Journey to Black Belt – Reflections by Dane Barlow

I first met Dane at as a blue belt at a submission only tournament in Utah. He is a genuinely nice guy and a fierce competitor. I’ve enjoyed following his career and admiring his successes over the past years, but never knew his background or his story. This weekend, unsuspecting, he was awarded his black belt. His words in response to receiving his belt are beyond inspiring! You NEED to read this!


By Dane Barlow

Ok, I have processed this amazing event in my life. I made big plans for a return to competition next year at brown belt but Mitch and the Knights of the Round Table had a different plan. When I started training Jiu-Jitsu I had just lost everything in the home building collapse. My son wanted to train and I had to find a place. I met Mitch Coats in his small academy (Alliance Jiu-Jitsu, Boise, Idaho). And I watched the Jiu-Jitsu art. It was like ballet except fighting. I had never seen something so fluid yet both offense and defense were being played. I signed us both up that night and a week later I told Mitch I didn’t know how long I could afford to train but that I would go till I ran out of money.

I had barely reached the point living in the attic of my sister Noel’s garage with my wife and kids- that I could constantly provide food and basic needs consistently. The pipes froze that winter and we had space heaters and blankets to keep warm. At two months I felt like I either had to go all in or quit. You see maybe my story begins when my step dad told me in high school that I was no one’s hero. I should give up on dreams and plan on a regular job right out of high school. I wanted to be the hero of my own story. I wanted to leave the disparity of my failure behind.

Jiu Jitsu and Mitch gave me the confidence to take back my life and mental attitude. I set a goal to save 10,000 dollars and change my life. This was impossible but I set the goal anyways. I also told Mitch I wanted to be the best white belt. I began to restructure my life with discipline and tapping out and restarting daily if needed. I was on a journey. I told Mitch I wanted to be somebody at Jiu Jitsu. I won countless medals in white belt tournaments all over and shortly after my blue belt promotion travelled to Brazil to compete in Rio at the master international championship. I won a silver medal after a tough finals match I lost by points. With that I came home and changed my life.

I had saved $20,000. I spent $4,000 to take my wife with me to Brazil. And I called a man up and offered to work for free to learn to make teeth! Within six months he handed me a porcelain brush and taught me everything he knew. Six month later under stress of life and bad decisions he had to sell the business. I took the reigns of my life again and told him I would find investors to buy the business. I told Mitch I would be somebody at Jiu Jitsu then do the same thing with my career. I did find investors and I promised to pay everyone back in one year. My mentor told me it was impossible to do and that I was silly and making a mistake by setting impossible goals.

Well I did it. And I won the Pan American championship and a #1 world rank at the same time. Kristi Barlow, my wife, took care of me. Supported me. Went to many matches or took care of the kids so I could leave and have these journeys against myself. I met so many competitors I consider fellow travelers on this journey. All over the place. Too many names to list. Guys who fought so hard to beat me and I them. Thanks guys! You all know who you are. You guys honored me with battles.

I spent the next year paying off my debt and equipment. I spent $250,000 in two years to get the business and equipment leases paid off. I redid countless smiles for charity with Doctor Huff. I sacrificed more money to charity than I took in income for two years to prove it could be done. Kristi let me do it. We bought dinners for thanks giving and dinners for Christmas for countless families because when we had nothing someone did the same for us. Sitting in our little attic with a 1-foot tall Christmas tree Jessica Brennan bought us we ate food some mystery family left at our garage door. I had to return the favor.

