Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The right thing ... at the right time!

When I first began my BJJ training, the challenge I had was that my instructor lived in Brazil - and I, in Geelong. Also, at that time, I was living day-to-day and so money was always an issue. At first, I thought this was a huge disadvantage - but as it turned out, it might have been a blessing.

The fact that it was so difficult for me to get answers to problems that arise in my practise (not having access to my instructor - also: pre-internet, etc) mean’t that I had to ‘think’ for myself. it also mean’t that when I did get manage to get to Brazil, or Los Angeles, I placed a very great value on those things I learned on the mat - perhaps a greater value than the students who lived right there, around the corner. Consequently, when I cam home, I would practise those fundamentals (again, perhaps more than my USA-based counterparts) because that’s all I had to work on. Sometimes, the right thing, at the right time .. the right technique, the right concept or strategy .. can far outweigh, learning techniques by the ‘pound’. So too, the right word, the right piece of advice … at the right time, can make all the difference when we are struggling with adversity. This, in any case, has been my experience. JBW

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Longevity ...

Through thick and through thin … training has been there for me.
Through sickness and through health … training has been there for me.
Through poverty and through abundance … training has been there for me.
Through sadness and through joy … training has been there for me.

Through training, and the challenge, sense of discovery, attention to detail that it instils in me; I steer myself through the course of my life. My practise is not simply something I do - it defines how I greet each and every day. My practise shapes me; it gives me direction, a sense of purpose; it is as rewarding as it is challenging. The price we pay for embracing our training and making it a deep part of our life is nothing compared the the rewards we reap. Staying in touch with our child-like curiosity is key; never accept mediocrity and learn to appreciate this essential truth - we cannot improve on our own. JBW

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Action-oriented or 'Lotto-oriented'?

Luck is a word that is thrown around with more than it’s fair share of abandon. Someone once said that ‘Luck’ is what happens when opportunity meets preparedness. I kind of like that. Sure, pure luck does happen … but hoping for - or worse - relying on serendipitous windfalls to get somewhere in life - it the height of folly. I am a believer in ‘taking action’. Action gets you someplace - and that ‘motion’ may well open up even more possibilities along the way. Human beings are naturally ‘action-oriented’ beings … that is how our ancestors came to survive - even thrive - long enough to procreate and bear children. I have met my share of ‘lotto-minded’ people - usually they are the sorts of people that be-moan other people’s successes and cite ‘luckiness’ as the reason others pass them by. Society - and many of the social support systems we have in place - has made many people ‘soft’ - over -reliant on help from others - and unwilling to take action when it is called for. It is worthwhile remembering that our ancestors were (for the most part) hardy and resilient people - they were people who took action - who made things happen .. because they had to! An ‘action-oriented’ mentality or a ‘lotto-oriented’ mentality - it’s your choice to make. And it is a choice! JBW

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Curiouser and curiouser ...

As long as I can remember, I have had the habit of analysing things … 
I guess it’s a natural curiosity in me that needs to be satisfied. I remember in primary school, being asked to memorise the order of the planets in our solar system … mercury, venus, earth, mars, jupiter, etc … when I asked the teacher ‘why that order?’ … she couldn’t answer the question. I struggled to memorise them because some part of me needed to understand ‘WHY THAT ORDER’ before I could give myself permission to do it … later on, I came to understand that the order (obvious now) was determined by proximity to the sun … but the teacher had neglected to explain this to me (or didn't actually know herself) and so my ‘problem’. I was always asking ‘why?’ and if not ‘why?’, then ‘how?’. Why can that person do something but that other person cannot? Curious. Why is the alphabet constructed in the order it is? Why not another order? Curious. And so on …
Our natural curiosity is perhaps our most powerful ‘learning tool’; children are over-flowing with this quality - it is oozing our of their very pores. Often adults are just ‘too busy’ with the running of their lives to get back in touch with this childhood habit … sad! Very sad! We should remain ‘curious’ - we should nurture our ‘curiosity’ - it goes to the very heart of what it is to be a human being (in my opinion). JBW

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Wherever you are ...

