On jumping, eating and breathing

This post will answer the prompts 25 (Photo), 26 (Soul Food) and 27 (Ordinary Joy)  of Reverb10. Join us and reflect on your year 2010…

Prompt 25: Photo

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)

{Future tool: Soul Biographies: Thoughts Become Things. For the next 7 days as you round out your year, we’ll share one tool each day to help you plan your year ahead.}

This photo on the left was taken by Fernando Ramos in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Fernando gave it a name – “Jump for Life, Joy and Everything Inbetween”, and I think this title describes this jump very well. I jump for life, joy and everything inbetween. I jump even if no one is jumping. I jumped because I wanted to jump.

What do you do when you are happy? Do you jump? Or dance? Or sing?

By the way, Fernando runs a photo meme called SnapStory1000. The most basic rule is that you take a photo, write a short story based on the photo, and display them online. If you are interested, check out his SnapStory1ooo page here.

Prompt 26: Soul Food

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

(Author: Elise Marie Collins)

{Future tool: Sark’s MicroMOVEment Support Sheets. For the next 6 days as you round out your year, we’ll share one tool each day to help you plan your year ahead.}

I love food. I love cooking as well as eating. But when it comes to soul food, I’m inclined to think what really matters is who you share the food with, because that person or those people can make the dining more enjoyable and the food will be more memorable if not tastier.

What do you think?

In any case, sharing food can be what I’ll do more next year.

Prompt 27: Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

(Author: Brené Brown)

{Future tool: Tara Mohr’s The Next Steps After Vision… For the next 5 days as you round out your year, we’ll share one tool each day to help you plan your year ahead.

I’m grateful that my life is filled with such joyful moments. I can pretty much be happy and feel joyful about being able to breathe.

I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and choking techniques are part of the core techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So, when I’m good, I choke others. But when I’m playing with people stronger than me, I get choked and I tap.

Since I practice this style of martial arts and choking has become an ordinary thing for me, it didn’t occur to me how people rarely gets choked in their daily lives. If you practice yoga or something that teaches you the importance of breathing, you know breathing gives you positive effects. But do you know how amazing it is that you can breathe? You will know, if you’ve been in a situation where you can’t breathe even if you want to.

This very simple realization that I got by reflecting on what I practice makes me appreciate the fact that I can breathe. It’s joyful.

If you want to be able to appreciate these tiny moments more, be curious about what’s happening around you. Also, it helps to imagine what would happen if you couldn’t experience those moments at all.

This prompt’s author Brené Brown gave a great talk for TEDxHuston. This talk is one of my favorite talks that I’ve ever listened to. Make sure to check it out (I wrote a post in relation to her talk. Go to that post and scroll down to the bottom of the post for a clip of the talk.)


What’s your thoughts on these prompts? Tell me, because I’m curious. If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends by clicking the like button or the tweet button below. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Photo: Saitama-Rama

A humid Sunday afternoon in which I faced a bigger opponent (Day 15)

I competed in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament yesterday. I fought in the under 70kg division and in the open weight division, both for adult blue belts.

I had been practicing hard for this tournament, and given that I’m somewhat an overdue blue belt (I started BJJ in 2002; I got my blue belt in 2007) and I can do well against people in a higher rank, I’d been fairly confident that I’d win my division. My expectation was proven to be wrong, unfortunately.

When I think about the kind of grappler I’d hate to fight against, what comes to my mind is myself. While I love the way I fight, if I had to fight against someone who fights like me, I’d completely get annoyed.

So, the guy whom I lost to in my division happened to fight like me. He even finished me with my favorite of all techniques: triangle choke. I’d say the major reason why I lost was because I was trying to do something different from what I’d usually do. So, I didn’t even show up as who I am in this case.

The loss was somewhat shocking. Perhaps it’s because he choked me to the point I nearly fainted after the match, though it was actuall an armlock from the triangle choke position that made me tap. Thankfully, I didn’t get my elbow broken, but it still hurts a bit.

In any case, I’m glad I managed to switch my mind for the open weight division quickly enough. While my body needed to have some rest, my mind was ready.

