Friday, January 18, 2013

My ICP 4 Essay

I've edited the essay somewhat.  But this is what I provided Gracie Barra in all relevant respects as my essay for the Instructor's Certification Program 4.

I don't say some of what I had planned to say (and it seems this week like everybody from Rener Gracie to Ryan Hall is busy saying it anyway).  I wanted to keep my words to Gracie Barra as pure as possible, as focused on what matters is possible - maybe even as beautiful as possible.  So consider this essay, if you will, the "A" side to a single whose "B" side is more howl than harmony.


So how do we build a jiu-jitu for everyone, a jiu-jitsu that will itself be endlessly reshaped by every man, woman, kid, fighter, over-40 adult who trains jiu-jitsu?  When I think about what I have learned through the ICP course, there are three elements that come to mind.

(Organization) guidance/support/creation

Jiu-jitsu is bigger than any one organization.  But the enormous task of bringing jiu-jitsu to everyone is something only an organization can do.

And only a certain type of organization can do it.  On the one hand, the organization needs to be strong.  It needs a clear, coherent structure and technical authority to ensure that the jiu-jitsu being shared with the world is of consistent high-quality and most useful for the most people.  At the same time, people are diverse, and any effort to bring jiu-jitsu to everyone must be both innovative enough and flexible enough to accommodate the variety of people who will be training it.

This means the organization must be as comfortable teaching single moms as it is training professional fighters.  The organization must have a plan for teaching kids and their parents, knowing that the learning styles and needs of kids and parents are very different.  Even better, the organization tasked with bringing jiu-jitsu to everyone should have a track record of doing this: building large and growing kids programs, developing championship caliber competitive sport fighters, regularly providing recreational jiu-jitsu practitioners with a key component in building a healthy, active lifestyle.

Lastly, the organization itself must be capable of growing as jiu-jitsu grows.  Whether this means building schools in new places and unique locations, or keeping up with the latest innovations in technique, the organization needs to be able to take advantage of new opportunities as well as new knowledge that can improve our ability to learn, teach, and share the best of what jiu-jitsu has to offer.  This includes taking advantage of new technologies such as social media and apps that make it possible to reach far more people far more intimately than ever before.

(Individual) responsibility/discipline/belonging

Training in jiu-jitsu can help instill a sense of responsibility.  First and most importantly, it is a responsibility to oneself.  To take the initial challenge to begin training, and to keep up a schedule of training at least twice a week requires a person to make a commitment first to themselves, often in addition to all the other important obligations and commitments in their lives, such as family, school and/or work.

As the student becomes more and more a part of the school - establishing a routine, learning their teammates and training partner's names, listening to the always-available advice from brand-new blue belts - a sense of belonging develops.  This is my place, the student begins to think.  This is where I go to be what I want to be.

As instructors, we can encourage this in a number of ways.  The first is by being happy, energetic and excited that our students have decided to devote their time to the school.  Often people come to the academy hoping to be “taken away” from the concerns of daily life for a little while.  As instructors, our enthusiasm can help them tremendously in this

It is also helpful to let students talk about their jiu-jitsu.  For those of us who have been training for many years, it can be easy to slip into “lecture mode.”  When we are off the mats talking with students, we should let them tell us what they are thinking about training, about the techniques they are trying to learn, what’s working and what’s not.   We can learn a lot more from our students this way while instilling in them a sense of the academy as a place where what they think about their training actually matters.

One last way we can encourage this sense of belonging is by maintaining a clean and inviting school.  A school that is well-maintained says something about the instructors and students who train there, and having a school where the mats are clean and there is no clutter and the lights are nice and bright is a school that new student’s will be especially proud to belong to.

Even more, it is a place that a student will want to show to friends and family.  And, who knows?  There may be an aspiring jiu-jitsu practitioner among them!

 (The Practice of the Art) self-defense/self-confidence/self-expression

For the vast majority of people, self-defense is the reason why they choose to begin their jiu-jitsu journey.  Whether it is the ability to defend oneself against an unknown assailant on the street or a well-known professional fighter in the ring or cage, people choose jiu-jitsu because they believe it is an effective way for them to keep themselves safe against adversity.

In my opinion, everything else in jiu-jitsu flows from this.  How we conduct our classes, how we show, explain and practice technique, how we set up and run a Live Training session …  Even how we conduct ourselves in the world, trying to make better, more rational, saner and safer choices for ourselves and our families is connected with this philosophy of balance.

This is where the self-confidence comes from, not just the sense of being able to protect against antagonists, but also in the sense of being able to protect oneself from non-human antagonists, the sort of challenges that we all face in life.  We learn from jiu-jitsu the importance of not allowing bad situations to get worse whenever possible, and how even in the worse situations, keeping calm and looking for small, incremental progress is often the best way to make things better.

Jiu-jitsu also provides a tremendous opportunity for self-expression, often for those who have a hard time expressing themselves in other environments such as school.  The shy kid in math class can put on the gi and transform himself or herself into someone else entirely.  The boy or girl can even become their own role model once he or she decides to apply the same discipline that has paved the way for success on the mat in jiu-jitsu class back into his or her work at school and life at home.  There is a saying that even the smallest housecat sees the King of the Jungle when looking into a mirror.  Jiu-jitsu can be that mirror for many of us.

(Conclusion) always learning/making it happen/new global is local

I have learned a great deal as a black belt instructor participating in the instructor’s certification program – far more than I expected to learn when I began taking the course.  Especially in the areas of business development and management, I feel as if I am only a white belt.

But much of what I have learned through this course was very familiar.  This is because I have sought out many opportunities to learn more and more about the Gracie Barra mission of jiu-jitsu for everyone – including participating at the recent fall meeting here in Seattle with Professor Almeida.  Whether I ever run my own Gracie Barra school or not, I know I will be a better professor of jiu-jitsu for having participated in all of these opportunities to learn.

Last, I must offer thanks to my professor, Rodrigo Lopes, who very early on saw the wisdom in the jiu-jitsu for everyone approach and began adopting the curriculum and sharing it with his students years ago.  And while the changes were not popular with everyone, our schools are growing like never before with kids, women, competitors, Over 40 … you name it.   Professor Rodrigo is making jiu-jitsu for everyone happen here in Washington State and I am thrilled to be even a small part of this project.