Summertime has come to an end, and in its place is the excitement – and the jitters – of heading back to school.

While some kids may be excited to rejoin their friends and welcome the routine of school, others are more anxious about the transition. Your child may even experience the same common physical effects of anxiety adults have, with symptoms from stomachaches to sleeping problems.

Add onto that emotional effort of making new friends, meeting new teachers, fears of being bullied, pressure of making good grades, and worries of being unpopular.

As parents, it’s important to remember that all kids feel some sort of stress in the back to school transition. Imagine a change in your work schedule, your sleeping and eating schedule and the emotional labor of building a new peer group (or rejoining an old one) and you’ll start to get the picture.

These physical and emotional feelings are very common, and even the most well-adjusted kids are bound to feel some sort of stress during back-to-school.

So what can we as parents do to help our children cope with the physical and emotional stresses associated with the back to school season? We’re going to offer you some tips that we’ve found to be very helpful for families at our schools.

Click here for the full Tip Sheet! 


It’s not unusual for families to have different schedules during the summer months than they do during the rest of the year. The longer days, vacations and warm weather make it easy to stretch or expand bedtimes and sleep routines. But now that school is here, it’s time to get everyone back on a regular schedule that supports healthy moods and proper mental function.

Like adults, kids that do not get adequate sleep can tend to be drowsy and fatigued throughout the day, which makes concentrating during school much more difficult. In addition, someone who is already irritable can become more sensitive to social disputes.

Sleep also contributes to a healthier immune system. You can help your child enter each school day with a more energetic and positive approach simply by making sure they get the right amount of sleep each night.

Here’s how to set a healthy sleeping pattern with your children:

1. Establish a set bedtime and wake time for the week days.Make sure that you specify that this time is non-negotiable. We also find that keeping an identical or similar structure over the weekends is very helpful – that way, there’s nothing to have to “reset” each Monday.

2. Have a clear routine (with basic ground rules) for 1 hour before bedtime. Again, setting a good pattern makes a difference for sleeping habits. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Don’t let them eat dinner too close to bedtime. Most children, if they eat just before bedtime, have more difficulty falling asleep than if they’ve had time to digest, adjust and wind down.
  • Pair down physical activities as you get closer to their bedtime. Kids need to get into both a mental and physical state of “cooling down” prior to getting into bed.
  • Cut out any intense “stimulating” activities. There are dozens of studies about the effect of screen-time before bedtime, so this includes video games and computers. Not only can they be very addictive, they can also keep your child’s mind over-stimulated even after they’ve stopped playing with them. TV viewing at bedtime is not recommended because it may affect your child’s ability to fall asleep.

3. Establish a 20 – 30-minute nightly “calm-down” bedtime routine.

Create a pattern that’s predictable and regular. The routine can include taking a bath, putting on their pajamas, reading, and other relaxing activities.


Not all diets are about physical performance! What we eat (and drink) can drastically affect our mood, our energy level and our ability to control our moods. In the martial arts, we say, “you can’t out-run poor nutrition!”

Even children that get a lot of exercise and are athletic can be susceptible to the consequences of poor eating habits. Not eating right can result in fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, and mood swings.

You can help your children feel better each school day simply by adjusting their diet and getting rid of foods and snacks that are counter-productive.

Here are some healthy eating tips:

  • Don’t keep unhealthy foods in your house. Open your refrigerator and get rid of the foods you know are unhealthy for your children. Yes, that includes sodas and most juices as well as snacks that are high in sugar (processed or otherwise), and foods that are high in fat.
  • Build a healthy menu for the week. Instead of cobbling together something last minute, plan their meals. You can even do this with your child. It can take work, but with resources like Pinterest and Facebook, there are plenty of “done for you” meals that don’t take much time to fire up. If you get your kid to participate in the process, you can build a few different healthy meals and allow them to choose what they want to eat each day. Plus they’ll be more intrinsically motivated to stick with the plan. Take it to the next level and head to the grocery store together and help pick up all of the ingredients.
  • Perhaps the toughest of all… lead by example. Remember that it’s not “do as I say”, it’s “do as I do”. If your children see you eating unhealthy foods, then you are contradicting what you say. Kids are smart – they’ll resist your efforts to improve their eating if you’re not eating well yourself. (The added benefit of “walking your talk” in this area is you get healthier as well!).

Want more tips? Click here for the full report!

Interested in getting started with us? Our awesome Introductory Web Special is Risk-Free!

