Everyday Champions: Creating Leaders Through Competitive Sports

We’ve previously discussed how martial arts can aid in the fight for entrepreneurial success, but there are endless ways to apply the principles you learn in martial arts, and sports in general, to other aspects of life. One of the most obvious connections lies in sports’ ability to teach leadership qualities that follow participants into their respective careers.


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis

To be a leader, you must have the ability to speak and listen effectively. Just as important, though, is the ability to understand non-verbal methods of communication. In sports, and especially in BJJ, communication is key to developing a strategy and implementing it. Watching the opponent closely can also help you to understand what their next move may be and how you can counter it. In business, communication keeps a team strong by providing a space for efficiency, innovation, and progress. Leaders understand how essential communication is to success and will make sure that the communication within their team is strong.


“In fair weather prepare for foul.” — Thomas Fuller

Sports teams have whiteboards to outline a game plan and so do most businesses. To develop a game plan in sports, a team must understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their opponents. Research is necessary to understand the best course of action. However, on the field and in the office, small emergencies arise that throw the original plan out the window. A leader must be able to quickly evaluate the situation and issue a new strategy. Competitive sports teach how to create a last minute contingency plan when things go wrong, making leaders at work more effective for being able to think on their feet.  


“To succeed one must be creative and persistent.” — John H. Johnson

Someone becomes a leader for many reasons, but a large part of it is the fact that they work very hard. In sports, a leader is often the person who logs the most hours of practice, doesn’t give up when the odds are stacked against them, and works to help their teammates become stronger players. To advance in a sport, those qualities must be demonstrated. To not give up and keep grinding is just as important in business.


“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

In business, a group of people is always smarter than one person standing alone. In sports, while there may be players who are stronger than others, how that team works together is what gets the win. Effective teamwork is all about delegation and recognizing what someone does most successfully and trusting them to do it. In sports, players are delegated to certain positions based on their skills. The same can be said for business. A good leader recognizes individual strengths and delegates tasks to the most qualified and capable person. Sports teaches players how to recognize the strengths in others.

Don’t forget that you don’t always have to be top dog to be a great leader. Captains in competitive sports are usually good leaders, but they are also in their positions based on seniority. A leader is someone who works as hard as they can and inspires others to do the same. A team’s new recruit or the office intern can be a leader with the right set of qualities and work ethic.

This post was originally published on on March 14, 2019.


Combating Entitlement Through Martial Arts

Giving up is easy. It requires little effort and puts a stop to the frustration and pain that comes along with trying something new. It’s normal to want something to be easy, given the level of self-doubt and self-consciousness that often accompanies getting out of your comfort zone.

But let’s face it. Giving up feels terrible. Taking the easy way out feels, well, easy—and therefore can make us feel like we haven’t accomplished anything, like we’re a failure.

One of the reasons I suggest starting martial arts at a young age is for this very reason. If we teach our children the benefits of self-discipline and perseverance at a young age, we squash any desire for them to want to take the easy way out later in life. Without self-discipline, as we age we start to develop defense mechanisms that keep us from feeling things like frustration and self-doubt.

What causes this lack of motivation?

At Gracie Barra schools, we train our staff to identify risk factors in our students. Why might students feel unmotivated or disconnected in our school? In many cases, students fail to realize the level of self-discipline that is involved in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which leads them to become frustrated with their perceived lack of progress.

The power of the mind:

At its core, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about the mind. It’s about strategy, analysis of situations, outsmarting your opponent, and, most of all, self-discipline. The intensity of BJJ requires a ton of practice and even more moments of “failure.” After all, mistakes are often our best teachers. If you’re serious about learning BJJ, you need to learn humility and accept the fact that it takes time, practice, and patience to get good.

