Character

Over the past few years my daughters and I have really enjoyed watching the movie versions of Marvel’s Avengers. We can’t wait for the hubbub at the box office to die down, so that we can go to the latest installment, Black Panther. I think that part of the popularity in this series is the diversity presented in all of the various characters. Each has her/his own superpower, as well as their own personality. As they evolve under the stress of the various adversities they encounter, both individually and collectively, we see them struggle with their own character, both strengths and flaws.

While we are intrigued by their superpowers, I think the most engaging aspects of the storyline involve their struggles with their own, very real, and very human weaknesses. At different times, it’s reigning in their ego, or coping with self-doubt. Sometimes they must resist the temptation of power. There’s always the weight of doing what’s right for the greater good, versus what’s best for them. In the end, they always find their way through the turmoil, and make the hard choices that lead to success.

Which superhero is your favorite? Which traits do you appreciate the most? Obviously, while we can’t have their superpowers, we can rise to the occasion where it truly matters. While we train to develop our physical skills as martial artists, we can also work toward developing in ourselves the character traits we admire in our heroes, both real and imaginary.

See you on the mats!

 

Steel Sharpens Steel

The age-old maxim “steel sharpens steel,” or “iron sharpens iron” embodies the simple premise that we grow stronger when we surround ourselves with others who are strong. More modern sages tell us to associate with like-minded people, at least in regards to goals, and people who have already succeeded in achieving those goals.

“…avoid the negative influences of other people and surround yourself with successful people who will encourage you to pursue your dreams.” -Zig Ziglar, Born to Win: Find Your Success Code

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins puts it succinctly, “Who you spend time with is who you become.”

In the martial arts this is paramount. As a BJJ practitioner one pursues not only strength, conditioning, mental acuity, and emotional toughness, but more effective methods of combat. While one could conceivably build the first four traits on their own, having a partner and/or coach will greatly facilitate their growth. Developing effective combat techniques, however, simply cannot be accomplished without great training partners.

It is important for each of us to remember that while we’re putting in our time on the mat, working our butts off to achieve our own personal victories, that we’re also there for our training partners. We need one another in order to get where we’re headed. The more like-minded, goal-oriented people we can surround ourselves with, the better.

“Proximity is power… Who you spend time with is who you become.” – Tony Robbins

See you on the mats.

Perseverance

As a youth I had little appreciation for tennis. The whole system made no sense; sets, games, matches, advantages and tiebreaks. Why does the score go from 15 to 30 and then to 40? What does love have to do with it? What a silly sport for the polo-shirt class.

Over the years my perspective has changed. Understanding the scoring system, and how the match is broken down into sets of games helped me begin to realize the beauty of the game. The precision with which they can place the ball is amazing, but for me, the real beauty lies in the psychology of the game. No matter how far behind one player may fall, each successive game and set provides yet another opportunity for the comeback. The epic matches between Borg and McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi, and Federer and Nadal were extraordinary demonstrations of perseverance. To see those guys lose a set, only to come back and win the next, or to battle back-and-forth in extended tie-breaks, neither one willing to give up or concede the match, right up to the end was truly inspiring.

The ability to maintain “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success,” is a powerful tool in the pursuit of one’s goals. It’s easy to work towards something that requires little time or effort. However, most of the things we desire require both. A college degree, a world championship, a beautiful home, an exciting vacation, or a comfortable retirement all take a concerted effort over a long time to achieve. Over such an extended time there is ample opportunity for distractions and hurdles that can make one falter. We need to develop perseverance in order to assure success.

“A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves – our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside.”

– Joe Hyams, Zen In The Martial Arts. Jeremy P Tarcher/Putnam, 1979

Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu provides the perfect “proving ground” to help us develop the ability to remain poised under pressure, both figuratively and literally. There are times in training when we find ourselves in inferior positions, trapped under larger, stronger opponents. For the uninitiated, this can be pretty intense, as one feels the pressure of being stuck, claustrophobic, and unable to do much other than wait it out, or submit. The beauty of BJJ, however, is that at some point in such situations, if a person can remain calm, and position themselves well, there will be opportunity to make an escape and change one’s fortune.

By developing our perseverance, we can weather whatever proverbial storm may come our way. Life is full of distractions and hardships, but by staying committed to our goals, regardless how difficult, we can succeed where others fail.

See you on the mats!

“I Have A Dream”

As we celebrate the man this week, it’s important to remember his message. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy should stand as a reminder to us all that regardless of race, or for that matter, any other arbitrary external measure, we all are equal in our humanity. Individuals should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (follow this link to read, or better yet, listen to MLK’s historic address)

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In the Korean martial art tradition, the uniform symbolized this equality. The idea was that, regardless of ones belt rank, all were students of the art and thus wore the same uniform. While a student of higher rank might be further along “the path,” and therefore have more knowledge in the art, they were reminded to appreciate the lower ranks for having the courage to start, and the tenacity to continue on the path.

While we don’t have a specific color code to our uniforms in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the moral code is the same. As practitioners, we have mutual respect for everybody willing to pursue the path we have chosen.

