Something from Nothing

It’s possible to begin at the very bottom and get to a much better place. This is, literally, one of the central lessons of Jiu-Jitsu in Brooklyn or anywhere else in the world. The message is that anyone can learn the techniques and strategies to stay safe when faced with danger.

Of course, it’s easy to just say that anyone can do it – it’s a much different enterprise to actually create the conditions for people of all ages and stages to succeed.

So there are a few important prerequisites – a safe environment, a caring and knowledgeable instructor, a supportive community, some clear goals. When those are met, we can basically create something from nothing.

Where before we were scared, now e can feel empowered.

Where once e were uncertain, now we can be decisive.

Where we used to be weak, now we can be strong.

Provided that we don’t sacrifice our values in order to ascend the ladder, this is what “success” looks like in the martial arts.

(We still have to constantly be vigilant about guarding what’s most valuable to us. It’s important to beware of what we become in the pursuit of what we want.)

The first step in learning Jiu-Jitsu comes with the vision of what we’d like to become. To imagine all the possibilities and outcomes of the journey we’re undertaking.

Sometimes this sits below the surface, which is why having a mentor in the martial arts can be so important – to anchor a realistic vision of where we’re going. That’s one of the biggest “keys” to getting started.

Some people want to have it all laid out at the beginning, but this just isn’t how it all works. If we want to see it, we have to believe it. Setting a goal in Jiu-Jitsu means committing to the journey, both the parts we can imagine and predict…and those we can’t.

On to the next step: we have to believe that what we’re starting to imagine is possible for us to achieve. We get glimpses of this when something goes right for us in the class or in training.

Or in the classroom, we watch one of our peers execute a technique or movement very well and it inspires us to do it ourselves. We say, “if one of us can do it, any of us can do it” – that’s a way to support the belief.

We can also be our own evidence. In other words: if we’ve overcome a challenge once before, it means that we can do it again.

If we did it 6 months ago, we can do it now. This is one of the best ways to get away from negative thinking or “being in the valley”.

The moaners and groaners love to look at failure and use it as evidence, but those who push through trouble tend to use their own successes as evidence that they can get through the next thing.

It’s a powerful skill to develop – creating the discipline to envision a broad goal, and then to believe that what others have done is also possible for us.

The seeds of that success are in the language and experience of Jiu-Jitsu. With the vision and belief (or goals and motivation, in the language of the dojo), e can actually turn nothing into something and have something of real value in our lives.

Women’s Personal Protection March 16th

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues its tradition of using the martial arts as an empowerment tool for women all over Brooklyn as it presents a new edition of its Women’s Personal Protection Seminar on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The event is free, and is specifically geared to women who have had no prior martial arts experience.

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu presents these seminars on a quarterly basis, teaching women of all ages and stages self-defense success strategies to stay safe in their communities. The Women’s Personal Protection sessions incorporate ways to increase alertness, focus and safety, as well as basic physical strength and conditioning.

The Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu organization feels strongly that the attention on “self-defense” classes for women need to be based not exclusively on survival, but on success.

“We believe that there is much, much more available for women than just surviving a threatening or uncomfortable situation,” says lead instructor Gene Dunn. “Success when in danger implies control, confidence and empowerment. That’s what we’re working on.”

This echoes the school’s overarching mission: physical fitness, self-defense and assault prevention in a safe, cooperative environment free from antagonism. Their goal in presenting the Women’s Personal Protection Seminar this March is to share those empowerment strategies with as many people as possible.

“Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is fully committed to empowering women of all ages and stages, which is why this seminar is open to all women regardless of ability or experience,” says Dunn.

The sessions will be free to members of the local community, in keeping with the instructors belief that martial artists have a responsibility to the communities they inhabit.

They are designed for first-time self-defense students and will teach participants techniques to address the most common threat scenarios women face. Providing women in these communities with the ability to be smart, aware of their surroundings and prepared to defend against an attacker is top priority in the seminar.

If you are a woman or have a woman in your life, it is imperative that they attend this seminar to learn life-saving techniques.

