UBBT – End Week 6; The Tao of Pooh among other things…

This has been a really good experience for me so far.  I’ve really been working on digging in to improve who I am – not by changing myself – but by becoming more in tune with who I am and peeling off the layers of external “me” to get to the root of who I am, really.

Because isn’t that what we teach our students in martial arts?  That it isn’t a bench sitting sport.  That it is something that everyone can participate in, in their own way, and that everyone’s expression is going to be different.  That the naturally athletic kid and the kid still learning his left from right can share the mat together, and enjoy time together.  That they can learn tolerance, personal growth, and becoming who they really are.  We are there as instructors to guide them, to give them a space to try things out, but not to tell them who they are.

But if I don’t know entirely, to the core, what I stand for and who I am?  Then how could I possibly do this with my students?

What I’ve figured out so far.

I enjoy collaborating and creating. I enjoy laughter, joy, and seeing people break through barriers.  I enjoy learning new things, and experiencing new people and perspectives.  I like seeing the levels my body can go to.  I like having conversations, sharing what I know, and following the rabbit hole of my passions.

Because I am getting more and more connected with who I am, I am saying no more to the activities that do not align with who I am becoming, and saying yes to those that I see as a direction in which I would like to grow and evolve.  I feel unapologetic about it, and instead know that I must say no to things that pull me off my path. It’s that mat chat quote we all use while teaching; stand for something or fall for anything.

Regarding the tasks of the Ultimate Black Belt Test, I’m well on my way.  As with my coaching through my knowledge gained within my Precision Nutrition certification, we are much much more likely to be successful when we try to change one small thing at a time.  Just like we do not expect our white belt students to perform at black belt level, I am also being strategic about what I start with first, building those habits, and then adding in over time. I’ve been consistent with the physical requirements, and I am doing dedicated strength training at least 5 days a week, cardio at least 3 days, and at least 4 jiu jitsu sessions each week, including live sparring.

I’ve been working for a few weeks with my friend who teaches the boxing component at our school in order to strip back down to the basics, and then will take those 10 boxing classes taught by a pro this summer when I am out of work (I’ll be taking my friend with me to pay it forward to give him back the time he’s helping me).

I’ve been listening to the books on my list as well as a few others; I just finished Hurry Up and Meditate  to strengthen my practice (highly recommended – not only explains the benefits of meditation but also goes into many ways it can be practiced) and began The Tao of Pooh which I am also enjoying. Hilarious, true, and making me see that perhaps I need to do more research about Daoism past my knowledge gained in a university eastern religions class.  I’ve been practicing learning Spanish on Duolingo, which I’m on a 29 day streak and I feel really good about it.  I’ve been trying to actually learn the language since Freshman year in college, and now since we are all about finishing things we started, what better time than now.

I’ve been working with repairing relationships, and really made some headway with my dad.  I saw him tonight for dinner, and he even remarked how he feels that things are getting better with us.  I won’t go into the details of things we’ve gone through here, but this is the most significant relationship (other than the one with my self) that I haven’t forgiven the way I needed to for myself, and it is very freeing to get to this place.

I’m continuing to work to build the local women’s jiu jitsu community in my area, to make sure we are strong and a support for each other.  A group of us from at least 3 different academies roll together every Tuesday morning, and we have all drastically improved because of it.  I manage our group page and make sure events get planned. We collect donations that go to our local domestic violence shelter.  I want to do more with them than just collect money.  This will have to be a summer plan, as I currently have 4 different jobs right now (don’t worry, non are truly full time) and need to clear other things off my plate before I embark on this side of the project.  I want to make sure I can follow through when it comes to something where others are depending on me, and that means good timing.  In my own dojo, I’m working to find all of the women that I can who are in other programs and help them to try out jiu jitsu.  Just today we had 5 of us on the mat.  It’s a rare class that only 2 of us, and we have never, in many months, not had at least one women in every class.

