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!

Constant and Never-Ending Improvement

With fall here, I am once again engaged in all of the projects that come with the change of seasons: fall pruning, garden winterizing, gutter cleaning, and halloween decorating. Such manual labor provides plenty of time to think, and I find myself, as I do with every transformation of the seasons, ruminating on the change that is constant in our lives – spring to summer, summer to fall, and so on, cycling back around to start all over again.  This circular perspective of such repetitive labor can feed into the misconception that we, too, are just running in circles.

It’s really more of a spiral, isn’t it?


A little girl with a dog, in the back yard in October, and yet…

As we cycle through the annum, circling back around in the all-too-familiar pattern, we also become older, having experienced yet one more year that we will never see again. In this fashion, the circle of the seasons becomes the spiral of our lives. So I ask myself, “as we’re spiraling through life, are we spiraling upward or down, forward or back?”

Same little girl, same dog, in the same back yard in October.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) lifestyle offers many “tools” that can help us direct our own personal spiral in the direction we choose. The martial arts have long recognized the ideals of courtesy and respect, self-discipline and humility, patience and commitment as being vital to a healthy, successful, and ultimately happy life. We find these ideals espoused in the ancient Budo Code of the Samurai and the concept of Chivalry from Europe’s knights in the Middle Ages. Read any self-help book today, and one will find a re-hashing of the same, time-tested truths.

Perhaps the most important concept, and the one I believe binds all of the other ideals together is embodied in C.A.N.I., a term coined by Tony RobbinsConstant And Never-ending Improvement should be ingrained in our lifestyle. We should be taking every opportunity to improve physically, spiritually, and intellectually. Just as we train daily to hone our martial art skills, so too, should we be fine-tuning the other areas of our lives.

We should be furthering our understanding of the world around us in every way possible. Being a voracious reader should be near the top of our to-do list. Podcasts can be a great source of thought provoking ideas. Taking classes at the local university/college, or participating in work-related seminars & conferences can also be sources of growth. Take every opportunity to learn and grow, to be motivated or inspired. These sources, together with a healthy peer group (see last weeks post) can help us stay motivated and on course to achieve our goals, and enjoy the good life.

It is a mistake to think that at some point in our lives we get to coast. Only if we are continually striving to be the best person we can, will we ever experience our true potential. We should be striving to be the best version of ourselves possible; as a parent, as a spouse, as an employee, as a neighbor, and as a citizen.

See you on the mats!


Take a moment

On this anniversary of 9/11, we’d like to take a moment to contemplate the magnitude of such a tragedy, and all of the innocent lives lost. Our thoughts go out to the friends & family of those who perished on that infamous day.

Our gratitude goes out to the 1000’s of men and women who chose to run toward the danger that day, instead of away from it, many of whom lost their lives trying to save others. We have great appreciation for all of the first responders, firefighters, and police who go to work every day, to protect and serve, not knowing whether they will return home to their own.

It’s also a good time to consider the ensuing war we are are still engaged in, and all the lives lost fighting that war. Our gratitude goes out, as well, to all the military members, past and present, who put their own lives second to fighting for their country. We owe you and your families a debt that can never be repaid.

Please take a moment to consider all that people have given to make this country a great place to live. Make the most of the day.

See you on the mat!


This weekend, while Cassio and the rest of Team Werneck were competing in Las Vegas, my daughter and I participated in The 2017 Hood To Coast Relay, which covers the nearly 200 miles from Mt. Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, to Seaside, OR, on the Pacific coast. It’s a tremendous event that draws 12,600 runners from around the world and raises over $500,000 annually for cancer research and patient programs at The Providence Cancer Center.

The 199 mile course starts at 6000′ on the side of Mt. Hood, at Timberline Lodge. (remember the hotel in The Shining?) It drops down out of the Cascade Mountains through small towns in the coastal forest on it’s way to the city of Portland, where it makes it’s way through the city.  The course then meanders down (and back up, and down again) mountain roads and small highways as it crosses the Oregon Coast Range on it’s way to Seaside.

We didn’t run the entire course alone, but were part of the 12 member team Run or Die. Each member runs three legs of the 199 miles, with the legs varying from about 4 – 8 miles in length. Each team of 12 is divided into two vans of six, and these also rotate through, with van 1 covering legs 1-6, van 2 covering 7 – 12, and so on. Once a runner is done with their “leg,” they pass of to the next, and then jump in the van to get to the next exchange ahead of their teammate. So what you end up with is a half dozen tired, hungry, sweaty people piled into a vehicle over about a 30 hour period. Such conditions are a true test of teamwork, not simply in sharing the task of running 200 miles, but also in cooperating with everyone and supporting one another, while hungry, sleep-deprived, dirty, and cramped in a confined space.

Also consider the logistics of putting on this race. 1,050 teams translates to 2,100 team vehicles, and 12,600 runners converging within the constraints of the course over a short 30+ hour period. 3,600 volunteers work the exchanges, stand at intersections to keep the runners on course, and direct the traffic all along the way. Don’t forget about the Honey Buckets – approximately 600 porta-potties can be found at each of the 36 exchanges, and the Honey Bucket trucks can always be seen, maintaining such vital equipment.

Such an event simply wouldn’t be possible without the combined efforts of everybody involved. While individuals can accomplish great things, an individual’s capacity pales in comparison to what is possible when people work together.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie




Congratulations to everybody who competed at the World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas, NV this past weekend! Team Werneck was well represented by all who competed, as well as the teammates who were there to support them.