In the first match of the open weight division (since I was seeded, it was actually the second stage of the tournament) , I faced an opponent around my size. This time, I did what I’d usually do. I was committed to show up as who I am. So, I pulled my opponent into my guard, went for triangle choke, somewhat missed it, and switched to armbar. This armbar was a bit rough, but I managed to get him with it. It’s great to know that I can do well when I show up as myself.

In the second match, my opponent was bigger than me. But that didn’t worry me much. Again, I did what I’m good at. This time, I got him with triangle choke from the mount position. It was a quick win too.

I wonder what people think when they are competing. I must be having a blank mind or something. But then, like Rickson Gracie says, if you’re thinking while fighting, you’re too late in executing whatever you have to do. Training is what you do so you don’t have to think about what you do when you do it. That sounds right to me.

I had to wait for the third match to start, because my opponent had been fighting in other matches. Perhaps more than 30 minutes. I wasn’t nervous or anything, but I started getting sleepy. My focus was getting off a little bit.

In the third match, I fought against this guy who had won almost every blue belt open weight division of the recent major BJJ tournaments in Japan. He’d beaten a guy who came to the 2nd in a world cup, in one of those tournaments. I didn’t know about his status, but I doubt if it had any significance on me. I knew he was a big guy and I’d do my best. And so I did my best.

Probably it’s because he was buggered by the time this match started, but I didn’t feel that I was outpowered by this 80kg guy. I weight about 64kg. I could do my moves, almost got him with triangle choke, and kept attacking until the match finished. He did pass my guard and take the mount position, but I didn’t let him finish me. Eventually, I lost by points, but I was happy with what I did. At the same time, I was disappointed that I could totally get him with that triangle choke. That means I have to sharpen my skills further, though. I don’t care if I win or lose by points. What really matters is whether there was a submission involved.

I got a bronze medal, and that does make me happy. But, I’m more proud of myself for showing up as who I am in these 3 matches, because that’s how I want to measure my success. The external outcomes, such as losing to this guy and getting a bronze medal, didn’t matter too much.

And… OK, that’s all for now. I’m off to training!

What matters in this competition on Sunday (Day 10)

I’ll participate in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition this Sunday. I’ll be fighting in two divisions: the -70kg division and the open weight division.

On one hand, I can look at the competition this way. I’m confident that I can beat everyone in my own weight category. The open weight division will be more difficult, and I’ll have to work harder. But, it’s achievable. I desire to win and by ‘winning’ I mean beating everyone I fight against.

On the other hand, I can look at it another way. What really matters to me in this competition is to show up as who I am. If I can move just as in daily training sessions, then that’s great–indeed, that’s what I’m after. Whether I beat my opponent or not is not what matters. I still desire to win, but the criterion for winning is different in this case. With this one, whether I win or not is totally dependent on me.

I do want to be a champion, and while that does require me to beat everyone in those divisions, it’s clear to me that the second way of thinking is more important to me.

It’s great to be aware that I’m on my path to excellence, where I measure my success by the way I put myself forward into the world. Winning by points is not what I’m after. Winning by submission. That’s what I want.

Tap in sparring of creativity… and stand up again

In a previous post, I wrote: the most important and first thing you should learn in BJJ is to tap before you get hurt. When I reflect on lessons I learned through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I tend to find these lessons applicable to life in general. Tapping is one of such lessons.

Let’s say you are sparring with someone. Your opponent takes a better position and dominates you. Perhaps your opponent is more skilled. Or perhaps your opponent is bigger than you. But let’s face it: you are now caught and stuck. You get desperate and end up making a mistake. You literally give your arm away. Your opponent takes it and goes for an armlock. Here, you can and should tap before you get injured. By tapping your opponent with the other hand, you let him or her know that you accept your defeat. It’s only a spar after all. There is no reason why you should resist that armlock attempt and get your arm broken eventually.

