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
How many times have you seen the memes on social media displaying how nature differentiates apex predators? There’s one with a black snake that looks like a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Then there’s one (see inset) about people with cauliflower ears. These memes make for an interesting discussion. What about your appearance indicates you know … Continue reading 2 Reasons to Improve Your Body Language
“No fair,” cries my son when he thinks his sister got a bigger piece of candy. “No fair,” he cries when I tell him he can’t go outside and play until he cleans his room. I politely remind him that sometimes, life isn’t fair. We see this often with children, but we don’t recognize it … Continue reading Why Me?: Unfairness and Life
Sun Tzu and Spying on the Enemy In a webinar on Tactical Communication put on by the Verbal Judo Institute, the instructor often cited Sun Tzu’s Art of War. In Verbal Judo, one of the key parts of de-escalation and tactical communication is empathy. Several definitions are floating around, but in essence, empathy is the … Continue reading How You Can Learn Empathy from a Book About War
In my last post, I mentioned James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. Before reading that book, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. The two books were written over 15 years apart, but they both discuss elements of our environment and how those elements shape who we are and how we can change, for better … Continue reading Readings: The Tipping Point (Changing Your Environment, part 2)
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to keep up that workout routine or why you can’t stay on top of your diet? Maybe you can’t seem to make that work deadline because social media or video games rob you of much needed time. We often think we can change our habits through willpower … Continue reading Readings: Atomic Habits (Changing Your Environment, part 1)
Amid the mire of COVID-19 (the Corona Virus), I have been soul-searching for what matters most in life. Judging by the pilfering of the bread aisle and toilet paper from grocery stores, it would seem that many think bathroom visits and toast are essential to human prosperity. The world is watching, waiting to see what … Continue reading Persevering with Patience (Perspective for a Pandemic)
Continuing with a previous post about failure and how it can lead to successes, I want to discuss a book I am reading. For Christmas, I received Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Are of Turning Trials into Triumph.” I have been a follower of Holiday’s blog, The Daily Stoic, and I’ve … Continue reading Readings: The Obstacle is the Way – The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
I recently heard Yoda say this on Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes: failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Aside from being a martial arts instructor, I run a tutoring center at a college and I also … Continue reading Re-framing Failure: Learning from your losses.
If you haven't picked up Old School Jiu Jitsu founder Brian Jones's book, Manifesto, you are missing out on a gem. Jiu Jitsu is about fun, fellowship, and food for thought, but the core principle of Jiu Jitsu is fighting. An excerpt from the first few pages lays out the thesis: "Jiu Jitsu training provides … Continue reading Readings: Old School Jiu-Jitsu – Manifesto
“Pressure is persuasion,” I yelled to one of my students as he tried to pass his opponent’s guard. The tournament official next to me looked at me funny and smiled. “I like that,” he said. Afterward, the official and I had a conversation about persuasion and martial arts. Part of my professional background is in … Continue reading Passing Guard: Pressure is Persuasion
We were just kids who wanted to wrestle. It’s hard to believe where we all are today. It seems like a different world. As we progress through our journey in martial arts, we face many obstacles such as learning curves, harder techniques, and tougher opponents. The young men in this picture faced obstacles over the … Continue reading Keep your head up.
I know it's been a few months since my last post, so I wanted to touch base. I haven't given up opining—quite the contrary. I have had numerous things on my mind lately, much of which I am eager to share with you in the coming months. In my last post, I mentioned that I … Continue reading Building a Legacy
If you ever wonder what I do when I am not training or waxing philosophical on a mat, here is one thing I do in what little spare time I have: write. If you read this blog, you already knew that. I write for local newspapers and magazines as well as research papers for graduate … Continue reading A Lesson Learned