One of my Laws of the Mat … is as follows:

Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.

This is a simple but powerful idea. Think about it - no matter whether you are in ‘good’ position or ‘bad’ position - if you are there, you need to be working ‘from’ there - you need to not only ‘deal’ with it - because it represents the reality for you - but I would go further and suggest you find some ‘joy’ in being there. if you cannot do this, you are condemning yourself to only finding pleasure i rolling when you are winning/dominating. Let’s take this idea off the mat and into ‘life’ - there are many people who are experiencing happiness, say ‘on the weekend’ - this is a sad state of affairs. Wherever you are - whatever you are doing - find some joy, some simple pleasure - some learning opportunity. Life is very precious - we are all ‘experiencing’ - we are all ‘aware’ of our special existence - find happiness and luxuriate in the thought of it. Wherever you are - is exactly where you need to be. JBW 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finding the trailhead ...

One of the huge keys to success - in almost any venture, is the ability to identify the first step in the process - then, TAKE IT!
But how do we identify that first step?
This is how …
By asking HOW?
The ask it again, then again … until such time you arrive at a clear and achievable ‘starting point’.

This process allows us to clearly identify the beginning of the path we need to take. But you know the problem with this idea … it is so ‘simplistic’ or ‘obvious’ that is is very easily overlooked. In my view though .. it is super important. JBW

Monday, February 23, 2015


Stepping back … from whatever we find ourselves wallowing in - can be a good thing. Stepping back and getting some ‘perspective’ has helped me on countless occasions. When we are ‘neck deep’ in a problem it is very easy for the ‘problem’ to consume our whole world - when in fact, when put in perspective, it isn’t anywhere near as bad as we think.

Stepping back, getting perspective, answers both the ‘how’ and ‘why’ I started out on a ‘holistic’ approach to martial arts training some thirty years ago. By stepping back I instantly became aware of the ‘holes’ in my practice - and so I started on the task of patching them up (proto MMA approach). It is so easy for our minds to be drawn to the ‘drama’ in our lives (some people actually seem to love drama - I am not one of them) - but when we ‘step back’ and get a little perspective, it is easy to realise how fortunate we really are. There are millions of people who will go to sleep tonight without food or shelter - there are millions of people forced to watch their children suffer with the power to do nothing about it … do we really need to worry about the fact that we might lose our job in six months time? or that one of the tyres on our car is wearing out? Or about some comment on Facebook? Or some other comparatively trivial drama? Perspective! Perspective! JBW

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The example we set ...

Below is a picture of my good friend David Meyer. He is a man of rock-solid ethics - and a person who I admire a lot. The world is so much more better off for having him in it - than not.

As martial arts instructors we can cause huge effects in the world; not only do the choices we make effect our own lives but they effect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of other people. This is why I try to live and act ‘deliberately’ and ‘mindfully’; through my actions, words and choices, I impact (both knowingly and unknowingly) on many other people’s lives; and that fact should demand my attention! I know many other instructors who are also mindful of this; mindful of their ‘responsibilities’ and are constantly striving to build positive and intelligent cultures in their schools. Sadly, I also know of certain types of instructors who sit at the other end of the ‘bell-curve’, they still lead by example, just a different kind of example.

In the end it doesn’t matter how many trophies and instructor has up on his wall; it doesn’t even matter (as much as he might think it does) how well he can fight/compete, etc; what really matters is how his life unfolds as a result of his actions and choices; and perhaps even much more importantly, how the lives of his students unfold as a result of his influence. The instructor influences many people’s lives; it is how he influences those lives that will eventually earn him the respect of his peers, family and wider community or consign him to a life soon forgotten or ignored by the world at large. JBW

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Different Strokes ...

