Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Learning comes naturally ...

Learning comes naturally to children; they are in fact, learning machines. learning, to a child, is like breathing air; it just happens; there is no forcing it, there is no effort, there is simply … learning. Childlike wonder and curiosity lay at the very heart of the concept of ‘learning’. School? Now that is another thing entirely? JBW

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Measuring Progress …

I have measured progress - both on and off the mat, in many different ways. Obviously, as we improve our skills/situation our yardstick for progress changes and morphs. 
Progress on the mat, as a newbie, might mean surviving a little longer against a blue belt than you did last week; it might mean keeping someone in your guard a minute longer than you could last week. It might mean more subs, certain subs, being successful at an escape, hitting a new move just learned; it varies. 
I will say this though, NOTICING SMALL IMPROVEMENTS is a habit very worth cultivating. The better you are at noticing very small improvements, the more likely you are to keep up your training through those ‘slumps’ and ‘valleys’. Many people fail miserably at this - they think they are not improving or making headway when in fact they are - it’s just that they are only only the lookout for the ‘large and noticeable’ gains. 

Progress, both on and off the mat, is made up of many, many small gains - some almost invisible to others and even to ourselves. Become masterful and noticing the small gains; over time they lead you to the summit of everest! Remember - perfection is not the goal - progression is.  JBW

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unintended Consequences ...

When we are ‘on mission’ - that is, moving with purpose toward a goal - there are many, many side (precessional) effects. My favourite example (from Buckminster Fuller) is the Honeybee example: the bee, in it’s pursuit of pollen, is the cause (probably unknowingly) of a hugely important side-effect that benefits the world - that is, cross-pollination of flowers - which in turn, creates more flowers - which in turn, allows the bee to collect more pollen … and so it goes. Bottom line is this: the cross-pollination effect is not the reason the bee does it’s thing - it is just a ‘side benefit’ - even though it’s importance may seem almost immeasurable.
As we progress in our BJJ training, the same ‘unintentional’ effects are taking place; both on and off the mat. On the mat- as we work on establishing and maintaining ‘side control’ for example - the precessional effects are many, we learn to make micro-adjustments with weight and learn to focus it where and when it is needed. As we become better at Side Control  our partners become better at disallowing it - and so both sides progress. Off the mat we learn that resilience pays off; we learn that things are achieved by focussing attention on the step-by-step process rather than the goal itself; we learn that small gains are very, very important, etc. 

The goal might be to win at competition, to achieve the next rank, etc - but the unintended consequences are the real ‘payoff’ … JBW

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pathways ....

Taught some nice 'pathways' in the novice BJJ class this week - and had great feedback from the students after the fact. Pathways are a sequence of pre-determined moves that end up in a pre-determined finish. Generally, the more steps in the pathway, the less unpredictable things happen and the more likely we are to actually make it to the destination we set out to get to. My own approach, once I have a pathway 'roughed out', is to set about refining each step - most usually, 'thin-slicing' each rough step into several smaller 'more refined' steps ... and so the pathway becomes tighter, more streamlined, more effective. Pathways have a start and a finish - and a bunch of steps in-between. The clearer we are on each of those things, we more replicable the journey becomes. As it is on the mat - so too off the mat. JBW

Monday, January 11, 2016

Unstoppableness ... made up word of the day.

Work ethic ... very necessary to get where you want to get to in life. It is easy to have work ethic when doing those things we love doing, so in a way, it could perhaps be argued that we are not 'working' if we are doing the thing or things we love doing. Work ethic, to me though, describes our approach to 'doing' ... just that ... whether we want to be doing that thing or not. If we are trading our time to do something (and of course, we always are) then we should attend to it fully and mindfully until the job is done - and done well. People who get things done all have a strong work ethic ... unless of course, luck or good fortune has plonked success in their lap (it does happen). Like any habit, a strong work ethic is something that can be cultivated. So cultivate away ... start small, build over time ... ‘unstoppableness’ (made up word of the day) is the reward. JBW

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Forge Away ...