At the brown belt level I won several tournaments and a bronze at masters worlds. Then Mitch pulled me aside and said, “Quit competing and go do what you said. Become somebody at your profession.” I wrote magazine articles and shook hands with everyone. I shared information with anyone I could trying to help others and I also helped myself become better. I was spotted by Dan Boskocevic with GC America and he told me he wanted me to share myself with his customers. I lectured internationally in Mexico first I did the entire lecture in Spanish. I met Von Grow and he introduced me to a whole new world of sharing information about teeth. Later I would be elected to become a member of the dental technicians guild. One of 150 in the world to serve and share information to help build up our industry with passion handmade teeth. I would go on to lecture and teach all over as well as speaking at the Chicago winter meeting. A big deal for our industry. And then I made plans for my return to competition. I was promoted on a weekend in which I also donated a new smile to a woman and finished the last implant crown for Johnny Goforth. A black belt. A new beginning. And a full circle of giving back.

Jiu Jitsu and Mitch Coats changed my life and along the way I have had the honor of changing other people’s lives. I did nothing on my own. My team was there the whole time. Countless to name individually I love you all. My brothers and sisters in the battle of life. We were not born perfect. I do not have a perfect life. I fail. But I tap often and start again. I drive to be better. I challenge myself. And you all join with me. We can’t help the past, but we can change our stars by the choices and goals we make today. Thank you all my friends. Each one of you who read this to the end was most likely someone so special to the reformation of my life. You are all special to me.


Courage in the Face of Complacency

by Jeff Moore, ‘The Ginja Ninja’


Most people think of cowardice as being the opposite of courage.  Those people might share an example of the heroic fireman blasting past the trembling bystander in to a building engulfed in flames as a contrast between courage and cowardice.

This certainly still applies in my estimation, but Rickson Gracie said something on Rogan’s podcast that got my attention.  I’m paraphrasing, but Rickson said something to the effect of, “In modern society, the opposite of courage is not cowardice.  It’s complacency.”  While looking in to this topic, I found that Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”  Rickson and Mandela… good enough for Killer J.

In our somewhat civilized society, most people aren’t faced with fending off hordes of marauders, launching spears in to charging rhinos, or Tarzan’ing from a jungle vine and rescuing a baby from the clutches of a crocodile.  That stuff happens, just not all that often.

Most of us are faced with less imminently severe stressors, but in the long term, our modern day stress can be crippling and is kept in place by complacency.  Do you have a job you don’t like, but fear quitting and doing your own thing?  That’s complacency.  Are you trapped in a bad relationship, but you won’t leave because you fear being alone?  That’s complacency.  If you’re a jiujitsu player, do you find yourself not progressing because you stick to your “A” game at all times while sparring because you fear trying out a new technique and failing?  Complacency.

I know I have fallen in to the complacency trap multiple times in my life with various things, so don’t take this post as being preachy.  I’ve let fear best me plenty of times, and the comfort of the mundane and predictable has been alluring enough to freeze me up for periods of time.  I need to remember to have the courage to take that leap, and not let fear bind me anymore.  Neither should you!

Cleaning House and Moving On

I spent this past weekend moving out of the house my wife and I bought nearly 14 years ago. As I’m sure any normal person would, while I was loading a trailer in the rain, I naturally started thinking of Jiu-Jitsu…

It is amazing how much stuff accumulates over time. Trip after trip hauling stuff outside, I was in awe with how much my family has. I’ve spent enough time in third world countries to be embarrassed by the enormity of my possessions. Sorting through things I found objects I use daily, others I occasionally use, and some objects I haven’t seen since tucking them in storage 10 years ago. Some are still useful, others are not.

As I started relating this to Jiu-Jitsu, I realized stepping away from one house to live in a new, completely different house that this is similar to progression in Jiu-Jitsu. I am a completely different Jiu-Jitsu player than I was 8, 5, even 2 years ago. When I started my BJJ journey, I was a guard guy. I had long, strong legs and held close guard like my life depended on it. I went for armbars and triangles from the bottom, and that was my entire game. 8 years later, I can’t remember the last time I used closed guard. 80% of my submissions were triangles. Now, I triangle someone once in a while, but more frequently attack elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles.