Training in BJJ is difficult, and anybody who’s put in an extended time on the mat knows this as undeniable fact. It is physically and emotionally demanding, requiring not only extraordinary physical output, but taxing your psyche as well. Learning to cope with winning & losing, fighting from uncomfortable positions, and retaining your composure under duress, all add up to a psychological workout like no other.

It is also a challenge to make the time to train. Most of us have lives off the mat and must work our training schedule into our lives, working around school, our jobs, and our families. To train regularly and consistently, while still maintaining our other obligations as family members and citizens is a task of herculean proportions.

It is important to note that, while we train to develop skills which can destroy, we train in a manner that strengthens both ourselves and our partners. In order for each of us to pursue excellence, we need excellent training partners. If we injured or “beat down” every soul who chose to train, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals. This necessity further reinforces the supportive culture we have on the mat.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Anybody is welcome to join our ranks. Regardless one’s color, creed, or station in life, if you have the courage to try, the willingness to commit, and the strength to continue, you are always welcome.

Happy New Year!

With the New Year, there comes a sense of a new beginning; a clean page on which to write the story we want. People start out with the best of intentions, making a list of their New Year’s Resolutions, and taking the first steps in realizing their aspirations. Yet, while many aspire to achieve their goals, many will quit, and find themselves making the same goals the following year. This is so common that the entire concept has become a well-known punch-line.

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One of the reasons some are successful while others aren’t lies in the difference between being interested, as opposed to being committed, to doing something.

Those who are simply interested in doing something plan on getting to it when it’s convenient. Whatever the goal, whether losing weight, finding a better job, or  finishing a college degree, the interested plan on doing it when they find the time, when everything lines up, or when they “feel like it.” So people interested in getting fit for the new year hit the gym, diligently putting in their time, for a few weeks. Soon, they start finding excuses as to why they can’t make it in as often. It becomes more and more inconvenient, until soon they’re not going at all.

The committed, on the other hand, do whatever they need to do in order to accomplish their goals. They learn everything they can about the pursuit, create a plan, and prioritize their time in order to assure they dedicate enough to the effort. They don’t allow anything to stand in their way. The committed don’t wait until they find the time, they make it. They don’t wait for everything to line up, they line everything up. They don’t wait until “they feel like it.” The committed follow through on the plan knowing the long-term goal will far outweigh any short-term feeling that may come and go along the way.

What are you committed to for 2018?

Holiday Schedule

We wish you and yours Happy Holidays! We will have a limited schedule at our Roseville location during the Holiday season. For any adult members who just can’t wait until the 29th, we will have some “open mat” style workouts at the following times:

  • Thursday (12/21) @ 6:30 – 7:45
  • Friday (12/22) @ 6:00 – 7:15
  • Tuesday (12/26) @ 6:30 – 7:45
  • Wednesday (12/27) @ 6:00 – 7:15

Holiday Schedule 2017

If you need to get a little more mat time, you are welcome to attend classes at the Sacramento location. (4837 Auburn Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95841) Here’s a link to their schedule. They will be closed 12/24 – 12/25 and 12/31 – 1/1 for regular classes, but will hold an open mat from 10:00-12:00 on 12/24 and 12/31.

Leading By Example

Professor Cassio stepped into the ring yet again this past Friday, putting his skills on display for the world to see. Just as with his previous match in Chicago, he submitted his opponent with the same techniques he’d been teaching the week before! If that isn’t impressive enough, he proceeded to board a plane the very next day with his wife and four children and survived three days of cancelled flights, and lay-overs, to finally arrive in Brazil for the holidays. Anybody who’s ever flown with children understands the magnitude of this herculean task.

Cassio Werneck is a leader, not a boss. He doesn’t lead by telling people what to do, or what they should do.  He shows them what is possible, and he shows them a way. His is the jiujitsu lifestyle, and he leads by example. He leads when he teaches, when he trains, and when competing. He leads as a friend, and he leads as a family man.

We would all benefit from following his lead.

See you on the mats!


Holiday Schedule 2017

 

Honor

The group of warriors, locked in the throes of battle, are focused on the task at hand, oblivious to the world around them. Each individual is fighting his or her own battles, pushing the limits of their strength, their endurance, and their spirit. Simultaneously they are playing the ultimate game of chess, as they try to outwit their opponent, and develop their own strategic game on the mat. The solitude of the room is broken only by the occasional “tap, tap, tap,” and the eventual ring of the timer. At the end of class, they circle up, and with a bow, recite their motto, “Força e Honra,” Strength and Honor before shaking hands with, and thanking, their training partners.

Honor is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a showing of usually merited respectrecognition.” We honor our instructor, our school, and our teammates through our appreciation. We respect Professor Cassio for his accomplishments as a competitor, his guidance as an instructor, and his example as a family man. We support our school and our teammates as part of that honor, showing up to train, contributing our own “blood, sweat, and tears” to the process of helping make each individual better. We honor our teammates, for we share the common understanding of the trials and tribulations we all experience on the mat.

