Thursday, September 08, 2016

Nothing in return ...

Rigan was talking to me today about the kind of person that comes smiling to your face - all the while, driven by selfish motives - and how we can all do with less time spent with such people in our lives.
I have to agree; life is short, we all know that. The older we get, the more we realise the truth of it. Forget those people that undermine you; forget those who back-stab, whisper and denigrate you; the world is also replete with people of good character and integrity.
Helping each other; with no thought of what we get in return, is the way to living a happy and more fulfilled life. This conscious experience we call 'life' is a rarity - a miracle of sorts - if people really understood how precious we all are, we would treat each other much, much better than we do.
Giving before others feel the need to ask is a wonderful way forward. hep someone out today ... for the pure joy of knowing you made their day a little easier. Best respect to all - JBW

Monday, September 05, 2016

Those Halcyon days ...

I think back to when it all started for me … in 1986.

BJJ was a great splash of colour in a martial arts landscape that, to me at least, was beginning to undertake a rather washed-out look.

But it was yet, an undiscovered country of sorts … at least to those living outside of Brazil. Consequently, training (apart form the single exception of the goings on in Rorion’s garage on Torrance) demanded a plane trip to Rio and a dive into a landscape unfamiliar in the extreme.

The sounds, smells, sights and kinaesthetic experiences of the mat were at once overwhelming and intoxicating. The trips up to Teresopolis to train at the farm with Carlos, Jean Jacques, Roger and Rigan and John Machado and their cousins Rilion, Crolin, Carlos and Renzo Gracie, were enlightening, amazing, and humbling in the extreme.

My crystal ball though, was apparently in a state of disrepair; it was either switched off or broken, for there was no way I could have foreseen the remarkable explosion of growth that BJJ has enjoyed, post UFC #1.

There weren’t as many BJJ academies back then (in Rio) but there were certainly enough to constitute a landscape big enough to evolve rivalries. My friend Rigan Machado took me around to visit some of the main clubs (Master Helio Gracie’s Academy, Carlson Gracie’s Academy, Jacare’s academy and one or two others). I soon discovered that, competitive rivalries aside, there was a real feeling of brotherhood between BJJ schools; the kind of mutual respect that we might imagine to have existed between kings of warring nations. I had never before seen the like of it, in any of my martial wanderings (which were numerable and wide-ranging).

BJJ, as we all can assuredly attest to, is a strange animal in the martial arts kingdom. We fight and struggle with each other and in doing so, build each other up. As someone stated recently, 'slap hands, fist-bump … simulate murder' ... after which, we hug, limp home with ego’s deflated and somehow summon the courage to return for more the very next day.
What a tribe we are …

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Living authentically

I have been on the receiving end of criticism many times. I call with perfect clarity, the time (in the early to mid 80’s) when I was trying to cobble together a holistic approach to martial arts training. I was advocating for a blend of stand-up striking, clinching, takedowns and ground-fighting. Several renowned names in the martial arts community, publicly announced that I didn’t know what I was doing. One even wrote (in print) ‘the mature martial artist doesn’t mix his martial arts’ - yikes!

Luckily, for me, I chose to ignore their opinions and forge forward on a path I instinctively knew would lead to a more well-wounded and functional approach to the art that so many of us now enjoy.

Someone once said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” I think that is a great statement. We should question the status quo, we should experiment, test and question … that is how science is done; that is how progress is made.

An old friend of mine once said “the first through the door are often bloodied’ - another true observation! I say, be open to new ideas but also follow your heart. if there is no path leading in the direction you need to go - carve one. Others will smooth it out for you layer - but push forward! Warning though: this way to live often comes at a price. But then again - I'd pay that price 100 times over. To thyself be true.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Heroes of the modern world

I refer here, to the women of the world; that most excellent half of the human species.

I was listening the other day to one of our female leaders bemoan how difficult it was for her to succeed in the male-dominant world of politics. She is probably correct in what she said but it made me wonder whether she has paused to consider the monstrous challenges that hundreds of millions of women in other countries are facing every day. 

I refer to that vast, downtrodden population of women who live in countries/theocracies where they are subjugated; virtually enslaved, denied education, with no control over their reproductive choices and perhaps most distressingly of all, often repressed to the point where they consider such punishments to be a normal state of being.

I would (as most of us must) see women have an equal voice, equal pay, equal respect, equal opportunities as are enjoyed by most men. All who read this may mutter ‘of course’ but this is in fact, not the case throughout much of the world we live in. 