New Podcast: Episode 17


In this episode we dig into the relationship between freedom and discipline in the martial arts. Although many of us look for more freedom through our training and practice, how we get to it is a big question. Constraints – inside the classroom and inside our heads – determine a lot about how far we can go. From the group circumstance to the individual experience, creating the right mental framework can determine a great deal about our results.
Listen on iTunes:

Martial Arts Philosophy: To Do “Our Best”

“We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better.“
Maya Angelou

What does it mean to “do our best”? It’s a very personal question. After all, everyone’s best is different. In the martial arts classroom, we may all intend to develop ourselves in a positive manner, as the first line of our “Student Creed” goes. In order to have positive outcomes, we need to set positive intentions for ourselves. But to get the measure of “our best”, we have to have the habit of setting those intentions over and over. The creed acts as a guideline, and our teachers as our guides to constantly remind us that we are never the same person today as we were yesterday, and our work is never done.

It starts when we wake up. We begin the day at a crossroads, one way pointing into the direction of positivity and movement, the other towards negativity and stagnation. The clearer our intentions are for the day – what do we want to achieve, who do we want to be – the clearer our path. We can start with a good and healthy breakfast, exercising or some reading to set a positive mindset. This approach lets us experience the day, rather than feeling like we have to tackle it to get it out of the way. Our interactions with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers are filled with more understanding, kindness and love. When we’re in this proactive state of mind, challenges don’t appear as endpoints, but as problems with a solution to be found.

This sort of experience is created through mindset, but our body and spirit have to be in balance as well. These help us endure strenuous challenges and access our potential, whatever is happening for us in the current moment. We have to make the right choices with our lifestyle, nutrition and exercise habits, but that’s not all. We also need to be aware of those things that take a toll on our mental well-being. Surrounding ourselves with positive, like-minded people who also intend to develop themselves in the best way possible is a good place to start. Now that doesn’t mean that their life looks just like ours, or that their path is anything like our own. When we have the right mindset, though, this is a liberating thing: we often go through our lives thinking that our way is the only way, but as we look around we’re reminded that though the goal is the same, the journey for each of us rarely is. Moments that completely throw us off, make us doubt everything that we’ve accomplished so far, appear to another person as just a minor inconvenience.

That our experiences are different without being in conflict lets us recognize those differences as strengths. We can be each other’s biggest supporters. Someone else’s idea, one which never occurred to us, may be a valuable stepping stone, or a trail marker for a way back onto our path. Yes, our efforts are different and our “bests” are not the same. But those variations are a reassurance that we are not alone, that with the right intention we’re connected in the effort to become the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

Sonja Hofstetter
Instructor, Curatorial Research Manager and Archive Administrator
Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

My BBJJ Jiu-Jitsu Experience

Just 2 years ago I weighed 450lbs. I could barely move  – it weighed on me to do a simple task. 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.

So I dedicated myself to improving my health and fitness. As I made a little progress, my brother-in-law would constantly suggest I try his Jiu-Jitsu school, Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After some hesitation, I decided to give it a try. And I can honestly say it’s been the best decision I ever made.

        Me before BBJJ…and after 🙂

It took me over a year and a half to lose 100lbs in the gym. After 8 months at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I lost about 80lbs. It’s like my instructor often says, “if you put in the work, you’ll see the results. Things aren’t just going to happen…you have to MAKE them happen”.

The gym wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I needed was the right environment.

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.

I’ve gone on to lose more weight since then, but that’s not all. Training here has been an amazing experience…this is a community I want to be a part of. We have the best professors and instructors – they’re great leaders. I want to be an extension of that and I see it here everyday. 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.

Like most people, I was hesitant to begin this whole process. What I discovered was that beginner classes here are taught in a friendly, social and noncompetitive environment. It’s 100% geared to teaching the newest students the basics of fitness and self-defense in a safe and effective way.

This school is unlike any Jiu-Jitsu school I’ve ever heard of. They want everyone that comes through the doors to have a safe, professional experience…and it’s by design. You feel like a special person from the moment you walk through the doors – you won’t believe how friendly the students and staff are, and you also won’t believe how clean we keep our school. This is a professional training facility in every sense.

Training Over 40? 3 Big Reminders For You

A friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in years, contacted me on Facebook. He asked me a question I’ve answered dozens of times as an instructor:

“I’m 40…can I really start training at my age?”

My unqualified response is – of course – yes. It’s never too late.

