114 – John Will – Balancing Your BJJ Black Belt ‘Mindset’ Across All Aspects Of Life

Australia’s first ever BJJ black belt, John Will, shares a lifetime’s experience of being an outstanding coach, adapting to adversity, and mastering life through a ‘black belt mindset’.

.

IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What is the ‘black belt mindset'?
  • How to learn new skills effectively and enjoy the process
  • How to create a positive martial arts club culture
  • The consequences of chasing martial arts marketing tricks
  • The smartest financial thing you can do for your martial arts business
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Most people aren't up for that. They want the quick magical, they want the quick answer. We want the quick everything, right? Instant gratification, the marshmallow theory – you need one marshmallow now, rather than two marshmallows two weeks later, people want that. So, they want quick answers. And I think that's silly, because I don't think it's about the outcome. I think it is about the journey and about enjoying the whole process.

GEORGE: Hey everyone, welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. This is George Fourie, and I've got an exceptional guest with me today, John Will. And so, I'm going to give just a short little intro. So John, if you're not familiar who John is, John is famous as one of the Dirty Dozen, meaning he is one of the first twelve non-Brazilian to reach a black belt in jiu jitsu, one of the early adopters and also the first Australian to receive a jiu jitsu black belt. Welcome to the call, John. 

JOHN: Yeah. Thanks, George. Thanks for having me. 

GEORGE: Cool. So, look, if we had to go through all the credentials and background, we'll probably take up all the time of the podcast. So, and when somebody has their own Wikipedia page, I think that's where you should start and just go read that. So, I want to skip that. I think I want to just start with a bit of context how I initially came across you, John. 

So, back in, I think it was 2015, I was probably training jiu jitsu for about one year, and the club where I was training at was sort of a side gig, you know, they were a very successful karate school, but jiu jitsu wasn't really the thing. And, jiu jitsu sort of crawled into my life, and I felt like, alright, this is the thing that I'm going to do. And you know, I'm going to only start with the training. So, I was looking around Perth, and I wasn't really, you know, well versed in the know-how of which clubs do what and which, you know, which different organizations and so forth. And I came across a podcast, BjjBrick Podcast. 

JOHN: Oh, yeah. 

GEORGE: And I was listening to you talk, and I can't remember all the details, but I remember the one thing that stuck by me, which was the way you articulated stories and combined it with metaphors and your way of teaching. That struck me as, alright, you're someone that doesn't just know martial arts, but know that delivery aspect of how to teach it and how to articulate. So, I thought we could just start straight there. How did that develop, that side, obviously have lots of years and years of martial arts experience in jiu jitsu and many other styles, but where did this concept of teaching develop, on how you articulate with stories, metaphors, and so forth? 

BJJ

JOHN: Well, I think that the way that I started, first of all, even though I started in a traditional martial arts background, you know, meaning Taekwondo, karate, I did some freestyle wrestling, and all that, that was just like my first toe in the water. My real experience was gained in Southeast Asia, where I did a lot of traveling back and forth and training over there in the formative years of my life, you know, between like the age of 17, 18 through to my mid-20s. 

And so, the way that I was learning was by looking and analyzing, because I couldn't speak the languages, George. Right? I mean, when they first went over there, you went to a foreign country, I didn't know whether they were giving me good instruction or not. Now I can hazard a guess – probably not. Just like most people, they're just saying things, you know. And so, because I couldn't speak the language, at least initially until I learned, you know, how to speak Indonesian or different languages. Prior to that, I'd be looking, I would figure out – who's the best guy? What's he doing? What's he doing that's different from everyone else, and try and model that. 

So, I became, my learning style was one of the like, an autodidact style of learning how to teach myself through modeling. And that in itself, I think, puts you on a different road than most people. You know, because you've got to look, and you've got to analyze, and you've got to do comparative analysis, and all that kind of stuff. So, I was always like that, and then, I think that speaking is just thinking out loud. So, that's the way I was thinking, I was always thinking analytically about things. So, then when I started teaching, to the extent that I did start teaching by that, I was just doing that out loud. And that's how I started. 