My kata hasn’t really been realized, and a video from a fellow UBBTer, Jeremy Smith, (his blog), reminded me that I have a lot of work to do (thanks Jeremy!). I originally was going to do a jiu jitsu kata, spent time putting it together, and got a decent amount of reps in with my partner to get it done.  But with taking with my instructor, we talked about the transformative process mentally that is supposed to happen while learning and then practicing a kata.  I didn’t feel that I was getting that experience, but rather was struggling more with scheduling time in to get it done, than relax into it and make it my own.  So my instructor and I are actually working on building a kata based on my favorite kenpo (Ed Parker’s system) techniques and the overall principles of movement.  We’ve both been very caught up in preparation for our IKI Krav Maga affiliation seminar this upcoming week, and our extra time has been dedicated to practicing everything that we have learned to prepare for grading.  Once this is complete on the 20th, I want to really dig into it and not have it hanging over my head.

I’m currently prepping for a grappling tournament in our Hayastan style on April 7th.  A good portion of our team is going, and myself as well as another of the instructors at my school are responsible for their prep and coaching the day of.  It’s exhilarating, but also means we have been working to fit more in and really drill in the basics with an emphasis on escapes.  Regardless of the outcome, training for a competition, I feel, always brings on a great growth period that isn’t there when it’s off season.

Till next week.

Continue reading “UBBT – End Week 6; The Tao of Pooh among other things…”

Bracing to get Hit – Week-End 5

We get hit a lot in life. It’s just one of those facts. Nothing you can do about it, except live a life hidden away in bubble wrap. But even under that condition you’ll suffer from the effects of not getting enough sunlight, not socializing with others, not building goals or seeing the results take form.  So no matter how you look at it, a life is one that we are going to get bumped, bruised, scraped, and sometimes even broken.

Being an instructor, but not the head instructor of my school, means that I get called up on occasion to take some hits when techniques are demonstrated.  Last night was no exception.  My instructor has an inward and outward block which feels like a truck just ran into your arm.  And this is what we were teaching, was how to use bracing angles as well as properly use the sharp end of the bone to create that sting – every good block is also a strike. So after that experience, I got to thinking, if I, as an instructor/student, follow the addage “out of the dojo and into the world,” then there should be an important message here.

And there is.

There are a few things that I do in this situation to get through it, and they can all apply to daily life.

1) I squarely face my instructor. In life, sometimes we try to turn away from the things that we know are going to be painful, thinking if we avoid it, it will go away.  Doesn’t work that way.  If we face it dead on the first time, we take it, learn what we need to learn from it, and can walk away from it with a greater understanding.

2) I breathe.  I know I’m going to get hit, I cannot do anything about it, nor do I do it out of distress.  It’s an honor to be the Uki to be able to assist with teaching the class. Problems can be dealt with when we can breathe through them.  When we can take those couple of seconds to focus on our breath, get present, and tense up or relax right at that perfect moment.  There are plenty of times that we need to brace ourselves, but if we walk around tensed up, not knowing when we can relax, then life gets pretty stressful.  And when you do get hit, at that moment you needed to take a breath before you pass out, the capacity to deal with it is diminished.

3) I shake it off. It is not pleasant getting thrown off a horse.  Be it that you got fired, rejected, physically hurt, emotionally hurt, or embarrassed, no matter what – it just doesn’t feel good.  And when people are present to it – it just adds layers to coping than if you were able to be off on your own and just ugly cry about it.  In a group of my students, looking to me for a reaction, not knowing what that hit entirely felt like (they learned in a few minutes practicing!), I had to body scan for damage, and pull up a mental script to set the pain aside and let it dissipate on it’s own to move on.  I could have stayed in the present moment of how much it hurt. I could have then talked about it, went on and on about it, living in it – being stuck there instead of moving on to the next phase. Which is what we can tend to do sometimes when we are faced with something big – we become consumed by the pain that we cannot see past it.

4) I use humor or some other coping skill. I choose to use humor a lot when I am teaching, because ultimately, while people come to learn martial arts, they also join up to feel good and to have fun.  Unless you are in the middle of some crazy preparation (and sometimes you need it then more than ever), people want to connect, laugh about shared experiences, and grow stronger together as a team.  As I walked around to help the students get the movement down, a couple students remarked how well I took it because their arms were burning from the blocks.  We laughed a little about our shared experience, and they kept repping it out.  When bowing out of class we praised the students on their red arms and they smiled with pride of being able to complete the class and understand the importance of the movement. After class, I reflected on the experience feeling grateful for training in a school teaching adequate self defense as well as helping to connect people.