But there are a few important caveats for anybody who’s beginning (and these aren’t bad reminders for those of us who have been practicing for a while either…)

First, know that starting is usually the easy part. Staying takes work. In fact, it may take your 40 years of living to be able to do it. Now that doesn’t only mean that it’ll be physically demanding all the time, because you’ll have peaks and valleys. But managing the discipline, focus, new choices and thought models always asks something of us.

Next, it’s true that choosing your school can be the most important decision you make. This is true no matter how old or young you are. When it comes to the longevity of your training its important for you to look at the long arc, and the values of your school play a big role here. For someone who’s over 40, a “sport” approach to martial arts that favors athleticism, flexibility or speed might not be the best fit.

By the way, don’t envision yourself as a 40-year-old doing Martial Arts.  Instead, try to picture yourself as a 50-year-old doing it. And then as a 60-year-old. Why? Well, this thinking can help you prepare yourself mentally for a marathon rather than a sprint. Lots of the benefits of martial arts training accrue over the years; even if all you want is some self-defense basics, you might find that a few good things done repeatedly over time become great.

And don’t think of yourself like this:


When this is more like what you’re going for:


(You can learn more about getting started right here: starting at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

Now, whether you’re 40 years old or not, if you’re considering martial arts – Jiu-Jitsu or Kickboxing or anything else – there are a few other things that really are worth mentioning:

1. Find a place that isn’t solely committed to training fighters. In fact, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we recommend you find a school that isn’t at all into fighting or competition.

2. Watch a class. Pay attention to the pace and the faces of the students. Are they being aggressive and competitive or are they being playful and having a good time? If someone accidentally gets bumped or bruised (it happens from time to time), does his or her partner care? This will give you an indication of the temperament of the school.

3. Meet the instructor. Make sure they’re someone that has time for you. Ask them if they think you’re too old or too out of shape or too whatever. If they do, move on. Someone else will be willing to give you the attention that you deserve.

(And remember that not all black belts are great teachers, and not all great teachers wear a black belt. So you don’t need to obsess about what degree black belt or where it’s from, etc. First find out if they care about safety and about people.)

4. Some practitioners train like they have something to prove, rather than something to improve. Don’t do this. If you’re a younger person, you shouldn’t need to be one-upping your classmates. If you’re an older person, make sure you’re not pulling an “Al Bundy”, trying to relive the glory days of when you were a star athlete in high school.

5. Start slow and pace yourself. You’re excited to learn. And to know more. And to “get good.” But just relax and settle into a rhythm of 2-3 classes a week and you’ll get there faster.

6.  Keep in mind, if you are over 40, that there will be a lot of students younger than you…and who will be your “senior” when you’re on the mat together. Give them that respect. Listen to their coaching and their guidance. Chances are, if their instructor has coached them well, they’re probably right.

Fair enough?

(And you can learn more about how we do what we do here.)

If you’ve found the right place for you, you’ll have people you can trust. You’ll be able to assimilate with the culture of the school and you’ll do just fine.

Don’t forget that its important to enjoy your training above all. Not in a short-term, instant-gratification way, but in a deeper, more mature way.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that it can be incredibly profound and rewarding. It can teach us lessons about life and our relationship with others that are hard to get anywhere else. It can help you get into and stay in the best physical shape of your life.

Earlier I mentioned that starting might seem challenging. So just get it over with. The next, and most important, step is delving deeper into the practice, learning more about yourself and getting fitter as you go.


Good luck! Leave any comments or thoughts below for us.

BBJJ: Year One

Laundry was never one of my strong suits.

I always used to wait until I was completely out of some crucial piece of clothing to get around to it, and then it was a huge ordeal because I had to lug multiple loads downstairs and worry about whether there would be enough open machines, and spend way too long just moving everything from the washers to the dryers.

And then, oh god, the folding. 🙂

Since I started jiu jitsu, I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a load of laundry every morning. Things don’t pile up, I always have a wide assortment of black t‐shirts and jeans to choose from, and my gis… well, they could smell worse.

It seems like a silly thing, but it’s indicative of a big shift in my habits and self‐discipline. At first, I did it grudgingly every other day, because it was either that, skip class, or wear a dirty gi, and I really didn’t want to choose the last two. Now it’s just part of my morning routine – start a pot of coffee, walk the dog, take the laundry down, grab some breakfast, deal with my email, switch the load to the dryer, do a 30‐minute yoga routine, pull the laundry out before it gets overcooked, settle in for the work day. I’ve never really had a consistent routine like that until this year.