And then I had a few influences that were known martial arts people, and I thought – wow, I would like to be able to sound like them and be effective in the same ways that they were being effective. But in martial arts, a martial arts landscape rather than in the landscape they were on. Robert Kiyosaki was, I mean, nowadays, people might know Robert Kiyosaki, the guy who wrote ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad' and the guy who's shilling gold and Bitcoin. 

But prior to that, way back, I'm talking 35 years ago, I met Robert, I spent a few weeks with him, and I was astounded. Like, I was really impressed by his communication style, teaching through analogy, gamifying lessons that he wanted to impart to other people. And I thought, wow, I'd like to be like that, but in the martial arts landscape. So, that kind of got me going that way. And then I guess the short answer to your question is, that was the beginning, the catalyst if you like, I was always analytical, because of my, where I started training in other countries, not being able to speak the language. 

So I did the analytical, I was influenced by him and a couple of other people, thought – wow, they really do well in their own thing. I wonder if I can do that in my own area of interest, martial arts, and then the next thing, so I combined those two things. So, every time I took a class, I would debrief myself with notes. If I said it this way, I got that result, if I change that around a little bit, I got a different result. So, I did brief myself for probably 20,000 classes. That's how I kind of developed my own teaching style. 

GEORGE: Alright, so, it's a lot of fine-tuning and refining, because what you're mentioning here is you're actually debriefing every class and being very analytical about the approach, really refining process ideas. 

JOHN: Yeah. Yes. 

GEORGE: Okay, cool. A couple of things that you touched on, and I was at your seminar a couple of days ago, at AMMA Gym, here in Perth, and a couple of things that you said that really resonated with me. And, you know, one part I'm trying to listen for that jiu jitsu knowledge and the other thing is, that that really struck me. One thing that you mentioned was talking about a black belt brain, and talking about how you develop as a martial artist, as a black belt, and how it kind of surprises you that people don't apply that all or out in business. 

I've used a fraction of that analogy before when we work with martial art school owners just about growing their schools, and really tying that back. Well, you know, if you really, if that's how far you get with your art, and you develop that as a mindset, then why is it not being applied elsewhere in business? In business and in life? So, wanted to ask you actually, John, where do you feel that people actually get stuck, that they're not making this a way of life in all aspects of life? 

BJJ

JOHN: I think it is, it is strange to me, George that people don't. I can't relate to that very well, because I can't see how if you do something here, and the approach you take here works for you, then I just do not understand why you don't take the same approach everywhere else. I don't get it. I was always that way. It's just a matter of how much time you allocate, in my view, meaning that if you take an approach to something – growing potatoes or, you know, designing houses or doing jiu jitsu or cooking, and it's working for you, like, if you're methodical with your cooking, you know, you go, “Well, I want to learn to cook. I'm interested in how to do that. 

So, I'll find some people who are really good at doing that. And I'll do what they do, and they have a recipe and so, okay, if I follow his recipe, exactly, I should get something pretty similar.” So, to me, that's like, an absolute no-brainer, why would I try to reinvent the wheel? Why would I not do that – follow the recipe? So, when I see people trying to bake a cake, to pursue the analogy further, the recipe has eight ingredients, mixed in this order, but they can only bother using five ingredients, and not using the same order. I do not understand why they do that. It is absolutely beyond me. 

Worse, they expect or complain that they don't get the same result as that person, when clearly they're only using five out of eight ingredients. I don't understand. So, I don't know, like why people don't do it. They are unreal, people are delusional, and like a lot of people clearly when you look around the planet, as a species, human beings are very, very happy to delude themselves at every turn. And to think that we can get this done, but without doing the same work as the person you’re trying to model, is kind of delusional. It's magical thinking. Perhaps that's what it is, and human beings, as we can both well imagine without drilling down too much, are awesome at magical thinking. Like, we are masters of bullshit, like, and convincing ourselves that, you know, all these untrue things are true, because it makes us feel better. 

