Starting Over In Martial Arts


I have been neglecting this blog for sometime. And a lot has changed since the posts that I started this blog with. I plan to be more on the ball with talking about my journey and my businesses (yep, I did say businesses). A general catch up post will be coming very soon.

“Growth and comfort do not exist.” – Ginni Rometty

Tell me about it.

About a year ago, I made the painful decision to leave my kung fu school. A school that I had dedicated years of sweat, struggle, and pain to. Years of laughs, learning, and fun. 

I have loved martial arts since I was a kid, but I was never able to train due to, quite frankly, being poor. As an adult with my own money and choices, I found kung fu. And immediately fell in love with it. The vast amount of knowledge and all the little details, that is really my jam. It didn’t start out easy, but I gained discipline, made some amazing friendships, and learned how to kick some ass. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that school. It’s was my happy place.

But, for more reasons than I can get into here, it was time to leave. And it really sucked.

I lost some friends over it, and I lost my stress outlet. My happy place.

This departure coincided with the launching of my company, Adapted Growth. And the timing couldn’t have been worse.

Parkinson’s Law tells us that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” Yep. That absolutely happened to me. With more time to work on my company, I kept finding more and more that needed to be done. That leads to burn out and reduced efficiency. 

(If you are new to the blog, you might not know that I am very much against the mindset of “hustle 24-7/365” that is prominent in small business and startups.)

There are not many schools in my area that teach Chinese kung fu, and even less that teach the specific art I was studying. Also, after working under only one teacher for so long, it would be really hard to adapt to a different person’s particular techniques and style of teaching. 

I needed to go for something completely different. 

A friend of mine said that I should check out Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant. I had a negative association with that art for a long time. I thought it was just tight t-shirts and big egos. But I had been hearing some people that I look up to talk about this art in much the same way that my friends and I talked about kung fu, so I decided to give it a shot.

At this point, you might be wondering, “John, what in the hell does this have to do with business, sales, or anything else?”

I am getting there. Bear with me.

Starting over sucks.

I went from being a person with a ton of knowledge that people looked to for advice to being a know-nothing white belt. It was exceedingly difficult for me, so, from experience, I know how hard it is for others.

Both the professor at the academy I train at now and the guy who invited me knew about my past training, but I didn’t talk about it too much to anyone else. I was keeping to myself and just going to class. I wasn’t trying to make friends.

Also, it’s well-known that the new kid who has experience in another art is usually cocky and hard to deal with.

I was determined to not be that guy. 

But that past training has made it way easier to learn jiu-jitsu. And people have noticed.

I haven’t been doing it long, but there are already fellow students looking to me for help. 

Now, I’m not an athletic guy, and I’m not saying that I’m already a jiu-jitsu master. But any training in martial arts has a certain carry-over factor, and it helps. Plus, I’m a very detail- oriented guy, so I naturally pick up on little things that help me learn moves and techniques quicker. 

I’m now a year into my journey. I’ve learned a lot about my new art, about starting my own business from the ground up, and about what starting over really feels like. 

These lessons go far beyond martial arts and are easily relevant to business, sales, life, etc.

  1. Question your assumptions. My assumptions about jiu-jitsu were completely unfounded and didn’t serve me at all. That wasn’t the first time I’d fallen victim to almost letting assumptions stop me from doing something. Don’t let your assumptions stop you. Have a business idea but assume it will be really hard? Even though that one is probably correct, don’t let it hold you back.
  2. Ego really is the enemy. The first few months after I made the change, I struggled with not knowing anything and not being someone that people came to for additional help. I thought about quitting and just becoming a guy who doesn’t train anymore. I ultimately hated that idea, so I kept going. But I had to set my ego aside to be the tiny fish in a new pond. If I can do it, anybody can do it.
  3. When you put in the work, people notice. I have had multiple people compliment me on being the guy who they don’t have to explain the same concept to multiple times. Be that guy. Depending on the situation, it may take more work than you think, but it’s worth it. Whether it’s business or sports, it’s better to be the person that people look for than the one they run away from. 
  4. Overlap is the mother of all shortcuts. My progression in this art is much faster than if I hadn’t trained in something else before. I look for overlap in everything I do because it helps me wrap my head around concepts. I see a lot of metaphors between jiu-jitsu and sales, bicycling and jiu-jitsu, poker and sales and jiu-jitsu. When I spend time working on ANYTHING, I am improving in everything. Pinpoint the things you are passionate about, then find the overlap between them that helps you improve. 
  5. Force yourself to be productive with less time. I am getting more done in my businesses these days because I set limits. I know that if I am going to class, I have to accomplish certain things. This forces me to be more productive. (I am writing this article at 7:45 on a Friday night because I told myself that I needed to write if I was going to go to training earlier today.) With different task apps, alerts, and calendars, there are tons of resources to make this easier. Use them.
  6. Getting out of your mind and into your body is HUGE. Studies show that physical activity helps people who struggle with mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety. I’m lucky that I don’t struggle with these, but I can get very stressed out at times. Spending two to three sessions per week trying to not get choked out significantly reduces my stress. I can’t worry about clients or revenue or anything else. I’m just trying not to die. Also, I’ll occasionally have an epiphany about how to fix a problem that’s been bugging me for days because I finally stopped thinking about it for half a second. When you put your focus on your body, it gives your brain a break. It doesn’t have to be hard or strenuous, but it does need to be something that pulls your focus to only that activity. Everything else becomes a little easier to deal with when your brain gets to relax from the insanity that is life every once in a while. 

Go find something that gets you active, pushes you to try new things, and makes you happy. 

Until next time.