As the old saying goes … birds of a feather flock together. Like seems to attract like; and thank goodness for that. There are certain martial arts gyms out there that seem to value trash talk, bad attitude, irreverent behaviour, and the like … and although I abhor those things, I still think those particular sorts of schools provide a service; they provide a venue for the kinds of people that I myself would not want in my school. Each school has a certain culture in place - people tend to gravitate toward the school that offers the kind of culture they aspire to - or like - and, I for one, am glad of that! The only down-side is this … someone new to martial arts might have the misfortune to walk into one of those schools and make the mistake of thinking all schools are of similar vein … and then, after a bad experience or two (or three) they quit training and never venture into another school again. Not all schools are the same - not all restaurants are the same - not all fitness trainers are the same, etc. To borrow a line from an Indiana Jones movie … ‘choose wisely!’ JBW

Monday, February 16, 2015

A duty of care ...

All instructors need an imaginary time-machine. They need to be able to relate to what it’s like for a rank beginner to start out on their martial arts journey. It is so very easy for elite level instructors to forget what it is like for someone to work up the courage and walk into a martial arts school, for the very first time. 
As instructors, although we need to challenge our students, I feel we also have a duty of care to nurture them; to guide them to a place where they can see the benefits of training, accept that challenges are a part of any worthwhile endeavour and inch their way forward toward real skill-acquisition. We need to look after them; physically and emotionally. Training is completely futile, if  new students give up before they make any headway. 

People need help, guidance, assistance, nurturing … that is why they come to us in the first place. The first rule of instruction is to care about your students - their lives are not our lives; their feelings are not our feelings; they are unique beings … who have made the remarkable decision to place themselves in our care. We all need to reward their faith with the respect and attention it deserves. JBW

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The key to speed: Anticipation ...

When we study the truly elite - one thing that is almost immediately noticeable is that they tend to react more quickly than other people. The wrestler seems to snatch up that single leg in the blink of an eye - the table-tennis player returns that ball faster than the eye can see - the investment wiz seems to snap up that property just before the price sky-rockets beyond what others can afford, etc, etc.
But is it preternatural ‘speed’ or ‘reflexes’ at work here? I think not! What is really in play is the ability of those ‘above average’ performers to ‘anticipate’ what is going to happen rather than react to what has already happened. 
When we act to capitalise on what is GOING TO HAPPEN - it appears that we possess supernatural ‘speed’ - when we react to what has ALREADY HAPPENED - it appears that we are moving to slowly. 

This is something we should all think on … it is a skill that we can practiser and develop - in lots of areas - both on the mat and off. JBW

Monday, February 09, 2015

An Early Epiphany ...

I had this epiphany some time ago. I think it very much underpins the way I teach … and the way I generally get to the ‘how’ of things. I have used this simple template to get things done in many aspects of my life … I know it will work for you as well; if you’ll give it a chance.
I’ll try to explain it … here goes …

Let me give a simple example. You know those signs - AVOID WINDSCREEN DAMAGE … if you live in Australia, you will be familiar with what I am talking about. Well; they typify what I do not like about typical instruction. It is just too vague …. in fact, I don’t think it works at all. So I always ask a simple question … and it is this: ‘HOW?’
How do I avoid windscreen damage? The answer to that question will give me a much better result than the ridiculous sign itself. The answer, of course, is SLOW DOWN! So here’s my question - why not just have the sign say SLOW DOWN, instead of AVOID WINDSCREEN DAMAGE? That way … you get a better result!

Another example - more complex (meaning more steps) …
Serving a tennis ball. I ask how do we do that?
Answer: Hit the ball over the net.
But how do we do that?
Throw the ball up and hit it.
But how do we do that?
Holding the ball - we allow our arm to drop - we contract our bicep, open our hand, release the ball in an upward direction, whilst reaching high with the racquet …. etc, etc. Now we are thinking … thinking about each step of a complex process that will lead to a result. 

By continually asking ‘how?’ - until it is no longer practical to do so - we deepen our understanding of the process; ANY PROCESS! This is key!

