New To Golf Not To Mindset #264

Last week, I went to visit a long time friend of mine who turns 81 this year. He resides at a country club here in La Quinta during the fall, winter and spring months before heading back to Jackson, Wyoming for the summer. His wife and him have trained with me for over a decade but this year lethargy had taken over, meaning he hadn’t paid a visit to the gym since his arrival, or so I make up… His wife on the other hand is what you would colloquially refer to as a “fanatic”. She trains with me religiously and usually hits the ground running (in the gym) the week they arrive. Whenever we’d meet I would often ask her how he was doing (having dealt with some back and shoulder issues) and when he’d planned to stop by until I reached the conclusion that my best chance of actually seeing him was to stop by his house. So during one of her next training sessions I shared that I was contemplating seeing him at his club and maybe we could “hit balls” (a term used by golfers when they go to the driving range to work on their shots). If you knew his personality, there was little chance he’d resist the opportunity to witness me embarrassing myself. To no surprise, he agreed, undoubtedly drawn to the proposition of watching me fail miserably as most everyone does when they start getting their feet wet in the game of golf.

So needless to say I made my way over to his club where we chatted a bit at his house over coffee before heading to the range to hit. Little did I know, my good friend had planned for me to have a lesson with the head pro. This took me by complete surprise. Not only was this an incredibly genuine and kind gesture, but I knew the pro and had worked with him on some injuries several years back. For those of you who don’t know, golf can be an incredibly challenging and difficult game to learn. There is a high amount of coordination, focus and nuance all taking place at the same time while trying to perform this seeming simple task of trying to send a ball just feet away from you where you want it to go. Not only is it hard to make contact with the ball but when you do it certainly doesn’t go where you want and the harder you try the farther that perfect sound of the club face making clean contact with the ball’s little white dimpled face eludes you. Nonetheless, I fell in love. The scenery was beautiful, everyone at the club was nice, encouraging and friendly and I really wanted to get good. There is a saying in golf by I don’t know who but it goes “if you want to experience frustration, try golf” or something to the extent.

Some may be surprised that there was little to no frustration on my part. A quote comes to mind from my Sensei Saulo Ribeiro which goes “frustration means you think it’s easy”this is also something I pass along to all of my school’s white belts because every skill brings with it a process where you must learn, in a way, to be detached from the outcome. I say “in a way” because there is naturally a human desire to win or perform well. However, this illusory notion that you start out good at something or natural is a complete and utter myth. And for those who think golf is frustrating, you should try Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, winning the Tour De France or Weightlifting and I’m talking about the sport, not the clown show in most public gyms where huge egos with less than impressive qualifications and skills gyrate weights around while grunting and making noises. What I’m getting at is that perhaps if you are 7 feet tall while you might be genetically pre disposed to having an easier time in the game of basketball, needing to only jump a couple inches off the ground to dunk or block most shots, at the intermediate to highest level talent alone is not what separates the best players or the most talented musicians. This is evident in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Daniel Coyle’s talent code as well as what my eyes have seen in over a decade of athletics and training. While many are looking for a secret or shortcut there is something the highest achievers and best performers do… PRACTICE. And they practice well for more hours and with higher focus. So especially in the early stages of development it’s essential to enjoy the learning process and respect that it’s normal to err and mess up. The road to mastery is long so it’s best to have fun and be appreciative of the fact you get to participate at all, there are plenty who do not and we must always be mindful of this fact. Enjoy the road less traveled friends.

What is love? #263

Meet Ninja

If you were looking for a deep dive into what loves is, you will likely find yourself deeply disappointed. Rather you should think Will Ferrell classic “Night at the Roxbury”. I recently got a dog which as it so happens just sort of fell into my lap. For those who know me, there is hardly a need for “activities” to stay occupied, much less, responsibilities outside of my immediate goals yet here I was bonding with this little pup named “Monica” who I have since renamed Ninja. Does anyone else share my disdain for giving pets human names? In any case, I digress…

For some time I have been convinced that the dog life was not for me. How ever would I maintain a lifestyle that demands frequent travel with the mobility and ease necessary. Not to mention, if I were a dog, my choice would be a far better caretaker than me. Perhaps one who’s aspirations were not to be a Jiu Jitsu world champion or travel all over competing. A one year old canine would no doubt be best served living with a romantic young couple or perhaps a loving family who could afford the attention and care that would suffice.. Needless to say, life has a funny way of playing out.

