Attitude of Gratitude

This time of year, we find ourselves gearing up for the upcoming holiday season. Thanksgiving is just days away, and the kids are already getting a bit giddy with excitement. In the spirit of the season, we’re focusing on having what Zig Ziglar termed an “attitude of gratitude.” We’re considering the full extent of our good fortune, living as we do here in the burbs of NorCal in the 21st Century. (the image above is a list the Little Samurai made in class of all the things they’re thankful for!)

We humans are problem-solvers. This is advantageous for obvious reasons, and the evidence of our success is all around us. World-wide, child mortality rates continue to drop, while we are also living longer, healthier lives. Over the last century, the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved, and now the majority of the world lives in the middle class. (Rosling, 2018) While we’re surrounded by the fruits of our labors, we still see the many problems that need to be fixed, and the tendency to focus on them often leads us to believe things are worse than they are. Thus, it’s healthy to remind ourselves from time to time of all that we have to be thankful for.

On a personal note, we are thankful for the opportunity to participate in this Brazilian Jiujitsu experience. We are grateful to be living in a time and place where it’s possible for a person to provide for their family by sharing their passion for the sport of Jiujitsu. We are grateful for the wonderful families who have become a part of our extended BJJ family, and for the amazing friendships we’ve developed along the way. We are thankful for all of our training partners who help push us on the mat, fine-tuning our BJJ game, and becoming better versions of ourselves. We appreciate each and every one of you who chooses to join us on this adventure, and we will continue to do everything we can to give back to the community in kind.

Obrigado. Thank you for becoming a part of our family, and for your continued support.

See you on the mat.

Rosling, H. (2018). Factufulness: Ten reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are better Than You ThinkNew York, NY: Flatiron Books.

The Power of The Tap

Training in BJJ can oftentimes seem a bit of a paradox, especially to the uninitiated. We train for fun, and improved health, to develop self esteem and confidence, by getting smashed, arm-barred, and choked by our training partners. Indeed, many of us often wonder ourselves, as we head to the next class with a slight bit of trepidation. Yet we always leave said class feeling better than ever, supremely grateful for the training, and looking forward to the next.

This seemingly paradoxical nature of BJJ is embodied in the tap. We “tap out” when our training partner achieves a successful joint lock or choke, at the verge of damaging a joint or rendering us unconscious. Tapping out is a safety valve which enables us to train in the most realistic manner possible; we can utilize destructively effective techniques while simultaneously maintaining a safe training environment.

The last part of class is reserved for some form of rolling, where we have the opportunity to apply our skills against an “opponent.” Here we come face-to-face with the exquisite nature of BJJ. While we are are engaged in fierce competition with our opponent, each trying to get the tap by submitting the other, we are also trying to learn, and help our training partners do the same. If we train solely to win, we let our ego get in the way of learning. We tend to be too rigid, relying on our strengths, and thus not growing. We need to be more fluid in our rolling, more willing to try new things and make mistakes, and therefore more willing to tap. It’s helpful to remember the admonishment…

“There is no losing in jiujitsu. You either win or you learn.” – Carlos Gracie, Sr.

As Jujiteiros/as we develop ourselves to be strong individuals, physically as well as emotionally. The intensity of our training breeds confidence in our ability to handle adversity, both on the mat, and in our daily lives. Tapping out further reinforces this by teaching resiliency. We can “lose” a match and come back for more. Rather than being mad or disappointed and giving up, we accept the moment, learn from it, and come back prepared to get it right the next time.

In order to achieve the results we want in our training, we must strive for a healthy balance between intensity and safety, winning and learning, ego and humbleness. Tapping out gives us the ability to achieve that balance. Train hard, tap often, learn more.

See you on the mat.

The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard it, or some derivation, before. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The Golden Rule has been handed down through antiquity, from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, India, and Persia. It can be found, in some form or fashion, in every major religion or philosophy. People often adhere to it in the hopes of reciprocity, that is, “If I’m nice to you, you’ll be nice in return.” Parents and teachers use it to teach children empathy. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself asking my own daughters, “How would you like it if someone did that to you?”

