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.


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.

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.

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

Black Belt Seminar with Chie Swain

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