Another example - someone advises you to buy an investment property.
The worst thing to say is ‘sure’ … the better thing to say is ‘how?’
Reply: Save a deposit … the tenants will help you pay the mortgage.
How to I save the deposit?
Save 10 % of everything you earn.
How do I do that?
Go out once a week instead of three times a week - buy no-brand products instead of brand products - be frugal for two years. There it is. 

So by asking how just three times … you get much clearer and ‘achievable’ advice.

I remember when I first learned to do this … but that is another story.

I hope this helps you - both on the mat … and in the ‘real’ game … life. Seriously, I want each and every one of you to lead successful lives. Lives that overflow with abundance and happiness. Please re-read this post. JBW

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Struggling Elite ...

Everyone struggles.
It is worth noting this. As it is easy to cast our eye around and be fooled - over and over again. The best athletes struggle - with motivation, with injury, with self-doubt, with drug-use, etc. The wealthiest people struggle - with trying to work out who their real friends are, with depression, with loneliness, with stress, anxiety, etc. The gifted struggle - with social convention, with fiscal irresponsibility, etc. Everyone struggles. 
There are high-profile people - people that many of us would label celebrities - who are masters of ‘keeping up appearances’ but who fail miserably at basic budgeting, at inter-personal relationships, at being healthy … or happy. What we see out there - when we ‘lift the curtain’ - is often not what the storybooks would promise us.
Here’s the takeaway … everyone struggles - but it is who we become in facing up to those struggles that shapes and moulds us into who we really are … 
Struggle is a part of life … it provides the resistance that can either make us … or break us. I say, embrace it … and prevail.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pursuit ...

I bought a book the other day - and the just the title of the book was worth the price. The content wasn’t all that inspiring - pretty ‘run of the mill’ from my P.O.V - but the title - fantastic! And sometimes, that’s all you need; just a rough compass bearing to give you direction - the details you can work out for yourself as you lean toward your goal. The title of the book was a little twist on something we have all probably heard a hundred times; but sometimes, a little ‘twist’ can produce a big result. The title of the book was THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT. I think that’s great! It is in pursuit of something that we find ourselves most energised, most excited, most captivated. Whether the goal be getting to the moon, climbing everest, catching a ten pound trout or earning a BJJ Black Belt … the pursuit of the thing gives us the lions share of the happiness, enjoyment and reward. All the planning, all the training, all the daydreaming about the goal - that is where the real fulfilment lies. The Happiness of Pursuit … perfect! JBW

Friday, January 23, 2015

Becoming a Black Belt ...

BJJ is not an art that gave up rank easily - a BJJ black belt was something earned only by those prepared to undertake an extraordinary effort - at least on the4 landscape that that I came from. It wasn't a 'business' qualification - it was a reward for extraordinary effort. Times though, may be a-changing! I have been accused by some people, of 'being difficult' in regard to awarding rank .. but those that accuse me of that, are of a generation of martial artists who look at the black belt as something that everyone should be able to achieve - and that it should be 'gotten', and not earned. I do not sit in judgement of such people - those kind of people can do what they want - but the legacy I want to leave, holds to a standard that the Machado Brothers have set; one that I hold to, as do many other BJJ black belts. But as I said - times, they are a changing! if anyone wants a Black Belt - they can simply go buy one. if one wants to become a BJJ Black Belt - that is a different matter entirely - they need to do the work; stay the course - and avoid the temptation of jumping to another instructor just for the carrot of a shiny black band of cotton. I am very proud of the many Black Belts that I have had the privilege of being able to guide on their journey ... I feel that they too, are happy they walked the 'path less travelled'. getting a black belt is easy - becoming a black belt is something else entirely. JBW

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Being THIS ... but wanting THAT ...