And if I want to, you know, apply that same magical thinking to baking a cake, I can make the cake without, do I really need the eggs? I can't be bothered going to the shop, I'll do it without the eggs. I might think that. But you know, that's again, it falls into the category of magical thinking to me. I think the black belt mindset, if you and I are going to call that such a thing, to me it's very personal. It's different for every black belt, you know, and who am I to make a statement about what that means? But for me, what is a black belt in BJJ? What is a black belt mind? How is that different from a brand new white belt mind? I don't think it's got much to do with the amount of techniques you know or don't know. I don't think that's the thing, because some black belts know 1500 techniques, and other ones might only know 300 techniques, but it's not about, it's about how you use whatever techniques you know. 

By the time you're a black belt, you want to, in my view, have developed an appreciation for nuance and detail. And you realize that small nuance and small details can make a giant difference, and that's something as a beginner, you don't realize – you're just looking for the big things. And then as a black belt, you realize that by having your fingers that way or pushing that way, it's a giant, it's a big difference in outcomes. So, that's what I mean when I say a black belt mindset, someone who has developed a palate for nuance and detail. Like coffee – what's the difference between someone who's a great barista and someone who doesn't know how to do it? They have developed a pro coffee. 

GEORGE: Yeah. 

JOHN: And that's something that takes a long time to develop. With that kind of mindset, if you can have an appreciation for nuance and detail, and the importance of nuance and detail, and how relevant that to outcomes that might occur. It should occur to everyone that the same thing applies, irrespective of the subject matter. That if we're growing vegetables, I still need to figure out what are the small little things that my grandma does to grow tomatoes, you know that she gets an outstanding result, I don't. I've got to do all the things that she's doing, not just the convenient things that she's doing. Dig a hole, throw seeds in, cover up, water it. That's the convenience stuff. 

What are all the little inconvenient things that she's doing? But they make a big difference in outcome. I think, people, most people aren't up for that. They want the quick magical, they want the quick answer. We want the quick everything, right? Instant gratification, the marshmallow theory – you need one marshmallow now, rather than two marshmallows two weeks later, you know, people want that. So, they want quick answers. And I think that's silly, because I don't think it's about the outcome. I think it is about the journey and about enjoying the whole process. 

GEORGE: As a dad and having a teenage son, I think that was one of the hardest concepts to actually get across to my son. You know, when taking music, for example, we, you know, I used to play drums when I was a kid, and I remember trying to learn and getting this tape cassette of Enter Sandman, and I've never seen somebody sit in front of drums. And I'm like, trying to figure where my arms go. And I'm listening, and I'm rewinding and forwarding. And you know, when my son started playing when he was four years old, at the time when he was enjoying it and playing it, yeah, it was YouTube, and it was there. The outcome is already achieved visually. 

So, the hard work almost feels unnecessary. And I think that takes away a lot of resilience in kids that it's just, they don't see the work, and the outcome is already visible. But on that, so, you know, on the topic of black belt mind and talking about recipes, and I guess what it really comes down to then is habits and problem solving. Do you have sort of a, I don't want to put you on the spot, but do you have sort of a recipe in mind or something that, you know, you have developed, that if you took on a new skill or whether it's investing or just anything other than jiu jitsu, that you have this methodology of how you go about approaching things? 

JOHN: Well, we have a big advantage nowadays, of course, as you just alluded to, you know, YouTube, and we've got such so much information that, you know, we didn't have when we were kids, we didn't have that. So, that's both a good thing and a bad thing. Yeah. So, at least I'll use the good thing. So, I will tend to go out and find out, like, I try to get the big picture first. If I'm going to build a puzzle, like a jigsaw puzzle, I'll want to see the front of the box, because I want to see what I am trying to build here. But that's something that is kind of important. 

I remember doing that experiment way back. You know, I've got a bunch of jigsaw puzzles, got a bunch of people all divided up, I gave half the box of a jigsaw puzzle, the other half just the same puzzle, but in plastic bags. Click stopwatch, go! I mean, who finishes the puzzle? The people that know what they're building, and the other guys are still trying to figure out it’s three ducks in a pond, you know, that they're clueless. But the first thing I always tried to do is I try to take a macro view, step back, what is it? What's the whole, what's the bigger picture? And YouTube is awesome for that, You know, you can do that. So, I try to get the big picture first. Okay, I'll give you an example of something more concrete. I designed and built my own home, the one that I'm sitting in now. 