I was also listening, just yesterday, to a panel of men talking about possible solutions to inequality and poverty in Australia - and it occurred to me, the solution to many of the things they were talking about might be quite simple - and it revolves around a simple notion - put a woman in charge! 

Women are natural caretakers, often have a fairer hand, and are capable - given even just the slightest chance - of raising society out of poverty.

Respect where respect is deserved.

  • JBW

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The acquisition of friends and enemies

The acquisition of both friends and enemies are rites of passage for every human being that wants to live a life of a door-kicker. By door-kicker, I mean that sort of person who wants to explore, go first, give it a go, ignore the advice of others and find out for him or herself.

It is probably an easy enough matter to go through life without having made any enemies; but such a life was probably one spent without having held strong opinions, strong convictions or without having ever taken a stand. A grey life. Not the sort of life I would choose for myself.

Ultimately, in my view at least, we should all hold opinions; we should be prepared to defend those opinions; we should stand for our beliefs. Of course, we should also be open to argument and be willing to adopt new ideas and reform our opinions as we gather more information from the world around us and from others who inhabit it.

Someone who agrees with everyone, stands for nothing. Think, read, talk, debate, learn and ponder … the tapestry you weave is an unfinished project, as long as you yet draw breath.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Naysayers, Critics, Backstabber, Front stabbers and Trolls VS the Lions ... not sure of a good title for this ... please choose one or contrive your own ...

In the world of the inter-webs, and of course in real-lie itself, we are assaulted very now and then by the words of others. But these are words only; and almost always, the opinions of such people shouldn’t matter at all to those who live their lives as lions.
We are the most critical of others when we are sucking at our own lives. people who have the habit of criticising others (particularly if it is in a bad-mannered way) are usually pessimistic types.
Successful people, more often than not, usually try to help others, not criticise. When people criticise us, we should try to understand that they themselves are probably struggling; just remember, they are probably (and sadly) pessimistic types.
I myself, question things and opinions, all the time; but I try to be respectful when doing so; probably because I have a natural bent toward optimism.
I think it helps to be optimistic. I have always leaned in that direction. Optimism in the face of adversity, allows us to enjoy life far more fully. Trials and tough situations are mountains to climb rather than pits to fall into. Each day an opportunity to enjoy our circumstances and interact with the world around us. Besides - if not optimistic, what alternative? No ... it's optimism for me.
I'll accept what I cannot change, live fully and continually choose to find the silver lining in all adversity. Life unfolds - but each of us can choose the way we view and interpret that unfolding. - JBW

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I am not sure what to do - but I am quite certain of what not to do!

A lot of the most robust learning we do in life is kind of hidden. Well, not so much hidden, as overlooked. A lot of the best learning we do is in the discovery of what NOT to do. 

Don’t swim in the water where the crocodiles are; don’t spend more money than you earn; don’t eat more food than your body can use; don’t try and push your partner off the mount.

Although these examples seem obvious - think about how often they represent a body of knowledge that is ignored or overlooked. 
Every year, weirdly, people (in Australia at least) are eaten by crocodiles (outcome: death) 
A very significant part of the population (including the smart and even high-earning segment) spend more money than what they earn (outcome: big debt) 
And of course, a lot of people take in more calories than what they can possibly burn (outcome: obesity)
And beginners, even after they are advised not to, still try to push their partners off the mount position (outcome: get arm- barred)

Knowing what not to do is a very important part of living a happy and anti -fragile life. 

Same goes for the practise of BJJ of course. There are lots of things we could try and experiment with on the mat (and we should) but knowing what NOT to do is very often overlooked (especially by beginners). 

Some White Belt examples of what not to do:

  • Don’t leave your arms flailing about when you grapple
  • Don’t leave one arm in and the other out when executing a basic pass
  • Don’t fight so hard that you are exhausted and can no longer think clearly just 2 minutes into the match
  • Don’t move around so frantically that you lose your balance
  • Don’t give your opponent your back
  • Don’t act in a away that have people fleeing from you when it comes time to pair up and roll

it all sounds so easy. But knowing what NOT to do is a very important pool of knowledge that we can add to constantly as we go through life. It can make a real difference to outcomes over the long haul. - JBW

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Optimism ...

