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?

How Much Do Martial Arts Really Cost?

Before I started training in the Martial Arts I had so many questions.

“Will I like it…will I be good at it…is it fun…do I want to do it?”

But for some reason the first time I typed a search into Google, that’s not what I typed.

Instead I wrote, “How much does Jiu-Jitsu cost in Brooklyn?

See, most of the questions I had swirling in my brain were abstract and subjective.  What I needed was something concrete to focus on.

So I, like so many others, chose price.

I thought I needed to know that School A costs $100 per month while School B was $400.  It was tangible, digestible, and real- not abstract. But the other side of that notion is that it was completely arbitrary.

It turns out that all of the complex personal questions – liking it, is it fun, etc. –  have since been answered simply and clearly.

(And  – important to note – the internet didn’t answer those questions for me.)

Now nearly a decade removed from that original search, the idea of “how much do martial arts really cost” hasn’t gotten clearer…it’s actually gotten murkier.

What’s the big difference? Well, I’ve learned through this process of training that there’s a distinct difference between value and price.

What I was asking Google for was the price of training. What Google could never tell me was the value of the training…to me. 

Looking back, I couldn’t begin to tell you how much money I’ve actually spent on my training through the years when it comes to tuition, gas, parking (and the occasional ticket), train, books, uniforms, seminars, time, etc.

But I can tell you about the value of the training to my life: nothing short of priceless.

Simply stated, I can’t place a dollar amount on the confidence that I’ve built, and how that’s helped me thrive as a teacher, mentor, and family man.

And then I’d have a hard time calculating how much its worth to me to be in peak physical condition – with the discipline to eat well, and feel and look good.  I have plenty of energy to play with my kids, or train all day, or go for a run, or all of the above!

I don’t know how to figure out the “price” of the peace of mind that training has taught me to maintain.  I’m so much calmer, more thoughtful, and more generous than I was before I started.

And none of that takes into account that I am now focused on improving my life in every way I can. Like, I don’t talk myself out of success anymore.  I don’t aim low.  I don’t sell myself short. Essentially, my experience at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been the cornerstone of years of ‘me getting better at being me.’)

I couldn’t guess the ripple effect that training would have on my friends and family. I mean, people around me are inspired to be healthier.  My kids are learning habits of health, fitness, and cooperation rather than junk food, laziness, and competition.

So when I look back to my original question, I think I asked it because I didn’t know what else to ask.

What I should have been seeking, what a simple dollar amount couldn’t tell me, was what the value would be to my life. I mean, how could Google encapsulate all that I’ve experienced since then…and then tell me what I should pay for it?

Because from where I stand, it’s no longer the difference between $100 and $400 or something in between. The “cost” is only a tiny piece of the puzzle. What I’ve gained through the martial arts has no price, because it can’t be bought – it’s the difference between having the life you want or not.


Professor Jason Lynch is a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and the Head Instructor at BBJJ Clinton Hill.

A Transformation Through Physical Fitness, Mental Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Habit of Preparation

It’s been said that those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail. 

In academics, great students prepare by studying for exams. In the workplace, great managers prepare by organizing the day in advance.

Preparation, like anything else we do on a daily basis, is a habit. Your level of preparation is often an indicator of how seriously you taking your goals and responsibilities.

In the dojo, we often see the difference between “white belt mediocrity” and “black belt excellence” in the details of a student’s preparation.

It starts with appearance: your uniform, hygiene and posture are indicators of preparation. If your gi is torn or your pants won’t stay up, you probably won’t be able to focus on the lesson.

Is your uniform clean? Is your belt tied properly? How is your posture? How is your bow? Do you move quickly? Are you the first person done?

Next, think about fitness & nutrition: part of preparing well is being physically ready for class. Fresh fruits, vegetables and a proper balance of carbs and proteins are like high-octane fuel for a racecar. Junk food and most fast foods are like sugar in the gas tank and a banana in the tailpipe.

Finally, consider your mental attitude: If you still approach the classroom with a mindset of “me against you”, you’re falling into a classic trap. Your ego may improve, but the larger lessons will forever elude you.

How are you preparing to think bigger and see farther? Are you actively striving to take the “long view”? Do you think small and aim for easy targets that are set low?

All this preparation leads to the question, “what will you look like at Black Belt?”

Everything you do before, during and after each class is preparing you for something. Think of every class as one more chance to prepare for Black Belt, to craft your future from the present.

The Habit of Momentum

Great habits provide a solid foundation for anything you wish to do. They help to create both great lives and great black belts.

The energy you put into building those habits sets the stage for new goals and gives you energy to handle challenges that show up in daily life.

Momentum helps to keep those habits alive.

Momentum in life is a function of commitment: it comes from the successes you’ve experienced and the actions you’ve taken. And it’s impossible to gain momentum if you give up partway through the process.

Those in pursuit of mastery take pride in their work and look to improve on the details of their practice. When they see success, they build on positive results and let that enthusiasm fuel their next endeavor.

Creating momentum is about being willing to go the extra mile and to actually do something. It takes more than just a positive attitude. Self-belief and self-confidence are critical – but they’re nothing without action.

In the classroom, there is a time for thinking things through, and then there is a time for practice. There is a time to listen and there is a time to execute.

In life, there are always chances for us to build on our good results and start to take smart risks to improve in the future. Maybe it’s after you’ve received good news or seen great results from a project you’ve been working on.

No matter what is happening in the economy, with the weather (!) or the world around us, staying committed to progress and personal growth fuels momentum and can help anyone to move past obstacles in life.

