Be willing to kill your darlings

William Faulkner once said “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” In writing, it’s often considered an important part of the writing method. The idea is that you need to be willing to cull all of the overly-dressed and precious things that you are attached to because it removes you from your sense of objectivity.

Essentially, this is just simple critical thinking and it applies far more broadly than just to writing, martial art practice or study.  Continue reading “Be willing to kill your darlings”


Technique is not the most important thing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

If I said that technique wasn’t the most important thing in BJJ, I imagine many would stretch their fingers before beginning to furiously type a scathing response to such a heretical statement. But bear with me for a second…

Technique is second only to self belief. You can be an encyclopedia of technical knowledge, but if you don’t have the confidence or belief in yourself to pull it off, that knowledge is useless.

I’ve seen technically knowledgeable team mates flounder against less technically sound opponents many times; logically this should not happen, yet it does…Why? Belief in our ability to apply technique is a major factor in this. Confidence in our abilities translates to success in execution. There is no substitute to that equation.

Having the confidence to pull off a technique is often more of an influence than our knowledge of the technique itself. I don’t always have to have a complete understanding of the nuances of a particular guard pass to get it to work, sometimes my trust in my ability to pull off the technique at the right time will lead to a successful execution rather than overthinking the entire thing and not acting at all.

All of the best coaches I’ve worked with over the years have always helped to foster self belief in their students. Despite often imparting great technical advice, the best coaches seem to have a knack for also building a student’s confidence and belief in themselves. The best athletes are always built upon a strong foundation of self belief. For many it’s a learned internal narrative and it takes constant self reflection and objective assessment of one’s own abilities to develop.

Henry Ford is credited with having said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s true, all of our actions stem from our belief in ourselves and our ability to perform. If you don’t have the confidence to make yourself believe you can do something, then you are very unlikely to succeed.

You can explore this idea in anything that you do, it’s not unique to Jiu Jitsu. Vary rarely are any of the lessons we learn on the mat things that we cannot apply in other aspects of our lives.

Thanks for reading.



Chasing the Finish

In the same way that every logical argument has a conclusion, or scientific & mathematical equations have solutions, submission-based grappling styles have a singular favored outcome: The Finish. 

Submission is the ultimate goal in our martial arts. In realistic application the submission signifies the complete domination of your opponent. In short, submitting your opponent means that you have not only controlled them, but literally have the ability to either kill them or severely maim them should they not submit.  There is nothing more definitive than that. 

This was the original intent that these martial arts were developed with; the goal of controlling an opponent and putting yourself in the position to be able to fatally wound them should there be the need to do so.

At the core of grappling, this remains an imperative: complete control over an opponent Continue reading “Chasing the Finish”

An exercise in Absurdity

The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning.

-Albert Camus

There have always been a lot of things about the world, in my mind anyways, that didn’t make complete sense. Maybe it’s because I hated math at school and never really applied myself to learning until later at university, or that as a kid whenever my parents asked me what I wanted to I would say “Nothing.”.

I struggled to relate to my peers at university because so many of them had definitive meaning in their lives; they were going to be the scientists, dentists, doctors and lawyers of our generation. I felt inferior because I was essentially still trying to find something definitive to pin that meaning to.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I read Albert Camus’ work. An Existentialist Philosopher, Camus is credited with the development of the view of Absurdism. Essentially, Existentialists are concerned with the question “What is the meaning of existence?” Camus’ point of view was that life had no meaning, that nothing exists that could ever be a source of meaning and hence there is something deeply “absurd” about the human quest to find meaning. I guess this is an extension of what Friederich Nietzche’s meditations on Nihilism & what I had come to learn at university, but something about Camus’ perspective resounded with me. By that point in 2015 I had already re-committed myself to Jiu-jitsu after a 2 year hiatus  trying (unsuccessfully) to drink and eat myself into an early grave. On reflection, I think I had held a lot of resentment over the fact that I had no real goal or meaning; excusing myself from proactive pursuits to irrationally flail about and dabble in a bunch of destructive habits that dragged me deeper into depression and resentment.

Camus’ ideas were a breath of fresh air for me. Where a lot of people see Nietzche or Camus’ ideas as ‘depressing’ or ‘bleak’, I saw them as empowering. To me, it allows us to understand that it is okay not to have definitive meaning in our lives because it is simply not possible to prescribe any definitive meaning to existence. From there, we can start to establish our own meaning and purpose for being.  Continue reading “An exercise in Absurdity”

Guest Post: Crossfit for Jiu-jitsu Practitioners by Christiaan Mattheus

I’d like to thank Christiaan Mattheus for this in depth look at the role of Strength training, and Crossfit in particular, in Jiu-jitsu. Christiaan is the owner of CrossFit Amandla in Christchurch and a Blue Belt at Axis Brazilan Jiu-jitsu Christchurch (coming off recent weight division and absolute National Title wins and Silver at the Japanese Abu Dhabi Grand Slam).


“Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful in general.”

Mark Rippetoe





If you’re reading this chances are you already practice Jiu-Jitsu, jūjutsu, bjj, self-defense, submission grappling or whatever else you want to call the act of tactfully disabling or disarming an opponent. For that very reason I will not spend too much of your time looming over the wonderful world of Jiu-Jitsu but instead I will attempt to showcase the importance of regular and effective strength & conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Crossfit for Jiu-jitsu Practitioners by Christiaan Mattheus”

The virtue of Curiosity

“Curious is a good thing to be, it seems to pay some unexpected dividends.”

Iggy Pop

In my current line of work, I’ve noticed that the most curious kids tend to be the ones who find the most satisfaction- and success- in learning. They ask hard questions about things others take for granted, never satisfied with a simple “Just because” answer. Curiosity leads to a desire to know more; to learn more, see more and do more. 

My philosophy teachers always expounded the principal of honesty in ignorance: Accept that there are things you don’t know. The more that I realized I was uncertain about, the more curious I became to find out what the truth was, if indeed there was any to be found at all.

Curiosity leads us down the paths often left untraveled by the timid or tame. It leads us away from the deceit offered up by matronly comfort and shows us the way to independence and resilience. Curiosity is a teacher that never questions your ability to experience and learn something new.

I think back to some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far, and they all come from a place of curiosity. I’m no more or less curious than anyone else as a person, if anything I used to be far from it. But upon reflection, it’s the “What ifs” and “Why is” that have lead me to places,  people and experiences that I would never have imagined as a twenty year old. Curiosity also lead me to Jiu-jitsu, which without I would undoubtedly not be here to write this. 

Einstein said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”, but I would adjust it so:

Once you stop learning, you are dead. 

Being curious means leading a life full of learning; accepting that we can always find out more about ourselves and the world we live in. If you’re not doing that, or at least trying to in some small way every day, then you’re not really alive.

Foster your sense of curiosity. You will thank yourself for it later.

Thanks for reading.



Accepting change

Change is constant. Every waking moment presents you with a new opportunity for both positive and negative change.

If you begin to look at personal growth in this way, you can create a lot of opportunities for growth and change your life for the better.

Don’t fall behind in your pursuit for personal growth because of a failure to accept change.

To benefit from change, we must accept two things: That change is a signal for growth and that no one is too perfect to grow.

We can all learn something new about ourselves as long as we embrace change and new opportunities.

What isn’t going to help is when we cut ourselves off from these chances to grow because of the potential discomfort or fear.