BJJ White Belt: Under Pressure

This post is almost two months in the making. All apologies to the faithful readers. Life’s challenges (selling a home, buying a home, promotion at work, etc.) stacked up to a place where I needed to place the blog on a low priority level. I hope you enjoy this installment of the “BJJ White Belt” series on In Pursuit of Mastery.
Learning Jiu-Jitsu has been a worthwhile endeavor for me; a beautiful tri-mixture of challenge, frustration and reward. It is commonly said within the BJJ community that you either win or learn. Believe me, I’ve been doing a whole hell of a lot of learning! The more mistakes I make however, the more I learn, the more kinks I find and work out, the better my game will eventually be.
As a kid I didn’t like getting stuck in small spaces, it was borderline claustrophobia.  I hated even entertaining the idea of being stuck. I cringed everytime I would watch the Grinch inch his way down the chimeny and get stuck in that akward position. I remember exploring a small access tunnel to an apartment complex I lived in one time, back in the day. Instead of reversing course to get out, I tried to turn around and I got stuck. It frightened the shit out of me. Being stuck or pinned down reaches deep into some primal part of us. You aren’t able to move, you can’t escape, you feel helpless, defenseless, vulnerable and I think in some deep primal sense, it reminds us of our own inescapable death. And we will do anything to get out of that situation.
I wasn’t stuck long, and like the Grinch, I was able to unstick myself… but this kid didn’t like it!
I also had a fear of drowning. I remember my Dad and Mom individually bringing me in to the deep end of the pool. The bottom of the pool might as well have been 1000 feet down for all I cared. This seemingly harmless element that I splashed around in was going to drag me down into its depths. I would be unable to breathe, grasping and clawing at the surface to no avail until I passed out and drown. My Dad says that, like the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, I was scarred from being thrown in by my mother. That may be so, I’m not sure. I don’t recall. Maybe that’s why my eye twitches really bad when I am poolside with my kids and my mom walks by. I guess we’ll never know…
Now, take those two feelings – drowning and claustrophobia – and put yourself in a live roll against someone who understands leverage and how to maneuver and position themselves better than you do. Welcome to Jiu-Jitsu!
That was June as we worked the mount all month long.
Under pressure. Claustrophobic. Near drowning.
I’m laying there, mounted by someone who’s at least six months my senior, who outweighs me by a good 50lbs or so. He’s in a higher mounted position and I’m doing my best to stay small, move and survive. His chest is pressed against me hard, my breathing is labored and the light around me starts to fade – not from being choked out – but from his arms covering and working me into submission. My training partner is patiently working his attack as I use the little knowledge I have to try and survive. It only prolongs the inevitable and shortly the submission is made, I tap and I am pulled back to the surface.
And I go again.
Willingly.
I am enjoying this.
I know I have some deep rooted masochistic tendencies, or at least I have a twisted willingness to endure pain.
The partners I have had the opportunity to train with are great. And in BJJ, I know that all I have to do is tap and it’s over. Regardless of that safety net, it seems there are ample opportunities to confront those primal parts of my genetic makeup, like the fear of drowning and claustrophobia, by being placed in uncomfortable positions and put under pressure. These opportunities, from my view, demand that I find the harmony between clearing my mind, staying calm, thinking and reacting. My beginner’s impression is that as a white belt, one is always trying to find this harmony when rolling and training but even moreso when you are in those dark, uncomfortable positions. If you freak out and lose your cool, you die.
This white belt’s impression from both receiving it and giving the mount, is that proper application of the mount makes it feel like the person applying the technique has doubled in weight.
It’s interesting, this path I’ve begun to walk down over the last couple years, pursuing mastery of self. I mentioned in a previous post how hard training gets me into this reflective mode where all my internal shit gets magnified, clarified and sometimes sorted out. It’s fascinating how hard, rigorous training at the gym or at jiu-jitsu brings out those thoughts, emotions and reflections. I find that some of my most clearest of thoughts, emotions or reflections happen through this physical process. I get to the point where all the masks come off and I find my center, in it’s purest state of being. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.
And it’s the best way to combat any kind of pressure in my life.
In jiu-jitsu, for example, the more I train, the more I push myself to keep going, the more I embrace the process, the easier it is to handle the pressure – both physically and mentally – of being in uncomfortable positions.
Whatever and however you pursue mastery of self in your life, keep at it. Keep pushing forward.
Pursue Mastery.

