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!


Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

One of humanity’s greatest strengths is our diversity. Through our diversity in thought and action, we continue to grow as a species. In the vast ocean of human understanding, we are continually looking at new ideas, re-evaluating the old, all the while striving to find the best answers to our questions. This environment has fostered an ever-increasing understanding of the world around us, bringing us from the stone-age, through the rise and fall of many societies and political empires, through the dark ages and industrial revolution, and eventually, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

While we acknowledge, with perhaps a bit of awe, the full breadth of the human tapestry, we can also identify those few we would wish to emulate. With a cursory look on any given day, one can witness highly successful people, and people struggling to make ends meet. We see folks seemingly without a care in the world, while others appear to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. There are those who flourish in social circles, and outliers panhandling on street corners.

The success of others isn’t something to be jealous of, but rather, it should provide us an opportunity to recognize the traits and skills that lead to success, and then make those same habits our own. Whatever one’s goals may be, surely there is another out there who has accomplished some similar type of success. Seek them out and follow their lead.   In fact, surround yourself with like-minded people, individuals who have the same goals, the same passion, the same drive. Such a group nourishes each individual, feeding their passion, and helping remain focused on the task at hand.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded peers is a really vital tool to success, for there are plenty of people who will try to dissuade you from pursuing you dreams. People will try to convince you it’s not possible, that you’re crazy for trying, or will simply question why you would work so hard, and sacrifice so much. Listen to these voices long enough, and you might start questioning yourself. Other like-minded, goal-oriented peers provide a safe-haven from all of the nay-sayers.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in this regard, is a perfect corollary for life. The folks who train come from all walks; every creed, race, and sex – however, none of that matters. The common bond is a passion for being the best we can be in our chosen art, regardless how difficult. And it is really difficult. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. We sacrifice time away from our families, suffer injuries, and struggle through the occasional plateaus. People who see our bruises, rashes, and taped fingers question our sanity when we try to explain what it is we do.

Let them ask. Try to inspire them to join the quest, and become part of our like-minded group, our team. Smile and nod your head when they imply you’re crazy. Then get back to the mat – come back home. We’ll all be there, and we know what you’re after. We’ll help you get it, just as we know you’ll help us.

See you all on the mat.

p.s. Congratulations to all the competitors from this past weekend’s Submission Pro Tour tournament in Sacramento. Win, lose, or draw, you all represented our schools well, and we are proud of your efforts. Pictured above is Mitchell Torres claiming the Gold!

Run Like a Warrior

While attending my daughter’s cross country meet this past weekend, I got to thinking about how this sport correlates to life in general. Sport reflects a microcosm of our human experience. Whether one’s sport of choice is running, soccer, baseball, or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, we can identify the same truths within the confines of the sport and extend it into our world view.

At the high-school level, a full cross-section of humanity can be seen participating in cross country; from kids knocking off a hilly 5k with sub five minute miles, to others who have to walk part of their flat, two mile course. There are long, lean gazelles, and short, squat, bull-dogs; kids who are incredibly conditioned, and others who, let’s just say, are working on it. There are highly organized, well-trained teams, and there are other loosely knit teams, seemingly ad hoc in their approach.

While there are particular physical traits that lend themselves to the sport, there’s no denying the psychology of running. When you’re running your fastest, it doesn’t matter how fit you are, you’re going to reach a point where your body wants to quit, and you have to will yourself to continue. It’s fascinating to witness this in a race, as some of the runners fight to win, while others fade, seemingly accepting their fate.

In the end, the top of the field is made up of well-trained, fierce competitors who generally have the genetic gifts of a runner. However there are always a few up in the front who don’t fit the stereotypical mold, and plenty of naturally “gifted” folks in the back of the pack, people who look like they should be able to fly across the course, yet end up running with the masses. So while natural attributes are helpful, these alone are not enough. Proper preparation (training) and the will to succeed are the constants one always finds in the winners’ circle.

Here are my take-aways from cross country/BJJ/life….

