasmaniacs group down in Launceston. I love that variety!

I still run my local school, teaching cutting-edge martial arts but now do so using solid business principles. I sell books DVD’s and professional curriculums on the internet and have expanded my clientele to include law enforcement personnel and the military.

Instructing professional and elite Police and Military units is very rewarding for me; I have to be highly creative, I have to come up with training packages and methodologies based on their specific operational requirements, and so I am kept on my toes, both physically and mentally. Teaching covert and highly specialized military units over in Quantico Virginia is a far cry from teaching martial arts to a group of angry teenagers in a basement (20 years ago) – but comes strangely close to what I was reading in that Modesty Blaise comic back when I was eight. What an interesting world.

May your lives be as full of adventure and learning,
best wishes,
JBW

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