BJJ

So, what did I do? Well, I just went online, and I Googled very simply, best 50 architects of all time, well, recently. And then each architect, what are their top three houses of their career, or buildings or something? So now, I've got three x 15 – 45 pictures. Then I asked about the big picture, what's happened in architecture? Now, I look at those 45 pictures and go, “What do I like?” Well, I don't like 40 of them that leaves five. I like, you know, falling water, the house, falling water. What's the architect? Who's the architect – the famous, oh my god, slipped my mind. Everyone's listening to this guy, idiot. It's, anyway. But I like the look, I go, I like the look of that. I like the look of that. I like the look of that. 

So, I get those things. And then I started, I got Google SketchUp, spent 15 hours trying to learn how to do the Google SketchUp and then I kind of drew some stuff that looked like what they did and then went from there. You know, so, I don't think it's hard. So, I guess my approach is always to try to get the big picture first. Get a feeling, what I like about it. Then I try to find some people who have done it before me, which is like, lots. Then try to isolate the best ones, and then kind of model. See if I can get into their head a little bit like, wow, you know, and what they are thinking about. And then I go from there. 

I'm also okay with making mistakes, I'm okay with that. As long as it's not catastrophic, you know, as long as it's small mistakes, you need to make a lot of them, you don't want to make big mistakes that you can't come back from. So, I'm conservative in that way. I'm up for making mistakes, I rather make lots of little ones that don't cost me much. Rather than all in and make a big one. You know, investing in cryptocurrency, put 1% of your portfolio in and make as many mistakes as you want. And then when you figure it out, then put in another 2%, and you're good to go, right? You don't go all in. I mean, every now and again, someone goes all in, but then someone picks the time, right, gets it all right, and they do exceptionally well. 

GEORGE: And we hear about him. 

JOHN: We hear about that guy, because of what's it called? Survivor bias. You don't hear about the other 99. So, I'm a bit, I'm much more fearful. And I will go, I'll go all in, but with 1%, you know what I mean? 

GEORGE: Yeah, perfect. So I've got, I guess, if I just break it down, what I got from that big picture, get a clear understanding, part of what you actually want out of this thing, like, what do you like? Boil it down into who can you model and they look for the little attention to detail, the nuances. 

JOHN: Yeah, exactly. Yes. 

GEORGE: And I guess the last thing, which is always the thing that no one does, is take action. Take action and do it. Yeah.

JOHN: Yeah. The reason why I don't feel a problem, like, I don't seem to have a problem with pulling the trigger, or taking action is, I actually enjoy that process that we just talked about. That's the fun for me. That is the fun, the outcome isn't. I'm not waiting to move into my house to enjoy it. You know, I'm not waiting to take the trip, to enjoy it. I enjoy the planning of the hike, or whatever it is, you know, and I enjoy sitting down if it's about, you know, Bitcoin or it's about whatever it is, I enjoy the process of that thing we're talking about. I actually like that. I like that bit. It's almost like, you know, it's a bit of a letdown when you get done, because that process is, in a way, ended. The fun is the training to black belt. It shouldn't be like, I'm not having fun until I get the black belt. 

GEORGE: That's depressing.

JOHN: That is depressing. Like, anyone who's like that will never get it, because it's just too difficult. That is the fun, you know, so therefore, yeah, I think you enjoy the whole thing. I enjoy learning. And I enjoy learning about new stuff and I enjoy that uncertainty, try and figure it out. Try to put the, you know, the bits of the puzzle together to sit back and see the picture. It's not that it's all miserable until then. Oh, it's done. Beautiful picture, two ducks in a pond. What, no, the fun is doing it. Yeah.

GEORGE: Perfect. I think something that you said on Sunday that goes well with that is, in a way there's no such thing as a bad position in jiu jitsu, meaning that you can put yourself in situations where you're going to make mistakes and be vulnerable and still move through it. 

John Will

JOHN: Yes, anything, like, if we're in jiu jitsu. So like, any position, unless you're telling me that you know, everything there is to know about that position? Or if it's a bad position, so-called bad and underneath side control, do you know everything about escaping and this and that, because if you did, we wouldn't be there, right? So, you don't, so what do you need to do? You need to spend more time there. So, in other words, wherever you are, is exactly what you need to do. Enjoy it. It sounds like a Buddhist Zen thing, but it's not, it's just real.  

