The grappling world recently lost two incredible individuals: Judo Gene LeBell and Leandro Lo. One was from an era of tradition, yet broke the rules; the other was from a newer age of a rapid-changing art where the rules were still being written. They both pushed boundaries. "Judo" Gene LeBell Judo Gene LeBell, who passed … Continue reading Legends: Judo Gene LeBell and Leandro Lo
I know it may be an old pastime, but I still enjoy reading a newspaper. I always pay attention to the obituaries section, usually looking for names I know from my parents’ and grandparents’ age. Something struck me the other day, though. I read a name and looked at the age. I did not know … Continue reading Death as Life’s Picture Frame
In Judo, we often hear the phrase, “Maximum Efficiency, Minimum Effort.” Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, spoke about the concept in 1932 during a speech at the University of Southern California. He said that for anything to be ideal, it must be performed on the principle of maximum efficiency. Throughout the speech, he argued about using … Continue reading Maximum Efficiency: Jigoro Kano and Buckminster Fuller
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a haggard-looking old seafarer stops a young man on his way to a wedding. The old man begins to tell his tale to the young wedding guest. The mariner tells of how he, on a whim, shoots the albatross that has been leading his ship through icy … Continue reading Don’t Drink the Water: Wisdom From A Seafaring Stranger
I like to tell myself that I’m a rational person. In feedback on an upcoming publication, I was called a “neo-liberal.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, but the implication was that I was too rational for my own good. I admit I lean heavily on logic and identify in many ways with the … Continue reading Rationality is overrated.
When a person thinks of the word “Stoic,” there is often the assumption of no emotion or, at the least, indifference to feelings. Think of Spock from Star Trek fame. While there is a bit of truth that Stoics tend toward rationality instead of emotional outbursts, mainly due to training the mind and will instead … Continue reading More Human, Less Lizard: Stoicism as an Antidote
I am a sucker for biographies of Winston Churchill. I can’t explain it, but his life is an amazing story to me. I don’t know whether it’s his resolve in the face of danger or his startling wit that I’m drawn to, but Churchill ranks at the top of my list of interesting people. One … Continue reading Churchill on Change: Be Like Water
I often cite books and articles or web pages in my writing but rarely mention podcasts. I’ve recently started listening to more of them and wanted to highlight some of what I’m listening to. If you have an interesting podcast that deals with education, philosophy, martial arts, or similar veins, share it with me. If … Continue reading Hear ye, hear ye: Podcasts for Philosophers, Professors, and the Public.
Have you ever seen something and thought, “There’s got to be an easier way to do this”? A recent post from a friend and fellow Jiu-Jitsu coach, Scott Ferguson, and a rereading of Old School Jiu-Jitsu Manifesto made me want to discuss applying one of philosophy’s tools to martial arts, primarily sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This … Continue reading The “Simpler” Gentle Art: Applying Occam’s Razor to Jiu-Jitsu
To take a minor detour from my usual posts here at "The Philosophical Fighter," I want to tell you about some of what I've been working on academically. I recently had the chance to present my research on QAnon, a meta-conspiracy theory, and the media ecology perspective taken by Neil Postman. You may have seen … Continue reading Epistemology and the Media Environment
I took my kids deer hunting with me this weekend. The weather was wonderful. Not too hot; not too cold. The mosquitoes weren’t out. But neither were the deer. We weren’t in the stand for 30 minutes before my son whispered, “this is boring.” This is the same kid who had hounded me repeatedly to … Continue reading Peace of Mind: Modern Problems With Ancient Solutions
I recently saw a meme quoting Mac Anderson that read, “You are always one choice away from changing your life.” I don’t know much about the author or the originality of his idea, but the essence of the quote can be found millennia ago. Marcus Aurelius wrote something very similar in his diary. In book … Continue reading Can You Change Your Life by Changing Your Opinion?
One of the primary martial arts we teach at my academy is Judo. When people ask me about Judo, I get excited. I mention the physical attributes such as the emphasis on throwing your opponent to the ground and rendering him immobile with a pin. But there is also an equally beautiful quality in Judo … Continue reading Kano’s Vision: Judo as a Humanistic Endeavor
Have you ever thought about how the words you use to describe an event or a situation in your life may determine the outcome or impact your reality? Here’s an example from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow: “Italy won; France lost.” Kahneman asked, “Do those statements have the same meaning? The answer depends entirely … Continue reading What is Framing and How Does It Affect My Life?
A lesson my friend and fellow coach Scott Ferguson often teaches his classes is that faster isn’t always better. He asks his students to add 2+2 and give him the answer. Just as they start to speak, he yells “7.” The point he illustrates is you can be faster but that doesn’t mean you are … Continue reading One Habit That Can Change Your Effectiveness.
