Saturday, June 11, 2016

One Door Closes and Another Opens...New Academy to Call Home

"Amor Fati - "Love your Fate", which is in fact your life."
-Friedrich Nietzsche 

Where it Began

My beginnings in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu started in February 2008 with North Dallas BJJ (NDBJJ).  I remember the day I committed to this sport and fell in love with it very early on.  Within a couple months of training I remember standing in the gym making small talk with my Professor, Joseph D. Shelley and day I want to be a part of this gym.  I want to be an upper belt, someone who has an impact here in some way.  I kept these kinds of thoughts to myself for the most part outside of my girlfriend at the time (now wife).

About the time I received my blue belt in the summer of 2009 I had the opportunity to begin teaching as an assistant in the kids classes.  As time progressed I was helping assist in adult beginners classes and eventually advanced classes around purple belt.  I just kept grinding away as a student and instructor, constantly trying to learn and evolve.  I found a lot of value in teaching because it kept me honest.  You can't teach with any reasonable level of confidence if you don't have a good grasp of what you are doing.  I was by no means a world champion competitor (although fairly active) but I dedicated myself to growing both as a student and instructor.  I feel now that my commitment to be the best instructor I could be aided in my growth as a student of Jiu-Jitsu in all areas.


As time passed I became more involved with the gym.  I was teaching private lessons on a consistent basis and becoming more involved with the operation of the gym.  It was important to me to be an asset to our academy and aid in the growth of it.  I enjoyed feeling appreciated and someone that could be depended on.  There were times where I sacrificed my own training for that level of commitment but I felt it was worth it in the long run.  I eventually took over the kids program at brown belt and began developing the curriculum and running the gi program.  This is about the time I could finally look around and say..."Well, I finally got here.  Where are all those upper belts and students when I started?  I outlasted the majority of them.  Not because I was better but because I wanted it more and was fortunate enough to stick with my coach from the beginning."  Loyalty and commitment have always been important to me.

My coach, JD Shelley coaching me at purple belt (AGF 2012)
That "Last" Promotion

Fast forward to June 2015 and I received my Black Belt under my first coach (NDBJJ) JD Shelley. That was obviously the highlight of my pursuit in Jiu-Jitsu thus far.  I wrote a blog entry dedicated to this moment almost a year to the day describing how it felt to reach Black Belt. (Link below to this article)

We continued on the same path at our gym for a while despite times getting tough.  I worked hard to try and do my part to grow the academy but unfortunately that all came to an end when we had to close our doors in April 2016. It was definitely a tough time and hard to let go of some of the relationships that were built. In hindsight that "last" promotion was pretty cool.  Myself along with three other teammates were promoted to black belt that day.  There was a core group of us "old guys/girls" that stuck it out to the very end.

New Chapter

Despite all the bad things that happened, losing my original home academy, along with the ability to train with my old coaches, teammates, and students a silver lining was found.   I was able to find a new gym, very close to my own home in Tier 1 Training Facility in McKinney, TX.  Professor Alan Shebaro was incredibly welcoming to me and nothing short of a great guy.  He has given me the opportunity to come on board and assist with his kids Jiu-Jitsu program; a place for me to train; a new place to call home.  The gym is filled with some great students of various levels not to mention a lot of familiar faces.  Some of them are friends I've made along the way and even some old teammates that changed gyms over the years.  Everyone has made me feel like I've been there forever and in light of the sadness of one door closing a new door has opened.

Just a little bit of about Alan Shebaro, he is retired special forces (Army) and had deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He received his Black Belt from Carlos Machado in 2004 (before Jiu-Jitsu was cool).  His Jiu-Jitsu is very technical; a great instructor and still a student of the game pursuing new knowledge.  He is a Shoyoroll sponsored athlete and competes regularly in IBJJF events as well as Pro Jiu-Jitsu events (Respect & FTW Pro).  Last but not least he is very active giving back to the community and helping veterans.  He's probably the busiest guy I know while maintaining a ferocious commitment on the mat as an instructor and mentor.

My new coach, Professor Alan Shebaro
Many of my teammates also came over to Tier 1 to train which has been really nice while making this transition.  It's very weird to train in one place for nearly eight years and suddenly begin training in a foreign place.  Especially when you've only been at one gym your entire time.  Fortunately for me it hasn't had that feel and more like a home I didn't realize I had waiting all this time.

Not a bad group for my first class at Tier 1

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mission22 Super Seminar

I had the pleasure of attending my first Mission22 seminar.  This was a massive effort that was hosted by new home, Tier 1 Training Facility under Professor Alan Shebaro.  The guest instructors were as follows: Octavio Couto, Chris Haueter, Sina Hadad, Melissa Bentley, Guy Mezger, Gina Franssen, Kurt Osiander, & Renato Tavares.  All of these instructors didn't come to this event for a paycheck.  It was clear after each had their moment to present content they were 100% in support of the cause. There were so many well known and respected black belts in attendance I can't even begin to name all of them.