Discipline on and off the mat:

If you can overcome your desire to quit, BJJ can teach you the kind of self-discipline that helps you excel in every aspect of your life. All forms of martial arts have set rules that cannot be broken. If they are, there are varying consequences from being sent home to being banned from the school. Society, schools, industries, and employers also have set rules with a similar approach to consequences. Martial arts shows you how important it is for you—and those around you—to follow the rules. Here are a few more ways discipline from BJJ follows you home:

  • Preparation is key to success in martial arts. To be prepared, students are encouraged to be early to class and matches so that they can get into the right mindset and be ready for what’s to come. This kind of discipline is extremely helpful when it comes to school and work as well. The early bird gets the worm, right?
  • “Dress for the job you want.” In BJJ, students must be well groomed, not only to look more professional, but for the safety of others. Long nails and improper hygiene are a risk to other students and could cause serious injuries or infections. Taking the time to groom and look polished makes you appear more professional and approachable in all aspects of your life off the mat, too.
  • Respect and kindness are key aspects of many martial art disciplines. Bullying and disrespect is not tolerated on or off the mat. Martial arts, especially BJJ, is well known for creating lasting friendships and relationships due to the nature of the sport. As such, learning to show kindness and respect to superiors at work or competitors is a quality that goes far on the path to success.

There’s absolutely no shame in trying martial arts and deciding it’s not for you. The point here is that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it or an excuse for you to quit. Everything great in life takes work. Success takes failure, trial and error, and a lot of hitting rock bottom before you ever make it to the top. If you stick with it, BJJ and martial arts can show you what you can accomplish when you just stay disciplined and put your mind to something.

This article was originally published on on March 13, 2019.

Why Every Woman Should Train Jiu-Jitsu and Self-Defense

Who is is stronger, men or women?

The most obvious and common answer is men.

The more precise answer is it depends.

One of the most powerful ideas I have learned in martial arts is that strength is relative. As great grand Master Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, once said: “Jiu-Jitsu is the triumph of human intelligence over brute force”.

It is true that with no prior training, men are on average stronger than women. However, when women are properly trained in self-defense they can effectively manipulate the fight to become stronger than men.

I have been teaching self-defense for women for over 10 years now. It is always an amazing experience. It usually only takes one or two classes for them to realize how powerful they are.

Once their eyes are opened to the possibility of being able to protect themselves against a much bigger and stronger attacker, something really special happens. Their body language and facial expression changes from lacking confidence and/or skepticism to standing up with their shoulders back. They become confident they can indeed learn what it takes to protect themselves.

Women grow up being told a lie. From an early age culture teaches them to believe they can’t do this or that because they are women. They are slowly and sadly convinced they are inherently inadequate for certain things, including, for the most part, self-protection.

This is brutal, but it goes unnoticed.

When I watch a little girl walking into my Jiu-Jitsu academy in her dancing shoes to watch her little brother’s class, I always take the time to have a conversation with the parents to why she is not training. Their response is always similar:

“Well, she loves to dance! Fighting is not really her thing. We want our son to learn self-defense so he can stand up for himself and his sister”.

Well-intending parents always want the best for their children. We do the best we can to make them understand that their daughters need to develop fighting skills as much as, or even more than, their sons.


Because they are more vulnerable. Because again, all conditions being equal they are physically weaker than man. They are facing a culture that insists on telling them they are inadequate for certain things because they are women and that’s is simply not true.

Moreover, the statistics for violence of men against women are outrageous.

  • On average, more than 1 in 3 women in the U.S. report experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Worldwide, reports estimate that nearly 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
  • 1 in 5 female college students are victimized while living on or nearby a college campus.

Empowering women to stand up for themselves should be a priority of every parent, every college, and, in my opinion, an important element ingrained in our public and private education system.

I honestly believe every women should be well trained in self-defense. That would lead to more change than most proposed changes in legislation in the ongoing battle for gender equality.

I am the father to two daughters and a husband to a lovely wife. These three women are the three most important people in my life. I have seen Jiu-Jitsu do wonders for them. The realization that they are much stronger than they think immediately affects their confidence to deal with battles on and off the mats. It empowers them to stand up with their shoulders back ready to chase their dreams and overcome challenges that come their way.

It also empowers them to define clear boundaries, as they know the transgression of those boundaries can lead to verbal, mental, and physical abuse. They are not supposed to put up with the violation of their rights and integrity under any circumstances.

Martial arts for women is not just a new trend. It should not be embraced or promoted just because it is fun or helps women get in shape and develop a strong body. It should be embraced and promoted because it empowers women to stand up for themselves, define clear boundaries, and establish a shift in power that is beneficial for women, men, and society as a whole.

This article was originally published on on February 19, 2019.