Commitment: Ms. Nova Parrish’s Journey

What does commitment mean to me?

Well, the simple answer is keeping my word, whether to myself or others. Before I started training I did not think much about commitment. I also was not committed to as many things, so there wasn’t much to think about. Since I started training that word has become a constant both in my vocabulary, and my thoughts. My definition of the word hasn’t changed, but I have, and therefore so has my approach to it.

I started training because I wanted fitness and self-defense. I’m 4’11” and recognize most people are bigger then me. I wanted to feel like I could protect myself. Little did I know by starting at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu there was a transformation ahead of me. I started in the basic class like everyone and I remember watching the advanced class and being in awe of the speed, control and fitness I saw. I wanted to be there so much. So as I started to progress and get closer to that class I was asked what kind of black belt did I want to be. I had no idea.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it. At that point I was happy with letting my life take me wherever it wanted to go. I had no drive or direction. I knew though that the question of black belt wasn’t just, “do I want to be one”, it was “who do I want to be when I receive one”. This led me to think about what direction my life was taking. Since I wasn’t committed to anything I had nothing to work towards. Now I did – a black belt. I wanted it because I wanted something to work towards. Something that was in line with my beliefs. Something that would help me become the person I wanted to be.

Now when I think commitment, I think black belt.

At the time I was working a retail job I didn’t like. I had more bad days than good ones. One day, I was walking home from a good day at work. I was trying to figure out what had caused it to be such a good day. I realized that it was because nothing bad had happened. I decided I was not ok with this. I decided I was not ok with defining good days as “nothing bad happening”. I wanted to be in control of my good days, to create them, not let them happen to me. I wanted to define my good days as positive things happening and helping others. I knew what made me happiest, my time at the dojo. So I started spending more time there. I recognized my commitment to the dojo was also a commitment to the philosophies of BBJJ, to black belt.

The main philosophy of our dojo is a Japanese word, kaizen. The definition is “good change”, but to those of us who train it means constant and never-ending improvement. I made a commitment to this idea. The change in me was small at first, in little almost unnoticeable ways. First, it was just my commitment to going to class, showing up was enough for me back then.

Then as my training grew more complex it became a commitment to improve techniques, the calisthenics I did, eating habits and also, although I didn’t realize this at first, my attitude. I have always counted myself a positive person, I find the brighter side of life a more enjoyable place to live in. Despite this, there were areas in my life where I didn’t bring that attitude with me, and one was my family.

When I started training I didn’t have a  positive relationship with my dad. Since I had committed myself to kaizen I recognized I needed to improve this part of my life if I wanted to stay committed to this concept. I reached out to Professor Lynch and Shihan Dunn and, with their guidance, for the first time in my life I saw him for the person he truly was and loved him for that.

This reconciliation with my father never would have happened had I not begun training. Training led to re-evaluating my thoughts about commitment and deciding to be committed to kaizen. This caused me to honestly recognize what areas in my life I needed to improve.

I believe the months of training before I did this were mentally preparing me to be open to this change. It was like seeing sunshine for the first time, never knowing you lived in the dark. I saw everything in my life in a different light. When he passed away last year I was at peace. I had said everything I needed to say and got almost a year of happiness with him after over a decade of pain. I thank my training for this blessing.

Sticking to my commitments isn’t always easy. In fact there are times I stumble and fall. But I’m not committed to being perfect, I’m committed to not letting a mistake stop me. My mantra has become, if you fall 7 times, get up 8. So by committing to kaizen, to black belt, I have committed to creating the life I have always wanted. It all started because I walked into BBJJ. It changed my life for the better and has continued to do so everyday since I decided to commit to it.

The Journey From White Belt to Black Belt


We believe that the two most important belts in the Martial Arts are black belt and white belt.

White belt represents the courage to begin something new, and the willingness to be a student.

Black belt represents honest, integrity, humility, perseverance and generosity.

It also represents a single-minded determination, a willingness to persist in the face of obstacles.

Those obstacles can be external – like family, a work schedule, the other demands on our time. They can also be internal – a negative or self-defeating inner monologue, feeling dissatisfied or uncertain about our progress.

The journey from white belt to black belt is the process of personal transformation, and learning how to do battle with your own weaknesses.

