Our Best Year Yet

Martial arts teaches a balance between mindfulness of the present and planning for the future. Your best years are ahead of you, not behind you.

So, in preparation for 2016, we would like you to think about the power of being a fast starter and a strong finisher. What’s the best way to make this your best year ever?

Train often. You’ve made a promise to yourself already about your fitness and martial arts training, which puts you ahead of those who are still deciding. The combination of a clearly articulated plan and the action of showing up to train is a powerful pathway to positive progress.

How does this help you have your best year ever?

When you follow through on one promise to yourself, you support all the other promises you’ve made in your life. Getting serious about your training, your fitness and your personal growth is fuel for other commitments.

For the martial artist, this time of year is also 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 2015.

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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?
How can you create a deeper sense of abundance?
Are you in the habit of giving?
What will you be studying or learning?

Where 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.

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.

We look forward to the year ahead. Cheers to joining you on the mat in 2016. Oss!

Beyond Thankful

A few days before Thanksgiving, I was at a parking garage on 27th Street and Broadway and I was going to pay the ticket. I was standing in line when this guy steps to the front and he tries to jump the line. My response was to flex on him a little bit: I postured up and looked at him eye to eye, and it worked. He understood that I wasn’t really having that.

So in the moment I thought to myself, “I was right – he really tried to pull some smart stuff and I shut it down.” But then thirty seconds later, I began to wonder, “What harm would it have done to let this guy just go in front of me and give him a nice gift?” I knew I could wait a couple more seconds. What if I thought, “Hey – be my guest!”

This brings us to the point that we’d like to make about giving thanks during the holiday season. In the past. we’ve encouraged students to take a little time before the end of the year to sit and think about the things that they’re grateful for. That’s the meaning of the holiday, that’s what the intention was. And it’s a very healthy thing: along with the football and the egg nog and the Black Fridays and holiday shopping and New Year’s, taking a minute and being grateful.

But this year, I began to think about the word “Thanksgiving” as a compound of “thanks” and “giving”, and tried to change my approach. What I did this year – and probably most of you do this and I’m late to the party – was to try to have thanks and then keep giving. Not just thanking for the gifts that we have, the blessings that we have, and all the stuff we’ve received this year. But really taking seriously this plan to keep giving, to keep generating, to bestow blessings on others without needing to be reciprocated.

This is what I did at Thanksgiving, and it’s what I’m going to try to do during this holiday season: to give to someone in the next three or four weeks in a way that they cannot repay me for. To create giving through an act of generosity and in doing so, to actualize these two principles: be thankful, and keep giving.

So if you’d like to take it on, it might be a nice experiment to see what we can do with this group, however many of us, just being generous. Yes, be grateful to those around you and think about what has been great about this year. And yes, recognize all the fortunate conditions and situations you’ve experienced in your life. But try, once you’ve done that, to give more than just your thanks – find a way to be generous and give someone else a reason to be thankful also

Shihan Gene Dunn

Dine for a Cause Takes Our Practice Off the Mat

Professor Glick’s speech at the Dine for a Cause event encapsulated many of the central organizing principles at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Along with thanks to all the students and participants at this sold-out event, he gives a vision of what makes BBJJ’s approach so unique and vital, and why it’s not enough to leave your practice on the mat. Watch the video above from the Dine for a Cause evening and read Professor Glick’s speech below.


I’m very grateful to have been asked to speak tonite because it gives me a chance to say thank you to everyone here, and most importantly, to celebrate our work together beyond the walls of our dojos.

When we began – over ten years ago – to put together a plan for what these schools would look like, our vision was for something much more than just a group of martial arts schools.

The idea was to offer a place where the real growth potential inherent in serious martial arts training could be brought to the fore. Where students wouldn’t have to subscribe to a culture of violence or exclusion in order to feel fulfilled or included. And where each student would have a broader perspective on their own humanity than they did when they first began.

Since the beginning, charitable donations have been a part of what we do. Many of you know this already, but since our founding, a portion of our profits each month have been donated to a different charitable organization, researched and reviewed by all the Professors and instructors.

As students, you have played a critical a part in this mission as well– whether by giving clothing, food or goods during a monthly drive, or in attending a seminar or training session to benefit an important cause. When a typhoon hit the Philippines, you were there. When an earthquake hit Nepal, you were there. And when Hurricane Sandy touched down, devastating our students homes and the future home of BBJJ Cobble Hill, you were there.

We’ve intensified that effort over the last two years, including not just monetary donations but requests to our students to reach out into their neighborhoods and our communities in a much deeper and more personal way.

For instance, graduation requirements now feature a community service component, as do the various leadership courses we offer.

The results have been profound. Not only have we been able to make valuable contributions to places like the Robin Hood Foundation, the Harlem Children’s Zone, Save the Children and tonite GAIN, but this type of giving has had a huge impact on the students and the BBJJ community as a whole. It’s broadening the outline of what it means to be a martial artist by returning some of the social context to our work. And we couldn’t be happier to watch how willingly, how dramatically, all of you have embraced this project.