So far things have worked out perfectly, due to her size I’m able to take her to work and if she’s ever home there are plenty of roommates who will care for her in my absence. She’s very calm overall, especially in car rides unlike my last beauty Sophie (displayed below). In my opinion, this is illuminatory of the notion that we must venture beyond hypothesis to discover the truth.

I find this worth sharing due to the fact that I love this dog for no reason, most certainly not from picking up her steaming crap that I found on the turf last week! Lol. I once heard Jordan Peterson on a podcast describe love as “the desire that everything will flourish rather than everything will suffer” and I couldn’t think of a better way to put it. This accurately describes not only the way I feel towards Ninja when she looks at me with that pleading face but my family and Jiu Jitsu. Maybe this world needs more Frenchies to teach them how to love.

The Mind of a Martial Artist #262

Recently I was on a security team for a well known organization, during which, I was positioned by another guard who asked me if I could explain the effectiveness of Jiu Jitsu in a street application with one or potentially more attackers. Since his question carried a deal of respect and humility I obliged. I would come to learn that since he came from a Muay Thai background, striking made the most sense especially with multiple opponents. He was also an imaginably larger gentleman with years of experience within the industry as well as possibly the art of Thai boxing.

I started by asking him what he knew about Jiu Jitsu. His answer told me that he had done some research as he responded by saying “It seems like it has a lot to do with manipulating your opponent by way of joint locks, holds and pins”. A very good answer as experienced practitioners will understand. So I began to probe a little deeper by asking if he was familiar with the origins of Jiu Jitsu. He responded with something along the lines of “the gracie family etc”. It then became clear that he was not fully aware of the Japanese origin of the term Jiu Jitsu so I began to explain that “Jiu” was the western impression of “Jū”, the Japanese word for “soft and yielding or gentle” and “Jitsu” represented the collection of techniques much like the word “waza” in “Ju-do” (nage-waza for throwing techniques and ne-waza for ground techniques), Jū again being the same root word for Jiu Jitsu and dō representing way of life as you may have heard before. The significance of this is great because the conceptual understanding of Jiu Jitsu is something that is often misinterpreted or misunderstood.

It is important to know that Jiu Jitsu’s original intention was for a samurai to defend themselves in close quarter combat often without a katana. The significance of this is twofold. One is that at its core Jiu Jitsu is in an method of applying factors of leverage, technique and timing to gain the upper hand in combat. Second is that the individuals responsible for creating Jiu Jitsu were Martial Artists who sought to add any advantage to their arsenal they could, not just striking or grappling but really any skillset (including training the mind) that contributed to victory in combat with certain forms of Jiu Jitsu including using traps or nets to capture the enemy. I find knowledge of this to be paramount for any practitioner’s journey in order for them to recognize that Jiu Jitsu is a way of solving problems, and the more skilled a Jiu Jitsu fighter is, the easier and less violently he or she can solve the problems being dealt to him or her. Mercy was after all a tenet of Bushido which meant that when death of the enemy was necessary it should always be dealt as swiftly and painlessly as possible. In your daily Jiu Jitsu training you will notice that with high level players there is much less damage dealt than when compared to the beginners.

Where much of the confusion lies is that the sport of BJJ often comes to represent Jiu Jitsu as a whole. Beneath the surface of labels such as Jiu Jitsu, submission grappling, wrestling or karate there is a wealth of knowledge in all fighting aspects that a true Martial Artist aims to unite. While there are reasons especially for an aging fighter to train almost exclusively in BJJ, the idea of Jiu Jitsu is to use leverage to gain the upper hand. This idea is one of the most critical points to understand as a Martial Artist as it provides a great deal of fluidity for any context, as every fighter should look to gain the upper hand. While the individual’s goal (mma fighter, bouncer, grappler) will determine the regiment, the mindset is akin to that of one of Martial Arts pioneers, Bruce Lee who said “adapt what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own”. The true essence of Jiu Jitsu, as stated by Jigoro Kano, is “maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness”.

Modern Day “Bushi” #261

In my last post I referenced the term Bushido which, has since occurred to me, deserves greater explanation. For those unfamiliar, the word “Bushi” represents samurai or one who was a member of a family community and who’s profession was a warrior. The word “dō” signifies “a way of life” hence the translation “the way of the warrior”. If you have a Martial Arts background you are likely familiar with this term and the concept behind the lifestyle of daily improvement and following a code.