In the early phases of training, black belt can seem far off; so far off, in fact, that many people fear trying to reach it. But every new black belt reminds every student of the reward that discipline, focus and commitment bring: not just a new belt around your waist, but a deeper and more involved way of living in the world.

Our martial arts mission is “black belt and beyond”, because the journey for our recent graduates is just beginning. Now that they have become black belts, they’ll find themselves with the task of being black belts…daily.

No matter where you are in your training, commit (or recommit) to the journey of black belt as a way to push yourself beyond your anxieties and fears.

We ask students to set the black belt goal early on as a way of understanding the bigger mission of the martial arts. It is not just an experiment in goal-setting – it’s also a way to commit to long-term progress and results. Black belt frames the journey of personal growth in a positive and proactive way.

Congratulations to our new graduates. Thank you for inspiring us!


Goal-Setting Prep for the New Year

For the martial artist, this time of year is a time to reconnect to those goals achieved and those in progress. It’s a chance to commit and recommit to the attitudes, behaviors and disciplines we’ve been working on throughout 2014.

Start to envision the next year ahead. Not just planning, but preparation:

What are you planning to read?
How can you become a more complete martial artist?
What kind of shape are you going to be in?
What one or two tweaks will you make to your training regimen?
How can you create a deeper sense of abundance?
Are you in the habit of giving?
How about your career and relationships – what will they look like?
How can you create the disciplines for better self-control?
What will you be studying or learning?

the-next-levelWhere do you want to be in another one, three or five years? Without a plan, you risk falling into the plans that others have made…and they might not have much planned for you at all.

What do you want the next 12 months to look like? More of the same, or will you make adjustments to get you to the next level?

One way to start the process is to write your goals down. Then refer back to them often, especially during the first few weeks of the year. Keep them where you can review them. And when it’s appropriate, share them with the people you trust so they can hold you accountable.

The journey to black belt through the martial arts is the ultimate goal-setting process, and one that informs and improves all the others in your life. Becoming a Black Belt is a long-range goal, but you have to begin by creating clarity for the start of the journey. Planning for your next stripe or belt – creating a training schedule, building your skills, eating right – is a great way to outline for success.



Here are ten choices that ultimately lead to this phrase of regret, and how to elude them:

1.  Wearing a mask to impress others.

If the face you always show the world is a mask, someday there will be nothing beneath it.  Because when you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you really are.  So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you.  You don’t have to be perfect to impress and inspire people.  Let them be impressed and inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.

2. Letting someone else create your dreams for you.

The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are; the second greatest is being happy with what you find.  A big part of this is your decision to stay true toyour own goals and dreams.  Do you have people who disagree with you?  Good.  It means you’re standing your ground and walking your own path.  Sometimes you’ll do things considered crazy by others, but when you catch yourself excitedly losing track of time, that’s when you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.


3. Keeping negative company.

Don’t let someone who has a bad attitude give it to you.  Don’t let them get to you.  They can’t pull the trigger if you don’t hand them the gun.  When you remember that keeping the company of negative people is a choice, instead of an obligation, you free yourself to keep the company of compassion instead of anger, generosity instead of greed, and patience instead of anxiety.

4. Being selfish and egotistical.

A life filled with loving deeds and good character is the best tombstone.  Those who you inspired and shared your love with will remember how you made them feel long after your time has expired.  So carve your name on hearts, not stone.  What you have done for yourself alone dies with you; what you have done for others and the world remains.

5. Avoiding change and growth.

If you want to know your past look into your present conditions.  If you want to know your future look into your present actions.  You must let go of the old to make way for the new; the old way is gone, never to come back.  If you acknowledge this right now and take steps to address it, you will position yourself for lasting success.

6. Giving up when the going gets tough.
There are no failures, just results.  Even if things don’t unfold the way you had expected, don’t be disheartened or give up.  Learn what you can and move on.  The one who continues to advance one step at a time will win in the end.  Because the battle is always won far away and long before the final victory.  It’s a process that occurs with small steps, decisions, and actions that gradually build upon each other and eventually lead to that glorious moment of triumph.