There is nothing embarrassing about accepting your defeat. Your opponent may be much smaller than you and you may be supposed to be much stronger than you. But no one cares about it if you don’t. Good news is that with your arm safe and sound, you can train more. You’ll know what to watch out for as well. If you learn how to avoid that same move, you’ll survive. You might get caught by another move, but that’s OK. Tap first , start over again and learn how to avoid that move. That’s how you get better. If you refuse to tap for some reason and you break your arm, you won’t be able to train until it recovers. That sucks.

Now I’m up to Week 6 of the Artist’s Way. I can sense that this book has been influencing me little by little. Surprise: like every other area, I can relate the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu way of thinking to creativity. If I think about what I was like when I started walking away from the path of creativity, it is as if I was that guy who didn’t realize tapping was one of the most important parts of the game. There’s nothing wrong with tapping. Just start over and try again. In terms of creative works, you might feel your writing, drawing or dancing is nothing like your favorite artist’s works, but that’s perfectly OK. Just start over and try again. One of the reasons I ended up walking away from the path of creativity is probably because I didn’t tap?I couldn’t accept the fact that I was a beginner and eventually got my creative arm broken. But now I know tapping is important and not a big deal at the same time.

I bet what you want is the process of bringing that piece of work into existence rather than that piece itself. Suppose some magical being appears and tells you that he could give you the master pieces of yours that you are to make in the future. So, the deal is that you could have your master pieces without actually working on them. Would you take them?

I wouldn’t. I want to enjoy the journey of creating my master pieces. This time, I’ll tap as many times as necessary and say, “Thanks, and let’s do it again”.

"What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway", I thought.

I heard of Rickson Gracie when I was 17. Rickson Gracie is a legendary martial artist who never lost a fight. He had more than 400 fights. My friend told me about him and the Gracie style of fighting, which is now popularized as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). I didn’t really get into Rickson or BJJ at that time, but I remember I was quite impressed with this Rickson guy.

About a year later, I ended up starting my journey of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was in Tasmania, Australia and in 2002. I was there to take a university preparation course at University of Tasmania. During a campus tour, I noticed a poster for University of Tasmania BJJ club in the sports gym. I remembered about this style of martial arts and Rickson Gracie; I joined the club and started practicing BJJ.

At the BJJ club, I was the smallest person, both my height and weight considered. I’m about 177cm (5’8) in height. I think I weighed around 60kg (132 pounds) at that time. I did Kendo for 5 years. I did a bit of Judo for physical education classes at high school. But I wasn’t good at any sports. I wasn’t physically strong either. Get my 17 old self go for a run. He would be one of the last ones to finish. There was no way I could beat my training partners with my (non-existent) physical strength. This situation forced me to be smart about training. I had to sharpen and to rely on my techniques.

A BJJ match consists of two phases, broadly speaking. We could call them the standing phase and the ground phase respectively. In the standing phase, your primary goal is to bring the match into the ground phase while keeping a better position than your opponent’s. You can take your opponent down by throwing or tackling him or her. Alternatively, you can pull your opponent into yourself.

In the ground phase, your primary aim is to submit your opponent by locking his or her joint or choking him or her. To make this goal easier, you need to take a better position than your opponent’s. What’s meant by a ‘better position’ is quite simple: it’s a position where you can be safe and rest while your opponent has to struggle to get out. There are various techniques and moves that lead you to such a position. Scores are awarded when you take a better position or do a move that leads you to such a position. If the match doesn’t finish within the designated time limit before any successful submission happens, the winner will be decided on the basis of the scores the competitors got.

BJJ puts greater emphasis on the ground phase. Naturally, those ground techniques compose the heart of BJJ and BJJ tends to get attention for such techniques. I believe, however, what’s really striking about BJJ is not just how effective these techniques can be.

There are two factors to take into account if you wonder whether you should learn BJJ or not. One is how each technique can be taught in a systematic way; the other is how anyone can do the basic techniques. Every technique can be broken down into a few basic principles. If you understand these principles and how your body and your opponent’s body work, you just need to make sure you control your opponent’s body with no rush or unnecessary strength, and to execute the technique you wish to execute. Since the basic techniques don’t require great flexibility or strength, it’s possible for you to learn some of the basic moves at the first lesson and to try sparring if you want.