I think people should be more optimistic. I have always leaned in that direction. Optimism in the face of adversity, allows us to enjoy life far more fully. Trials and tough situations are mountains to climb rather than pits to fall into. Each day an opportunity to enjoy our circumstances and interact with the world around us. Besides - if not optimistic, what alternative? No ... it's optimism for me. I'll accept what I cannot change, live fully and continually choose to find the silver lining in all adversity. Life unfolds - but each of us can choose the way we view and interpret that unfolding. - JBW

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Harm Avoiders or Harm Seekers?

When in doubt - work on defence. The paradox though, is this: to learn to avoid harm, we usually need to expose ourselves to a little taste of it.

In nature there is a phenomenon called Hormesis, which is a process by which organisms get stronger through harm. We can easily relate to this when we think of exercise. Exposure to exercise actually harms us - muscle fibres suffer micro-tears, lactic acid builds up, we deprive ourselves of oxygen, etc - but it is our response to these ‘small harms’ that ultimately leaves us stronger for the experience.

When we are vaccinated, we get a small dose of the bad thing - respond - and are immune to the really bad thing.

Of course, the same goes for other things in our lives - but I’ll leave that for another time/forum.

In BJJ, we expose ourselves to small harms just by turning up to class. Our response to these harms though, makes us stronger in the long run. If we are always dominating on the mat, it does us some good to expose ourselves a little more - by working out of difficult positions, etc and that way triggering our defence-response.

The payoff is this; the better we are at defence, the more aggressive we can ultimately afford to be - as the downside of a slip-up is less painful. Kind of like having a safety net under the trapeze - that allows us to try even more outlandish tricks.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Strange Land ...

Life on the mat - at least in the first year or two, equates to life in a somewhat strange land.

This is a strange land for a number of reasons …

It is strange because (in the beginning at least) we do not understand the landmarks and their relationship with one another. We get lost easy!

It is strange because we engage in conflict with people that become our friends - as the friendship grows, the conflict grows.

It is strange because we walk knowingly into a situation that is potentially dangerous; we help others improve their capacity to (potentially) injure us.

It is strange because it can be a competitive environment, yet as we improve, so too do all those we are competing against.

It is strange because others ask us to explain what we do and the explanations we offer up make sense to them. 

It is strange, because over the long term, we can easily sustain more injuries than we might otherwise suffer in the odd real-world self-defence scenario that may or may not ever happen.

It is strange because the reasons we have for visiting the strange land are not the reasons that we have for staying there.

Strangers in a strange land … JBW

Monday, August 08, 2016

Does the practise of BJJ slow time down?

Time, the current thinking goes, although it can be objectively measured, just might be a construction of the mind/brain.

As most of us get older (trust me on this you younger readers) time seems to pass more quickly than it did in those endless summers of youth. As it turns out, there is a reason (as there always is) behind this strange perception of ours (strange because time usually passes at the rate of 1 second per second); and the fundamental reason is as follows:

When we are young, we are learning and absorbing new information from the world at a rapid rate. When we are young we are encoding new experiences all throughout our waking day; and the when we are busy doing that, time seems to pass more slowly (when we look back on it).

An easy way to think of it would be to imagine making a movie of something; the more footage you get, the more detail you capture, the longer the movie would be. If you only captured bits and pieces, the movie would necessarily, be shorter. And so it is, apparently, with learning. When we capture a larger quantity of information, particularly if it is detailed, then our perception is that it takes more time to experience it. This, to me at least, is an interesting phenomenon. 

The more new memories we build in a given time-period, the longer that time-period seems to have been, when we look back upon it. So naturally, when we are young and encoding new experiences all throughout our day, then time seems to pass more slowly. As many of us age, and we find ourselves stuck in our ways, our thinking, our routines, then time seems to pass more quickly as we are not taking up new experiences and learning at the same rate we did when we were in our youth.

In short, when we learn new things and have novel experiences, time seems to pass more slowly.

I propose that the practise of BJJ provides us with a wealth of opportunity for new learning (new learning of complex skills under physical pressure/stress and so it represents a somewhat special kind of learning).

Apart from the physical benefits that BJJ practise offers, I instinctively feel that it allows us to participate in life in a more childlike way. This of course, represents a kind of antithesis to age-ing. 

I love it when time passes slowly - it gives me a sense that I am getting more out of life. Extracting the maximum value from life is a habit I have long-since acquired and would readily wish upon others.

  • JBW

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Living in Between ...