7. Trying to micromanage every little thing.

Life should be touched, not strangled.  Sometimes you’ve got to relax and let life happen without incessant worry and micromanagement.  Learn to let go a little before you squeeze too tight.  Take a deep breath.  When the dust settles and you can once again see the forest for the trees, take the next step forward.  You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to be headed somewhere great.  Everything in life is in perfect order whether you understand it yet or not.  It just takes some time to connect all the dots.


8. Settling for less than you deserve.

Be strong enough to let go and wise enough to wait for what you deserve.  Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been to stand up taller than you ever were before.  Sometimes your eyes need to be washed by your tears so you can see the possibilities in front of you with a clearer vision again.  Don’t settle.

9. Endlessly waiting until tomorrow.

– The trouble is, you always think you have more time than you do.  But one day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to work on the things you’ve always wanted to do.  And at that point you either will have achieved the goals you set for yourself, or you will have a list of excuses for why you haven’t.

10. Being lazy and wishy-washy.

– The world doesn’t owe you anything, you owe the world something.  So stop daydreaming and start DOING.  Develop a backbone, not a wishbone.  Take full responsibility for your life – take control.  You are important and you are needed.  It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday.  Someday is now; the somebody the world needs is YOU.

A Thankful Thanksgiving

thankfulIf your home is like most, your Thanksgiving Day will be very busy, with either traveling to where you want to go or preparing your home to have others over for the day. Either way, that can be very hectic and emotionally trying, which doesn’t lend itself to preparing your heart to be reflective and thankful. In fact, Thanksgiving weekend is the most traveled weekend in America. Airports are full, and don’t always provide much room for contemplation of your good fortune.

This means all the more that if we want to be the kind of people who are characterized by thankfulness, then we must make sure that we focus on it, and not just on Thanksgiving Day, but at all times during the year.

Here are a few key words as well as some thoughts that are simple and practical to apply; something you can use right away in your quest to become more thankful:
Time. Set aside time regularly to be quiet, to reflect. We live in the fastest-paced time ever. From the moment we awake to the moment we collapse into bed, we have the opportunity to go at full speed and never slow down. If we schedule time every day in which we can be quiet and reflect, we will free our hearts and minds from the tyranny of the urgent and rushed.

Thought. Give thought to the many blessings that you have. Living in a consumer culture, most of us are fully aware of what we do not have and how we absolutely must have “it.” But how often do we reflect upon that which we already have? Take some time each day and think of one or two things you have that you may typically take for granted, and then take a moment and give thanks for those. In fact, I make it a part of my reflection time to review a list of things that I’m thankful for.

Generosity. Be generous toward those with less and not envious of those with more. We tend to look at others who may be wealthier than ourselves and think, “I sure wish I had what he does.” That kind of thinking breeds envy and jealousy rather than contentment. What can we do to break that cycle? I would suggest being generous to those who are less fortunate than yourself. Go to work at a food bank, and not just during the holidays—everybody works there then—but on a regular basis during the year. That will remind you of how good you really have it.

Ask. Ask a friend what they are thankful for. You will be amazed at the answers you receive and you will create a meaningful bond with your friends as you focus on this powerful question.

Acknowledge. Lastly, tell those you love how thankful you are for having them in your life. So many times we neglect to take the time to craft the words to express to those closest to us what their presence in our lives means to us. Take the opportunity of Thanksgiving Day to write them a note, or sometime during the day put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes and tell them. Let them know what they mean to you, and in return you’ll begin to create the possibility of deeper, richer, more fulfilling relationships with those you love.

Of course, we should do what we can to make the most of the day we call Thanksgiving, but wouldn’t it be a shame if the only time we reflected on our blessings was that one Thursday in November? And the answer is, of course! So let’s do our best to be aware of the many great gifts that we have each and every day of the year. As we do so we will see our hearts soar and our minds more and more at peace as we regularly remember and remain aware of our good fortune.

10 Ways to Teach Humility

Author GK Chesterton said: “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth. This is now exactly reversed.”

