Setting Large Goals

Why bother to set big goals? Well, one reason is because larger goals give you a much broader
frame when measuring your progress and growth.

Focusing only on small, immediate goals helps in the short-term, but in the martial arts we’re always thinking long-term as well.

Another reason is that setting your sights on large scale achievement provides a motivational boost.


Engaging in the pursuit of a worthy goal or objective on the mat or off gives a powerful structure to your time and energy.

bbjj black belt training
The pursuit of black belt brings challenges of skill, will and desire. In such a pursuit, we become stronger mentally, physically and emotionally.

We need that structure so we don’t end up spinning our wheels.

The truth is that the only way most of us see real results is by taking serious action. When you have an exciting goal to reach for, it’s much easier to take action.

Some people get nervous about large goals. After all, the bigger the goal…the bigger the obstacles.

But remember there are countless stories of people overcoming the odds and the obstacles that get in their way.

Why? Because they were determined to succeed no matter what obstacles interfere.

Most truly worthwhile achievements are usually very difficult to accomplish. In the grand scheme of life, tougher goals tend to toughen us up. And it’s been said that the tougher that we are on ourselves, the easier life will be on us.

Many people love training for Black Belt and beyond in the martial arts because they understand that it’s meant to be a challenging goal.

It brings challenges of skill, will and desire. In the pursuit, we become stronger and stronger…mentally, physically and emotionally.

A person with a strong will can go much farther in life than someone that is quick to give in to obstacles and setbacks.

So don’t be afraid to set bigger goals and take a broader vision. The next time you encounter an obstacle and are tempted to give up on your goal, consider that what you become in the pursuit of that large goal is often as important as what you get at the end.

Learn more about the training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Want to get started with us? Here’s how (click here). 

Ask The Right Questions

If you’ve done it for more than a few weeks, you know that training in the martial arts is more than just getting fit, learning a few techniques and hoping for the best.

Hidden in the practice are a series of problem-solving routines that help us to untangle not just what to do in stressful self-defense situations, but how to handle the problems and challenges that show up in our lives day to day.

armlock_BrooklynBJJAsking questions is an excellent way to expand your knowledge base in the martial arts classroom…and it’s a great habit to develop if you’re interested in your personal growth off the mat as well.

Whenever you ask a question, by definition you’re moving outside the range of what you already know. And if you’re asking yourself good questions, you’re activating your creative, problem-solving side.

So what’s the best way to start asking yourself these good questions?

Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that your brain will always present an answer to any question you ask yourself. The answer may not necessarily be true, but your brain “feels” obligated to respond to your questions, and will do its best to present you with some kind of answer.

The bad news is that if you’re asking the wrong questions (or the right questions in the wrong way), you can end up without good answers. Here’s an example.

“Why am I always failing?” can easily lead to an answer like, “Because I can’t understand this stuff.”

“How can I succeed in this venture?” primes you to consider more creative and useful answers.

Sometimes, especially if we’re stuck with a problem we can’t seem to get rid of, “why” questions can lead us in circles. So one approach is to replace our “why” questions with action questions:

* How can I do this?

* What do I need to do next?

* When do I need to finish this?

* Where do I need to be right now?

* What do I need to learn here?

*Who can I ask about this problem?

*What can I do differently?

Reframing the problem illuminates the path out of it. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to ask “why” questions…just that if we’re really in the trenches with a relationship issue or a dip in motivation, we need to solve the trouble first, then circle back to figure out where it came from.

So… what do you ask yourself in every situation? What is your overall attitude towards your life?

So work to developing a few “subconscious” problem-solving skills. Adjust your questions for better answers. You’ll find it can be a great benefit when it comes to working through issues in training as well as the rest of life.

Learn more about the training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Want to get started with us? Here’s how (click here). 

Lessons for Difficult Times

Sometimes life throws us something completely unexpected, and we lose all sense of where we are.

It can be a moment of tragedy – like when somebody dies, you lose a job, you get into a car accident – or just a creeping sense of hopelessness shows up from out of nowhere.

So what does the Martial Arts teach us about these moments?

Which “classroom lessons” do we look to when the world around us seems to be falling apart?

In my experience, the moments when everything is collapsing are the most fertile ground for our practice, provided we draw on the right resources. We’ve actually been preparing for this by training ourselves during the non-traumatic times.

Finding your center once you’ve been knocked out of your orbit happens in stages. Here are a few of the ways you can manage times like this:

• Look for your strengths: Identify the things you love, and the things you love to do, and reconnect with them. Those times when we feel weakest and most out of sync are a chance to revisit what we know well.

In both Jiu-Jitsu and Thai Boxing, when you’re off balance, you have to recompose your guard before anything else. Returning to your strengths can mean focusing in on the positive habits that are a part of your life, or seeking out the support of those who’ve provided you with strength and counsel in the past.