  • Cassio Werneck – Gold
  • Derek DiManno
  • Jaime Jara – Silver
  • Steven Anderson
  • Brandon Heath
  • Juan Punsalan
  • Nick Ramirez



REMINDER: We will be closed this Saturday and the following Monday in observance of Labor Day. Have a great weekend celebrating with family and friends!


Last week while waiting for the gas pump to signal mission completion with it’s customary click-thump, I heard the sound of crinkling wrappers, which drew my attention to three teenage boys leaving the station with the candy they had bought. It was a common enough scene for the burbs, but as I had nothing better to do, I amused myself with watching them stroll across the lot bound for the mall; three young guys, one fair-skinned with the acne of adolence, another with his boxers prominently displayed out of the top of his over-sized shorts, and the third with his baseball cap askew. I reminisced on my own youthful years of insecurity, as I and my friends tried to appear to be the men we just hadn’t yet become. Then it happened; fair-skinned boy nonchalantly hung his arm by his side, took a subtle look to the left and right, and with no-one in sight, dropped his wrapper in the middle of the street.

This seemingly insignificant act said volumes about that boy’s character. Obviously, he doesn’t really care about how his debris might effect the rest of the citizens he shares this community with. I’m sure the argument would be something about how “it’s just a little wrapper.” Surely we all can see the fallacy of this line of reasoning; the results of such individual acts lead to the truck-loads of garbage we see lining the fences and hedge-rows all along our roadways.

What is truly striking to me, however, is the fact that he looked around to see if anybody was watching before he dropped his wrapper. This demonstrated that while he may not have cared about how his actions impacted the rest of us, he was aware of the unacceptability of his act, but was still willing to do it, so long as no one witnessed it! This young boy is lacking a key component of an honorable citizen: Integrity.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” It also means “the state of being whole and undivided.” Therefore, it’s not just about being honest and telling the truth, but about being consistent, in both actions and words, with that truth. In his book Shattering the Glass Slipper, Charles Marshall wrote,

“Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to – when no one else is looking or will ever know – when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so.”

Warriors have recognized for eons the importance of a moral code to balance the violent nature of such a class. The Bushido code of the Samurai, and the Code of Chivalry from medieval Europe both espoused a moral code which emphasized Integrity. Today, each branch of our modern military has a code of conduct, and each includes the concept of Integrity. Our martial art schools should be no different. It is our obligation as martial artists to live up to such a code as well, otherwise we run the risk of becoming nothing more than thugs with skills.

As parents and coaches, our integrity is vital to our success in teaching our children and students. If our message isn’t consistent with how we lead our lives, they will soon come to see the hypocrisy, and then confidence in our teaching will be eroded. We must maintain the integrity of our art, our school, and our families. We need to lead by example. We need to “walk the talk.”

We need to have integrity.

This weekend is the World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. Good luck to Cassio Werneck, Derek DiManno, Jaime Jara, Steven Anderson, Brandon Heath, Juan Punsalan, and Nicholas Ramirez –  GO TEAM WERNECK!

ALSO PLEASE NOTE: The 6:00 a.m class will be cancelled this Friday (8/25) and Monday (8/28)!

Happy Independence Day!

(Note: We will be closed Tuesday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day)

The month of July brings us into our fourth week since opening. It’s been a whirlwind, with classes in full swing, many little build-out projects still being completed, and firming up all the behind-the-scenes, administrative tasks that are needed to keep the place humming like a well-oiled machine. All of this is set against the back-drop of being a family man; making time for family to enjoy the girls’ summer break can’t be forgotten, even in the midst of all the chaos.

These guys are working on their game this summer. What are you doing?

You parents know: family life is busy. Maintaining a household, with all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry is a full-time gig. Throw in the daily shuttle service, transporting the kids to and from school/ballet/baseball/gymnastics/piano, and you’ve got a sixteen hour workday. All the while, we’re trying to raise our children the best we can, and hoping we don’t mess them up too much.

Why would ANYBODY ever consider operating a small business while raising a family? Small business owners wear the hats of CEO, Manager, and Employee, and the responsibilities that come with each position. There is no time clock to punch. You carry the job with you everywhere. Even if surrounded by a great team, as the person in charge it’s all on you and the decisions you make. So when you’re not at work, in the back of your mind, you’re still running through the list. “What needs to be done?” What did I forget to do?” “Can we pay rent and make payroll?” “Have I done everything I can?” “What can I do better?”

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the challenge of making a martial art school successful. It’s a ton of work, but seeing all the pieces “fall” into place, creating a positive environment for families and their children, seeing the students have fun while growing into strong healthy adults, (or adults who get stronger and healthier) and being part of a winning team is worth all the effort and risk.

Some people think I’m crazy. Still others get it.

The fact of the matter is, not everybody is meant to be a parent, just as some people are not wired to be in business for themselves. We human beings really are a diverse lot, with varying skills, perspectives, strengths, frailties, and desires. This diversity is our greatest strength, in my opinion, for it is through that broad filter that we, as a species, continue to come up with improved ways of getting the job of living done.

Allowing for this diversity has been one of the reasons for the United States’ continued success. We are a beacon of freedom and prosperity. People continue to come here from around the globe for those two, inextricably intertwined ideals. The Wernecks are shining examples of this dream. They were able to immigrate here and make a good life for their family, passing on Cassio’s expertise in, and passion for, the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is what makes our nation great.

When the Founding Fathers ratified The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, they understood the value of the individual, and the importance of freedom.

“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.”

We hope you enjoy the National Holiday. While you’re celebrating The 4th of July this week, please take a moment to contemplate the magnitude of what it’s all about.