Book Excerpt – Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Hagakure - The Book of the Samurai“One should be careful and not say things that are likely to cause trouble at the time. When some difficulty arises in this world, people get excited, and before one knows it the matter is on everyone’s lips. This is useless. If worse comes to worst, you may become the subject of gossip, or at least you will have made enemies by saying something unnecessary and will have created ill will. It is said that at such a time it is better to stay at home and think of poetry”Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

I was re-reading Hagakure last night, and this passage struck me as being especially relevant for the times that we live in. I was thinking that with the internet being such an integrated part of our lives, and with social media consuming most of the attention on the internet, it is easy to become lost in the  negativity that is so prevalent online.

Of course this applies to “real life” as well. Gossip around work, family disagreements, neighborly conflict, all these scenarios can easily consume one’s thoughts and dictate one’s mood.

It is interesting to me that many older texts written by philosophers in regard to how to live as a martial artist tend to put a premium on distancing yourself from conflict. It might be that training in violence removes the veneer of glamour that most of us associate with fighting. With this enlightenment comes an understanding that the best way to win a conflict is to avoid it all together.

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What is the BJJ Lifestyle?

bjj shakaYou often hear people in jiu jitsu talk about living the BJJ lifestyle. But have you ever wondered what it means to live this way? Many of the pictures and articles online bring forth images of surfing in the morning, rolling all day and eating acai bowls for every meal.  That sounds great, but clearly not tenable for the majority of us working stiffs.

When I think of what it means to live the jiu jitsu lifestyle the first thing that comes to mind is the “mindset” that you develop once you start training. Prior to starting jiu jitsu if you’ve never trained martial arts before, or even if you haven’t been doing much physical activity at all, you may have spent the majority of your free time chasing temporary distractions from your day-to-day grind. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people are stuck in a cycle of working, eating, and finding some way to be passively entertained before heading to bed on a daily basis. I was certainly that guy. But when you start doing jiu jitsu, there is a shift in this mindset.

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Teaching Kids Jiu Jitsu

I’ve been assisting with the kids jiu jitsu classes at my academy for about a year now. It’s something that I really enjoy, and has been rewarding for me. It has also been rewarding for my son who is one of the kids in the class. He seems to like it when I’m in there helping the instructors show technique to the other kids. I’m really less of an instructor and more of a glorified grappling dummy for the instructors to demo on, but it’s still a role I really enjoy.

When I first started helping out with the kids jiu jitsu classes I had a lot of questions. I needed to learn the proper balance between helping the kids learn discipline, and making class fun. I’ve taught kids music classes in the past, so I know how important it is to make learning fun. Kids learn best that way, as we all do. But allow them to have too much fun and the whole class can get away from you. Before you know it their energy level skyrockets, and it gets difficult to focus them again.

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Dean Lister Straight Ankle Lock

Dean Lister Ankle LockI’ve been having a lot of trouble finishing the straight ankle lock lately. And by “lately” I mean “always”. I actually go for this submission pretty often, but I end up exposing my ankle in the process and getting tapped out myself. It feels like people who can sink this ankle lock are able to add a ton of pressure to my ankle, while when I try it seems like I can exert all my strength and barely affect my partner. In this video Dean Lister goes over the details of the ankle lock, and one thing he pointed out is that you need to get your partners foot high under your armpit to get the most torque. I think this may be something I’m not doing. I certainly hadn’t thought about it while rolling. Next time I’m on the mats I’m going to give this ankle lock a shot with these details in mind.