Wherever you are, is exactly where you need to be, and if you're stuck on an inside control, then that's exactly where you need to be, and you need to be learning, and then the same thing with everything else in life. You know, if you're, if you've got financial drama and whatever, and you're trying to fix that, then that's exactly where you need to be. Someone giving you $5 million to make your problems away, is not going to make your problems go away. It's just going to put a band aid over it. But you need to be wherever it is. So, you may as well enjoy it, because eventually, it will go away. You won't be there, you'll be somewhere else, with another set of challenges or whatever. It's all good. 

GEORGE: It's all good, yeah. So, I want to talk about two things actually, if we change gears just slightly. Obviously, coming out of things like COVID, you mentioned, it's been your best year yet. And I want to talk a bit about club culture and things like that. But I think first, probably a good place to start, as I mentioned it – pandemic, if you want to call it that, COVID presented a lot of challenges, interesting challenges for a lot of schools, a lot of martial arts styles, jiu jitsu and everyone else. I know, I've met a lot of people adapt, you know, a lot of people crawled in a hole and waited for it to go over. Some people took it on, took different directions in business. How was the experience for you? 

JOHN: Yeah, we shut where I am in Victoria, Australia. We shut down for 10 months, meaning our academy shut down for 10 months. So, like everyone else, at the beginning, I thought, “Oh, this might be two weeks or might even be three weeks”. So, it was like, “Awesome! We get to take out a two week break, and then we're going to be back,” and then two weeks turned into three weeks. So, at that point three, four weeks – uh-oh, this going to go on for a while, you know, it was becoming a little bit worrisome. 

By worrisome, what I mean by that is, it's unprecedented. I've never been here before. We've never experienced this before. This goes on for three months, six months, and nine months. What's going to happen to my academy, my martial arts school? Like, I don't know, but because I've got, there's no historical precedent. Do they all come back? Have they all taken up skateboarding? As it turns out, they all came back the night I came back. I didn't know that at the time. 

So, I just made the best of it, we had a great time – my wife and I did a lot of stuff we wouldn't normally do, because you're forced to. So, go for bike rides and walks and this and all that. So, great. Pointed my brain at a few things that don't really interest me that much, but I know I got to do it. You know, like my self-managed super fund, my finances. I'm not interested in that kind of stuff, but I've got the time now, so I may as well look at it. And it's amazing when you point your brain at it and tweak a few things, how much better things get. You know, it only takes 5% of your attention, is infinitely better than 0% of your attention. 

So, I pointed my mind at a few things that didn't interest me, but I've got nothing else to do, so I may as well do that. Wow, that was good. So, it was all of that. But it was interesting to me how what I learned from it is, it was really like pressing the pause button on a movie, going away for 10 months, coming back and I just press play, and the movie started playing again. So, I can't tell. Like, a week later, after we started again, I could not tell that there'd been a break. The only thing was that I had not opened my academy door for 10 months. That's good to know, in case it ever happens again. Also heartwarming to know, you know, everyone's pretty keen to get back to training. A lot of schools struggled, because I know a lot of schools and a lot of them struggled. A lot of them struggle, because they were completely unprepared for a Black Swan event. 

BJJ

So, for those who don't know what Black Swan event meant, you know, it's just a way of saying, it's a book by Nassim Taleb. And he wrote a book called ‘The Black Swan', and basically, it just means a completely unexpected event. But when there's a completely unexpected event, you can't, it's difficult. Most people don't prepare for it, because to prepare for things means you kind of expect it. 

So, an unexpected thing like an asteroid hitting New York or a pandemic, most people are not prepared for it. So, that taught a lot of people a lesson. They need to make sure they have 6 – 12 months of money put aside for an emergency. They need to make sure, you know, all these kinds of things. Most people didn't, so they were 100% reliant on their income. You know, that must have put a lot of stress on those people. I didn't need an income, I've got enough income put aside for another 20 years. So, I don't need any. So, to me, a cup of coffee, or a cup of water, or, you know, whatever, I was just sad that I couldn't see the people who I normally see, and train on a mat, and do teaching, which I love doing. The money wasn't a part. I didn't care about that. So, that's interesting. 