At the 2021 ATJA National Judo tournament, I was privileged to meet Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, a man of many accolades and much experience. He was a 2004 Judo Olympian, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, ADCC competitor, and D1 wrestler. As impressive as his martial arts knowledge and ability may be, I was more impressed with … Continue reading Coaching Wisdom from Dr. Rhadi Ferguson
One of the major facets of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the guard. That also means knowing how to pass the guard is equally as important. There are numerous guard passes, each with its own utility for the given guard you are trying to pass. But having so many tools in your arsenal can also make it … Continue reading A Philosophy for Passing Guard
First, let me apologize for being away so much recently. I am finishing my master's in the next few weeks and have had to buckle down on my thesis. That process has taken much of my time and mental energy. As a brief break from the mental drudgery, I spent the weekend at The Greatest … Continue reading Catching Up With Old Friends
Gnothi seauton Know thyself is not a question, but a command. The phrase was inscribed at the entrance of the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Greece. People traveled to this temple seeking divine counsel from the oracle of Delphi, the messenger of Apollo. It was there to remind those who entered of their place in … Continue reading What Does “Know Thyself” Mean?
Have you ever had a teacher or coach that made a difference in your life? Can you think back to something they said or did that you have repeated or emulated? Maybe you are a coach or teacher and can think of times when a student thanks you for the impact you’ve had or the … Continue reading What a Golem Can Teach Us About Teaching.
Training is a relationship. If your interests are not in keeping your training partner safe, healthy, and able to continue to train, then it’s not a positive relationship. Training is about give and take. Ancient gladiators in Rome practiced different skills and with various partners to prepare to fight to the death in the arena. … Continue reading Training as a Relationship: Partners Aren’t a Food Group.
John Danaher is arguably one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coaches in the world. He’s known for his incredible insights in BJJ and martial arts in general. He has a philosophy degree, which adds a feather to his cap to me. Danaher’s teaching method is something that martial arts coaches and academics alike should study. … Continue reading A Way With Words: John Danaher and the Transmission of Knowledge
I’ve had several students at my college come to me lately asking what I do for motivation. I admit I am not a motivational expert. I don’t have any witty or sensational quips to offer them. Instead, I take a different tactic, one that involves a brief history lesson. When we begin to doubt our … Continue reading How Do You Find Motivation?
In my last post, I discussed several elements and techniques that translated from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into Wrestling. I would be remiss if I didn't also discuss some of the similarities between Wrestling and Judo. These two arts share similar rule-sets and have arguably borrowed from each other through the last century. The parallels between them … Continue reading A Judoka walks into a Wrestling room…
While helping coach wrestling at my local high school for five seasons, I also trained Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the off-season. It was a whirlwind of techniques and rule-sets, with each system using various leverage points. There were similarities and differences between the systems, but I tried to focus on what united them. They were both … Continue reading A Jiu-Jiteiro walks into a Wrestling room…
A question on Quora made me think critically about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and how it may fair in a fight against multiple attackers. I think one of the common misconceptions of BJJ is that it is seen as a sport or grappling-only art in recent years. While that is true in many cases, BJJ is often … Continue reading How does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fair against multiple attackers?
(Photo by Richard Bustos on Unsplash) Is there a philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu? It makes a great metaphor for life, but there are also great analogies to explain the learning process of this beautiful art. Let’s address the question with a little help from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenom and MMA fighter Ryan Hall. In a recent video, … Continue reading Poetry in Motion: A Philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences (decision making) and a former professor of psychology at Princeton University. His 2011 book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” is still a popular book for people trying to figure out how our cognitive selves operate. Though he is intelligent and highly educated, he can take the … Continue reading Readings: Thinking, Fast and Slow (and What That Means for Martial Artists).
It’s safe to say we have all had an interesting, if not rough year. It would be easy to say that the year was a complete bust for most of us. With COVID shutdowns, election-year drama, and unexpected surgeries (in my case), who knew if we would survive. If there is one thing we can … Continue reading Looking Back. Looking Forward.
In a 2009 Black Belt magazine, Reality-Based Personal Protection pioneer Sgt. Jim Wagner quoted an adage, “There are two fights you must win. The first is for your life, and the second is for your liberty.” In several firearm classes, I’ve heard the phrase, “If you pull the gun, it will change your life. You … Continue reading CYA: Justifying Your Use of Force
When we first begin our martial arts journey, we start from a void, a vacuum where we know nothing. This idea holds for almost any kind of learning. As we expose ourselves to more knowledge and experiences, we slowly fill that void. But as we grow, part of learning must also come through our own … Continue reading Bruce Lee Broke Out of Plato’s Cave
I’ve had young guys come in the gym trying to exert their physical dominance or display their machismo. You might say they are looking for a fight. One day, you realize the muscles weaken, the speed slows, and the hairline recedes. You can’t be the young lion forever. But, if you train correctly and focus … Continue reading Fighting Without Fighting: 3 Details You Should Know.
Have you ever felt like a loser because you just couldn’t win at anything? Here is an idea you can try to start winning, but it will take time, learning, and a willingness to lose in the short-run. I played the game Connect Four with my son the other day. After he lost several times … Continue reading Playing Not to Lose Until You Learn How to Win.
