The Gauntlet

To my generation, Fabio Gurgel was considered one of the best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners ever, a real pioneer in the early days of Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. Some of you might even know who he is :). A few weeks back, he wrote a long post on Facebook about how he felt that his biggest mistake as a teacher was using … [Read more…]


Keeping a list of goals is still, to me, a worthwhile activity. It makes sense to track what you’re working on. And some of the things that are on there have been on there for years, which I’m fine with – this is a long-term process. But looking at that list recently, I asked myself why … [Read more…]

New Podcast: Episode 16

In this episode we tackle the importance of eliminating complaints, why presenting an “upright bearing” matters, and why we all need someone in our life to hold us accountable. We finish up with a discussion of Sifu Paul Vizzio’s contention that many practitioners go far…but not far enough. ••• Listen on iTunes: Share This:

Not A Pastime

Someone once said that martial arts doesn’t have to be a pastime. It’s not one of those things that you necessarily need to outgrow.It can have a beautiful long arc to it, as long as you’re able to consider mastery as a result of the practice. Close to forty years after my first class, I’m … [Read more…]

Walk Faster

At the end of my lesson with my instructor the other day, I went put all the equipment away. I was walking very slowly because I was fatigued, and he called out to me, “Gene, walk faster!” I responded, “Sifu, I just had a really tough day—I’m really feeling it.” “What do you mean? Everybody’s having … [Read more…]

Mother’s Wisdom

“To search for the old is to understand the new.” – Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate My mother, an immigrant from Lebanon, taught me, my brother and my sisters good values: humanitarianism, self-control and mindfulness. And while she brought those principles from her home country, she wanted us to be American while reflecting her … [Read more…]

Zanshin – “Remaining Mind”

In traditional karate, once formal training exercises are completed and before the student bows to indicate they’re finished, there’s a short pause. In Japanese that interval or pause is called “zanshin”, or “remaining mind.” This is a very important part of Japanese martial arts. Zanshin is when the practioner takes a second to reflect, takes … [Read more…]

The Paradox of Distance

In 1988, I watched my teacher practicing a weapons form in a university gymnasium nearby. He went from one end of the basketball court to the other, back and forth, repeatedly. This continued for 45 minutes. At some point, he dropped the weapon. I didn’t know if his hands were sweaty or he had been … [Read more…]

The Balance of Relationships

I’ve long felt that the martial arts needs a solid teacher-student relationship in order to function fully. It’s a consciously-cultivated approach that takes our training from simply an activity into the domain of a mature study. That relationship is treated differently from classroom to classroom, and from country to country. When I visited Japan, I … [Read more…]