Like, I think now people, they should go, you know what, maybe we should start saving 20% of our income, like for a rainy day, not just for retirement, I'm talking about just for an emergency, you should get, because emergencies clearly happen every now and again. Some businesses fell over, you know, now I take a harsh view of that. Probably a bit unfair, but I say, you know what, that's Darwinian forces at play. Here they are, next. Bit mean, but hey, that's nature. You were weak enough to fall over? Yeah. You don't deserve to trade in the marketplace.  It's interesting. 

My wife and I had that conversation, you know, about all these businesses closing. I know, I mean, it always saddens me, you know, with the business going down, but I also think, you know, was that business going down already? Was COVID just the tipping point? Yes. Yeah. I think you're perhaps, I mean, if you're on that, if you're walking such a fine line, really, do you want to do that? Walk such a fine line for the rest of your life? Really? I'd be getting another job, or another two jobs. I mean, someone asked me the other day, it was only five minutes. It was after a class. I didn't have any time. But they said, “I heard you got some properties. 

So, how do you do that?” I've got a question to ask me, and I've got five minutes on the way. I said, “Do you have a job?” And he goes, “Yeah, I've got a job.” “What do you do?” “I do this.” “How much do you earn this month?” “Okay, here's my first thing, you need two jobs, or maybe three jobs. Go get two more jobs, and once you get two jobs, and you're saving all the income for those extra jobs, then come and ask for the next step. You got to have some fat or some leeway, I don't think you can be walking along, living on such a fine margin. That's not a great way to do life, I don't think – because the slightest little earthquake, and you're dead. I used to call it, you know what I used to call it, George? A bug on a leaf. 

A bug on a leaf, so, in the canopy of the rainforest, a branch is falling down, it's opened up a hole, a little ray of sunshine comes down. And it makes this little one meter square ecosystem with certain little mosses and certain leaves and it's a certain temperature. And if you're a bug, that's beautifully acclimated for that one square meter that is not a good place to be. Like, you've got no options, you can't move anywhere. If there's a five degree change in temperature, you're dead. But I don't want to be that delicate an organism. I want to be like a cockroach. Shit, it can be minus 20, it can be plus 40. There can be wind, no wind. It can be radiation, a nuclear bomb can go off, and I’m golden. I want to be a cockroach. A bug in a beautiful little environment. 

GEORGE: I love that. Change gears again, just a little. I was chatting to one of your students who works with us, Sam Broughton. Actually, I was on your website last night, bjj.com.au. By the way, and I know it's a side note, but what a great domain name bjj.com.au. I'm a bit of a domain name nerd. 

JOHN: Early adopter! 

GEORGE: Early adopter is what it's called. Yeah. There we go, if you had any questions about the early adopter there. I was looking through the list of black belts, some of the people that we work with that's on that list, Brett Fenton, Cam Rowe, Mike Fooks, also Karl Norton. You know, we were talking about questions and things that we should discuss and, and you mentioned that I should ask you about club culture – club culture and the relationship between student and teacher. 

John Will

JOHN: I think it's really important. For me, club culture, it's purely a side benefit that is also good for business. I am not that interested in business. It might not look like that from the outside. People go, “Hang on, you got all the stuff that you got, and you got this and that”. I couldn't care less about it. It's a byproduct of being passionate about what I do and caring about what I've learned. Now, the analogy I'll give you is before, you might have to remind me about the culture question. This was an analogy told to me by Robert Kiyosaki, who was talking about Buckminster Fuller, who wrote a book called ‘The Critical Path'. 

Buckminster Fuller was the most inspiring person, he was Robert Kiyosaki's hero. And Buckminster Fuller gave this analogy, and I'll repeat it here, he says, “How do you know, that you're doing life well, is by the consequences of your action.” In other words, and the analogy he used was, a bee goes around being a bee, and it wants to collect pollen from the flowers. It doesn't even know about the greater thing, which is cross pollination of flowers. It just thinks it wants to go and collect the pollen. With the greater processional effect of it doing what it's doing, is that it's cross pollinating flowers, and we get these gardens, and we get all this stuff. And he says, you can tell the bee is being true to its Venus, because of the cross pollination, that it might even be unaware of. I kind of liked that idea. 