Living in between …

The conscious part of the brain - that certain ‘YOU’ that pops to life when you wake up in there morning - is really only the broom closet in the sprawling mansion that is the brain.

We are driven, in our daily lives, by what resides under the hood - and it’s a hood we can never open. But everything we have ever experienced is stored there; trillions upon trillions of neural connections … and bubbling to the surface are the thoughts, ideas, solutions and musings that direct us as we live our daily lives.

We all know, with certainty, that as we look out upon the world through our eyes, we only see the barest fraction of even this insignificant globe we reside on … but take a moment to ponder that in looking inward, we still only see the smallest fraction of who we really are. 

We reside in the thinnest film, between the inner and outer. And even that marvellous, ephemeral  ‘film’ presents us with seemingly unending possibility. What creatures we all are!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

It is nice, of course, to attain or reach a goal ... but the greater part of the value to be enjoyed is in the effort itself - the journey - the planning - the struggle - the inevitable learning the takes place along the way.
The day I was awarded my BJJ Black Belt was a wonderful day - one I will always remember with deep affection; but it still doesn't stack up against the journey I took to get there. That journey was full of struggle, wonder, frustration, awe, epiphany, bemusement and confusion ... I wouldn't of course, have had it any other way. The journey itself, was what gave value to the achievement (such that it is). Enjoy every moment ... good, bad and everything in between. - JBW

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The beautiful struggle

Through the struggle of training we expose ourselves to the possibility of becoming better versions of ourselves. 

Different people react in different ways to the stresses, challenges and struggles of training in an art like BJJ. As I have pointed out before, it is not the stress itself that produces anything of significance - it is our response to that stress that is important.

it is natural to try and avoid stress; after all, it is unpleasant. I do not like it. But I heave learned something about it over the years and it is this; without stress, we do not change. And by change, I mean grow, evolve, learn, improve. 

We stress our body; the physical form adapts and grows. This is how exercise works. The same goes for our mind/intellect/powers of reasoning/problem -solving ability, etc.

Life is struggle; in the natural world this is what has underpinned the evolutionary process. In our personal lives, stress provides us with an opportunity to test our response - and an opportunity to grow/evolve and learn from that response.

BJJ provides us with a somewhat unique form of stress. BJJ is about problem solving; but unlike other problems that are often presented to us in life, in the struggle on the mat we don’t have the time and luxury of being able to sit back and ponder the problem. In fact, the problems we encounter on the mat, are of the rapidly evolving kind; we have little time to ponder on our answer (like we would have when playing chess for example where the problem remains ’static’ while we try to come up with a solution). 

In placing ourselves into the unique environment of the BJJ mat, we expose ourselves to opportunity for personal growth and development. The benefits are numerous and substantial. It might not be easy; it is not supposed to be. it might not be for everyone; but then again, it’s not supposed to be. 

  • JBW

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thinking, Analysis and Action

I like thinking - I think it is important - I there that a lack of thinking underpins much of the drama we see in the world today. One part of thinking, is the idea of analysis ... we look at a problem or an object from as many different perspectives as we can - not just from those angles/perspectives that support a prior held opinion.

If we are trying though, to make a decision about something, we should (of course) try and imagine-forward and calculate the possible ramifications of choosing one course of action over another - and herein lies a potential problem .... taking into consideration even slight variations on how we might proceed, can produce an almost overwhelming variety of different outcomes ... so we continue to analyse ... and fail to ever TAKE ACTION! Paralysis by analysis - this has been called. And it is a real phenomenon.

The thing to remember is this - when we fail to take action - that in itself is an action. We must also understand we need to live with the consequences of NOT ACTING. Consequences arising from inaction are every bit as real as those that arise from taking action.

So, think, think and think some more - but then ... take action (one way or another) and you'll soon have the opportunity to think - and choose - again! - JBW

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Mechanics of Luck

If you succeed at something, you can expect a certain element to accuse you of being lucky. Personally, I find this a little insulting; not because luck doesn’t exist, it does, in roughly equal proportion to ‘bad luck’.

I find it insulting because such people are usually the kind that are not ‘risk-takers’ themselves and just don’t appreciate the work and effort that underpins the success they view as a product of dumb luck.

Watching a martial arts movie is not the same thing as training in the martial arts. Going to school to learn about success, is not the same thing as succeeding in the actual world. Taking action is what ultimately counts; it's what drives us forward and colours the unfolding of our lives.