We are always forging new versions of ourselves; at least, that has been my own experience. I guess some people stay pretty much the same throughout the course of their lives - but that, in my view, is a poor expression of our talent for exploration. I think we need to be open to improving who we are and deepening our understanding of the world we live in.
Who we decide to learn from, to spend time with, to be like … greatly determines how our lives might unfold. This is why I cringe when I see good people, interesting people, spending time with martial arts instructors who don’t even know how to run their own lives. Such wasted opportunity. 
Someone once said that each of us are an amalgam of the five people we spend most time with … in fact, I disagree with this. I think it is much more a case of ‘being inspired by’ rather than ‘having spent time with’ ….
There are people who I have spent very little time with, yet I have found myself deeply influenced and inspired by some aspect of who they are or what they stand for. 

Martial arts teachers can easily find themselves in a position to influence and inspire those who train with them … and this is why I believe, that as teachers, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. We cannot be all things to all people, but we should always strive to be the very best version of ourselves that we can be … in the hope of inspiring others to do the same. - JBW

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What I want for my students ...

I may be over-stepping; but I do admit to wanting more for my students than that which they may have come looking for at my Academy. I want them to lead them to a deeper understanding of BJJ than I have myself. I want them to have joyful and happy relationships in their lives. I want them to be financially successful. I want them prevail in difficult times. I want them to be healthy, to be excited about their lives, to be adept at living a full and meaningful life. In my Academy, the study and practise of the art, is in many ways a metaphor for how to live our lives. Sadly, such is not the case in many other schools. 

The term Academy, is originally derived from the word Hekademia, which was a place in Greece sacred to the goddess Athena - the goddess of wisdom. It has since come to refer to a place of learning, where presumably, wisdom is also acquired. I have never aspired to running a martial arts club - a gym - a hang-out for a disrespectful cadre of fighters … my preference is to hold to the original idea … an Academy; where ideas take hold and lives are shaped for the better. - JBW

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nine Lives ...

Every single day, it should go without saying, represents an opportunity to re-invent yourself. You do not have to wait until New year's Eve to make those promises to yourself that serve to re-orient your life compass. But as we are right there, almost at the pointy end of the year, it is as good a time as any to 'decide' the ways you are going to improve your life, in 2016. The use of a Cat in my Academy logo is an oblique reference to the concept of having 'nine lives' - or more accurately, multiple opportunities for self-re-invention. Who we are, how we define and deign ourselves, changes as we make our way through life. What's important to us changes, our circle of friends changes, our goals change. At any time though, having those goals in mind serves as a starting point - but there's the thing - you need to 'pull the trigger' - you need to take action ... it is action, that gets us there in the end. Action - immersing ourselves in the process ... you are always only a 'thought' away from taking that first step - that step that puts you on the path that will lead to the unfolding of the 'new improved' you. Have a great holiday ... best respect: JBW

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be ...

Can't keep back control? Your opponent keeps escaping? Perfect ... that's your opportunity to develop a great kata gatame and a great crucifix. Can't defend your guard? Your opponent keeps passing? Perfect ... That's when you will develop your side control defence. Can't get on top? Develop your guard. Can't sweep? Develop 'blocking' and 'hip mobility'. 

There is no such thing as a bad position ... there are just different kinds of learning opportunities. Wherever you are ... is where you need to be. There is learning to be had .... right there; both on and of the mat. Joyful practice comes from knowing this. JBW

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Think back ...

When a new academy member joins the class ... try to think back to what it was like for you yourself. It can for some people, require an immense amount of courage to come and start up at a martial arts school. Perhaps they have suffered a beating (or beatings) at home or in the street before coming along, and are there to build their self esteem and learn some self defence ... perhaps they have been thinking about it for years and have finally summoned up the gumption to walk to see what it's all about. If this is the case, as it often is, the very last thing they need is YET ANOTHER BEATING! 