To me, the money side and the business side, and the successful stuff like that, is the cross pollination of flowers. I, as the bee, actually don't care about that. I care about being passionate about what I'm doing, and I'm interested in it. How I know I'm doing it right, is if I step back, when someone points out that cross pollination happened. That is, I got no debts or got enough money for 20 years, and all that shit that I don't care about, you know, what I'm saying? I think a lot of people chase that stuff. If they are chasing the effect, maybe they're not truly being tethered to their passion or their mission. So, going back to your question about club culture, it's very important to me, it has certain benefits, which I don't care about. 

But I'm passionate about what I do, and teaching at my school. So, because that's an extension of my home, my mat. When I'm on the mat, it's kind of like an extension of my home, it's another room in my house. So, it's not like business, separate. It's part of who I am, defines who I am. So, I want that to be comfortable, and I want it to be the way… Like, if you run a barbecue at your house, you're not going to have people come to the barbecue that you don't like, who aren't behaving well. And my school is just like that, except that's not a barbecue, it's training. 

So, I'm not going to have people in there who don't gel with the atmosphere that I want to create. Now, weirdly, paradoxically, like when people in martial arts business, I guess, I'm no business guru, what do I know about business? I just know how to do life. But business – if they're just focusing on business and the numbers, then one of the things I see happening is they think more customers are better, because it's more money. And that to me, I disagree with, because that means they'll train anyone for money, and now they've got people in there who are acting counter to the culture they're trying to build. 

So, I think that some of what they want to do is counterintuitive. They've got to identify and get rid of the 10% of their school that's taken away from the culture they're trying to build. That is counterintuitive to a purely business person who's trying to get as many customers as he can. I don't give a shit about customers. Customer, getting numbers, I don't care about that. 

GEORGE: I think you just answered the first topic we discussed, you know, we were talking about having a black belt brain and applying yourself and why people aren't succeeding in other areas of life. And it could be that it's just the wrong ‘why', it's following the wrong drive, and focusing on the wrong thing, and all these side effects possibly are happening. 

John Will

JOHN: You will be very aware, as anyone who's done any kind of business or I mean, talking about saving money, investing money, superannuation, American 401k, you know, whatever it is. You need to do whatever it is you're doing for a long time for this to work, right? Mostly, there's no shortcuts, sometimes you get one, you know, you can buy 100 Bitcoin when it's $5. But it wasn't genius, it was just luck, right? 

So, most of the time, whatever you're going to do, you're going to do it for 10 or 20 years, whether it's investing in property – it's not a five year gig, it's a 10 to 20 year plan. Saving 20% of your income and reinvesting is a 20 year plan. Learning a new language is a 10 year plan. It's not a three month plan. So, everything's a 10 year plan, let's say, but what I really mean is 20. But if everything's a 10 year plan, our approach has to be the kind of approach that I can sustain for that long. 

So, there's even another reason why I want to be very careful about the way I budget, I have to be happy with it, so that I can keep doing that for the 10 or 15 or 20 years it's going to take to get these peripheral benefits from it. So, I mean, you could do all these – I remember going to America a lot, way back, and you know, some of these martial art conventions and stuff, right? Where it's all business tricks, how to do business tricks, to trick people into joining your schools, then you can make a lot of money. All these suits walking around giving lectures about business tricks, made me sit. One, because none of them, I wasn't impressed with any of them as martial artists. So, there's that. 

And the second thing is, how long could they do that all before they wanted to just, woke up one day and wanted to shoot themselves in the head? And some of them did, because if they're not really, they're just doing tricks and they're not connected to their purpose and passion. They're too busy learning the tricks. I think you've got to take a stance of green and stuff, you got to take a sustainable approach to whatever it is you're doing. If you take a sustainable approach, you'll be happier as a human being, your relationships will be better, you'll be a better person. And you'll be able to do it for 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years. And even if you do a bad job, if you do it for 40 years and save 10% of what you earn, you'll be a millionaire a couple of times over. I take that approach – got to be sustainable. 