As the old saying goes ‘the more we prepare the luckier we get’. Or as Louis Pasteur has been quoted as saying “fortune favours the prepared mind”. Both amount to the same thing; the balance of good luck and bad luck can be swung in one direction or the other depending on the choices and actions we take.

Those who want to carve out a life of verve and adventure for themselves - those people, make their own luck. - JBW

Monday, June 13, 2016

Enter the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

A willingness to step forward, when others are stepping backward is a trait that lies at the very heart of what it means to be a fighter, a fireman, a soldier, etc.. Although this may be a desirable trait, it is by no means an easy one to acquire. Stepping into the arena takes courage; it requires a certain dispassionate view toward outcome; it requires perspective. 

What makes stepping into the arena so difficult is the possibility of failing; or to be more accurate, failing in the eyes of our peers or loved ones. Most people find it much easier to take risks if they can do so anonymously; it is when we are taking risks in front of our own circle of family, friends or peers, that the price tag suddenly seems all that much higher. This is a pity indeed, because so much growth and innovation comes from risk-taking; so when we fail to take risks, we pretty much resign ourselves to a state of inertia.

Innovation is naturally driven by necessity and circumstance, and our capacity for creativity seems boundless; for it is when we are cut loose from the confines of familiarity that we can truly tap into our innovative potential. Becoming more innovative is more about familiarising ourselves with risk, and less about staying with the tried and true. 

Living, working and training in an environment that allows for, or even encourages, risk-taking, provides us with a sure-fire path to betterment. The more we are 'punished' for taking risks, the less inclined we will be to do so, and the more opportunities for growth we deny ourselves. 

Most of us are very risk-averse; naturally so; for this trait has been passed down through the DNA of our ancestors - if they were not risk-averse, we probably wouldn't be here today. But the world we live in has a very different set of risk factors than the one occupied by our ancestors - we can go to the shop and try a new food, without much risk of dying from it; but how many of us choose to do this? And how many, find great comfort in staying with the tried and true? 

Someone had to ride that first horse; someone had to eat that first olive; someone had to build that first bicycle. On the mat, when we try out new ideas, we are taking risks - but think on it - what price do we pay for messing up? Easy .. tap out; start over and try again? The risk here is virtually zero and the only thing on the line is really our ego. Take our ego out of it; and it all becomes a learning experience.

But there are many arena’s in life; there is the competitive arena; there are relationship arena’s, business arena’s, financial arena’s, innumerable sporting arena’s; the list goes on and on. Cultivating our own personal ability to step into new territory, to take risks and be willing to appear a little foolish almost guarantees us a life of success. 

Learning is just that; learning. It requires that we fail and fail often; but what we get in return for our seemingly unending string of failures, are a collection of successes, that set us apart from the rest. 

The secret is simple; if you want to live an extraordinary life, full of verve, adventure and success; you must, you absolutely must, be prepared to step into the arena and fail gloriously; day after day. It’s difficult to imagine any better advice than this. 

John B WIll

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A Bird in the hand .... really?

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” - an old saying, but one that I find to be incredibly misleading. Or, as to put it more bluntly - incredibly stupid advice!

One of the signs of intelligence that I subscribe to is the ability of someone to take some small pain/inconvenience now, in order to receive a bigger pay-off/benefit later. 

We live in a world where ‘instant-gratification’ is the norm. Get it now! Have it now! One bird in the hand ‘now’ rather than two ‘later’. A little planning and foresight can go a long way. I say no to the bird in the hand now; as I can go an get a net, do a little planning, then head to the bush and get the whole flock! 

Save a little of that money rather than spending it all - or worse, spending more than that which you have earned. Do some exercise now to reap the benefits later. A little planning and forward thinking goes a long way. Imagine if our ancestors hadn’t had the capacity to forward plan for the winters of northern Europe. Many of us wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t.

For those lover son Eckhardt Tolle’s writing on ‘living in the now’ - ponder this; even he has to ‘plan’ his books, plan for his book tours, etc. Sure, live in the moment, extract all the value the present has to offer - but spend some small time planning for a future that very well may arrive. 

For those wanting a little more on this topic - google ‘the Marshmallow Experiment’ - you may very be surprised by the findings. Most people that opt for ‘instant gratification’ - do nowhere near as well in life as those who have the will and foresight to delay gratification in the present for a bigger pay-off at a later date. 

‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ - the philosophy of the short-sighted!