It starts in the dojo, on the mat each time you come to class. Begin by giving your best attention, energy and effort. Then be willing to practice and review what you learned in between classes.

Establish a habit so you can start each day early, with energy. Build on the good habits you’ve established. Begin to take action to maintain momentum for your future endeavors.

How to Make Smart Choices  

As Martial Artists, we do our best to condition ourselves to stay calm under pressure and to remain positive in our attitudes and actions. We learn to be proactive in every situation and to search for a solution to every problem we encounter.

When faced with a challenge, many people quickly magnify negatives and often make their problems worse. Being reactive when we’re under pressure can increase stress levels and create unnecessary tension that can exaggerate the negative side effects.

If this becomes a habit, it can affect us on a deeper level. It can change our sleep patterns, cause ill health and do irreparable harm to relationships. Over the long-term, it can lead to a downward spiral and often precedes addictive, negative behaviors.

Our worst decisions are usually made when we are in a negative and reactive state of mind. Our best decisions are usually made when we are in a positive and proactive state of mind.

Martial arts training – and a proper martial arts philosophy – is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain this state.

The practice creates the best conditions for dealing with stress and distractions. The training you do on a weekly basis allows you to be present to enjoy the victories, and ready for challenges or other interruptions.

Don’t leave this stuff to change. Train your body, your mind and your emotions in order to better manage yourself.

The result is more self-discipline, more focus and a better outlook. Train yourself to be proactive rather than reactive and you’ll start to look at things differently.

 

Mat Chat with Shihan Dunn

As a young martial artist coming up through the ranks, I really tried very hard to be a tough guy. I thought it was the most important thing. I fell into the whole trap of posturing, of ego and of trying to impress other people. And then on top of that, I fell into the trap of embracing a culture of violence which, in the long run, did damage to many of my relationships. I found myself over and over in circumstances which hurt me and the people around me.

The martial arts culture I was a part of had no means of addressing this issue. It actually embraced the violence which it was created to protect people against. This is why I had to struggle with it for so long, because while I had direction in my technique and strategy in sparring, I was had no direction at all in how to manage myself as a human being in the world. I constantly felt that I had to demonstrate my toughness wherever I went. I can remember not wanting to drain my ears because I wanted them to get all gnarly, specifically so that others would know me as a guy not to be messed with. And believe me, that was not the limit to what I was willing to do to be the tough guy.

So now, as I look back from a more seasoned, a more mature vantage point, this one of the reasons I’m very adamant about martial artists following Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum: walk softly and carry a big stick. As a student and as a human being, it is a much safer way to move through the experience of learning what it means to be a martial artist.

When I was younger and when people would come up to me and on the street and ask me, “Do you train? Are you a fighter?”, I’d think to myself, “Yeah…I’m the man!” It was the realization of this plan for toughness I had created for myself. It was their validation of me. Now when people come up to me on the street and ask, “are you a fighter? Were you a fighter?”, I literally run away. I say, “No, you got the wrong guy” and I get out of there as fast as I can.

This actually happened to me this morning. Someone came up and asked me this question and I actually – as politely as I could – disengaged and walked away. And when I asked myself, “why is it that I do that?”, I understood something very significant. I realized that it’s because inside I’m a little embarrassed at how I used to be. I have re-prioritzed – there are things more important to me than being tough. And I no longer wish to be associated with what it means to be “the tough guy” – the violence and the aggression and the offensiveness. Furthermore, I understood that I’m also very embarrassed about my peers in the martial arts, what they are actually representing and teaching to their students.

I know that a lot of people are conditioned to want to talk about the fights, and they want to talk about hurting other people, and who can beat up whom and do the most damage to whom – all these kinds of conversations that I don’t want to be a part of anymore. I am sharing this from my own experience, twenty years later, because that is what we as teachers and black belts have signed up to do: to pass on the things we’ve learned so that other people don’t make the same mistakes. In the jiujitsu world, so many brilliant instructors teach so that their students don’t make the same technical mistakes as they did – they genuinely want their students to be better than they were. But it’s troubling to me that they don’t see the importance of correcting their own personal mistakes so that their students can learn from those, too.

I have learned that it is enough to be a nice person, a gentle human being, and know how to protect yourself and your family. That is good enough. And it’s going to take you a lot further than trying to find validation from strangers or peers about how tough you are.

Val Grysko – What Black Belt Means

What the path to black belt means to me? Well, it’s simple. This path means to get better. Not better than others, but better than you was a year ago, better than you was 3 months or two weeks ago, or even to become better than you was yesterday. Become better in both ways, mental and physical.

This is not only about try to kick harder, or throwing a fast punch.It’s, also, about self confidence, self reliance, and self discipline. It’s not about how to fight someone, it’s about how to try to avoid the fight by knowing how to protect yourself. The black belt path is, also, about how to use your limits and get most possible outcome of it. For instance, I could not perform high kick by any of my legs. I was upset, angry and frustrated. Now, still,  I can’t perform high kick by my left leg. But once I realize that’s not the problem for me, I can do something else with it. So, as a result I am using it for something else. Burn kick, for instance. Still, I am performing a lot of stretching to be able to perform high kick.

The words that could describe my journey to where I got now are: fun, interesting, amazing, exciting, addictive, joyful and most importantly healthy and helpful. Also, I would like to mention, that I like every of the four schools I have visited so far, it’s not to say that I like one more than the  other. It’s to say that I like to train in different locations, meet new training partners, as well as, train with those people that I haven’t seen for a while. indeed I am trying  learn  a different training style, and get new partners for training. Also, I am trying to invite some people to attend my “home school”, and… learn, train and progress toward the black belt.