So what's the point of Mission22 and this seminar exactly?  Yes, Jiu-Jitsu but more importantly bringing awareness about the struggles our active and discharged veterans encounter.  PTSD is something everyone by now is aware of but few have experienced it yourself, a husband, wife, child, friend, etc.  As much as I felt I was aware and understood this issue I developed a much more meaningful perspective over the weekend.  There was a very large number of attendees (over 200) and a large percentage have served our country.  One of the most amazing things about the seminar was seeing so many practitioners traveling from all of our country to attend despite affiliation.  Maybe you're asking why Jiu-Jitsu for our veterans?  The camaraderie veterans develop in the field is very difficult to replace/replicate once they integrate back into civilian life.  Anyone that has trained Jiu-Jitsu for a while is aware of the camaraderie that is developed among teammates on the mats.  It works well for many veterans and I know because I've seen it myself.  

Each instructor spent some time talking about why they were there; why they support this cause and share their perspectives on why they feel it is important to be a part of this mission. Both days ran about eight hours in length.  The atmosphere was nothing short of amazing.  I had my reservations about holding up over two straight days for eight hours but was pleasantly surprised. Everyone was there to learn but there was a very relaxed feel to the event, the instruction, and the time provided to train.  I felt like everyone there was interested in the cause first, then the training, and time to interact with instructors were additional benefits.  

I'm not here to write a dissertation about PTSD.  I am however dedicating this non-Jiu Jitsu entry to the importance of being a good human being.  The reality is PTSD can be caused by many things.  It affects people in so many different ways it's more than I can imagine trying to understand.  We need to realize that the problems our veterans go through after coming back from their time serving our country and the problems they experience trying to re-assume civilian life.  It's important to consider the far reaching effects that one person has on all of the people they touch.  Think about how easily an entire family can be destroyed by the loss of a father, mother, or child.  How are their lives changed by the loss of a loved one?  

Just imagine this scenario.  A father comes back from active combat and is struggling from the guilt, loss of friends, and stressful events they have endured.  How does that effect his family?  He may struggle for a period of time and the family suffers with him.  One day he takes his own life.  How does that affect his wife, children, parents, and friends?  Suicide has such far reaching tentacles that we really don't consider.  Losing one person damages so many people that are connected to them.  

How can we help support our veterans?  Of course we can donate money, purchase and attend events that benefit veterans.  We can donate our time in many ways to participate in causes to support our veterans.  The list is really long on what we can do to help.  However, I feel like one of the easiest ways to help is the most often ignored method.  Simply taking a moment to be selfless.  I feel very strongly we are at a time in society where most people are so self-absorbed in their own lives through social media, personal goals...just fill in the blank.  I don't need to convince anyone that this is where we are at right now.  I'm a father and have that perspective seeing my own kids who are by nature selfish at their age but also filled with a million distractions.  I am guilty of this more times than I'm proud to admit.

How many times in the last year alone have we watched the news to hear about someone that killed others only to take their own life?  I ask myself "didn't anyone notice something was wrong with this person?"  I have to believe that anytime someone does something like that or simply takes their own life SOMEBODY had to be aware there was a problem before such an incident transpires.  There are usually clues by simply observing someones behavior.  The problem is all too often people just choose to ignore it for various reasons.  Maybe because they don't want to be involved?  Maybe they are afraid of the stigma they might endure for "interfering" with someone's life?  Who knows what the motivation or lack thereof to say something or talk to someone about it when there is clearly something wrong.  

So back to my suggestion of "what's the easiest and most often overlooked way to help our veterans?" Try to take a moment here and there and observe your friends, family, teammates, co-workers, classmates, etc. and ask them "Hey are you okay?  You look like you're having a tough day.  Do you want or need someone to talk to?"  It's really that easy to be a friend and aware that they have may be struggling with something. That could make a huge difference in someone's day or more importantly their life if they are in a dark place.  It doesn't cost money or much time at all to just take a break and notice these things. I've felt this way for quite some time about the horrible events we hear about on the news and it definitely applies here to our veterans, friends, and family.

In closing, I feel mental illness is still a taboo topic in our society. I feel like we have moved past the "dark ages" of mental health...identifying it, treating it, etc.  However, I feel we have a long way to go to develop compassion and basic understanding for those that suffer from mental illness.  If you haven't experienced it yourself or maybe someone close to you that has experienced these kinds of struggles I'm not convinced most people have the ability to be compassionate and care as much as they should.

22 veterans dying everyday is just a number.  Whether that number is higher or lower is irrelevant. Think about the exponential number of lives that are impacted by the loss of whatever number you feel comfortable with.  Think about how you are going to make your mark.  

Please visit the following pages:


We Defy Foundation

Tier 1 Facebook page (TONS of pics from the Mission22 seminar)

Tier 1 Training Facility (Where I train & teach)

Pitbulls for 22