Monday, June 06, 2016

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 indeed one; or many.

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

Saturday, June 04, 2016

1000th blog ... longevity

Many really great things are often only accomplished … over time. While this seems like an overly obvious statement - many people struggle to come to terms with it. People do not like waiting. We tend to want the things we want - right now! 

And although that might not be such a bad thing; the price for getting what we want right away, might mean a way larger price tag in the future; for ‘debt’ can just be a way of delaying poverty. 

A couple of extra reps of a technique in class won’t make a difference over the short term - but over a year, five years, a decade - this habit will pay huge dividends. Saving a few dollars each week won’t make much of a difference over a month or even a year - but over twenty or thirty years (invested) it might mean the difference between being independently wealthy or on a government pension. 

Longevity counts for a lot. Over time, great things are accomplished. Read a book a week … do that for a decade or two … you gain knowledge.

We don’t even have to think in terms of ‘decades’ - we just need to develop habits and maintain them. We are all experts at cleaning our teeth, tying our shoelaces, drying ourselves after a shower - and we gave none of these things even much of our attention. Time took care of it for us.

This is my 1000th blog. I didn’t start out aiming to write 1000 blogs - I just acquitted a habit. Time went by. And here we are. 

Thanks for reading folks … I hope you have enjoyed some of my posts. I for one, have enjoyed writing them.
Bets respect

John Will

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Fools and Certainty ...

Learning requires a willing and fertile mind. We must be ready to adopt new ideas; we should be open to new paradigms. At one time, most everyone thought the world was flat; imagine trying to convince the population otherwise? What a task!
Nowadays though, what was once a heretical belief, is simply understood to be common knowledge. I wonder at how many of our current beliefs and practises will be laughed at a century from now?
The most wonderful thing about children - in my view - is their un-satiable appetite for ideas, knowledge and exploration. A child-like curiosity is key to the acquisition of new skills. Letting go of our certainty can be very liberating act. - JBW

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An uptick in happiness …

Sometimes we are happy, sometimes, we are less so.
Think about what those things are, that make you happy. Sometimes they are small things; things that can easily go unnoticed. 

Identify those small things that give us an ‘uptick’ in happiness; do them more often and attend to them them mindfully. 

We often ignore those small - unnoticed achievements that we make every day. I see this on the mat all the time. People tend to notice the big accomplishments, the grand victories; which happen with much less frequency than the myriad small improvements/victories we hit every day.

You might escape an armbar, stuff a sweep attempt, turn from being flat on your back to being on your side once your partner has passed your guard … small things, but victories nonetheless. 

An uptick in happiness or an uptick in our sense of achievement often starts with noticing the small victories. And large victories themselves of course, are most often the result of the successful stringing together of a series of smaller achievements.

  • JBW

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Latest and Greatest ...

There are some out there who may remember when the highly entertaining and very talented boxer, Prince Naseem, became world champion. Naseem was a cocky fighter, to say the least, and used to fight much of the time with his hands down next to his hips, or even, behind his back. His style was based on his immense (Ali-like) skill at slipping, bobbing, weaving and using unusual angles to avoid punches. Entertaining? Yes. Fundamental boxing? Hardly. 

And here is where the problem lies … not for Naseem; but for those who were starting out in boxing and were trying to emulate his methods.

Today, we have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history. With all that Youtube and other forms of media can offer, it is difficult for the novice to keep everything in perspective. Once upon a time, when we wanted to learn Boxing, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, TKD or Kung Fu … we had to seek out an instructor who (hopefully) would instill in us a good grounding of the fundamentals, before moving on to more advanced techniques and concepts. Now though, we can see a world champion using his favorite technique on Youtube, and make the mistake of thinking ‘well … it’s good enough for him – and he’s world champion – so it must be just what I need to do myself’. Clearly, this kind of thinking is very flawed!

The latest and greatest technique that this or that ‘champion’ has used in competition, may be the result of decades of training; it may be exactly what that champion needs to do, to counter his highly skilled opponent’s strategy – in other words – it has it’s place; but that place should in no way be confused with what is needed to create a good, workable set of basic skills.

We do have a tendency, to want to ‘get there’; a desire to ‘arrive’, to ‘achieve’ our goals. This is why it’s easy to look at those we wish to emulate and ‘do’ what they are doing; thinking that this will get us ‘there’ sooner. 