Many modern young people state there is no absolute truth, but they are supremely overconfident in themselves. So when your son or daughter displays genuine humility, they stand out like the noonday sun. Here’s 10 ways to teach your children humility:

  1. Modeling.
    Never underestimate the power of teaching through example. Humility must be consistently modeled as a lifestyle, not an on-again, off-again example.
  2. Build them up.
    This may sound counter intuitive, but it’s important to understand that humility always comes from a position of belief, strength, and self-assurance.
  3. Encourage and help them to be the very best they can beno matter what they do.
    Humility works best when your child has actually achieved something! Help your child achieve with confidence.
  4. Make sure they understand where their real value comes from.
    It’s easier to sidestep pride or arrogance when children understand that they are valued simply because they are your child, not because they win the race, have a prettier mom (and a smarter dad!), earn a higher income, or score the most points.
  5. Never humiliate your kids.
    Humility cannot be imposed. It’s important not to confuse humiliation, bullying, and beating down with an education in humility.
  6. Expose your child to the great teachers and their stories.
    Jesus, Mother Teresa, Eric Liddell… are all wonderful role models. For Jesus, there are lots of great children’s books about him, as well as about Mother Teresa. Eric Liddell is the man who inspired the movie, Chariots of Fire, a great film for your whole family.
  7. Teach them to serve.
    – Serve the homeless
    – Serve the poor
    – Serve their family
    – Serve one another
  8. Coach them on how to respond.
    Kids need to be taught to say, “please” and “thank you” as much as they need to be taught to brush their teeth and to stay out of the street. So why expect them to know humility without guidance? Here’s an example: “Look, Jr., that’s a great job you did on your science fair project. You deserved to win the prize. Now, this is how you handle it in class tomorrow…let’s practice saying,
    “I like the way my friend, Matt, did his project, too.”
    “I don’t think I could have won without the help of my teacher.”
    You get the idea.
  9. Teach them how to apologize.
    The well-timed and sincere apology is a key component of humility. Sometimes they’re wrong; they need to acknowledge that. Sometimes they overreach and it’s time to back up. Sometimes, they receive unintentional consequences they need to smooth over.
  10. Teach them to give thanks.
    A genuinely grateful heart is a key building block for humility. Gratitude, practiced and eventually owned, enhances humility at every turn. The person saying “thank you” affects a posture that is unassuming and modest. Try this: every time someone offers a compliment, simply say, “thank you.” It’s the kind of response that eventually soaks in, grows roots, and blooms humility.

Habit of Improvement!  

No matter your level or stage of training, seeking improvement on a regular basis creates the conditions for optimal performance.

When it comes to martial arts training, this is one of the foundations to becoming a diligent student. Most of us understand that pursuing higher, broader, longer-rage goals makes more of us than pursuing shallow, short-sighted goals.

What you become in the pursuit of a challenging goal transforms you more than an easy one.

The black belt mindset is one in which we choose to pursue excellence rather than accept mediocrity.

We’re not talking about becoming a perfectionist with an all-or-nothing approach to challenges or goals. We’re talking about preparing well through physical, mental and emotional training to be able to optimize the results we get in our lives. The outcome is a continuous, continuing life-long journey of personal growth and improvement.

Areas of improvement can include:

  • Martial arts – how can you improve your attitude and attention to become a more complete martial artist?
  • Personal relationships – how can you become a better, more tuned-in listener with family and friends?
  • Career – where can you use your time more effectively and efficiently?
  • Finances – how can you save, invest and spend wisely?
  • Emotional mastery – how can you create the disciplines for better self-control?

Either excellence or mediocrity can become a habit. Which would you rather create?

Excellent health would give you greater energy to train and do the things you want to do each day. Excellence in emotional mastery would mean more self-control and self-confidence.

Both daily disciplines and daily errors are compounded over time, and it is your responsibility to make sure they’re adding up to something valuable. This is why we believe in the pursuit of a challenging, worthy goal like Black Belt, both for you and those around you.

Strive to bring out the best in yourself and others through constant and never-ending learning, on and off the mat.

Talk About Training

How Do You Talk About Your Training?

Being a student of the martial arts is a commitment to self-study. And as any serious student discovers, learning is an incremental process fraught with challenges as well as successes.

Is that how you think about yourself – as a student? Because you should. Of course you’re learning about self-defense and fitness, but also about the deeper lessons of the journey from white belt to black belt.