While many understand Samurai to represent a sword-wielding fighter of military origin, the word actually stems from the verb “to serve” (Jisiru). Initially Samurai were civilian servants who served their community. The term would not be used towards military men skilled with the sword and bow until hundreds of years later. Being a samurai meant living your life according to a code mostly built around honor and discipline (the most highly regarded attributes within Japanese culture). Failure to meet these standards is what led to the disembowelment ritual know as Seppuku. These men quite literally lived a life of “death before dishonor”. The code by which a samurai lived and judged his actions was “bushido” which is made up by the characteristics below.

1. Justice – Decisions should be made quickly and decisively, always based on the right reasons.

2. Courage – Doing the right thing based on our beliefs rather than what people think we should do. Most noble acts involve a high level of courage.

3. Mercy – “With power comes great responsibility”. Having the power to kill and be dangerous is a necessary force, it was greatly important for the samurai to be balanced in their thinking. Killing, was only to be done for the right reasons and if there was no need to kill you should be merciful and sympathetic.

4. Respect – It is one of the most fundamental principles of Bushido and important in everything they believe. The way they lived their life meant being respectful and polite towards their elders and others’ beliefs.

5. Honesty – Honesty was very important in everything they believe. As they believe that being honest in everything you do gave you respect which meant you could be trusted.

6. Honor – To live and die with honor was paramount in samurai culture. This ties in with Seppuku or the act of disembowelment. It was better to die and regain honor than continue to live a life with none.

7. Loyalty – Another critically important virtue of the samurai culture. They lived and treated each other like family and would do anything to protect and serve the other warriors. This meant trust and knowing they could be loyal to whatever they needed to do without loosing the respect of the other samurai.

In essence, being a samurai meant a simple life of servitude and discipline. Days were spent preparing for combat, studying zen and being of service to your master and the community. The modern day equivalent is anyone who’s occupation is to serve from the police officer to the hospital nurse. You could even argue that everyone’s life involves some type of service to someone other than yourself. Why is this important? Because what separates the samurai from anyone wielding a sword was the service of something greater than themselves as well as a code meant to show them right from wrong.

The samurai were not the only class of warriors to exist. There existed yet another group who shared the same capacity for combat but lacked a master to serve or a code to follow. These fighters were known as rōnin.

A rōnin was the name given to any masterless samurai warrior aristocrats, during the late Muromachi (1138-1573) and Tokugawa (1603-1867) periods, who were often vagrant and disruptive and oftentimes actively rebellious. The differentiating factor between samurai and rōnin was that the latter did not live a life of service. Their decisions were based mostly around emotion and desire rather than adhering to the code of Bushido and were responsible for many of Japan’s assassinations before the Meiji Restoration period in 1868 which ended of the shogunate empire.

Imperfect Goals #260

Have you ever had your mind set on a goal? Shedding a few extra pounds? Perhaps a “personal best” for the gym goers? Or maybe something less measurable like better relationships? Given that we are only a week and a half into 2022, it’s not a stretch of the imagination that many of us have set our eyes on a goal that results in a personal change. Like some of you no doubt, I myself have committed to a more disciplined routine involving cold showers, daily reading, daily blogging, language practice and guitar.

Have I been perfect since starting out? Hardly.. There have been days where sleep supersedes my need to be obsessive about each and every detail. Is this ideal or acceptable? No, not by my standard, but I can say that my aim to meet these goals has resulted in overall positive improvement. So it is up to me to keep chugging along in the same direction. But why, you might ask. Why not set a more realistic, achievable goal? Because it’s not about achieving a goal, it’s about the process and how pursuit of perfection can mold us into better humans.

I suspect that the idea of “perfection” itself is what prevents many from continuing to pursue their goals. We all know someone who started a diet and quit a couple days later. But was it actually too hard for them or did they slip up a few times before throwing in the towel? My estimation is that if they had acknowledged our human tendency to err and pressed on, the result would be an overall positive improvement. In athletics an average athlete who is on the field for every game is far more impactful than the star athlete who misses half the games. In the long run, consistency always wins.

The reality is that in Jiu Jitsu, just as in life, there are times when ugly gets it done. Sometimes you sink a choke that is less than ideal but you give it your all in order to achieve the win. Does it have to be pretty? Not at all. “A win is a win as the saying goes”. On the same note, while in competition success is often viewed as your hand being raised, improvement over time can also be a success. This way of thinking stems from what the Japanese refer to as“Kaizen”. A model for “continuous improvement over time” used widely in large organizations for its notable effectiveness.