Being THIS … but wanting to be THAT … can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Wanting to be something other than what we are can cause stress and underpin bad behaviour - it can lead to jealousy and can change people for the worse - I’ve seen it happen; and I’ve seen it happen with otherwise excellent people. But …
Wanting to be something other than what we are can also drive us positively toward our goals; it can trigger changes that lead us toward better versions of ourselves. It can drive us to train harder and with more focus, to improve and to inch our way toward a better life for ourselves and for our families.
We all want to improve our situations. It’s a natural progression from the survival-state. But it is worthwhile asking sometimes - at what cost? And to what end? Life is short - we all want to get it as RIGHT as we can … but as I have said before, it’s who we become on the journey to our goals - that ultimately defines who we are and how happy we can be. Ultimately, history, the community (as well as friends and family) will judge each of us. I like to think that we can all bring something to the table ... we all have the potential to leave the world a better place for our having lived in it. This is a simple but worthy cause. JBW

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Compare Not ...

Comparing ourselves to others - although somewhat a natural tendency - can be a corrosive way to live our lives. 
The fundamental fact that we need to embrace is, apart from the very odd exception, there are always others better off than we are or further along the track than we are, in any given aspect of our lives - and likewise, there are those worse off or further behind on the track than we are, in any given aspect of our lives. 
It’s helpful to compare ourselves to others in ways that allow us to identify how we might improve or better our circumstances - but that is very different from bemoaning about or begirding others for succeeding we have yet to succeed. I loathe to say it - but the so-called tall-poppy syndrome is alive and well on the martial arts landscape.
My preference is to spend time in the company of people who are not of this mindset - who rather, applaud and encourage others to be successful, even in those areas where they themselves struggle. Personally, I can say with complete assurance, that I have always admired other people’s success; it is in fact, very difficult for me, to even imagine what it must feel like to envy others - I have never experienced that emotion. 

Each of us has their own strengths and weaknesses, both on and off the mat. Encourage others when they succeed … work quietly on doggedly ourselves in those areas that are important to us …. deny envy, jealousy and tall-poppy thoughts if ever they should arise. We are all unique. JBW

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The ripples are not the stone ...

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. 

Warren Buffet (great investor) probably doesn’t give much of a hoot about the silo’s of money he could spend if he chose to do so - that money is almost certainly, just a side-effect of him doing what he loves to do - playing the investment game. The playing of that game is what gets him up in the morning - not the money - for sure! Ignorant people can easily misunderstand what is really going on here - and point derisively at Buffet and ask ‘what’s an 80 year old guy doing obsessing about making even more money?’ That would be like asking the bee why it is obsessed with cross-pollinating flowers. The bee, if it could speak - would probably ask - flowers? What flowers? And what is this cross-pollination thing you speak of?’. Purpose-driven living has ramifications … but let’s not confuse the effects of purpose-driven living with the power of pursuit, from which they flow! The ripples are the not the falling stone ... JBW

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Extracting value ..

Some people extract more value from things than other people ... and usually, those that do are the kinds of people who innately understand the concept of leverage. 'Leverage' is about 'moving a lot with a little' - moving a big object with a smaller object - etc. Arriving (by way of thinking) at how e can reap value from the things we learn in our martial arts practise, in the wider aspects of our lives - is ultimately about being congruent. If we are 'this way' over here (doing this thing) then we should be the same way 'over there' - doing that other thing. If we pay great attention to detail in the way we practise our 'Kimura' from the guard - then we should also pay that same level of attention tot he way we practise our Kimura from every other position - and then, we may as well pay the same amount of attention to every other technique - and then, it might occur to us to pay the same amount of attention to other aspects of our lives away from the mat - this is extracting the most value from the Kimura as we can get. I don't want to practise 'excellence' in one part of my life - whilst I am failing at all the other parts - I know many, many people who live that way. There is great leverage in living congruently. Have a great start to the new year everyone. JBW

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mat commandments ...

If there came a day when someone would climb a mountain and return with a set of commandments pertaining to behaviour among martial artists - surely, number one on the list would be this: THOU SHALT NOT GRADE OTHER INSTRUCTORS STUDENTS!