And it feels weird if I don’t have anything to wash.

It’s not just day to day habits that I’ve seen improvements in. Obviously my fitness level is hugely improved over where I was when I started. I’m also happier and more confident. I’d rather go out with friends than stay home and play video games. I see visiting a new BBJJ school as a chance to meet and learn from cool new people rather than the awkward and intimidating social scenario it would have seemed to me before.

I don’t even fight with my sister anymore, which I have for years – I’m able to just take the little jabs she throws at me in stride and keep the conversation flowing, which I feel is a perfect reflection of the mindset that rolling with training partners instills in us. If you’d known me a year ago, you’d know these are massive changes in my outlook and priorities.

And then there’s the training itself. I threw myself in the deep end without really thinking too much about it when I first started in the advanced program. I noticed after a couple of weeks of classes that I was often the only white belt in randori sessions, which meant I got a ton of time training with blue and purple and brown belts. Now I’m a big guy, but there are plenty of smaller blue belts here who are still able to choke me more or less whenever they feel like it. I love it, because it constantly reminds me that these techniques work, and that I’m still a baby who’s just figuring out how to walk in this world.

So I was honestly shocked recently when I had the chance to roll with some of the newer white belts and got
to see what that feels like from the other side. I knew I’d been improving, because I wasn’t getting
submitted as often and felt like I had a pretty good understanding of what was happening at any given
time during a roll. But then one of my Thai boxing training partners who recently started in the BJJ
program started going super hard trying to pass my guard. I was totally relaxed, able to keep him at a
comfortable distance, let him tire himself out a bit, and then was easily able to sweep and armbar him.

It was eye opening, because this is a guy who knows how to fight standing up, who’s in great shape, and
who was really trying to win, and the techniques came so naturally and worked so well. It was so cool to
see because I know that’s how I was at first (minus the being in shape and knowing how to fight parts),
and I know that’s about the level of challenge I present to a purple belt at this point. All this inside of twelve months.

I can’t wait to see how my perception – of myself and the training – changes in my second year of training.

Mike began his training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2016. He is a fixture in both Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing at BBJJ Clinton Hill, along with his wife Rachel.

Getting More Out Of Your Day
(3 Tips from the Dojo to Use Right Away)

It’s nice to say that we’re going to build confidence and responsibility, but what does this mean in practice?

It’s nice to say that you’re going to set goals, build confidence, take on more responsibility in your life… but what does that mean in the day-to-day?

How will you do it?

In the martial arts, there are a few strategies we use to help us squeeze some of the juice out of the things we’re experiencing as practitioners…and they’re simple enough to help anyone – no matter the age or stage.

One way is to change our thinking habits. Not just what we do, but how we process.

Here’s a list of three ideas you can try on right away. I don’t recommend trying to excel with all three of them, especially not all at once, but try one at a time and see what helps you.

1. Practice thinking bigger. Even though we’re exposed to all sorts of new experiences, skills and personalities every day, we forget about them pretty quickly and go back to our “little” ways of thinking. This is especially true in the Martial Arts. So start developing the habit of noticing when you’re shrinking back to your “old” habits and ways of thinking. In the dojo, we find that Black Belt expansiveness is far more exciting than White Belt limits. Not only that, but we need to be careful about “thinking small” – we might accidentally become successful at creating a mediocre life.

2. Decide in advance. One manifestation of this is “visualization”, but what we’re talking about is more closely related to expecting more from ourselves. We can “decide in advance” to approach others with more openness, to push ourselves outside our comfort zone, to try something different. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis or a difficult situation. This stuff has to be planned out beforehand so you have a pool to draw upon. And it works well on the mat or off.

3. Accept 100% responsibility. Blaming others does more harm than good. The tricky part about this is to accept responsibility even when your logical mind is telling you that someone else is at fault. So what are you accepting responsibility for? Your own reactions. Having great emotional control means acknowledging when something sets you off. The classroom is too hot, your partner isn’t paying attention, you’ve run into traffic – these are all very powerful emotional triggers in training. The same in all the other parts of our lives, whether we’re at home or at the office or out with friends. If we’re not looking, it’s easier to tell ourselves a convoluted story than to notice that we’ve let something upset our balance. So don’t blame and don’t complain.

There are other ideas, of course, but these are a good start.