Success is often seen as a destination rather than a process. Everyone wants to win the trophy or get their black belt. What can be overlooked by many, is that the most defining aspect of this process is the journey to becoming great. The process is what builds your character, the struggle of developing good habits, the ever present challenge of developing one’s discipline. In Martial Arts this is referred to as Bushido “the way of the warrior”. What I find important to discern is that “the path” is the path for each individual and there is no road alike although they all lead to the same place “self improvement”.

“The Prodigal Blogger” #259

It seems like forever ago when I chose to step away from this page due to family/life crises that befell me in April of 2021. Unbeknownst to me, these challenges would catapult me further in life and work than I could ever imagine. Fast forward to now, I am eager to jump back into the blog space accompanied by greater clarity and intention, or so I make up.

Who can know that the most turbulent of circumstances are but a necessary catalyst to move you in the right direction. At the beginning of my hiatus, I was stressed, heartbroken and afraid of the unknown. Little did I know, these changes that had affected me and others in my circle would be responsible for the tremendous impact of our Jiu Jitsu academy in the community, not to mention our most successful financial years to date.

My point in this is not hubristic in nature but an effort to acknowledge the almost poetic beauty found in every struggle. My observation is that such perspective can only be achieved through adversity. After all, if Viktor Frankl could will his mind to survival in the internment camps in the freezing winter, we should all be able to handle some difficulty. Such tests of character might even be necessary to reveal one’s greatness. I find this to be evident in Viktor’s work “Man’s Search for Meaning”. A book I highly recommend if it’s not already in your collection.

When I started this channel my goal was to complete 100 days straight of blog posts, per the influence of Seth Godin, with no clear direction but the challenge alone. Since then, it has not only become something to organize my wandering thoughts but also a means of giving back for all that this life has given and taught me. My hope is that my past experiences and what I make of them will provide you with enrichment, albeit small, by means of information, inspiration or even entertainment.

I settled on the name “The Jiu Jitsu Way” not just in an attempt to sound cool but with the goal of imparting the physical, intellectual, emotional and moral lessons achieved through a life of studying, training and disciplining the mind and body. The root of Jiu Jitsu is, after all, turning any situation into a positive for oneself by use of technique, leverage and timing. It is my feeling that such a concept can and should be applied into one’s daily life and mindset.

While it is easy to look at the superficial nature of Jiu-Jitsu rife with beasts attempting to rip eachothers limbs off and strangle each other, underneath is a true personal conquest of intelligence, will, grit and many other human necessities for survival. At its core, fighting is in our DNA, we learn to compete for attention even before we could walk. As we evolve and mature, greater understanding of the principles that make a good martial artist (discipline, focus, open mindedness, compassion, etc) are necessary not only for survival but for leading a rich and fulfilling life.

#258 Struggle of Life

“Do not pray for an easy life but the strength to endure a difficult one…”

Those of us fortunate to spend enough time on this earth can recognize that life is about hardship and overcoming adversity whether we like it or not. Every day is a chance to develop our resistance to life circumstances so that when our will is tested we will not find ourselves victim to life itself.

#256 The Greatest Instructor

In Jiu Jitsu, as in life, every practitioner will eventually face the inevitable. Injury. While it is only natural to want to retreat into isolation and “lick your wounds” these are one of the art’s greatest learning experiences that will ultimately define you as a Martial Artist. While the severity of the injury may prevent you from live sparring or intense practice, keeping your mind active by studying and observing the sport is essential for growth. After all, if fighting was purely physical, there would be no need for practicing technique or improving strategic understanding.

The warrior’s next step after victory or defeat is the same.

#255 The Way

After watching some episodes of current Disney hit The Mandalorian, the phrase used by the Mandalorians “this is the way” stuck with me. In Martial Arts “do” or “tao” often describes the path or the way, this is evident in words/phrases like Bushido or the Tao of Jeet Kun Do. While “the path” is meant to be reflective of self discovery based on principles, it can easily be confused as a concrete and already defined way that one should follow. This differentiation was understood by the likes of Bruce Lee who preached abstinence of dogmatic confines such as Karate or Tae Kwon Do which limited a fighter to one discipline and one train of thought. In order to break this mold of thinking, one must clarify the difference between what is fundamentally regarded as “the way” such as improving one’s discipline daily and the interpretation that one must rise early to improve discipline. While there may be truth in the last statement they are fundamentally different as one is open to individuality and one is concrete. As Yoda would say, “The path, for yourself you must find.” or something to that affect 🙂