The actuality is this – we also need to walk the path; we need to walk the same path that our ‘heroes’ have walked, if we want to achieve the things they have achieved. And yes, we should be able, with the right guidance, avoid some of the pitfalls that our heroes had to deal with, after all, we sometimes have the luxury of being forewarned – but we still need to ‘do the work’. 

The owner of Red Corner Gym in Coventry (UK) once remarked to me, after Prince Naseem won the world title, kids were coming in to the gym fighting with their hands down by their sides. He told me more kids were getting knocked out then, that at any other time in recent history. I am sure it was a surprise to many of them; after all, their hero was fighting that way – and winning world titles no less.

What they failed to understand (those unfortunate who found themselves lying on the canvas) was that Prince Naseem has trained classic boxing for many years (with his hands held up and protecting his face) before mastering his ‘hands down’, slipping and awkward angle oriented style.

We can liken the idea to playing music perhaps, or painting, or cooking. We need to start out with a solid grounding in the fundamentals before we can legitimately and effectively let go of ‘the rules’ and take a more creative approach. There is a large difference between a monkey dabbing random strokes on a canvas and someone who has had decades of fine art experience making the transition into the abstract. 

So before embarking on a mission to copy the ‘latest and greatest’ thing; perhaps we should ask, have we done enough work on the mainstream fundamentals yet. Everything has it’s place – and remember this; the race is long’. 

Final thought ... Don't try to model the end result ... model the behaviour that led to that result.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

A mind stretched ...

Someone once said ‘A mind stretched by a new idea never gains it’s original shape’. 

I love diving into a new training idea. Over the past thirty years of BJJ training, I have had the pleasure of doing so, many, many times. 

I recall with fondness, being guided down many a rabbit-hole …Crucifix, Half-guard, Spider-guard, Omoplata, ect, etc. Quite often, it was my second or third excursion that ultimately revealed just how far a particular rabbit-hole went. 

My first introduction to the world of leg locks was through my coach Rigan Machado, who back in 1993, was preparing to compete in both the National and World Sambo Championships. We spent a couple of months working on various entries, transitions and combinations of leg-bars, foot-locks and heel-hooks. It was early on in my BJJ training; I was a purple belt at the time.

Recently I have taken another excursion down that particular rabbit-hole; this time with the help of Reilly Bodycomb, a Sambo and BJJ instructor who specialises in the ‘leg’ game. And again, the trip was both fun and enlightening.

As a young martial artist, I was never satisfied with ‘status quo’ that traditional martial arts offered. I always craved more; I always wondered what was over the next rise, what was just around the corner, what others were doing in strange and foreign lands. 

I think that we are explorers at heart. Almost every one of us, at least when we were kids, couldn’t help but wonder what was over that hill, around that corner, etc. Sadly though, for many, life gets in the way and our old explorer hat get’s lost amidst a pile of bills, and the stresses of day-to-day work. 

Training, at least for me, takes me once again into that magical world of uncertainty and discovery. What’s not to love about that?

  • JBW

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We evolve ...

As life unfolds - we all change. 
Out reasons for doing the things we do, also change.

When I began my martial arts training, I trained in the hope I would develop magical powers that would see me prevail over the bullies that were making my life a living hell.

My training continued because I liked the feeling of confidence that came with my gradual development as a martial artist. I enjoyed feeling of being more sure of myself; I wanted to walk upright in the world.

Later on I wanted to be emulate some of my martial arts heroes; I saw them for more than what they actually were, and felt if I could be like them, that I would live an extraordinary life.

Later still, I continued training for the pure challenge of it. If it wasn’t easy, I was drawn to it. The puzzle of it all fascinated me. The more deeply I delved, the more I discovered; and quite abruptly, I realised that it was the intellectual challenge that really fascinated me.

Nowadays I train for a set of reasons that differ greatly from those that initially drove me. 

I love the puzzles. I love drawing analogies between the complexity of martial arts training/learning/study and the living of life. I love creating order out of chaos. I love designing structured training models. I love leading others to learning and to an understanding of things. I love seeing things; noticing details, and revelling in the process of discovery. I love achieving outcomes through the art of teaching. I love the opportunity of being able to effect positive changes in how people view and live their lives through the sharing some of my own more meaningful discoveries. 

As we go through life we all change, grow and evolve; and although many of us may be fortunate enough to maintain a passionate pursuit throughout the course of our lifetime, our reasons for entertaining those pursuits will also change and evolve over time. There is wonderful joy in change.