BJJ White Belt: First Stripe

It’s been about two months since I started the path of learning Brazilian Jiu-JitsuGoing forward, I’ll be writing a series of “BJJ White Belt” posts mixed in with what I write here at In Pursuit of Mastery. I figure it would be cool to document the journey from a white belt perspective.

For those farther along the path it might help remind them of the “good ole days” of being a white belt or maybe even rekindle the fire if things have gotten “blah” in their training. For me, I know that I’ll be able to look back on these posts and see where I’ve come from.

 

So yeah, the title of the post? That happened last Monday, 05/08/2017.

For those who don’t have any martial arts background, stripes on a belt basically indicate progression along the way to the next rank or belt. Depending on the system a stripe can mean anything from a quarter, a third or even halfway to the next level. For example, in another life I studied Tae Kwon Do (ITF) for about eleven years. In that system, a stripe was the halfway mark to the next belt. From what I understand in BJJ, a white belt earns four stripes before being close to eligibility for testing the next belt.

Monday night was a great session, ending like we do most nights with some rolling. I was dripping sweat and lining up with my fellow students for dismissal. I noticed our Coach, Shane, had grabbed the tape he uses for stripes on belts. Like most systems I’ve encountered, the white stripes are usually medical tape (some use electrical tape as they come in various colors). I’m thinking to myself, “Cool, somebody might be getting a stripe tonight, wonder who it is?” And then he walks up to me!

It was an awesome feeling: surprise, acknowledgement, accomplishment and a little sprinkling of pride (the good kind) all rolled into one.

From talking with him after it all went down, our Coach looks for certain indicators in our progression before giving that first stripe out. For the sake of intellectual honesty, the thought had crossed my mind within the past week about “when” I’d get that first stripe but, I also figured that I was at least another month from getting there.

So, it definitely came earlier than expected and I am grateful to have earned it. Like my Coach has said, it is really about your own journey in this art. You can look to others as markers and examples, but you can’t necessarily compare yourself to them. In many ways, it is you vs you. Improving daily, weekly, monthly. One step at a time. Am I better than I was yesterday? Last week? Last month?

Me VS ME: that is definitely something I can relate to.

As far as BJJ is concerned. There is improvement, a little bit at a time. Things are beginning to click, a little bit at a time. My defense is getting a little bit better. I’m a little bit more aware of what’s going on around me, even if it is a case of, “Now what the fuck do I do?!?”. I’ve been able to successfully execute a move or two that we’ve practiced earlier in class before getting into some live rolling. For me, the exciting part of that was actually finding the opening, “Ah, there it is!” and getting it done.

I still feel like a fish out of water most times, but I feel like I’m flopping closer to the water than I was before.

I’m still loving it.

I enjoy the balance that our Coach places between getting many reps in on a move we’ll work that night and on stress testing it with live rolling. This helps me see how important it is to find the harmony between the two so I get the mechanics of the move down and also understand how it can or can’t work in a roll, especially when your partner knows what you are trying to do.

I’m enjoying through both personal experience and witnessing in real time, how there is a place for strength, but also a place for technique. I can see now from just a little “inside view” why BJJ blew up the UFC and changed the game completely. So much goes into this, body mechanics, positioning, leverage, etc.

I’ve noticed how strategy can and is a big factor. Many…many times I’ve been sidetracked by my coaches or a senior student with what I thought was the “attack” only to be baited or flanked into the real trap. Humbling, eye-opening and fucking brilliant. Again, keep in mind, this is just a new white belt speaking. I know I’ve got a way to go.

Going forward, I’m currently rethinking/retooling my weight training and conditioning programs. I think I am on the right track but I still feel something is missing so I’ll have to play with it a bit and do some fine tuning. I also either need to find a way to put a hard drive in my brain to playback what I’ve learned, or start taking notes. I think the notebook would be easiest…

I’ll get there.

Pursue Mastery. One step at a time.

Poetry.

Coming out of a rather intense training session a couple weeks back, I had a few lines in my head.

Poetry?

Song?

Not sure.

So I played around with it, rewrote, rephrased, reworded. And I think its done. So, fuck it. Mastery is about exposing weaknesses and  can also be trying new things, or old things once more.

This would fit into the category of “all of the above”.

 

 

“Fire Resides Within”

A fire surrounded me and I was afraid.

I saw pain and destruction; hopeless, unavoidable.

I was tempted to run, escape, evade!

Futile thoughts, where could I go?

No way but through, they say.

Turning, I walked in, embrancing the fire.