To register CLICK HERE or email


by Shihan Gene Dunn
Yesterday I told the karate class that my life’s work is to teach the martial arts. And it’s my life’s work because what the martial arts has given to me is priceless. I can only tell the horror stories of my childhood to give you perspective, so you can see the arc for me and what it really was like.

The reason that we believe in the martial arts is because we know that it can give you something that’s amazing: confidence, a relaxed nature, and the strength to be friendly when you feel vulnerable, among many other benefits.

All of these things are making my own life better and are making the people in my life a pleasure to be around. In fact they’re making the world, in a little way, a better place to be in.

We want to do that with more people – thousands of people, actually. If we can replicate that experience and those benefits, then we can really do something to effect change in our community. We can make a real difference.

When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself, “am I really being effective at inspiring people to live more fully through the martial arts?” And one of the only true litmus tests for me is if the school is growing. In other words, are there more students around to receive the message?

This is not my pitch. It’s not a call for more money. It’s me telling you that the only way that I can tell that my life matters is if this idea – confidence through serious martial arts practice – is expanding in the world.

And so we need your help. We need you to share this work and your training so we can help people become more confident; become courageous in the face of their vulnerability; to live with less anxiety; and to provide them with a pathway for success in their endeavors.

It might be sharing it with your friends – or bringing someone to the class. Or maybe just by talking about it wherever you do that, in person or on Facebook. When you do that, you have a chance to actually make a difference. You help expand this work, you become a part of it.

We are not used car salesmen. In fact, we’re not selling anything. We really do love you as students, and we believe that this work is a way to do something great for humanity.

This is our way of giving back – it’s our way of making a difference.

Shihan’s Recommended Readings

A complete martial arts practice is not just about what you learn on the mat, but what you experience in your everyday life outside the dojo. Experiencing relationships, art, books – it all influences your black belt journey.

To help expand your learnings, Shihan Dunn has some recommended books for all students to add to their reading list:

The Alchemist

The Alchemist tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams. Learn more about the book here.

It Starts With Food

It Starts With Food outlines a clear, balanced, sustainable plan to change the way you eat forever—and transform your life in profound and unexpected ways. Your success story begins with the Whole30®, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s powerful 30-day nutritional reset.  Since 2009, their underground Whole30 program has quietly led tens of thousands of people to weight loss, enhanced quality of life, and a healthier relationship with food—accompanied by stunning improvements in sleep, energy levels, mood, and self-esteem. More significant, many people have reported the “magical” elimination of a variety of symptoms, diseases, and conditions in just 30 days. Learn more about the book here.

No Excuses!

Most people think success comes from good luck or enormous talent, but many successful people achieve their accomplishments in a simpler way: through self-discipline. No Excuses! shows you how you can achieve success in all three major areas of your life, including your personal goals, business and money goals, and overall happiness. Learn more about the book here.

Let Shihan (@ShihanDunn)  know what you think about the books. He would love the feedback. Oss!

Three Keys to a Complete Martial Arts Life

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

A successful martial arts lifestyle incorporates three key components:

  • Your physical fitness. You can never out-train bad nutrition, poor rest/recovery habits or poor energy planning. If you neglect your physical health off the mat, you’ll soon pay for it.
  • Your emotional fitness. Are you working on managing your emotional state? Your attitude and temper need attention. Disciplining yourself to approach each partner, each drill, each technique with an open mind is part of achieving emotional balance. Integrate this practice in your daily life – in your family, at the workplace, during your commute – by reflecting on the classroom lessons.
  • Your mental fitness. This is all about your focus and attention. 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 dojo is great, but now is a good time to commit to improving these three areas off the mat. Start simple: increase your water intake, or start eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s time to eliminate fried foods, junk foods or sugar.

Martial arts brings balance, and so should your habits. Your training in the dojo should be improving your mental, physical and emotional energy, not detracting from it.

By developing good health habits, you’ll be taking important steps toward black belt-level martial arts: you’ll think clearer, have more energy and perform better than ever before. You’ll be a better parent, spouse, friend and martial artist.

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!”