#140 The Gain of Pain

The adage of “no pain, no gain” might be tried and true. But it is also misunderstood.

First, pain is a signal. It’s that check engine light that comes on. A sign that something is wrong and should be investigated.

Hiding from it certainly won’t fix your car and neither will ignoring it but sometimes you have to make do and just get where you’re going.

To go a little deeper, the check engine light (pain) can raise questions about what you were doing or not doing to cause that light to appear on your dashboard. Maybe you were flying over speed bumps or driving in first gear the last 20,000 miles. Or it could just be time for that maintenance after years of abuse.

Either way, pain is good. Something I learned from past surgeries is that it’s better to feel pain than to feel nothing. Nothing means (A) you’re dead or (B) you’re numb from drugs. Both things keeping you away from what you want to do.

So embrace the pain because it will be here as long as you live but you can use it to reach new levels or let it stop you in your tracks.

#139 Stress Made

You know the old saying “it can make you or break you” ?

It’s true…

Stress is a part of life. Ever since the beginning of mankind when we were hunting, building and trying to survive.

Just like going to the gym and stressing your muscles with exercise you may wake up sore, but you will become stronger over time. The day may even come when you hardly get sore.


It will break you, you will quit and resume your life as the meaningless pile of bones, tissue and blood you were.


You look forward to stress, you crave it. As much as life is about balance, you know that hard times do create strong people and so many beautiful works of art and masterpieces of our time have come through hardship.

Whatever you are going through. It will pass and you will be stronger from it. One day, you may even look back and laugh about the most challenging times in your life while at the same time being glad that you endured it.

Endure, adapt and overcome, it’s the path to freedom… And sometimes it’s the best we got.

#138 Rags to Riches

Tonight I witnessed Brian Ortega versus Chan Sung Jung, more commonly known as the the Korean Zombie.

Ortega had a flawless performance displaying his much improved striking since losing to Max Holloway in a title fight that awarded Ortega his first and only loss.

I remember seeing Brian Ortega fight in some Jiu Jitsu tournaments and displaying the kind of grit and tenacity he is known for.

Ortega grew up in Los Angeles, California where he was no stranger to gang violence and death. Seeing him take apart one of the toughest fighters in the ultra competitive UFC Featherweight division shows the possibilities for anyone with Jiu Jitsu, heart, and a dream.

Congratulations Brian on a stellar performance and a well deserved victory. It’s inspiring to see hard working people like him start from the bottom and work their way to the top only to check their ego and focus on giving back to the community.

#137 Bond through suffering

Having been around the Jiu Jitsu culture for twelve years now and counting, I continue to be amazed by what an amazing and fruitful community it is. I believe CrossFit was also very successful in this aspect of building a family.

One of the most interesting things to me are the lifelong relationships and bonds that are formed through it from young children to teens and adults. Now you may think that it is common in all athletic endeavors and practice but it’s not exactly the case. At least Daniel Coyle (Author of The Talent Code and The Culture Code) doesn’t think so.

In Daniel’s book The Culture Code where he shares the “best practices” of successful organizations: The Golden State Warriors, The San Antonio Spurs and the Navy Seals, he identifies three main skills they share.

Safety – Every member of the organization has to feel safe, in many senses which Daniel covers.

Vulnerability – True leaders show vulnerability, they are just like the people who may work for them. Consider the medieval knights’ round table versus upper and lower management.

Purpose – Everyone on the team must share a common goal. This helps get you through hard times, knowing you are all working together towards the same vison.

To expand on the last point, purpose, all the successful teams “suffer together”. In the military, families and CrossFit community you often see that the strongest ones are formed through shared hardship. It not only builds a bond and level of understanding for each other but equally a level of respect which is necessary for success in any relationship.

This is why I believe that Jiu Jitsu is in a league of its own. Not only can it be practiced till a ripe age (both of my parents who started at age 67 practice it, they are 67 now) but it is also unparalleled in the sense of bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to improve themselves through this shared art.

Me, Mom, Sensei Leonel, Dad, Brother (Left to Right)

#136 The mind: Your secret weapon

Many in the sports culture are familiar with the phrase “Winning is 90% mental and %10 physical”. What the actual percentage is we will never know but the words still hold a great deal of truth.

Napoleon Bonaparte was known as one of the greatest military generals ever. In a time where troops were heavily armored he took the approach of lighter clad soldiers who could outmaneuver and outflank the enemy. In the battle of Austerlitz we saw him and 68,000 French defeat 90,000 Austrians and Russians.

In the classical writings of Sun Tzu, victory does not belong to the largest or strongest army. Below are his Five Factors from which victory can be known.

“One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious.

“One who recognizes how to employ large and small numbers will be victorious.

“One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires will be victorious.”

“One who, fully prepared, awaits the unprepared will be victorious.

“One whose general is capable and not interfered with by the ruler will be victorious.

“These five are the Way (Tao) to know victory.”

Martial artists have reiterated “mind over matter” for centuries. But it’s not so simple as telling yourself to be mentally stronger or that you need to use your mind to do everything. Life still requires us to be physically strong as well, however, most athletes tend to work in reverse, developing physically while neglecting the mental side. Something Bruce Lee understood very well.