This, in my view, is a very deplorable act. It is usually driven by a pathetic need to engender loyalty from someone - and often, from someone who doesn’t care to be ‘bought’ in any case. Grading other instructors students is a sure sign that the perpetrator is more ‘merchant’ than martial artist. JBW

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Perfect Effort

We are all different. We differ in a myriad of ways - from one another - body type, age, experience, reasons for training, what we want to get out of our training, differing priorities, etc, etc. And because we are different, how each of us approaches our training (mentally, emotionally, physically) will also vary from the approach that others take. Some of us will be better at some techniques than others, some will be quicker, heavier, slower, more flexible, etc. The one thing that we can all do though - if personal results and improvement is important to us - is to put in a Perfect Effort. We can each try our best - and in doing so, we can in no way, be faulted, by anyone. The Perfect Effort is the path to excellence. JBW

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A little wiser ...

Wisdom … ‘something you won’t get until much later in life’ , my father used to say. He was right of course, because wisdom is the progeny of ‘experience’ and ‘thinking’. ‘Thinking’, untempered by ‘experience’ is closer to ‘daydreaming’ that it is to wisdom. Likewise, ‘experience’ without thinking, is in no way a guarantee of wisdom (e.g.: animals may gain lots of ‘experience’ throughout the living of their lives, but we wouldn’t describe animals as ‘wise’). It’s the perfect marriage of both experience and analytical thought that gives rise to wisdom - over time; on the mat; and of course in life, off the mat. Wide-ranging experience coupled with an equal part of thinking, gives rise to that quality we label … wisdom. The hope of course, is that on the journey from white to black belt we gain wisdom ... certainly, 'mat wisdom' but ideally, wisdom also in the larger game we call 'life'. JBW

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Strengths & Weaknesses

On the mat - I have long ago learned that even though we should know our strength’s - we should also never stop working on our weaknesses. And so too, off the mat. It seems to be a social norm to flaunt our strengths, talents and successes - perhaps as a means to give ourselves a ‘leg-up’  in an ever increasingly-competitive world; but to do so at the cost of ignoring our weaknesses and failings, is to live a very unbalanced life. In my own experience, our strengths and successes will take care of themselves; but keeping our attention on those areas of our lives that could do with improvement, will give us the biggest return for our efforts, over time. JBW

Monday, December 08, 2014

Leaders lead ...

Good leaders lead by example. They are usually very congruent people. By this I mean - what they say and what they do, are in alignment. Some of the best leaders in life are too busy running toward the things that matter to them, to even realise they are leading the way for others. Such people are passionate about their pursuits; often they didn’t ask to fill the ‘leadership’ role - they just ran in a direction that mattered to them; only to realise later on, that others also wanted to run in that direction. Perhaps a more accurate way to describe them would be to call them trailblazers. Trailblazing can be a business fraught with peril. It is often a personal quest fuelled by personal desires, curiosity and a need to walk to the beat of ones own drum. There comes a time though, when the trailblazer may realise he is cutting a path that others have decided to follow; at that time he might decide to pay more attention to ‘how’ he is running and ‘where’ he is running to; if this happens, he is making the transition from trailblazer to leader. Trailblazers are responsible only to themselves - leaders are responsible for others. JBW

Friday, December 05, 2014

The 1st Arnold BJJ Classic - downunder!

In the New Year (weekend of March 13th/14th/15th) the city of Melbourne is playing host to the inaugural Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Classic. This is not only a first for Australia, but is a first for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition landscape. The first ever Arnie BJJ competition – with Arnold himself being in attendance – will take place on Saturday March 14th – and I have been asked (as an independent party) to assist in the organising and running of the event. My role is to keep everyone informed as to event details - field a referee and officials team – design the way the competition will be run and to solve problems if and when they arise. I have agreed to accept this role with the view that it could possibly become one of the biggest independent BJJ events in the world. The forward plan is to roll out the Arnie Classic in a number of countries – and that could lead to even more extraordinary possibilities. I urge everyone interested in competition, to take this opportunity to get in ‘on the ground floor’. I will be sending out info packs to 140 odd BJJ schools come monday. The BJJ event will be part of a larger three day martial arts and fitness expo - which is expected top attract tens of thousands of participants. A real first for Australia!