And any time you find yourself feeling unfulfilled or frustrated, take a look back at whether your mental habits are helping or hurting you. Ask yourself, when you’re in class and right afterwards, whether you’re showing your training process deep respect and appreciation. Are you expanding or contracting? Consider whether you’re focused on helping them others or protecting yourself.

If you can stay mindful of the process, picking up a little momentum with these three tactics, you’ll find that there’s more juice to squeeze every time you train.

Did we miss anything? Are there other strategies you use to “squeeze more juice” from your daily activities? Let us know in the comments!

Read more about our cooperative method at The Martial Arts Mind.

Not a BBJJ student yet? Check out the easiest way to start by clicking here. 

3 Powerful Areas of Focus (For Martial Arts and More)

No truly healthy person I know just stumbled into a life of proper nutrition and emotional balance.

Sure, they may have come across the martial arts by accident…or they may have found a diet that worked for them by chance. But none of their long-term results happened passively. They’ve all been the product of consistent effort over time.

That effort over time is what people call “habit”. And they come in good flavors…and bad.

If we want to lead a healthy lifestyle, we have to develop healthy habits. And just as with Martial Arts training, there are no shortcuts.

So how can you develop a successful lifestyle – in the martial arts and beyond?

  • Put a premium on your physical fitness. It’s got a few components, starting with what you eat and how you rest. You can never out-train bad nutrition, poor rest/recovery habits or poor energy planning. You can be the most talented practitioner in the world, but if you neglect your physical health off the mat, you’ll soon pay for it.
  • Work on your emotional fitness. Your attitude, temper and emotional balance need attention also.Are you working on improving your emotional state management? In training, you can discipline yourself to approach each partner, each drill, each technique with an open mind. Not letting small things set you off part of working on emotional balance. And you can integrate this practice in your daily life – in your family, at the workplace, during your commute – by reflecting on the classroom lessons.
  • Don’t neglect your mental fitness. This is all about your focus and attention. Your mind is always with you, so if you don’t do something to strengthen your willpower, your ability to pay attention or how you talk to yourself, you’ll never feel completely healthy. How are you training yourself to listen better? Being mentally fit means that you’re becoming a better communicator. It also means creating the self-discipline to make hard choices you know are good for you. Mental toughness, perseverance, non-quitting spirit…these are all part of your mental fitness.

In the martial arts, we start working with all of these on the mat. It’s the most immediate and up-front way to examine where we’re weakest.

Because the practice is a concrete habit, it’s also ideal to strengthen these “habit” muscles. We can next start to work on these areas when we’re off the mat.

Nothing too complicated: increase your water intake, or start eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s time to eliminate fried foods, junk foods or sugar.

Health is about proportion, harmony, stability. Martial arts brings balance…and so should your habits.

If you’ve been neglecting one or more of these areas, start right now. By developing good health habits, you don’t only take steps toward black belt-level martial arts. You think clearer, have more energy and perform better than ever before.

You’ll be a better parent, spouse, friend and martial artist on purpose, for the long-term.

And who doesn’t want that?

Martial Arts Philosophy: The Dojo Kun

The “dojo kun” outlines the most important precepts in Shotokan Karate, one of the world’s most practiced martial arts. Written by Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi, it is literally a list of rules for the practitioner, providing guidance and suggestions for how we can be the best version of ourselves and live a happier life. If we “break” those rules there is no punishment by law, but there is suffering. And we are the ones who suffer the most. Below is an outline of the five key philosophies of this deep martial arts practice.

Seek Perfection of Character

This line speaks to the essential principle of “kaizen” – we are always trying to improve. How we treat other people – and ourselves – is crucial for a life well-lived, and an area we can always work on. There is no “real” perfection here: it is more like something being whole, complete. And there is always room for being better, kinder, more loving, as we approach that sense of being whole.

Be Faithful

Faith means belief: believing in yourself, the Martial Arts and your teacher. We learn what we need to learn when we need to learn it. In the dojo, everything happens step by step. This is how we learn. We reach the top of the mountain only to see that there is another peak before us. What we’ve scaled is just one height of many. The only way to move in this way is with faith. To believe that our teacher is on our side and will help us through obstacles in training as well as in life. To believe that every obstacle in our way is only asking us to grow stronger, so that once we are through we’ll be more prepared for whatever comes next. To believe that by continuing to move forward, through consistent training, there will be improvement. Kaizen.