Just like the useless, sentimental stuff I had packed away in boxes, some of my BJJ techniques from long ago are no longer useful. Techniques I used to use all the time worked great on white belts, but would get me quickly submitted against the guys I train with now. Other techniques probably shouldn’t have even worked on white belts, but I got away with them because I was strong and athletic and the other white belts were as clueless as I was. Most of these techniques I threw out years ago, and a couple I still break out when I’m training with beginners. Some of my junk got tossed during this weekend’s move, and just like the back-up techniques, I’ll pack some back in storage another 10 years, just in case I need it someday.

Other useless items weren’t even hidden away unfortunately. We had some things sitting out in plain sight that have no value or practical use at all. We are used to having them around, so they stay. Sentimental or not, we need to cut some of these things from our life. In my Jiu-Jitsu game, there are these things as well. I developed bad habits years ago on the mat that still haunt me. I still do them because they are comfortable. To a certain degree, they define me, regardless of how many times my coaches chew me out about them. I’ve been told thousands of times never to lay flat on my back, but I still do frequently. I frequently turn the wrong way, grab the wrong arm, and get caught in basic submissions. The difference is that while once naive about these things, I now know imediately that I once again screwed up. Still, the habits remain. Now that I am moving, these impractical things have been once again brought to my attention, and I’m committed to purging them from my life.

And the triangle, my bread and butter move as a white belt…IT’S COMING BACK!!



Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu Belt Test

by Arlo Gagestein


I had the honor of spending last Saturday at Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas for a belt test and promotion ceremony. Several of my teammates were testing and a handful of us from Utah went out for the festivities. Witnessing the test brought back a flood of memories from my last promotion a couple years ago. After successfully demonstrating proficiency on a wide range of techniques, each person being promoted has to roll for an hour straight.

Now for those of us who frequently roll and hour or more, this might not sound too bad. The catch however is that you get ZERO rest, and every two minutes a new opponent jumps on you with the primary goal of breaking you down and wearing you out. If you notice the number of people in the above photo, it should be no surprise that there were plenty of fresh, well-rested opponents to keep those testing fighting to catch their breath.


As I jumped from one body to the next, I remembered the despair of being 30-40 minutes into my test with a seemingly unending supply of energetic teammates attacking me over and over again. You are exhausted, it hurts to breath, your limbs are useless, and you are repeatedly being beat by people with years less experience than you have. Let’s start you fighting for your life against the black, brown, and purple belts, then let every blue and white belt in the gym kick you while you are down. Welcome to purple. It doesn’t take long to begin questioning, “What am I doing here?” “Do I really want to continue suffering through this?” “How bad do I want this belt?”

There is a Rickson Gracie quote that I absolutely love and that defines Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for me.

Where there’s discomfort, there’s fear, in these very tough positions, you’re in a little piece of hell. And through this daily suffering, you learn to survive in these situations. You have to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. You have to be able to live in your worst nightmare. Jiu-jitsu puts you completely in the moment where you must have complete focus on finding a solution to the problem. This trains the mind to build that focus, to increase your awareness, your capacity to solve problems. Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing.”

“Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing.” In the helpless, hopelessness of a belt test; 40 minutes in with 20 minutes of hell to go, you learn what this promotion means to you. You have dedicated yourself to the art, to the endless pursuit of progress, chasing a destination that never arrives. In this moment, survival is everything. Everyone in this hour thinks about quitting. Everyone questions themselves, but I’ve never seen anyone give up. I’ve never seen someone in the dark tunnel, chasing the colored belt, quit. The rougher the ride, the more abuse they take, the more satisfying the victory of completion.

My hat goes off to everyone who was promoted last Saturday. I know you suffered worse than anything I can remember. You too have probably already forgotten just how bad it was. The sweetness of promotion erases a multitude of beatings. Beatings we are programmed to forget, so that in a couple years,  when the time has come, we’ll once again silently wait in the mat’s center, ready to battle all who approach.

To my teammates from Mori Training Center, thank you. Your determination and dedication to the art makes me better. I admire and value your friendship and support more than you will ever know. Together we suffer, and together we grow.