So really, I cannot think of a single challenge that turned out in my favor that I didn’t use some bit of these steps.  Every time we step on the mats, we can go through the motions, or we can learn how we become better people through what we experienced that day.  We can take some time to meditate on what we experienced, and how we can take it back out into the world. Because we aren’t expecting to get attacked every day of our lives, but we are going to interact with others, experience challenges, build futures, and mourn losses.  As Sensei Callos says, our founder of the UBBT (check it out here ), “out of the dojo, into the world.” Make your training count.

I’m one of many.  Check out what my 2018 Ultimate Black Belt cohort is also accomplishing: https://tomcallos.com/ubbt-team-2018/

Ahh, Health. It really is the only thing we truly have

So I got the flu.  Bad.  Eight days out of work, 12 days out of being able to work out.  I could literally not do more than sleep, watch tv, and then sleep again. Fever, stuffy nose, and a horrible headache was my reality.

Even though I couldn’t read anything or look at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time to respond to my client’s nutrition lessons, I had plenty of time to think.

I don’t want to get too sentimental here, but I really got to thinking about what would I be doing with myself if I couldn’t move anymore.  If I was stuck in my body without being able to workout, to get around on my own, what things would I be doing, what would I be focusing on.  It was a little scary to think about it.  I’m so used to being able to workout pretty much every day.  Yes I’ve had the occasional jiu jitsu injury like everyone else training for more than a few years, but nothing debilitating that kept me off the mat for more than 3 months total.  So I can typically strength train when I want, do cardio, bring in every bag at the grocery store on both of my arms, run with my dog in the back yard, go to bike parks, compete in martial arts tournaments.  I had lost perspective of that.  I had lost how lucky I really am to have such an active lifestyle.  I was focused on winning and losing in martial arts, versus just the joy in general of being able to do it at all.

So when I got back to training, it felt entirely different.  I wasn’t upset when my guard was passed, I focused on moving to getting back to a better position, because I was grateful to be there.  I had a hard time breathing and was tired quickly.  But I didn’t want to stop to take a rest because I was able to move and know I could just slow down my body a little bit to make it.  I felt more grateful for my teammates and the training that they bring every time we get on the mat together.  Appreciating their different styles, and appreciating the knowledge I’ve been given by my coach and training partners over the years to be able to recover and enjoy the beauty of movement in jiu jitsu.

So sometimes, getting knocked off the wagon isn’t a bad thing.  When used as a time to reflect and get back to a place of gratefulness for my health, my people, and my ability to move – it really is the best thing that has happened to me in awhile.


Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Sphere of Influence Kindness Challenge

Here’s some great ideas for random acts of kindness, curtesy of Revolution Martial Arts and Fitness founder Paul Castango, a fellow UBBT member who inspired me to start this project.  Go to the bottom of this page to see how you can participate.