It can also be a powerful tool in leadership.

Back in December, I blogged about Leading by Example, and mentioned the difference between being a boss and being a leader. It’s a common misconception that the two are synonymous. A boss is someone who’s position or title in an organization allows them to tell people what to do. They often have the power to reward and punish in order to enforce compliance. Being a leader, on the other hand, is much more than simply ordering folks around.

“The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less”

While there is no single trait that makes successful leaders, there are plenty of lists out there trying to boil it down to a manageable few. In his highly regarded bookJohn C. Maxwell discusses The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. One such law, The Law of Influence states, “The true measure of Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” An effective leader doesn’t need a title, nor leverage. They influence those around them to success. They inspire through word and through deed.

Which brings us back to The Golden Rule. If you truly wish to lead others, you must first lead the way. Telling them what to do just doesn’t have the impact that showing them does.

If you want others to treat you with respect, treat people respectfully.

If you want others to work hard, then work hard.

If you want others to be honest, then always tell the truth.

If you want others to be patient, then be patient.

Whether as a teacher, or as a parent, it’s important to remember that this leading by example thing can go both ways. I don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed one of my daughters do something, only to realize exactly where it came from. Be prepared for your students/children to reflect both your best and worst traits.

If you’re impatient, don’t be surprised when your student/child is impatient.

If you’re inconsiderate of others, expect your student/child to be inconsiderate of you.

If you lose your temper, get ready for your child’s tantrum.

If you have unhealthy eating/exercise habits…

As martial artists, we have the power to better our lives, and the lives of those around us. We can inspire one another to greater success on and off the mat. Consider all of the people we get to train with. Who is the most enjoyable to train with? Who is the most helpful or inspiring, and why? What kind of a training partner are you?

See you on the mats!

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.

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?

 

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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?”

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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!

Obrigado

At the end of every class, the students and instructor bow, and repeat the school motto, “Força e Honra,” or Strength and Honor. We then shake hands, and thank one another with an “Obrigado/a.” Obrigado is short for the more formal Eu sou obrigado, or “I am obliged.”

While this little ritual will become part of the daily routine, with the tendency for participants to simply go through the motions, the hope is that this demonstration of gratitude helps remind us to be thankful for our time on the mat. Obviously we want to thank our teachers and training partners, for without them we wouldn’t be training in jiu-jitsu. We’re also quite fortunate to train in the facilities we have. Ask Cassio some time about the canvas mats he used to train on in Brazil!

As a parent, I’m keenly aware of how vital the idea of gratitude is. We are bringing our children up in a time and place of unbelievable wealth and prosperity. Living here in the burbs of NorCal means we have immediate access to food 24 hours a day. Today’s children have television, the internet, smart phones, and swimming pools, while living in houses with running water, flush toilets, and a/c. Needless to say, such a luxurious lifestyle is lost upon someone who knows no different, which makes it easy for people to be unappreciative. Honestly, which one of us doesn’t take these things for granted?

Consider the early immigrants to this country, or to what was at one time simply thirteen colonies. Those people left Europe with nothing, risked a months-long ship ride, starving conditions, exposure to new diseases, knowing there was little to no infrastructure awaiting them. They came with nothing, knowing it was all on them to make a new life for themselves. If they wanted a house, they had to build it. If they wanted to eat, they had to hunt or harvest it. There was no safety net, no agency, for them to fall back on. Can you imagine how they would perceive the world we now live in, with the comforts we take for granted?

This week we will be discussing Obrigado in the children’s classes, as well as having an “attitude of gratitude.”

Last week we focused on passing the guard and knee-on-stomach in the children’s classes and the Adult Level 1. This week we’ll be looking at the other side. We’re going to work on re-constituing the guard, as well as some basic attacks from closed guard.

Cassio and his family are returning from Brazil this week, so you can expect to see him back on the mats soon! Many thanks (Muito Obrigado) to Dan Goodwin, Mark Kamizaki, Dan Martin, and Sean McCandless, who all did a great job covering his classes while he was away.

See you all on the mat!

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.

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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.