We could address the question above by attempting to define what we consider a martial arts master, but that is a rabbit hole into which I am not prepared to climb. Instead, let's ask a simpler question. What do you call your head instructor or person leading the class? In some cases, it might be … Continue reading What is a Martial Arts Master Called?
“When you go into combat mode, you see less.”
If you ever spend much time training in Japanese-based martial arts, you might hear the word “Kuzushi.” I recently had a revelation about this interesting term. On a coaches’ forum, longtime Judo coach Richard Riehle posted that one of his favorite kanji in Judo was 崩し or “kuzushi.” He noted that these are the characters … Continue reading Moving Mountains: The Meaning of Kuzushi
I had a newer student who tried to submit me any time we rolled. It’s fairly typical behavior when someone comes in with little or no previous training. The name of the game is to submit your opponent, right? In Wrestling, the new kid rushes in like a bull and in Judo, the new guy … Continue reading Survive. Then Thrive.
My main martial arts experience is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), but I usually attend The Greatest Camp on Earth every summer. The camp is set up primarily for Judo, but it also has instructors for a few classical or Japanese Jujitsu (JJJ) styles. My first exposure to the older systems came at one of the … Continue reading Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Japanese Jujitsu: A Comparison
There was a time in my life where I tried being a preacher. Public speaking was natural to me and I enjoyed looking for little nuggets of truth or application in the texts I read, particularly the Bible. I still search for bits of wisdom there though I stepped away from the pulpit several years … Continue reading 3 Things You Need to Know About Being Prepared
Due to having back surgery, I have had to let a few upper-level students teach my classes. Usually, I hate relinquishing control, but in this case, I didn’t have a choice. After class one night, one of my assistants messaged me. He had a revelation about teaching while filling in for me, one which is … Continue reading Why Complicate Teaching?: What I Learned from my Students.
Sitting in a political philosophy class in college, my professor noticed many students on their phones, texting or surfing social media. We then took a detour from Plato and Aristotle for the rest of the period. Instead of political theory, we discussed something more permanent, yet forever fleeting. That class was the first time I … Continue reading You Only Live Once (Chasing the Will-o’-the-Wisp)
Judo and Wrestling phenom, Justin Flores, posted a video on his Instagram recently of female UFC fighter Cat Zingano accidentally elbowing her training partner while drilling a technique. Have you ever done that? Or have you been on the receiving end of a stray knee to the groin while your partner is passing guard? Yeah, … Continue reading Crap Happens: Accept It and Keep Going.
I received some pretty rough news. I have a herniated disc and a possible fractured vertebra. The degenerated discs in my lower back are likely due to years of training, competing, and rough-housing with big boys on the mat. The fractured vertebra came from a recent “Hey, y’all, watch this,” moments. I don’t know how … Continue reading How to Be Happy Despite Fate’s Fickle Ways.
How do you think of your teammates? Do you see them as a few welcome acquaintances that you meet with a couple of times per week? Or are they something more, a necessary support group you can’t live without? In many martial arts (and fitness groups as well), we often hear a term, but we … Continue reading Back To The Primitive: Finding Your Tribe.
In one of my Judo matches several years ago, I was in an intense struggle for grips, and I was losing the battle. I heard my coach yelling, “You’re not moving him, Josh. He’s moving you.” My coach was right. I was letting my opponent lead the dance. In the famed Japanese swordsman and martial … Continue reading Winning: It’s all in his head.
At a family gathering, a young woman was asked why she cut the ends off the ham she had brought to the meal. “My mom always cut the ends off,” she replied. The young lady asked her mother later why she cut the ends off the ham. “I’m not sure, but my mother used to … Continue reading Family Traditions: A Recipe for Realization
Photo by Chi Lok TSANG on Unsplash What does it take to stand up for your beliefs? Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if you were faced with giving up or fighting back? We are witnessing an interesting phenomenon in our country and our world right now. People are fighting back, sometimes … Continue reading We Were Meant To Be Courageous
In many ways, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” is a memoir and a treatise on human tenacity. In one way, it tells of Frankl’s hardships in the Nazi imprisonment camps, Auschwitz being the worst. In another manner, the book gives us insight into how we can endure in the hardest of times and the … Continue reading Readings: Man’s Search For Meaning (Suffering and Success)
It finally came. The day we had all waited for. The studio has reopened for us to get back on the mat. Now we can all take a deep sigh of relief… cautiously. As we reopen and resume our martial arts training, what does it look like? Is it perfectly identical to the way it … Continue reading Resume and Remain: Fighting Back After the Pandemic
Philosophy from a video game. “Finish him,” was the famous phrase heard on Mortal Kombat 3 when it came time to obliterate your opponent. You might remember the drunken wobble Raiden does just before Sub-Zero uppercuts him into oblivion. Good times. As a kid, another part of the game always stood out: the opening credits. … Continue reading What Mortal Kombat Taught Me About Knowledge