Merriam-Webster also defines honor as, “a keen sense of ethical conduct: integrity.” There have been various attempts to codify ethical conduct, none more apropos than those coming from the warrior communities of the U.S. Marine Corps and Jiu Jitsu’s own Bushido heritage.

As per the U.S. Marine Corps website,

“Honor <sic> is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior: to never lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commit Marines to act responsibly, be accountable for their actions, fulfill their obligations, and hold others accountable for their actions.”

The Bushido of the Samurai was a code of conduct which evolved over the centuries. Earlier versions include The Hagakura, and The Book of Five Rings. These codes were eventually  paraphrased, so to speak, as The Eight Virtues of Bushido by Nitobe Inazō in his book Bushido: The Soul of Japan.

  • Righteousness ( gi)
  • Heroic Courage ( )
  • Benevolence, Compassion ( jin)
  • Respect ( rei)
  • Integrity ( makoto)
  • Honour (名誉 meiyo)
  • Duty and Loyalty (忠義 chūgi)
  • Self-Control (自制 jisei)

As martial artists we train for the love of the art, to make ourselves stronger, for fun, and for the camaraderie. We pay homage to these ideals after every workout, with the intent of making them a part of our lives. They espouse something greater than ourselves; something to live up to. Just as warriors, both past and present, we too live by a code. Força e Honra.

See you on the mat!

Giving Thanks

It has been a whirlwind the past six months since Cassio and I started this adventure, and now we find ourselves already wrapping up November, with the holiday season swinging into full-gear. The pieces are falling into place, classes are rocking, and everybody has been “putting in the mat time,” helping to create the energy, the vibe, of an amazing jiu-jitsu school.

This Thanksgiving we are indeed counting our “blessings.” We are eternally thankful for the opportunity to do what we love, to surround ourselves with hard-working, like-minded people, and thereby provide for our families. The magnitude of this does not go unnoticed, nor unappreciated. What an amazing time and place we live in, where people can achieve such a feat!

Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without all of you, the members of our community. We thank you all for your continued support as we strive on into the future, and provide the “BJJ lifestyle” to the families of the Sacramento area. We hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends, and look forward to seeing you back on the mats!

Self Discipline

We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off, we reach for the snooze button, and the debate begins.

“I am so tired, I just wanna sleep in.”

“Is it my day off?”

“Perhaps I overtrained yesterday. Do I need a bonus day of recovery?”

“Is that a hint of a cough? Should I call in sick?”

I’ve been waking up at 5:30 am to workout for almost 30 years, and I still catch myself having this internal dialogue nearly every morning. The fact is, I am tired –  I am stiff & sore. I probably could take a few more days off than I do. I really enjoy the one day a week when I get up, take a leisurely walk with the dog, and then relax with a hot cup o’ joe and read a book. Why not do that every day?

The answers to that question are what motivate me to drag my carcass out of bed six days a week.   As a younger man, I wanted to be a bad-ass. I had to get up earlier, and work harder than everybody else. As a member of the over-50 crowd with three young daughters, my purpose has evolved. Now I train to be the best father I can be. I need to be able to protect my family to the best of my ability. I want to be able to play with my kids. We run, we ski, we hike, we ride bikes, and of course, we do martial arts. Staying in shape increases the odds that I will be around to share in their milestones; graduations, first jobs, weddings, and all the other setbacks and victories that await them.

Anybody who’s ever worked in the fitness industry can confirm – it is stupefying the lengths to which people will go, in order to talk themselves out of doing the very thing that will help them achieve their desired goals, or make their life better in the long-run. One can easily come up with an entire litany of reasons not to do something. The people who cave to this list are the poor, miserable souls who continually find themselves short of where they’d like to be. As time goes on, the goals seem further out of reach, the bad habits become more ingrained, more comfortable, and the vicious cycle perpetuates itself.

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.” – Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States

Simply stated, self discipline is the ability to do that which needs doing, even though it’s difficult, inconvenient, or uncomfortable. It’s doing what you know you should, even though you don’t feel like it at the time. It’s putting off the temptations of immediate gratification for greater reward at a later date.

As adults, we demonstrate self-discipline by going to work every day, even on the days we don’t feel like it, in order to put food on the table, provide a home, and save for the future. By being self-disciplined, we can avoid the financial pitfall of never-ending debt, by postponing those purchases of the shiny, new whatever, until such time as we can afford to pay without borrowing.  By being self-disciplined, we can manage our time more effectively, focusing on what’s important, and leaving for later, that which isn’t. By being self-disciplined, we can improve our diet, work out more, and be more fit.

I tell my girls, self-discipline means, “Dinner before dessert.” Do what you know is the best for you, then you can afford to splurge a bit. Work hard in school, and the knowledge will make life a bit easier later. Train hard at track practice, and you’ll have greater success at the meet. Drill those pirouettes as much as you can, and your ballet performance will be amazing. Get your homework done and keep your room clean, and you’ll have more free time to play with your friends.

Self-discipline leads to more freedom. In the end, you will have more time, more money, and better health to spend on the things you want.

See you on the mats!