Jiu-Jitsu, Cops, and Schemas

Written by Jeff Moore, ‘The Ginja Ninja’


I’ve written about the psychology concept of schemas before.  They’re basically shortcuts our mind creates to make life easier so we don’t have to think out every single action we do every single time we do them.  As we regularly complete a complex series of tasks over and over, our mind does us a huge favor  and simplifies the complex task in to a “prepackaged” simple action, i.e. a baby learning to walk.

I hadn’t considered the application of schemas to jiujitsu until a cop buddy of mine was prefacing a series of techniques with a schema-related concept prior to teaching how some techniques flow in to other techniques, e.g. the armlock from guard transitions to the triangle choke, and the triangle transitions to the omoplata, and back again.

To illustrate the concept, he began describing a situation in which an aggressive suspect made a move to attack.  He told me he instantaneously and instinctively drew his firearm and leveled it at the attacking suspect a half beat before his conscious mind realized he’d done so.  His swift action caused the suspect to stand down, and no lethal force was used.

Years of repetition had enabled John to instantaneously perceive a threat, perceive it as potentially deadly and in need of potentially lethal force, remove his pistol from his holster, properly aim the pistol at the threat, and then pause before squeezing off a round to reassess the threat.  If he had to think through each of those steps, his actions would have been significantly slower and his life and subsequently the suspect’s life could have gone very different paths.  His schema, based off countless training scenarios and real world application, worked well.

Well, it works the same in jiujitsu, but with obviously much less dire consequences.  The reason people get really good at jiujitsu has everything to do with schemas!  A lot of factors go in to making a jiujitsu technique work against a resisting opponent.  Awareness is huge, as two people grappling certainly can create a fairly tangled, confusing web of limbs.

nogi grappling

For instance, to pull off an arm lock against a resisting opponent, I have to consider what my left arm is doing, what my right arm is doing, where my left leg is, and where my right leg is.  I also have to consider where each of my opponent’s respective limbs are.  Furthermore, I have to consider where my opponent’s limbs are in respect to my own limbs at any given moment.  Body positioning, weight distribution, and body angles all have to be considered.  Timing of technique, knowing when to apply the technique, knowing when to not apply the technique, and knowing how to even get in the position to execute the technique are all factors.  Finally, doing all of these things instantaneously while simultaneously being aware of your opponent’s attempts at defending as well as possibly what your opponent is trying to do to you in return makes a seemingly simple technique infinitely complex to a beginner.

Through years of drilling, practice, and live application, the complex series of tasks necessary to arm lock somebody gets prepackaged in to a nice little schema.  It becomes automatic.  It is my “Arm Lock Schema.”  Put in a slightly different situation, I have a “Triangle Schema,” and then a slightly different situation from the previous, and my “Omoplata” schema activates.

John was just teaching us to loop those schemas together, ultimately leading to the real life ninja shit of the Arm Lock/Triangle/Omoplata Schema. 

Starting Today

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

*I originally wrote this post on May 6, 2015. I wanted to repost because this past weekend, Richard Call, competed in the No Gi Worlds and came home with the bronze medal! Congrats Richard, I’m proud of you. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be a world champion!


I was hit today with an aha moment. Why it took so long, I do not know. I routinely share quotes such as:

Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale


The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb

So, with even with this “Go For It” attitude, I for some reason intentionally hold myself back from becoming the person that I could be. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t let myself go by any means. I am still on track this year to accomplish the goals I set for myself back in January. They are legitimate, lofty goals and I’m proud of my progress, but I know deep down that I can do more. As a perk of my profession, I stay in reasonably decent shape. I am strong, have good endurance, and am leaner than the vast majority of Americans. I also feel confident that I have a good enough conditioning base that given a dedicated month, I can prepare for just about anything. A big beach volleyball tournament? I can be ready. A big grappling tournament? Just tell me when it is and I’ll get to work. A marathon? Barring injury, I’m confident I can do most anything with a month’s preparation.