This means trying something new, the willingness to but aside our misgivings and fears. Not to grow stagnant in life or in training. To take risks. Work hard. Find our passion. Create possibilities. Have fun. Love. Be vulnerable. To step ourside your confort zone to truly experience what makes you, you.

Respect Others

Without respect for others, there is no chance at a complete life. If we close ourselves off to other ideas, we miss out on opportunities for improvement, togetherness, happiness. Violating this principle creates chaos: disrespect leads to arguments; arguments with no respect turn into resentment; resentments turn into war, individually and globally. Respecting others doesn’t mean always agreeing with them. In any relationship there will always be something we disagree with, but with mutual respect and understanding, solutions can be found or a new path can be laid out.

Refrain from Violent Behavior

This means verbally as well as physically. As in the previous precept, we have to be responsible for our part in our relationship with other people. Speak well of others, and with others. It is our work as Martial Artists to build people up and not put them down, to let them discover their own potential. People don’t remember what we say, but they remember how they feel when they’re around us. When we’re responsible in this way, we create the space they need for their own work. Of course, there is no room for physical violence either. Misunderstandings can be solved by talking to each other with mutual respect, by listening and being open. To learn to put aside ego and personal preferences is the way of the karateka: to begin to lessen the suffering in ourselves and in the world, we can begin with this one precept.

Every martial arts practice has its rules and outlines. These are time-tested and accessible, a guide not only for the karate practitioner but good counsel to every student who sets foot into the dojo anywhere.

Sonja Hofstetter
Instructor, Curatorial Research Manger and Archive Administrator
Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Do you have kids? Even if you don’t, you’ve probably still had the opportunity to watch as they see, hear, touch, and learn things for the first time. They progress at different rates in different areas.  One child walks “early” and talked “late,” whereas another may be just the opposite.  In either case they have to walk before they run, no matter when they start or how quickly they progress.

It seems, though, that their inclination is to run first, which often leads to great frustration.

As practitioners, it’s easy for us to watch them and liken it to our own Martial Arts training.  Most of us have had the experience where we feel like we’re just starting to run, but it comes with all those months (or years!) of walking, stumbling, misstepping, and falling down.

In fact, the students who are the most successful for the longest time are usually the ones that can learn with the “walk before you run” mindset.

The good news for us is martial arts are designed for that slow process of incremental growth.  We crawl in the beginning, and then when we can stand on our two feet confidently, we’re invited to reach a little beyond where we are. Maybe not to run, but certainly a brisk walk or a trot. It may mean working with more experienced partners, or it may mean more progressive techniques. It could be moving to a more advanced program of training.

But that still doesn’t mean that it is time to run just yet.  Next we show ourselves that we can walk consistently, and we build some confidence at the next level. Then we pick up the pace a little.

Just like with children, it’s natural for motivated, excited, progress-oriented adults to want to run right away.  But the “dark side” of positive progress is often frustration. In the martial arts, as in lots of other projects we take on for our personal growth and development, short-term frustration can lead to feelings of failure, which then lead to quitting.

What’s unique about Martial Arts is that there is a built-in additive system to keep our pace of progress where we need it – just out of reach.

See, the mindset of gradual advancement gives everyone the time and place to improve. Each protocol gives us room to correct and refine our shortcomings, and as a result to help us train for life.  Standing straight helps us develop a disciplined body and mind.  Bowing reminds us that we are in a respectful environment.  Keeping our uniforms clean maintains professionalism and displays a certain level of care.

Sometimes it’s hard to watch your kids fall down, even if its part of the process.  But its our experience that tells us that they will get through it, that the frustration will give way to success. So what do we do? We hold their hands and we prop them up and we give them the confidence to keep going.

Similarly, inside the dojo we get both the structure and the example. Our instructors have been through the process of working towards their Black Belts. In this way, it’s not unlike the parent – a guiding influence who’s been there before, seeking the best for us. That’s why, at times, it seems as though they are holding our hands and propping us up. The trust and guidance gives us the confidence we need when we fall.

We want to run, so we set the stage. We trip and fall, have to get back up, then we get started again. We make corrections and adjustments, ask for help, and keep exploring. This process, which runs all the way to black belt and beyond, works naturally for each of us. There is no “early” or “late”.

With good instruction, good conditions and a curious mindset, we finally find ourselves able to run, simply and genuinely. That’s progress.

Jason’s jiu-jitsu journey began at BBJJ in 2008. He’s credited his martial arts training with improvements in everything from temperament and patience to reaching personal fitness and relationship goals.