Here’s a video I put together about my friend Johnny Morales. I help him to teach the kids class at Total Defense Martial Arts. It includes a clip at the end of him kicking my ass. Enjoy!
My local newspaper, the News Leader, interviewed me as part of a massive piece coming out tomorrow about Staunton martial arts schools. The online version, which you can read here, has some sweet video of my instructor throwing my ass to the ground. No, I was not suspended from school growing up.
There’s a troubling myth being propagated in our national culture. It says winning — success — is everything. That if you lose a fight or other contest, you’re worthless. We saw this in the juvenile commentary after the Dec. 31 UFC women’s bantamweight bout between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, and we’ve continually heard this from our president and his sycophants.
I’m coming up on four years now as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on the mat applies to life in general. It’s that it’s okay to lose. It’s how we learn.
There’s a spirtual aspect to this if you’re a fan of Taoism. The yin-yang symbol is one of motion: the white and black halves tumble over each other, propelling each through the cycle of development. The Tao Te Ching says, “Yield and overcome; bend and be straight.” Because when I accept defeat, I release my ego. I acknowledge that someone else might be better than I am at a particular task, that someone might even be stronger or more intelligent. When I accept the Socratic paradox that wisdom begins with knowing that I know nothing, then I am ready to learn from others.
The opposite of this is someone ruled by ego. He whines and lies if he thinks he’s going to lose, and he swaggers and taunts when he wins. He gaslights when objective truths don’t serve his popularity. And he learns nothing. When this person is an average Joe, it’s a tragedy. When this person is a national leader, it’s a catastrophe.
There’s probably nothing I can do to solve the problems at the top of our government. All I can do is ride the storm out, spending that time teaching the next generation the equanimity it will need for actual success. In the meantime, I entertain the fantasy that Ronda Rousey and Hillary Clinton will set their sails in these winds of fate. So, you’re not a world-champion mixed martial artist, and you’re not a president. So what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Ride the sailboat to where you should be now.
Here’s me this morning.
Johnny Morales of Total Defense Martial Arts has published a cool video interview of me that includes training footage. It shows some of the fun we have 3 times a week. I didn’t start doing this until a month shy of my 40th birthday. It’s never too late to start a healthy lifestyle.
Total Defense Martial Arts has reprinted my first-person account of beginning to train a seriously difficult martial art in my 40s. A few things have changed since its first publication last year: I’m now a blue belt, and I hardly ever get injured anymore, but the basic sentiments about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s positive influence on my life remain the same.
This has been a thin summer for me news-wise as I’ve been loading the metaphorical gun with more stuff to fire at you down the road. Another novel is in the can and with beta readers, and I’ll soon begin work on a long short story that’s been commissioned by a specialty publisher. Mark your calendars for Oct. 1, when I’ll be a guest at Con of the Mountain in Clifton Forge, VA.
Here’s the newest stuff in print. Do yourself a favor, and check it out, eh?
On the personal front, family life keeps me busy. Here are some pictures. Enjoy!
Ever heard the sailing term “in irons”? It means your sailboat is pointed straight into the wind so that wind can’t fill your sails. The jib and mainsail luff about, and it’s damn-near impossible to get moving again.
Having your writing rejected or criticized can have the same effect. One of my mentees is dealing with that special hell of creative depression right now. My answer is what I would tell any beginning writer dealing with self doubt and rejection. After all, it’s what I tell myself every day:
Get used to it, because it doesn’t matter how good of a writer you become. People will continue to find flaws in everything, and it’s just a matter of deciding what feedback you agree with.
Writing can be a tough craft to get down, and the only thing for it is to keep trying. I’ve lately been analogizing the process to learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We recognize there that everyone has certain inherent attributes — youth or weight or athletic ability — that might make them more or less talented. There’s nothing to be done for that. But everyone, no matter how stunted or brilliant, still has it within them to earn a black belt through hard work. All it takes is time on the mat.
So we’ve all been there. Many of us often revisit there. I get rejected all the time, and it frequently leaves me depressed. Rejection sucks every time. But I’m in it for life, no matter the outcome, so I’ll keep trying.
Keep writing what brings you pleasure. Don’t worry about what genres they’re in or whether you’re writing in too many. Just do it until you find your own voice. Categorization will come later.
Video of my BJJ championship match in the no-gi, over-30 tournament division on Saturday. My opponent is a talented martial artist at my school who normally kicks my ass on a regular basis, so this match made my day.
BJJ is a great sport and martial art that I’ve gone on about at length. Follow the tag archive. Feel free to contact me with any questions about it.
This is so inspiring:
In a nutshell: James Terlecki, 74 years old, just earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He started it when he was 61. Thirteen years to a black belt is a normal time range in this martial art.
It’s inspiring because it gives me confidence I’ll get there one day, too. I started shortly before my 40th birthday, and it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I’ve often felt it’s been more difficult for me than for others on account of my age.
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in something. In the time since his book came out with this claim, he has said this doesn’t necessarily apply to sports, which may rely more on genetics, and psychologists have disputed the figure as being over-inflated. I think it’s safe to say, however, that after that much practice, you’ll have achieved something in the endeavor.
I calculate that since I began BJJ in February 2013, I’ve invested between 400-500 hours in training. Right now, it feels like 10,000 hours until mastery — or at least until a black belt — is about right.
I’ve spent considerably more time in the pursuit of the writing craft. Have I spent 10,000 hours there? Hell, I don’t know; maybe. Am I a master at it? Certainly not, but because it’s my life’s work, I know more than the average bear. Maybe by the time I’m 74, I’ll have something worthy to show for my time. That’ll be 32 years down the road.
The way I figure it, I’ll be 74 one day no matter what (and hopefully still alive), so I might as well go for it.
In the meantime, congratulations to James Terlecki. I think most of us want to be you one day.