I was training a 27 year-old jiu-jitsu athlete this morning whose #1 goal right now is to become a world champion by the time he turns 30. Richard has a goal and he is going for it. He also knows what he needs to do to reach his goal. He has lined up a team of people he believes can get him there. He has top level training partners, an amazing jiu-jitsu instructor, a fantastic professional strength and conditioning coach (like that shameless plug?), and such targeted focus and dedication to his goal that I have no doubt he will eventually reach it (like in the next 3 years).


Pushing him through the workout today, I started to think about competition. I have competed A LOT, in a number of different sports. I love competition. Whether volleyball, jiu-jitsu, obstacle racing, or our own private, invitation only combination strongman/grappling tournaments, I love the atmosphere, I love the challenge, and I love putting myself against like-minded individuals. The thing is, I eagerly jump in regardless of my preparation. I’m fit enough that I usually do decent just going into competitions “off-the-couch”. Watching Richard train this morning, it dawned on me, “With the work he’s putting in, in very little time, I’m not going to stand a chance against this guy on the mat.” He has only been doing jiu-jitsu a couple of years. I have been training for seven. He is a lower belt than me, but challenges me every time we spar. I’ve been in a rut, deceiving myself to believe I can compete with anyone in my division with a month or so of dedicated work. But it is nonsense. My friends and my competitors alike are going to leave me in the dust because THEY are willing to put in the work NOW. Richard already beats me frequently, and before long it won’t even be close.

Watching him push himself in the gym today i realized I need to up my game. Sure I can be ready physically for a competition in a month, but how far ahead of me will everyone be who have already started and didn’t wait for a deadline. Chances are they will destroy me. I am a huge believer in ALWAYS being ready for competition. I hold myself to a relatively high level of fitness so that I CAN jump into competitions “off-the-couch”. But I am cheating myself. I know I can perform at a higher level. Not just good, but great. I know I my fitness can be better, but I have been avoiding what it takes because it is hard. I have opportunities to push myself daily, but frequently let these opportunities pass by, making excuses that I have business stuff to tend to at the gym, justifying my good, but sub-optimal fitness by consistently doing only the workouts that are getting me closer to my 2015 goals.

After watching Richard work through his first circuit (I was busy doing other “important” things of course), I jumped in for the second circuit. I went through one round and it was hard. The second round was harder. I considered bailing out, shamelessly because I had other stuff to do. In the end, I stuck with it all four rounds, embracing the suck because that is what everything but my body screams at me to do. Everyone I’ve trained with knows I love a challenge, that I do things the hard way, that I thrive on being uncomfortable doing things that suck. Trouble is, even when I put on that facade and suffer alongside my friends and clients, I’m holding myself back. I’m not giving 100%. ICAN give more and I WILL give more. I will no longer put off optimal fitness. I am starting my pre-competition month NOW, without a competition on the horizon. I will no longer avoid the work because it sucks. I’m fit, but I want to be at the highest level I know I can be.

Richard – I’m coming for you! Jeff, Lucus, Tiny – you too.

Jake – it pisses my off that you are so much better than everyone, but have no doubts, my conditioning will be better than yours.  😉

Don’t Get Taken Down – Lessons Learned from Brandon Ruiz

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

Almost 6 years ago, the second time I ever competed in BJJ, grappling superstar Brandon Ruiz gave a pre-tournament seminar at the weigh-ins. If you aren’t familiar with Brandon, he is a 5-time member of the USA Grappling Team, winning team titles in 2008, 2009, and 2014, as well winning seven individual world championships and 15 world level medals through FILA/UWW, IBJJF, SJJIF, NAGA, Grapplers Quest, and Pancrase. Any heavyweight 2nd degree Machado Jiu-Jitsu black belt is intimidating. Throw in the fact that he is also a world-class wrestler with such an impressive resume and and Brandon is downright scary! Needless to say, while attending his seminar, I paid attention!