  1. You can’t change the past. We all start where/when we start; rich or poor, good genes or bad, great upbringing or not. None of us has the ability to travel back and get a do-over. Blaming your ancestors for the genes they passed down, or your parents for the way you were raised are both pointless. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about what you can’t change.
  2. Surround yourself with a good team and/or mentor. There are plenty of people out there with similar interests and goals. These are the people you should be spending your time with. When your friends are saying, “take a day off, let’s go play,” your teammates are saying, “let’s go train, and play later.” They can give you the guidance, support, and motivation needed to stay the course and achieve your goals.
  3. Recognize your strengths, and build from there. Each of us is a unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, skills, and knowledge. Find your niche, and expand it. Look for opportunities to use your specific set of skills/traits to your advantage. (If you’re one of those fortunate enough to have great genes, be thankful, but don’t “rest on your laurels.”)
  4. Put in the work. There’s no escaping this one. No amount of natural talent can make up for a truck-load of  well-planned, hard work. All of that work conditions the body and mind like nothing else can.
  5. Break down large goals into smaller, more recognizable ones. If you find yourself in the middle of the pack way behind the lead runner, focus instead, on the runner in front of you. Pass them. Move on to the next. Keep mowing them down as you fight toward the front. Which brings us to the final point…
  6. Find the warrior within. For those who are competitive by nature, congratulations. For the rest, discover what makes you burn inside, what gives you passion, what inspires you to strive at “no matter the cost” levels. Because here’s the thing; at some point everybody gets tired. At some point legs turn to rubber, hearts want to explode, and lungs burn for more oxygen. At this point, the field fades, but the warriors forge on ahead.

See you all on the mats!


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!


It is said that, “Life is hard.” Even within the context of our modern era, and all the luxuries that we enjoy these days, there are those who succeed and those who fail, those who appear to have it pretty easy and those who struggle. On this spectrum one can find families who are financially secure and those who struggle to make rent, or world-class athletes alongside poor folks who are too obese to get out of bed.

There are many factors that lead to such disparity. Many are out of our control, such as our genetic predisposition, or where we were born, whether geographically, or socio-economically. As I’m continually reminding my children, fretting about these things is a waste of time and energy. Focus instead, on the things you can do something about, and get busy doing something about them. In this regard, Life is hard – it requires a concerted effort over a long period of time in order to achieve higher levels of success.

Take world-class athletes as an example. Ask anybody who has competed at the World-Championship or Olympic level in any sport and they will tell you the same thing. It is a long, hard road. Having some talent doesn’t hurt, but at the end it’s about who is willing to put in the long, hard hours, day-in and day-out, year after year, in order to reach their goal.

Thankfully, there is plenty of research on this subject. Indeed, self-help/self-improvement is a multi-billion dollar industry. While there are many factors recognized as being keys to success, one constant is Grit: dedication, indefatigability, perseverance, steadfastness, tenacity, or stick-to-itiveness. Whatever you wish to call it, one undeniable fact is: those who keep trying keep succeeding.

Check out this great Ted Talk on Grit.


This week the Little Samurai and Junior Jujiteiros will be working on escaping the side control and mount positions, while Adults Level 1 will be working on arm bars and arm bar escapes.

See you on the mats!

Put In The Work

The past two weeks we discussed the importance of being your own CEO and Manager. While these roles help you develop a great vision and a strong plan, they don’t get the work done. Strong leadership and effective management still need talented labor to provide a quality, finished product. All the dreaming and planning in Organization trianglethe world is just that. If the work isn’t being done, well, nothing gets done. See that girl above with the shovel? She’s the one that “gits ‘er done!”

Try as we might, there’s no escaping this part. You can manage yourself well, work smarter, thereby being more efficient with your effort, but in the end, you’ve still gotta put in the effort. You’ve got to batten down that cap, put on your gloves, and get to shoveling.

For the jujiterio, this means mat time. You can dream about that gold medal around your neck, and plan on training twice a day. You can pay close attention to your professor, ask lots of questions, and theorize about strategy. You can watch videos on YouTube, and cheer on your favorite fighter in the latest UFC. None of that can replace the key component: mat time. You’ve gotta put in the work. Don’t get me wrong, that other stuff is fun, and it’s important – but it falls into one of the first two categories. After you’ve done all of that, get on the mat and put in the work!

The Little Samurai will be working on the fundamental movements of break-falling and the technical stand-up, as well as their self-defense application. Junior Jujiteiros will be reviewing basic attacks from the closed guard and learning a couple passes. The Adult Level 1 class will be working on some fundamental take-downs from more of a self-defense perspective.

See you on the mats!