• Stay focused on high-value activities: Avoid the temptation to get caught up in low-value activities that lead you to the lowest common denominator. What are the most effective principles?

The more time you can spend in areas in which you feel productive, effective and meaningful, the faster you can return to your baseline. Sure, there are time when you’ve got to just “cope”, but once that period is through, it’s time to return your attention to the things you care most about.

• Revisit your model: Seeking out a mentor or a model during challenging times can be a way of reorienting ourselves. If there’s a road that’s already paved, it helps to get on it and stay on it, especially if your car feels like it’s just idling.

Just like in the dojo classroom, we often need that commonsense advice when our thinking becomes cloudy. With some mindfulness we can expand outwards in moments of difficulty, instead of withdrawing inwards.

When things are crumbling, the decision to face ourselves can be difficult, but the training we do has embedded answers in us. When we’re willing to deal with our pain, challenge, struggle head-on we actually have a chance of overcoming it.

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. 

Training With Purpose (Or Feeding Your Ego?)

Thanks to Ilya K. for this amazing essay. As a deeply committed practitioner at BBJJ, he understands both the challenges that come with learning the art of Jiu-Jitsu and the struggle to “swim against the grain” and absorb the cooperative philosophy of our classroom. His words capture the trickiness of navigating the path as the beginner becomes the intermediate student, and learning the importance of the culture of sustainability. Hope you enjoy reading it!

I believe that it’s not until we reach blue belt that even a mild understanding of Jiu-Jitsu fundamentals sets in. Once we reach this milestone, our training becomes a little easier, facial expressions become softer, and our breathing becomes more controlled. Only after that can we actually begin a real lifelong study of Jiu-Jitsu.

Before this phase, when we can relax and observe what is happening around us, we’re usually doing a poor imitation of what we’ve seen others do, while simultaneously feeding our own egos.

Sasae-trainingThe truth is, contrary to what a beginner might glean from the media depictions of this martial art – physicality, toughness and sometimes near-violence – most Jiu-Jitsu happens in the mind. If you practice already, you know this. If you cannot control your thoughts, intentions, and emotions, your progress will be minuscule, regardless of how much strength you use to dominate or oppress your partner.

As white belts, we all enter a school with wonderful intentions of growth and progress, and it is a martial arts school’s responsibility to imbue these aspiring warriors with the right mindset.

The most beautiful aspect is that this mental training is so subtle, that you don’t even know it’s changing you for the better.

In the absence of this guidance, the white belts are left to themselves with nothing to do but imitate what’s in front of them. More often than not, it is the glorified brutality of MMA or the adroit movements of a higher belt. Naturally, one would be infected with a desire to be like them. And that’s where the problems begin.

Just as plants require extra nurturing at the seed stage, the young students must be given more attention than any other belt. It is in their healthy progression that lies the eventual success of any school.

Here’s why…

The purple and brown belts will show up for class, and they will use the scissor sweep and they will do the kimura when the time is right. But on the other side, the white belts generally have no idea what’s going on, so they are left to utilize the only tools they know: passive hostility and force.

No one really wants to roll with a white belt, because they don’t know what they are doing. The reason why they don’t is because no one showed them how. A cycle of self-destructive aggression sets in, which often ends with the white belt dropping out.

Luckily for me, a great mentor and guide has appeared in my life at the right time.

I was fortunate enough to get the necessary guidance at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the founder and owner of the 5 schools in that borough, Gene Dunn. Through a very technical yet gentle approach, Gene Dunn and his staff offer not only the necessary grappling and physical know-how, but – most importantly – they have a set curriculum of mindset training with weekly messages.

The entire idea is based on educating every student properly, so we can each become better human beings through the art of Jiu-Jitsu.

Through this process, I have learned that Jiu-Jitsu is a gentle art, not a way to destroy someone

For example, every class ends with the student creed, during which we affirm our intentions of growth, respect, and discipline. Over time this begins to sediment into our very core, and we have no choice but to “roll” responsibly and consciously. Any other way brings destruction rather than creation. Furthermore, at the end of every class we are reminded of the fundamentals associated with the Jiu-Jitsu black belt lifestyle, whether it is how we eat or how we treat our friends and relatives.

Training under Gene Dunn has had a tremendous impact on my life. I have grown as a man, I’ve become more accountable, more giving, and more aware of the consequences of my words and actions. The most beautiful aspect of training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that this mental training is so subtle, that you don’t even know it’s changing you for the better. You don’t realize how you’ve grown until you find yourself in a different environment, surrounded by more challenging circumstances.

BBJJ-trainingThere was a time when I was frantically huffing and puffing, and there was also a time when I would use aggression and speed to attempt anything on the mat, and there was a time when my face would turn red and my teeth would grind in futile exertion. I don’t do that anymore, because I’ve realized it is not the way and creates nothing but distance between myself and my rolling partner.