So as our schools have grown and we’ve expanded into different parts of Brooklyn, we’ve been able to bring what we see as these “essential principles for living” to a wider audience.

It has meant more people in more neighborhoods learning effective and responsible martial arts, but of course its been more than that. It’s meant sharing an ethical approach to relationships, personal growth and self-mangement during complex and challenging times. And of course it’s meant that all of our lives have been immeasurably enriched by the presence of new friends, peers and training partners.

Tonite’s get-together is in part to celebrate these connections. The bond we have built through the martial arts, whether as students or as part of the extended family, is unlike any other I know of. And the community we have become isn’t founded only on a common interest in the armlock or the hip throw. We’re a part of these schools – and we’re here tonite – because we saw a chance to give, to share and to express the central principles of the martial arts: generosity, humility, integrity, loyalty and a belief in the future.

I speak for all of the professors and instructors when I say that we are grateful to you for your participation, involvement and commitment – not just to being here tonite but to embracing the larger notion of a generous life lived well with the help of the martial arts principles we hold so dear.

We’d like to thank everyone for coming and all the staff for helping to put this together:

Brenda – Sensei – Angela

All the Professors

All the Instructors

And of course all the students who are helping to make this such a wonderful night.

Thank you.


10th Anniversary Contest

Now is the perfect time to join us on the mat at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Celebrating 10 years and looking forward to the next 10 years. #bbjj10

Student & Teacher

By Professor Lynch

I have long believed that one of the most valuable aspects of martial arts training is the relationship between student and teacher. It doesn’t exist in any other activity or lifestyle in the way it does for us in the martial arts.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it has been an absolutely crucial component to my success.

My teacher plays a unique role in my life because he doesn’t always give me what I *want*, but instead gives me what I *need*. He provides me with what I require for my project of overcoming my own weakest elements.

By endlessly furnishing me with chances to learn, he has helped teach me humility and compassion and generosity. He teaches me how to love my students, training partners and my family more. He continues to teach me how to accept new levels of accountability, responsibility, technical ability…the list goes on and on and on. The things that I’ve learned from him I wouldn’t trade for anything.

For my part, it’s critical that I do everything I can to make sure that our relationship as student teacher stays intact. This is an ongoing process, and because he’s always asking me to revisit and reconsider so many of my creature comforts, I have to guard against my own resistance sometimes.

That means I can’t just toe the line. I have to deliberately keep myself on the “student” side. I do this knowing that he will do what he has to do to stay on the teacher side of the line, and together we keep the relationship alive and healthy.

The most helpful thing I discovered in my own career as a student is also one of the simplest. It goes like this:

“Oss, Professor!”

You see, we’ve already established our relationship and we’ve already earned each other’s trust. I’ve accepted him as my teacher and he has accepted me as his student and we have both accepted the dojo floor as the learning space.

So I feel completely comfortable and confident in saying, “Oss, Professor!”
to just about anything.

Even when I think I might know something, even when I think I might have this situation figured out, it’s still “Oss, Professor!”.

And its not just because he’s always right. It’s because when he is teaching me it’s another moment of another day where he is giving something to me, where he’s taking the time and spending his energy for me.

So “Oss, Professor” is a way to show him that I’m grateful. And to show him that I am his student, and I am always willing and eager to listen.

If I were to stop saying that – or get argumentative or combative or snarky or sarcastic in the face of a suggestion – it would mean that our relationship had changed. Implicit in our “Oss” is an acknowledgement of mutual trust.

Plus I don’t really ever want to present myself to him in a way that says, “I got it all figured out,” because I certainly don’t. That’s why I need a teacher. If I start acting as if I know already – or if I know better – then it’s as good as saying, “Thanks, but I no longer need you.”

The teacher can be such a powerful role-model and mentor that I believe it’s very natural to want to be like your teacher. I know that I am actively emulating the way he approaches Jiu-Jitsu and the way he solves problems. I am always listening intently to the way he communicates his thoughts and vision for the world.

With all the years of trying to be like him, it is tempting to tell myself that I’ve “arrived” – that we are equals, that I’ve learned all the lessons diligently and that now he and I are the same.

It would be so great, I tell myself, because it would mean that I’ve gotten what I always wanted.

But it would also mean that I’ve lost what I always needed: a teacher. Someone who will always see a little more than me. Someone who will always hold me to an incredibly high standard. Someone who will always be the model that I aspire to. Someone who will continue to give and care and love and teach me to be a better person.

I am protective of that relationship. I believe it’s good for me, good for my family, good for my relationships, good for my emotional health. I learn from it daily. And it’s why I’m committed to this notion of humility and gratitude.

“Oss, Professor!”