While this seminar was years ago, there are several things he taught that I still use today. One thing he covered really stood out to me. Brandon said studies had shown that in wrestling, 70% of the time, the person who gets the takedown wins the match. Now I’m not a mathematician, but those sounded like pretty good odds. I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to let anyone take me down the next day. No matter what else happened, I was going to get the takedown or stubbornly resist until my opponent pulled guard.

I knew next to nothing about takedowns. I had been attending BJJ classes inconsistently for about a year and a half, and prided myself from fighting on bottom. I headed back to the hotel with 3 friends I had convinced to compete with me, and we spent the next couple hours flipping through a Dave Camarillo book looking for easy-to-learn takedowns. I picked two I thought I could pull off and we practiced throwing each other on the beds for 15-20 minutes before turning on Jet Li’s movie Fearless and drifting off to sleep.

At the tournament the next day, I arrived to find a long road to medal contention. As a 195 lb. white belt there were 12 competitors in my gi bracket and 11 competitors in my no gi bracket. I had my two newly learned moves and I had set my mind to avoid being taken down at all costs. I knew nothing about takedown defense, but was confident enough in my strength, athleticism, balance, and determination that I felt I could avoid being taken down by any white belt at the tournament. Even if I had to just stay standing until my opponent gave up and pulled guard I was okay with that.

Amazingly, my game plan worked. Opponent after opponent eventually went to the ground out of frustration and I quickly submitted them. I even hit one of my new takedown techniques a couple of times! As I was awarded my gold medal in the gi, I began strategizing my no gi competition. Brandon Ruiz’s takedown tip had been a goldmine! My game plan was the same. Everything went fine until the semifinal.

I was up against a stocky wrestler who despite me efforts quickly took me down. I was successfully able to keep him in my guard, but because of the takedown I was down on points. Then, he stood up! I knew I was in trouble. He was up on points and avoiding me on the ground. I stood back up, and he immediately took me down again. After a brief scuffle on the ground, my opponent stood up for a third time. The person who gets the takedown usually wins. He was using my own strategy against me. I knew that the next time he took me down I had to submit him, and quick. As he took me down, I threw on a desperate triangle and tapped him out as the time expired. I was lucky enough to be part of the 30%! I won again in the final, walking away with two gold medals in the white belt division.

Arlo (the tall one) and Justin with the first grappling medals of their career.

Arlo (the tall one) and Justin in 2010 with the first medals of their grappling careers.

Winning my weight class qualified me to compete in the absolute competition against the winners of the other weight classes. Amusingly, the gi and no gi absolute tournaments ran simultaneously and I was supposed to fight in both at the same time. Flustered I ran back and forth explaining the situation and opting for my no gi match first. Once again I faced a stocky wrestler who easily took me down and choked me out in about 30 seconds. The 70% wins again. This time not in my favor.

In the absolute final for gi, I faced an experienced judo player. Assuming he would eventually throw me, I immediately tried one of my new Camarillo judo throws. I was instantly heels-over-head and slammed to the mat. Lesson learned. Never try to throw a judoka with a move you learned out of a book the night before. Once on the ground, my opponent controlled me very well, never overly threatening, but staying ahead on points and preventing me from any offensive efforts. Once I scrambled to my feet and was quickly thrown again. Time ran out and once again the 70% won. I lost on points largely because I allowed my opponent to take me down.

In all, I faced 10 opponents at the tournament, and in 9 out of 10 matches, the person who scored the first takedown won the match. Brandon Ruiz’s advice was spot on. It has remained in the forefront of my mind with every competition since. I’m still not great at takedowns. Sometimes I get the takedown; sometimes I get tossed or double-legged. Frequently when I do get taken down, I lose. Usually when I start on top I win. It was an important lesson, and one I will always remember. Thank you Brandon Ruiz.

