First contact

The Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the elder once said “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy”  This is often no less true in martial arts than it is in war. We’ve heard Iron Mike Tyson explain how everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and a grappler will tell you that strategy is something you have before somebody grabs your neck.

In any conflict, the major concern of any involved party is the development of a plan that is capable of surviving first contact. Robust strategies not only increase our chance of success, but also allow us to anticipate obstacles both seen and unseen.  Continue reading “First contact”


Nihilism and Jiu-jitsu.

Nihilism is the philosophical view point that life- our existence- has no inherent meaning. This throws a lot of people into despair upon their first encounter, I know it did for me. What a lot of people don’t go on to read about is that it is anything by fatalistic. The idea that there is no inherent meaning is supposed to motivate us to find meaning and create value within our lives by surpassing the constructs that humanity has created for itself.

Within each of us, we have the ability to change our mindset and view the world from a different perspective. This perspective can be one where everything that we’ve been told confirms our place in the world, or it can be one where we question these things and watch as the superficial and dissatisfying answers slip away to reveal truth and knowledge- knowledge about ourselves, the world and others.

In a large way, Jiu-jitsu has been a heuristic for me to change my view of the world. It’s been a tool by which I have learned more about myself, others and more about objective truths that I cannot doubt or question.

Continue reading “Nihilism and Jiu-jitsu.”

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”

What’s the worst that can happen? Nap time.

The worst part about waking up from a submission- induced nap is the confusion, “What happened? Did I tap? What day is it?”. Consciousness lurches back like a car being pushed out of a bog and we bashfully wonder why we didn’t just tap.

There are two eventualities when we decide that tapping isn’t the desirable option: the nap or the snap. For the uninitiated; joint locks will eventually lead to snaps and choke holds will eventually lead to a nap.

I’ve only been totally unconscious from chokes twice (so far): once in training and once in competition. Of course, there have been countless other times where I found myself embracing the tunnel vision/ Looney Toons close out before tapping & feeling the static and numbness of a late tap. I’d like to reflect upon these “learning moments” and the benefits of an unexpected nap. Continue reading “What’s the worst that can happen? Nap time.”

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.