Black Belt Seminar with Chie Swain

Thank you to all the attendees at Sensei Chie Swain’s seminar at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Clinton Hill! As a bonus, Sensei brought a few (not-so-surprise) guests – husband Mike, daughter Sophia and son Masa. It was truly an honor to watch the precision, clarity and beauty of a master instructor. Enjoy the photos and feel free to share!

My Experience in the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Community

Valedictorian speech and Brown Belt Essay by student, Brett Rand.

The Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) community has had a more profound impact on me than any thing I have ever done in my life. That the word ” community” is used as opposed to “school”, “dojo” or “academy” is a testament to the impact of Shihan Dunn and Professor Glick’s vision. When asked the one word to describe what their vision has provided for me? Enlightenment.

Nowhere in my life have I been affiliated with something that represented and encouraged people to express themselves without fear of judgement or rejection.I was seeking to learn a way to defend myself from a threat as well as manage the fears and anxieties that challenged me throughout my life because of a childhood accident that left me with partial use of my left hand.

My size and demeanor masked an insecurity about my inability to defend myself in the event of a threat. Throughout my training I would be so consumed with anxiety the tension in my body would be immeasurable and clouded my ability to learn. If I had been training in the “traditional” culture I would have probably still been fodder for higher ranks to expose my insecurity and almost definitely would have failed miserably.

Today I am writing this essay because Shihan and Professor understood that there needs to be a place for “everyone else” who is seeking the knowledge for a purpose other than self-validation through a trophy or a medal. Fostering an environment of cooperation instead of festering competition is what makes it possible for me to write this today.

I can say I have met the most intrinsically “beautiful” people through my training on the mat –  true martial artists that have shown me how much of an impact the knowledge has on your life. These are men who put aside ego and personal reward in order to help elevate their juniors to the level of enlightenment they achieved.

Along the way a sense of inner calm has developed that has permeated through my personal life. I have developed a sensitivity to the needs of the people around me as well as a sensitivity to people whose inner angst shows through. The concept that Shihan describes as being “present” would have been impossible without Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in my life.

There is a dichotomy that has developed in my training that is indescribably rewarding. Letting go of the internal angst I struggled with has allowed me to develop a sense of calm during training that has opened my levels of awareness and provide me with clarity.

Yet my most rewarding moments are providing this insight to juniors I train with and watching them progress. Success stories for me involve mutually beneficial exchanges, myself and my partner able to achieve progress equally and to share in that experience.

Witnessing a classmate gain insight through that exchange and watching them blossom is the most rewarding experience I have ever felt. I feel it is an obligation I must provide as a means of “paying forward” all those people who gave to me through the years.

Bruce Lee has famously quoted martial arts as a way to “honestly express oneself”. In the past, I would look past that statement with little regard . Today those words resonate. I can thank the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community for this glorious gift I have received.

A Transformation Through Physical Fitness, Mental Discipline

With so much media attention on mixed martial arts and the UFC, one Brooklyn martial arts school is seeking to shift the focus of adult martial arts practice back to its roots. Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu believes that the central message of Jiu-Jitsu – self-improvement through discipline and focus – is still relevant to the busy and over-scheduled lives of adults from all walks of life.

“Just 2 years ago I weighed 450lbs. I could barely move  – it weighed on me to do a simple task,” says Nar Molina, a student of Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “I had let things go too far for too long and I needed to take action right away. I couldn’t just get on a quick diet or do some exercise every other day. I had to change who I was.”

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has a longstanding record of success in transforming lives through the practice of martial arts. With a student population comprised mostly of adults, the school has become an expert in lifestyle changes and personal empowerment.

“It took me over a year and a half to lose 100lbs in the gym,” continues Molina. “After 8 months at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I had already lost about 80lbs. When I came here I couldn’t even do some of the warm-up exercises. My classmates probably remember me wearing sweats because I couldn’t fit into a full uniform. Nowadays my uniform fits me baggy and I move like I never thought I could.”

What they teach at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu goes beyond just kicking and punching. “Our philosophy weaves together physical fitness, mental discipline and a strong sense of personal ethics,” says Chief Instructor Gene Dunn.

The school contends that the timeless principles of martial arts training are compassion, generosity, perseverance and community involvement. Rather than emphasizing competitions or tournaments, they believe that physical practice is a vehicle to express core values for living a saner life.

“Training here has been an amazing experience…this is a community I want to be a part of,” concludes Molina. “I feel that I’ve found a safe place to train and grow. I haven’t had a partner I was uncomfortable with. Doesn’t matter if we’ve trained together before or not…we all have a bond.  We start with a bow of respect and we end with a handshake.”

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu hosts free community events each month, ranging from “Bully Buster” clinics for children to “Personal Protection” seminars for women of all ages. For more information on these free events or to register for a one-on-one introductory lesson, please email them at info@brooklynbjj.com.