What they do need, like a child learning to ride a bike, is a set of training wheels, some flat lawn and a sunny day ... you represent those very things. Be the newbies set of training wheels ... help guide them toward success. JBW

Sunday, December 13, 2015

People come in a wide variety of flavours ... those who wear their heart on their sleeves, those who keep their real face hidden from the world, those who dislike you openly, those who smile to your face yet undermine you subtly and strategically, those who will applaud your successes, those who envy you, those who are there when you need help, those who are nowhere to be seen when the excrement hits the fan, those who know you, those who think they know you and those that don't care to know you at all ... just remember this, you cannot please everyone all of the time ... so don't bother trying.
Be healthy ... your body shape does not define who you are, any more than the colour of your eyes, or the shape of your nose ... 
Be happy, the things you own or bank balance does not define who you are , no more than the colour of your shoes or the shape of your ears .... 
Be generous, you don't have to have much to be generous of heart, acts of kindness can be small things, the giving of time, or a helping hand ... or even a smile. 
We cannot control others, nor should we try to ... our selves is the one thing we can work with, the thing we can change, the thing we can shape so as to be content, happy, joyful and of benefit to the world:  - JBW

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Authenticity: to thyself be true ...

In seeking authenticity, it is inevitable that we eventually move away from maintaining that collection of polished contrivances that we display to the world. As we move toward authentic living, we drop more and more of the masks we wear and settle into being comfortable with who we are and how we behave ...
For myself, I prefer the company of authentic people, natural people; people who care less about what others think of them and more about being true to themselves and to those around them. Maintaining an 'act' can take a lot of energy ... It's okay for some people to dislike you or disagree with you ... No-one can please everyone ... So why bother trying. Be true to yourself, be true to others ... You will be loved by some, despised by others ... Envied, derided, praised, judged, misjudged ... Etc. who cares?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sometimes we need to listen ...

Sometimes we need to ignore advice and other times we need to listen - knowing when to do what; now that is the trick!
Ramping up my rehab program this week ... been undertaking a great walk in the local hills (introduced to me by friend Craig) for the last three days. Yesterdays time: 1 hour 15 mins - today's: 1 hour 2 mins - tomorrow will try to go sub 60 mins! Steady-state cardio for the next three weeks - then back into Tabata (anaerobic protocols). Need to chill a little whilst post-op healing takes hold - hard though, excited to be on the mat this week; excited to be heading to New Zealand on friday; excited about makeover my Academy is getting whilst I am away ... challenging to be chilled. JBW

Friday, November 20, 2015

Authenticity ...

My lifelong friend Simon Buttonshaw dropped in today - he brought of his many journals to assist in a sharing of where he has been the last 12 months. For over a decade now - each and every day - he has written a page and painted a picture of that captured, in beautiful detail, the living of his life - much of it in the south of France some also here in Australia. Each day, each picture, represents a unique slice of life - for this is how artists see the world - in slices, in moments, and every single moment supplies us with an opportunity to see things from a new perspective. It was such a privilege for me to leaf through his journal ... and as we did so, we talked about the importance of process, about the value of authenticity, about how we have lived our lives. But that word - authenticity - came up again and again. For it is easy to see, we live in a world of 'polished contrivances' - in a world where immediate gratification and indulgent self-importance have become the 'norm'. In walking the 'authentic path' we open ourselves to criticism, to envy, to ridicule, to embarrassment, etc ... it is indeed a 'path less travelled' but one replete with reward and discovery. - JBW

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Failure of Words ...

A very large part of how we communicate ... how we connect to one another, is through the use of words ... this is a wonderful contrivance of humanity, although disappointingly, it also fails miserably on many occasions.
I have written close to 1000  blogs as of now, and have read every comment on those blogs/posts - and although, as I write, I am very clear on what I am tying to convey, I am still amazed at how frequently what I have written is misinterpreted. 