3 Ways to Progress Quickly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Post written by Richard Call

I got into a discussion with someone the other day about the best way to progress in a martial arts quickly. My first response was a weak one; the usual “It depends on the person” classic non-answer answer. So I spent some time thinking about it later and I now have a real answer. There are 3 things to do so you can progress in your art as well as life.

1) Stay healthy.  

#1 is obvious in a big way, you get hurt you can’t train. You don’t train you don’t progress. But let’s take it a bit further. What kind of people do you hang out with? Are they pushing you to be better physically and mentally? What kind of environment do you spend your time in? What foods do you eat? What amount of time do you spend on taking care of yourself? How much effort do you put into keeping a positive attitude throughout your day? Negativity is a poison that we consume all too often. Staying healthy isn’t just about not getting injured, although that’s a huge part. It’s also taking care of your life and your spirit and your environment. Spend time in healthy positive environments with training partners you can share with and inspire each other.

2) Stay hungry.

I feel that staying hungry is the best way to sum up your thirst for knowledge, your desire for a challenge, your quest for glory and your dedication to your goals. I think a lot of people forget the hunger they felt when they started, that mad desperation to not get submitted by this guy or that girl. They forget the drive to be better, they start just going to class rather than getting excited about it. Every class has at least one detail that will improve your game if you look for it. I find myself doing the drills we’re assigned and while trying to commit the mechanics of it to my memory I try and find that one detail that Ive been missing that could change my game. Last night it was a trick to finishing an arm bar that was such a little change I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t noticed it before. The point I’m getting at is that we forget our desire for progression and growth and challenges. We fall into a routine and don’t seek out challenges to break the cycle. Stay hungry by setting goals, by searching for challenges, by hunting for the devil in the details. Stay hungry by wanting to get better. Now I’m not saying that you won’t get better by going to class and learning, I am saying that along with that you have to consciously decide to be better, don’t just show up! Show up and make the decision in your mind I am going to be better than I was yesterday! I am going to focus more than I did yesterday, I am going to last longer than I did, push harder, try more, learn more and do everything I can do to be better than I was. When you make a decision it changes the way you move the way you act and the way you feel. Stay hungry for growth!

Jiu-jitsu = life

3) Stay happy.

This one is important to the journey we go through in jiu-jitsu. The love hate relationship with training and injuries and competition victories and defeats, advances and set backs, pride and humility. For me jiu-jitsu is something I know I will be doing for the rest of my life, so when I fail at something or I don’t accomplish something, I keep in mind this is part of my journey and not my destination. It immediately puts everything into perspective. I will never be as good today as I will be tomorrow. That’s nothing to be upset about it’s something to be excited about! The problem is when we let those set backs or failures break our spirit. It’s easy for everyone to be happy when they are winning and having fun and getting the results they want and progressing fast, but it’s hard when you feel like you’re not achieving whatever it is you set out to. So I feel the best thing to do is take a deep breath and a step back, remember why you started, look at what you’ve already accomplished, look at the friends you’ve made, the lives you’ve influenced and the experiences you’ve had. Happiness in jiu-jitsu can’t be about one day or another, it has to be about the journey. If it was about one day, every time we got our asses kicked, we’d quit. But subconsciously, you know something that you don’t always know consciously; that the one day does not matter in the greater journey, it is only one day. Another problem we have is comparing ourselves to others. It’s hard in this art not to because each sparing session is a very literal comparison between you and someone else. The key is to make the journey your own! We are not all on the same jiu-jitsu path, but our destination is all the same – mastery over ourselves and personal progression. Everything else should be second to that. Your journey is unique to you. If you look to other people, don’t look to them for comparisons, look to them for examples and inspiration. Take the good and leave the bad. Sometimes all we need is a break and some rest; sometimes we just need to train harder; but what we always need is support. If you’re having hard time and not feeling happy, find the person you know who is capable of helping you recover your passion and let them relight your fire. If all else fails take a deep breath, slap, bump, and roll. Don’t think, just roll and the world will take care of itself.

Thank you all for being in my life and sharing your jiu-jitsu with me!