  1. Leave money at a vending machine.
  2. Bake a treat for the elderly
  3. Serve at a homeless shelter
  4. Run a 5k for a good cause
  5. Let someone go in front of you in line
  6. Pick up litter around a beach/park/trail
  7. Give a stranger a compliment
  8. Make dinner for a family in need
  9. Pay someone’s expired parking meter
  10. Buy flowers to hand out on the street
  11. Leave a positive letter for someone to find
  12. Buy a movie ticket for someone
  13. Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant
  14. Write letters to soldiers
  15. Donate holiday gifts to charities
  16. Hold the door open for someone
  17. Thank a teacher with a gift
  18. Walk a neighbor’s dog
  19. Baby sit for free.
  20. Plant a tree
  21. Do a favor for someone without asking for anything in return
  22. Prepare a meal for your family
  23. Help someone with their groceries
  24. Give someone a gift card
  25. Plan a surprise for someone
  26. Leave your server a generous tip
  27. Make a family member breakfast in bed
  28. Bring a special snack to school/work for a friend
  29. Write a spontaneous thank you card
  30. Do a sibling’s chores without them asking
  31. Help someone with a flat tire
  32. Ask someone at school to join your group
  33. Write a list of things that you appreciate about someone and give it to them
  34. Help a neighbor with yard work
  35. Pay for someone’s morning coffee
  36. Make hot chocolate for your family on a cold day
  37. Or set up a hot chocolate stand!
  38. Help someone with their school work
  39. Pay for a classmate’s lunch
  40. Take the time to listen to someone
  41. Recycle things you see on the road
  42. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  43. Grow your hair long and donate it.
  44. Wash a neighbor’s dog or car for free
  45. Hide money in a random place for someone to find
  46. Let someone watch their favorite show
  47. Read to a sibling
  48. Help clean up someone else’s mess
  49. Write kind words on the sidewalk for people to see
  50. Give someone you care for a hug
  51. Share with your sibling or a friend
  52. Make a new friend at school or work
  53. Say “Thank you!” when you see service members
  54. Take a treat to a fire or police station
  55. Donate to Toys for Tots or any local collection
  56. Film a thank you message for someone
  57. Donate old water bottles to a homeless shelter
  58. Return someone’s cart at a store
  59. Pay someone’s toll
  60. Teach someone something new
  61. Donate food to a food pantry
  62. Smile at people whenever possible (its contagious!)
  63. Tell your principal how great your teacher is
  64. Bring in treats for everyone at work.
  65. Tell your boss how great your coworkers are
  66. Teach someone something new
  67. Tell a manager how great your service was
  68. Shovel someone’s driveway when it snows
  69. Write a poem for a friend
  70. Have a “tech free day” and connect with your family
  71. Genuinely forgive someone who had hurt you
  72. Make a music playlist for someone with their favorite music
  73. Visit a nursing home
  74. Help an elderly neighbor take out the trash
  75. Donate warm coat/mittens to charity (or any other appropriate survival items if you are from a warm climate!)
  76. Drop off cat/dog food at an animal shelter
  77. Encourage someone who is feeling down
  78. Do all the dishes after dinner
  79. Call a friend/family member you haven’t talked to in a while
  80. Help someone struggling with heavy bags
  81. Email or call an old teacher who made a difference in your life
  82. Give someone a book your think that they would like
  83. Stop someone from talking meanly about someone else
  84. Remember to be kind to yourself as well!


Lets see how many lives we can influence for the better, with everyone just doing a little bit.  We can make the lives of other people better by just telling them what yo

Directions – complete 10 Random Acts of Kindness from this list, or any other ideas that you have.  Ask 5 people that you know (or more!) throughout 2018 to also join you. Once you’ve completed yours, take a picture of your sheet (even better you with the sheet in action!) and upload to twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtags #adventurekindnesschallenge and #ubbt2018kindness.  You can also share the pictures below as a comment to this blog.  

Please add your first name and city/country to the bottom of your sheet so we can see how far we can reach!  


Worst Case Scenario – But you know what? I’m still ALIVE.

stronger pictureSo the thing that I thought was the worst case scenario happened this weekend. I flew to Las Vegas to compete in Masters Worlds. It was the culmination of my tournament prep season, all was riding on a good performance. I trained hard, did mental work, cut weight, made the financial commitment, and developed a positive belief system. I met dozens of new women who train over the past 9 months, and learned new styles and had deep conversations about training and life. Ive never been in a better place mentally or physically for competition, I was 100% ready.

Despite all of this I lost my first and only match. And I lost it hard. Armbared in 54 seconds level of hard. I was able to keep my composure, congratulate and even joke with my opponent that she took my game plan and executed it flawlessly on me, grabbed my ID and headed out of the bullpen and to an unoccupied space in the venue. And I cried. I cried as hard as I lost. All that preparation, all the drilling, all the work with a positive mental attitude, over in less than a minute with nothing I could do about it.

I was able to talk on the phone with two teammates, one conversation focused on how did you do etc., and I talked on losing and my devastated state. While my teammate was well meaning, I felt worse focusing on the effect – I forgot in that moment why I was there. I forgot my cause. I didn’t go to become purple belt master 1 world champion – I went because I love competing in the sense of it’s the best pressure test of growth for me personally.