Words alone don’t do the trick. They go a long way but fall short of complete communication. On the mat, things are easier, we have words but we also have the kinaesthetic and visual elements in play - we can feel and see what is happening. How many friendships have gone off the rails due to miscommunication? How many learning opportunities wasted - for the same reason? How many wars waged? Etc. Words are important, perhaps the greatest achievement of human technology … but actions, now they are another thing entirely. Ponder one of my favourite latin quotes … Acta non verbal’ … Actions rather than words. JBW

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fools Gold

‘BJJ is all about technique’ - says the Instructor with the syringe still dripping in his locker. Sadly, drug use (or should I say - cowardly cheating) is rampant, not only in the AFL - but in many other pursuits - even lifestyle-pursuits like BJJ.
BJJ, for me at least - as I hark from the old-school - is about a way to live - about healthy lifestyle - about respecting our body and our mind - what it is not about - is pumping unhealthy steroids and the like into ourselves to boost our flailing ego’s and get an edge on the mat. These practises go against everything that BJJ is all about … instead, choose the work, choose the struggle - steer clear of short-cuts and unhealthy choices. And seriously, it is how we live our lives - how we can extract the most joy out of living - how we can help others along the way … these things are more important than taking drugs so we can get a competitive/combative edge of our peers … seriously?? Rather … live a strong, pure, healthy, productive and generous life …


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shapers ...

Each of us is shaped.
Through the course of our lives, most of us are exposed to hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of other human beings - each one adding something to the incredible mosaic that underpins who we are.
Our parents are the first to leave their mark upon us - along with our siblings; and so we are ‘roughed out’ and given shape enough to make our way into the world. It is then, as we walk among others, we begin to take a pro-active role in choosing those we spend our time with. Sometimes by chance, others times by choice, we meet people who have a deep, profound and lasting effect on who we are; on how we see the world, on how we distinguish ourselves from others.
In my own case, I can think of many people who have left their mark on me; who contributed significantly to the person I am today … but only a small few who shifted my world view; whose influence was profound and dramatic. I have just recently re-connected with someone who influenced me in my early twenties; someone who inspired, educated and amazed me at every turn. I feel so privileged to have spent so much time in his company; I can ‘feel’ , more than ‘remember’ , how strongly I wanted to be like him, when I grew up. This particular person came to visit me when I was in hospital last week; and I came to the realisation that perhaps my early ‘aspirations’ had actually come to pass … his wife (a beautiful and highly talented human being) commented that we were like two peas in a pod - I have to admit, unknowingly, she had given me one of the best compliments I have ever had.  For those of us who have the privilege of meeting and spending time with such ‘shapers’ - take the time to let them know how meaningful they are to you. Life is short - stuff gets in the way. But such people ‘deserve’ to know. 

Simon Buttonshaw - you are a man apart. Thank you for being you. Much love -  JBW

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Seed of Success ...

Each of us wants to live a successful life .... But this can mean very different things for different people. Very often, people mistake 'wealth' for success ... an easy mistake to make, given the capitalistic bent of the society that most of us inhabit. To me though, success is much, much more about happiness ... Happiness, Challenge, Joy, Satisfaction, Tranquility of Mind, etc. I chase those things that afford me those feelings. Each of us has an equal opportunity to be happy, to be successful in that way ... in the only way, that really matters, in my opinion. JBW

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Inspiration ...

Most of us are inspired at some time or other ... by events, by other people, by books, movies, etc. Inspiration ... derived from the concept of 'an injection of spirit' is a powerful force that can shape and direct us over the course of our lives. We are moved by inspirational people or inspirational acts ... we are directed by it ... in a way, inspiration serves as a kind of a compass. JBW

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Dancing in the rain ....

A very strange (and upsetting) week for me .. so I’ll continue to share my feelings in the hope others might benefit … 

I have always defined myself by how I have responded to those things life has thrown at me - and never by what has happened to me. This week though, I have had a glimpse of how it must feel for people to define themselves by what has happened to them. We cannot though, allow ourselves to slip into that river … the current is both strong and directional. NO - we should never define ourselves by things that ‘happen’ to us - particularly if those ‘happening’ were not due to choices we make. Everyone of us has had to deal with their share of hardship/misfortune, etc - but this is just like ‘weather’ … and always remember; we can still dance in the rain! Best wishes all - JBW

Monday, October 26, 2015

Passing Knowledge ....

Why are we here?
This is one of the classic philosophical questions.
Well, according to the precepts of evolutionary biology, the answer is simple - we are here to pass on our genes - to have children, who inherit our genetic traits - and in turn pass their genetic traits on to their children. The same goes for all life-forms; but to what end? That is another question - one I’ll leave for others to comment on.