Facing my fear, the fire raged around me.

I sought to work with it, channel it, turn it for good.

A deadly dance.

Immolated, like a living sacrifice.

Singed, scarred, burned.

Rejuvenated, like a ragged and worn Phoenix.

Rrenewed, reconstructed, repurposed.

Educated, like an eager student.

Learning, adapting, growing.

Raging, destroying, creating.

Everything I touch feels the flame.

The fire no longer surrounds me.

I am a host of the fire.

The fire resides within.

 

 

GET. OFF. YOUR. APP.

If you were look at how people were able to access information, contact others across the globe, be entertained, track data, etc. in 1916, 1816, 1716 and 1616 and then compare it to what we have now at our literal fingertips, I assume the responses from people of those times would go something like this.*

Marvelous! 1916

Wondrous! 1816

Unfathomable! (Potentially Blasphemy!)1716

Blasphemy! Witchcraft! Burn the Witch! 1616

*These might not be 100% accurate as I do not hold a degree in History, nor did I live during these times. Hopefully, you get the point and humor of what I’m trying to say there. If not, I probably can’t help you.

For all intents and purposes, we possess a mere God-like ability to do what scholars, learned men and commoners from the ages only wished they could do. Myself included, we use it primarily for social media when we could be using it primarily to help us advance, improve, learn and get better. This isn’t an original thought, by any means. But it is a thought we should return to again and again. Like a sign post, helping us stay on course. Relax, I’m not here to rant about social media.

This year is coming to a close…rapidly. Did you create a list of goals this year? How are you doing with those? Are you assessing your progress and using that information to plan the coming year’s goals for a more effective campaign?

There are distractions on so many levels. It is time to cut them loose. It is time to make a change.

Where to start?

GET. OFF. YOUR. APP.

Are you building a business? Trying to create an extra stream of income? Trying to achieve a goal you have set for yourself? Looking to improve your life and better yourself? Use the apps that are necessary for that and eliminate or put strict time limits on the rest.

Train. Build. Add Value. Improve. Learn. Create. Grow. Become.

There is nothing inheritly wrong with entertainment. How much could you accomplish if you cut that four or five hours a night down to one? What would you do with that extra three or four hours if you dedicated them to self improvement and bettering your life?

Don’t wait for New Years Resolutions. Fuck that shit.

Get moving, now.

Don’t try and take on more than you can chew, and sabotage your efforts. Take small steps. Cut thirty minutes off your distractions today and put it towards PT, reading, setting goals for next year, learning, cleaning your house, budgeting, pursuing mastery in your life! Next week, cut another thirty minutes off and by the end of the month you will have converted two hours of wasted time into two hours of productivity. Per day.

That’s fourteen fucking hours of extra productivity a week!

Use the momentum you build in this month to propel you into the new year with a clearer vision and some action behind your words.

Eliminate distractions.

Become Productive.

Pursue Mastery.

 

*********************************************************************

 

In conjunction with this short, motivational post, I am excited to announce the launch of a new shirt with two different font designs to choose from. Both are available in Ladies and Men’s Tees as well as a Hoodie. I am a fan of the Instagram, so I figured it would be clever to use an Instagram-esque font for the first design, given the overall theme of the essay. I really liked the font of the previous shirt, it’s bold and clean, so I’m using it again for the second version of the shirt. Get yours now and get moving on your goals!

getoffyourapp1

Get the above design here.  

 

getoffyourapp2

 Get the second design here.  

 

 

Have Confidence

Many people seem confident but they are posing, faking it until they (hopefully) make it. I know, I’ve clocked in many years of posing, but I am here to tell you: that faking it is not enough.

You will never make it like you want to make it by faking it… if you even make it at all. Faking it only keeps you in doubt and disbelief; you are constantly dodging or ignoring the nagging fear of being found out as a fake.

Like Neo, you must “begin to believe” and fight the Agents who tell you that you are just “Mr. Anderson”.

You must believe in yourself.

You must have confidence.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Confidence in yourself and in your abilities is cultivated and grown over time through the process of learning, attempting, failing, getting back up, and becoming competent. It is also grown through the natural teachers of life that come to you. When these teachers appear, embrace the training and opportunities that they bring to you in their season, their names are: Hardship, Challenge, Obstacle, Struggle.

Yes, these teachers can and do have the ability to slam you into the ground and keep you on your knees, if you let them. But, they are not there to destroy you, rather they are present to help move you forward and to help you grow.