In Psych, by Dr Judd Biasiotto, (Sports Psychologist and drug free Powerlifting Champion) he entails how the mind became his secret weapon in a world dominated by steroids. A must read for anyone interested in improving their sports performance.

Like any story that ends in success, it begins with a clear and definite plan. A great resource on creating successful attitudes and forming habits is Mindset by Carol Dweck.

As with any plan, there must also be a desired goal or outcome. And without a way to consistently challenge your mind in a physical and intellectual manner, like a blade, you will grow dull. The good news is that anyone can make their mind stronger once you accept that growth happens beyond your comfort zone and make daily efforts to get there.

“The possession of anything begins in the mind.” -Bruce Lee

#135 Diligence

When we think of diligence, we often envision a quality held by those we respect. An example might be a hardworking student, mom or sister who is never late, takes care of their possessions and always keeps their word.

As humans, we all have a need to be respected and admired by the people in our circle, so as a parent, teacher or even employer, teaching someone how to be diligent becomes one of the greatest gifts. A quality that will go on to serve them for the rest of their lives, even in your absence.

There are two things you must know.

First you must practice what you preach. It is hard to listen to someone who makes little effort to follow their own advice.

Second you must understand that one can be diligent in one area and not another. One must strive to find a balance that works for them based on their goals and what is feasible. Start with what matters most. If it’s your health your food, exercise and sleep will become a priority.

#134 Your Best Effort

We’ve all heard some variation of the cliche “failure is not an option” but, is that really the case? In fact, it might be your most readily available option when facing challenge.

A better approach is to simply give your best every day in every task. As martial artists, as athletes, as business entrepreneurs, we all eventually learn that success comes from repeated efforts over a long period of time. In other words, Kaizen.

Young athletes in particular need to become familiar with trying their hardest in everything they do. Truth be told, sometimes your best is not enough and sometimes less than your best is. The exact formula you will never know.

What we do know is those who have achieved Olympic level success or changed the world with companies like Apple or Google, are familiar with giving their best more often than their competitors. Every detail, every shot, every match, nothing is left to chance.

Of course the imperfect beings that we are will all have our struggles. Diet, discipline, what have you. But what remains is the fact that we can always do better than the day before.

#133 Lessons through struggle

If the Pan IBJJF championships have taught us something it is that we are all a “work in progress”.

This past week we witnessed past victors displaying a championship performance such as Gustavo Batista and new champions crowned such as Joshua Cisneros and Thiago Macedo.

Regardless of the outcome there are always lessons for both the winner and the loser. The reason being that both fighters endure struggle where the victor is determined by the slightest of margins. As Teddy Roosevelt States “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…” in his famous Citizenship in a Republic speech given in Paris.

What both fighters understand is that “there is no effort without error and shortcoming” and everyone who participated in the event is undoubtedly on their way to being their most improved self, such is the Martial Artist way.


As a kid you didnt think twice before going zero to hundred.

As you age, you start to realize a sense of mortality, with that comes a natural inclination to be more conservative.

However, those who can “run from danger” or “lift heavy things and put them down” into their later years, maintain their youthfulness the longest.

The problem is… there is a misconception that HEAVY will make you BIG and SLOW when in fact the opposite is true.

Keep in mind, HEAVY DOES NOT MEAN a one rep maximum. Fifty percent of that can seem heavy with the right control and intention.

The misconception with FAST is much of the same. One can become faster by moving at a GREATER EFFICIENCY, or in more planes of motion as well as learning to move more quickly. Again MAXIMUM EFFORT is also never mentioned here.

The truth is, the same lifts that built the bodybuilders and strongmen have old are still around today while fitness fads come and go. The reason for them being… They work! Put your ego aside, commit to mastering the basics and you too can develop a gorilla physique that looks good and can pack a mean punch like the gentlemen below.

Meet Clarence, who’s face resembles the dad from That 70’s Show but physique would put most 20 and 30 year olds to shame… Rock on Clarence!

Clarence Bass (American author, writer and bodybuilder) at 81 years old!

#132 You got this.

Wrapping up the week of the Pans I am left in awe over so many impressive moments.

This was the year of upsets in the black belt finals with Thiago Macedo beating out World Champion Matheus Gabriel in the Featherweight division. American Joshua Cisneros taking out Pedro Dias in the Light-Featherweight division. Max Gimenis getting the win over Luiz Panza. And finally, Felipe Andrew upsetting Gustavo Batista in the finals of Open Class.

This weekend was home to incredible displays of technique, strategy and will but the greatest of all was in the masters division with Elaine Wynn, a 72 year old badass fighting in the jiu jitsu championships in Orlando Florida.

Not only is it inspiring to see but it is defiant of the rules we do often subscribe to. The reality is that we often are quite far off from what humans can actually achieve. Seeing the courageous ladies in the Master 7 (65+ division) is just another shining example of that.

Elaine Wynn (Jiu Jitsu grandma) doing what she loves!