But here’s a thought … something that I have come to appreciate over the past 10-15 years or so … we are also here to pass on ideas. We pass on our genes though our children - but each of us also has the potential to pass on our ideas, our thoughts, our knowledge, to countless others; to hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands of people. In the overall scheme of things, I feel this is a powerful analogue to the biological reason for our existence; and it is a large part of the reason, that I am so very passionate about teaching (to the extent that I can) as many people as I am able to reach. Every single one of us, has the same potential to pass on what we know to others … a reason to become the very best teachers we can, for future generations. And this alone, is reason enough, to put everything we can into developing our teaching capabilities … it’s absolutely unacceptable to me, that we content ourselves with just going through the motions. teaching, to me, is a big part of what life is all about. JBW

Sunday, October 25, 2015

All roads lead to Rome .... a BJJ concept.

Here’s a concept I have loved for a very long time. My BJJ Instructor, Rigan Machado, took this particular approach in teaching me … I will now share it with you.
Take any technique or position - let’s say - the Crucifix, for example - no matter how many ‘finishes’ we can apply from the Crucifix position, we can apply none of them if we cannot get to the Crucifix position in the first place. So the trick is this; at the beginning of our Crucifix journey - we need to keep our focus on developing as many ways to get to the Crucifix position as we can - from passing, from the Guard, from the turtle, from head to head, etc. The more ways we can get to the Crucifix position, the more opportunities we will have to apply our preferred finish. This is what I call the ‘all roads leads to Rome’ approach. 

Sp rather than one road into the crucifix position and eight or ten finishes from there - it is better value to develop eight or ten roads into the Crucifix and a single finish. Of course, over time, it is natural to develop more finishes from there - but these will be of little to no use if we cannot even get there. All roads lead to Rome … JBW

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Precision ...

Paying attention to detail - perhaps the most fundamental ingredient of achieving extra-ordinary results in almost any endeavour - is something that we should all aspire to. 
Being ‘precise’, giving attention to ‘minutia’, embracing ‘nuance’ - these are all hallmarks of those who ‘rise above’. Precision-thinking leads to precision action. Most of us are probably attuned to this idea in at least one aspect of our lives - apply that to those other aspects where we want to achieve above-average results. We wouldn’t accept a ‘good enough to get by’ attitude from a heart surgeon or a pilot, etc … so why should we accept that mediocrity in our own lives - in those things that, really, really matter to us? JBW

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Teaching tricks ...

I am often asked about various teaching/coaching methodologies - especially by other coaches, etc ... and it is very difficult, if not impossible to reduce my thoughts on that vast and deep subject to a four or five minute timeframe. Putting that to the side however, I do think there is perhaps one vital thread that should run through almost any teaching approach, and it is this ... passion! If we are there for the notoriety or fame - for the money - for the adoration of the students - then our teaching career will no doubt be short-lived and filled with frustration. If however, we are there because we are genuinely excited by what we do, and we passionately want to share our experience and perspectives with others - if our focus remains resolutely pointed at helping others improve - then ultimately, we cannot fail. We are, after all, student and teacher alike, there because we share a common interest. A passionate and resolute desire to help others improve, in my view, lies at the very heart of what it means to be a teacher. JBW

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A little help ...

We can get by with a little help from our friends … so said the Beatles! When we give a little help to our friends - it makes their lives a little easier and our lives all the richer for being able to help someone else.

In helping others though - I no longer expect the favour to be necessarily returned; I used to think that this is how it all worked - but I have been very wrong on more than one occasion. Some people see a helping hand as a sign of weakness; and will try to take advantage of you whenever they can … this has happened to me more than once. I was shocked at the time - and have quietly distanced myself from such people since … but there is a lesson here - and it is simple … be okay with helping others but don’t expect reciprocation; if it does happen … then you know you have found a real friend … but just don’t expect it. My great pal David Meyer once said ‘giving is giving - helping is helping - it’s not business, it’s not a trade. Expect nothing in return.’ Something to that effect anyways … he’s smart guy; a very moral person. Once we have tended to our own garden .. we can help others with theirs. JBW