Embrace the teachers, be thankful for what they can teach you. Let them show you what they have to offer, both the good and the bad. They will show you what you are made of, the strength you posses, the cracks in your foundation, the chinks in your armor. They will also show you the opportunities for growth; to do better and become more.

Embrace the lessons and build yourself up.

Learn from the mistakes.

Grow.

Endure.

Become better.

Have confidence.

Take stock and measure the lessons, see what you have come through and overcome… and believe in yourself.

Pursue Mastery.

ONLY 7 DAYS LEFT to get the first ever Pursue Mastery T-shirt. Get your shirt here!

In Pursuit of Mastery

I’ve been tweaking a few things with the look and feel of the brand.

I like the colors, it reminds me of a private library or study; old paper, journals, leather-bound books, the smell of coffee, whisky and even some sweet tobacco. The kind of place I imagine having where I spend time each day studying, expanding my mind, enjoying a good read, or maybe even a peaceful nap while classical music plays in the background

I’m also reminded of training, hard training. Indoors and outdoors. Dirt, sweat, blood, canvas, chalk, leather, wood and iron, brass and lead. The kind of place I imagine having where I can spend time each day training and pushing myself; understanding and pushing past my self-imposed limitations with loud music in the background.

You’ll notice the picture of Leonidas, from the movie, “300”, accompanied a quote from the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus which reads, “First, decide who you would be, then do what you must do.” I’ve had this picture on my desk for about a year; a few months ago I made it the cover of my binder where I keep my goals. It is a constant reminder to act and pursue.

Underneath the new title, you see the tag line: Freedom | Strength | Courage | Honor | Mastery | Family.

First, let’s take a look at the beginning and ending “tenets” of the tagline.

Freedom: In life. Financial freedom. To do what I want, when I want; not tied to a 9-5 sedentary desk job. To be the craftsman of my own income and potential. In life, freedom from false allegiances, ties and obligations.

Family: You could also call this “Tribe”; the blood of covenants can be much stronger than the water of birth (which is where the saying blood is thicker than water comes from); some friends are closer, more fiercely loyal than family. I am pursuing Mastery in my life for my own sake, to become better, to grow and learn and improve, however, my family and tribe benefit from this and I take pleasure in that fact. I want them to benefit. I want to enrich the relationships I have and make them stronger.

The middle four tenets are taken from Jack Donovan’s Tactical Virtues in his book “The Way of Men”. I highly recommend reading this book. No, I am not compensated for suggesting it. The book is definitely something I will return to annually, his tactical virtues clarify thoughts and ideas I’ve been driving at.

These four vitures are the qualities you would want in a person if “shit got real”; these are people you want to depend on in a number of scenarios.

Strength: To be physically strong. Strength is a value all its own and you want those you depend on to be strong as well. Mental/emotional/spiritual strength is necessary too, because a weak person will crack regardless of their physical strength when the pressure is on.

Courage: In part, linked with mental/emotional/spiritual strength. It’s also the ability to act, to stand up and fight despite fear.

Honor: Having standards internally and externally to strive towards and to hold yourself accountable to. Having a sense of pride in the things you do that add value to the tribe or shame when you do something to their detriment.

Mastery: To be competent in the task you are given and to continually pursue improvement in areas of your life. Making strengths better and to make your weaknesses areas of competence. To be stronger, smarter, better. To add value to yourself and to the group.

For a better, more in-dept explanation, read “The Way of Men”.

In Pursuit of Mastery is about relentlessly pursuing the best life possible by improving yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.

It all boils down to Mastery, or Mastery covers all of them in some way, shape or form. Like a Master Craftsman of Life.

Masterful in my relationships with tribe and family, in relationships with women and men.

Masterful in my ability to achieve a level of financial freedom; to grow in that area for my benefit and purpose as well as my family and tribe. To carry a level of Mastery and competence in my work.

In pursuit of Strength; competent in the lifts and the PT sessions but continually learning and growing, pushing and striving to be better, stronger, tougher.

To be a man of Honor. Having your “word as your bond” is a rare thing anymore. Its rarity speaks of the lack of understanding of personal and tribal Honor. To continually challenge the weak areas in my life to grow to their fullest potential.

To risk sounding cliché, Mastery is a journey, not necessarily a destination. But it is a journey of ever-increasing skill, knowledge, quality and value. There is always another mountain to climb, another level to rise to, another horizon, another price to pay and another sacrifice to make to get to where you want to be.

 

Pursue Mastery.