My point is that if your physical condition is such that you can walk with no problem, you should be able to do the basic moves of BJJ after a few hours of lesson. It will certainly take years to master those moves, but there are almost no prerequisites for starting BJJ. You don’t need to be crazy flexible or super strong.

By the way, the most important and first thing you should learn in BJJ is to tap before you get hurt. You can certainly practice tapping at the first session. It may be embarrassing to get toyed with by someone smaller than you, but it’s a necessary route. It can be a great way to let go of your ego as well. Your instructor should be able to match you up with senior people who know what to do. You don’t need to worry about getting hurt and smashed at the first lesson, unless the gym you chose was the wrong place to go.

After you’ve learned how to lose, the next thing you need to learn is how to survive. Survive first. This way of thinking is prominent in the Gracie way of fighting, I believe. Survive through every attack your opponent does, preferably in the safest position you can get. When you’ve survived from such attacks without using any energy, your opponent is likely to be more tired than you are. When you have much more energy left than your opponent, you have a greater chance of winning, even if your opponent is twice larger than you.

I’m inclined to think the Gracie way of fighting can be applied to real life, non-fighting situations as well. That’s one of the things I like about the Gracies and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Where do you think this ‘survive first’ way of thinking is relevant and applicable? In my view, to survive is to keep showing up no matter what. As long as you don’t give up and tire yourself, you can always increase your chance of winning.

Watch a demonstration done by Rickson and his brother Royler here.

“The primary objective of Jiu-Jitsu is to empower the weak who, for not having the physical attributes, are often intimidated. My Jiu-Jitsu is an art of self-defense in which rules and time limits are unacceptable.”  – Helio Gracie

The forgotten first day of 2009 and kick-starting 2010

I don’t remember what I did on the first day of 2009. On the new year’s eve for 2009, I invited two of my friends for a pizza party at my place. My housemate at that time brought his friend as well. Five of us made pizzas together, drank wine and eventually headed off to the local karaoke place for some fun. We came back, 2009 started, and we drank more wine.

It was a hot summer night in Australia, where I was at that time. The heat, food and wine made me sleepy; I couldn’t keep my eyes open after about 2.30am. We called it a day, and I went to bed.

I don’t know about you, but I usually wear only a boxers if it’s too hot to sleep with other garments on. That was the case for this time as well.

The sleep was great. In fact, when I woke up in the morning, I felt as though it was the freshest and most beautiful morning ever.

I went to the kitchen to grab a cup of water. My housemate was up too. He asked me whether I remembered what I did earlier in the morning. I had no idea what he was talking about. He told me he heard a door slamming noise around 4.30am. He went to check what it was. Then he saw me coming into the house. I had nothing but a boxers on. He talked to me and apparently I did reply to him and went back to my room.

I didn’t remember anything when my housemate told me about this in the kitchen. I wonder if this start of 2009 made a good indication for the year, which was a good year for me overall.

Since the feeling I had when I woke up on the first day of 2009 was great, I wanted to feel that feeling again for the first morning of 2010. However, I came back to the northern hemisphere in September, 2009; it would have been too cold for a sleepwalk with nothing but a boxers on. So, I chose another fun activity to kick off 2010.

On the new year’s eve for 2010, I went to the martial arts gym where I used to train in the first half of 2007 (i.e. Purebred Kawaguchi, also known as Redips), for a new year’s eve sparring session. It was nice to see my old team mates; I hadn’t seen them for more than 2 years since I flew to Australia in July, 2007.

If you know me, perhaps you know that I’m a massive fan of this submission technique called triangle choke (For those who are interested, see this video by Rener Gracie. His explanation is to the point and hilarious). I welcomed the year 2010 while attempting to set up a triangle choke on my sparring partner. The sparring finished before I made the choke work, but it made a good start for the new year.

The reason why I think I made a good start for 2010 is because not only the whole sparring session was fun, but also one of my goals for 2010 is related to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Wrestling, which I practice. I will write more on my goals, projects and the like for this year in another post.

How did you start 2010?