My next conversation was focused on the journey not the outcome. Who had I become in the last 9 months since committing myself back to competition? Did I grow as a person? Where am I headed? Yes all people fall hard from time to time. Yes it was a painful moment and be ok with living in it. Cry it out, mourn and take responsibility. Build on the experience and look to the future. Reflect on what happened and what I could take from it. While the sting of defeat still was sharp, I entered into the frame of mind I needed to pull out of the mystery and get on with it.

I talked more throughout the day with my friends with whom I made the trip, and through these conversations I found these learning points:

-My personal mantra of “not dead, don’t quit” still applies. I am not dead, so therefore there is no quit.

-There is a difference between positive mental attitude and focusing before a fight. While my mind was positive I did not prep it by filling it with specific thoughts. Talking with another competitor I admire after my match, it was suggested to listen to motivational speakers that fire me up while waiting to step out on the mat, as a different level of focus and drive needs to be there when competing.

-While thinking of mental connections during training is beneficial, thoughts need to be directed during the fight as well. As I was being stretched and extended off my base I thought to myself, “xx gets me like this a lot.” “I think my arm is still safe” while pausing to reflect on it. While a true fact, a wasted thought like these took me out of the needed recovery time. The past-connection commentary brain was running throughout my match and as such I was not in the present and as such did not respond to the threat in a timely manner.

-I can lose and it doesn’t make me a loser. This took a long time for me to realize, as I put so much into being perfect and anything less than was devastating. That I could be found out as not worthy, not good enough, or an embarrassment has cycled through my life (maladaptive perfectionism is a real thing). I’ve avoided challenges in the past for this reason. One of the greatest accomplishments I have achieved so far through my therapy is unattaching from fear based belief systems such as this, which allows me to do big tournaments and be unaffected in my desire to do another again in the near future.

-When I have finished submissions on people fast in tournaments I don’t think negatively about their skill; I think that my plan went flawlessly and I appreciate them competing with me that day. I choose to mentally treat myself with the same respect this time as I would an opponent.

-This quote: “ To succeed in life, one must have determination and must be prepared to suffer during the process. If one isn’t prepared to suffer during adversities, I don’t really see how he can be successful.” – Gary Player, professional golfer.

I love training. And each time I compete, it pushes me to be more excited about the next one. The joy of the unknown unrealized possibilities. The ability to push myself further, dig deeper, learn from my mistakes, and push forward. I’m unapologetic nor embarrassed about the weekend. Like Jean Grey in her ability to rise as the Phoenix, I know that rising up is all in the way we process these experiences, continue to walk forward, and not be fearful of the next challenge. If I was unwilling to put myself out there, to be afraid of how I might be perceived, or judged, I would miss out on so many wonderful opportunities.

What could we possibly ever accomplish greater than what we currently do if we only glorify the wins and stay silent when its painful? To ignore this less attractive side is to say winning is everything and the journey ultimately doesn’t matter. I want the kids I teach and the people I coach to know that I fall on my face too. A lot. And its all going to work out.

Movement Forward. Always movement forward.

We all have to start somewhere.  It isn’t pretty.  It typically isn’t organized.  And it typically isn’t something that we want to share out with the world.

But one of the greatest challenges I see with our current society is the fact that the only side of ourselves that we want to share with the outside world is that shiny, happy side that looks all put together, perfect, and without problems.  So we don’t get to see that other messier side of people.

And I get that.  Who wants to show a side that makes us look vulnerable, falling apart, or less than perfect?  But what side of us really makes more progress?  The one who hung out all day with our best friends, sitting and chatting, or the one that just cried for 4 hours because we realized that we aren’t really being true to what we want and we desperately desire to hit the reset button?

We always have so many opportunities available to us that will help us move forward.  To move toward our passions, to build the life of our designs, but we don’t move.  We sit, we watch another show.  We have another drink, we go on another night out with friends.


What’s your goal? What personal-growth accomplishment are you seeking to achieve right now?  Send me a message through the contact page and I’ll add your journey to the projects.  Doesn’t matter if you are just thinking about starting, half way through, almost there, or something you accomplished already that is a spring board for better living.  Huge, small, doesn’t matter.  Maybe it was making yourself breakfast for a whole week.  Maybe it was finally introducing yourself to people you were afraid of.  Maybe it was signing yourself up for a class or program. Share with us the lessons you learned by doing so.  Lets be real and bring others along with us.  

Till next time…..