The way to this state is not an easy one, and can only be achieved with the proper mindset planted early on. For example, as we understand in class, submissions cannot come before position. That is something that any higher belt doesn’t need to be told, but to a beginning practitioner it would appear as nonsense, because all they want to do is execute that choke they saw online or in the latest MMA fight.

The root of all pain and suffering is ignorance, and it is our job as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to eradicate this ever-present force from the mat, whatever school we are practicing at.

Furthermore, the concept of mutual respect and growth must be put above all other aspirations for a beginning practitioner. Without these fundamentals all training is a waste of time. It is equivalent to climbing a ladder, and seeing that it was leaned against the wrong wall the entire time only when you are almost at the top.

Through this process, I have learned that Jiu-Jitsu is a gentle art, not a way to destroy someone. We must always be mindful of what we are doing on the mat. Are we there to destroy whomever comes into our space, or are we trying to learn, understand, and help our partners?

The root of all pain and suffering is ignorance, and it is our job as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to eradicate this ever-present force from the mat, whatever school we are practicing at. It is our job as higher belts to guide the beginners and to have the humility to ask them to relax, to explain the techniques, and to guide them to a higher level of understanding. If we are not willing to do that, then the color of our belt is just an accessory on our gis.

I wish to extend my utmost gratitude to Gene Dunn and to his entire staff for working with me and shaping me into the man that I’ve become. Thank you!

Ilya K. is a blue belt at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the founder and owner of Aida Shoes

Shihan Dunn’s 5 Simple Steps To Classroom Success


There are dozens of ways to approach your martial arts progress, but what we’ve found over the years is that the key is to drill down and get SIMPLE.

So with simplification at the fore, let’s delve into the 5 things you need in order to see in-the-dojo training success.

#1 – Set a Specific Goal

So…you’ve heard this in the classroom before, but there is a real power to actually taking the time to outline your goal. Setting the goal of becoming a highly-skilled, well-conditioned, well-discipline black belt Martial Artist is very motivating.

It’s one of those things that brings energy not just to the pursuit of the goal itself, but to your other activities as well. It brings out the best in everyone and, with the kaizen principle in mind, keeps us on a path of positive self-development and constant improvement.

So start with these questions: where are you in your journey of personal excellence? Where do you want to be in the next 6-12 months?

#2 – Set a Plan for Execution

Don’t forget: every important goal in life, especially that of becoming a Black Belt, needs an action plan to make it happen. The goal without a plan has no shape, no way of being realized.

You need to concretize not only the what, but the how. So your plan might include your training days, your nutrition plan and/or extra fitness and conditioning.

It could also include other habits that need attention – your daily rituals or associations, for instance. Those things matter, and you need to take them into account if you want to feel major changes in the classroom.

Now that we’ve covered the first two steps in the process,let’s take a look at what else you need to put in motion to see classroom success at its highest level.

#3 – Take Action

In other words, you have to now DO what you’ve planned. As tough as it can be to sit down and think of the goal, write it down and create a plan, setting your plan into action can be equally challenging.

Here’s the good news…

Well-directed and well-thought-out actions always lead to positive, progressive results. The more actions you take, the better the results you create.

This is true whether it’s a specific physical goal you’ve set, or a more general plan to improve your communication or your leadership.

#4 – Study & Analyze Your Results

Everyone needs progress check points and measuring rods. The better you measure your results…the better you can manage them.

Let me explain…

Sometimes you’ll see results and realize you’re headed in the right direction. Sometimes you’ll see results and realize you’re going the wrong way. But by giving yourself an occasional check-up, you can easily determine if your plan is working.

Sometimes, the plan is good, but you simply need MORE action. Other times you need to take BETTER actions. Or maybe you’ll find that there’s something else – your nutrition, mental state or stress-level – that’s impacting you.

From there you can adjust and move forward with a better strategy.

These first four steps we’ve laid out have been designed to orient you and point you in the right direction when it comes to success in the classroom.

We believe firmly that the better oriented you are in the dojo, the easier it is to manage the ups and downs of life outside the dojo. It’s one of the reasons Martial Arts training is such a powerful tool.

We’ve got one more step in the process to share…

#5 – Continue what Works and Change what Doesn’t

In other words, follow the kaizen principle. If something is working well, the challenge in the classroom is to maintain it – to keep doing the little things that allow you to feel better, stronger, smoother, more focused.

And for the things that aren’t, it’s all about little tweaks. Nothing too major, just the little course corrections that help to nudge you back in the right direction.

Simple advice, yet you would be surprised how many people need this simple and powerful reminder. If something is working for you, keep doing it over and over. If something isn’t working, simply change your approach.

Always keep your most important goals fresh in your mind and take some action everyday until they’re where you want them to be.

Do these 5 Steps make sense? Please leave comments or questions below!

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

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!

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.