GEORGE: Love it. John, I want to be conscious of your time. I've got one more, one question for you. I so resonate with the tricks because you know, I mean, what got me into working with martial art school owners was the fact that there was a business model where it comes from passion and drive and something with some essence. 

Coming from that online marketing space, it is a place full of hype and tricks. It was never there when I started working with martial arts school owners, but I was sorely disappointed when it started to creep in. And I'm very against that, because it's tiring, and it's not sustainable. Chasing tricks means your business is chasing tricks. But it's kind of what we spoke about in the beginning, of not being resilient and working on the things that actually bring results over time. It's dabble here and dabble here. Like I always say to my clients, just put the horse flaps on, work your plan, do your thing.

JOHN: Do all these things are what these American people do? I don't do those things, but I've got a waiting list of 103 people to join my school. I don't do the tricks, but what I do is, I do my job well. I care about planning my classes, I care about the class, I care about getting outcomes on the mat, getting results, the culture created, you know. Obviously, there just has to be some things, there's got to be some basics in place. 

So that you automate things you don't care about, like payments, good that they automated, I don't have to care about that. Or advertising – we don't do much advertising, but pre-COVID, we were dropping flyers out. So, I wouldn't reactively market, I just do 60,000 flyers, give them to the guy and say, “Put out 5000 a month and call me when you run out.” So, I automate the things that I'm uninterested in, automate the things you're uninterested in. Just make it automatic, so you don't have to attend to it ever again. 

GEORGE: Focus on the product. 

JOHN: My business advice, but I like automating the things. I know I should do these things. You know, so I'm not saying you shouldn't do things, I'm just saying, it shouldn't be all about trying to find some trick people. That's no good. When COVID happened, a lot of the martial arts schools were begging their students to keep paying the money, “Keep paying my fees, I'm gonna die! If you want your martial arts school to be still here, when COVID is over, you need to keep paying me. I'll teach you a Zen class on stretching, so that you feel like you're getting something for your $100 a month.” I didn't do it. I just stopped everyone's fee straightaway, because leaders should eat last. 

If anyone's going to suffer, it's going to be me, not my students. And so I stopped everyone's fees right away. If I need money, I'll go, if I did need money, and if I wasn't organized and squared away, and I was owing money, I would go and get a job at McDonald's or digging holes, or whatever I needed to do like every other human being. And then I would live on that. And that's what, so I stopped it. I bought a lot of goodwill by doing that. And that goodwill that I got, when I came back, about eight weeks before Christmas, I didn't turn their fees back on, I said, “I'll give you six weeks, no one's going to pay fees for the rest of 2020. It's on me, at my school, to enjoy it, because I know everyone's having a difficult time.” As it turns out, the goodwill that I got with that was worth way more in dollar terms and what I would have got by begging for money. 

So, you know, so the same thing I'll say to a lot of people, what I say to a monk in Thailand, “Hey, you want money? Go get a job like everyone else.” I think that we need to show leadership. Well, we don't have to, but the way I view it is that I have a leadership role at my school. And now if I want to go beyond that, outside the circle of my mat into the community, and if I'm calling myself a leader, which I'm not really, people are, but if that's the role I had, I should show some leadership and suck it up. You know, so I think all of that is so important and life is, it's not always easy. You know, it's difficult. So, it's difficult for lots of people. We need to show that we can get through that, that we can suck it up. You know, it's like most things, get this, rainy days followed by a sunny day. You just have to wait, you may as well make the best of the rainy day, enjoy it, because it's going to go away and then it's going to be too hot. And then everyone will be complaining about it being too hot.

GEORGE: Yeah, I've got to admit I've been, because I remember you sharing that, that post about shutting down and everything, and I've got to admit, I was sort of on the two sides of it. Because, you know, I had a lot of clients that I was concerned about, like, if you do that, you might not be here in two months, you know. I remember I had an event planned in Perth for over the weekend, and that's when we realized COVID is actually a thing. It's actually a thing. 

I ignored it for probably the longest, but then I realized, alright, this is probably serious, and I was with my wife and I said to her, “Look, I'm going to go down to the office and I'm just going too…” I'm a martial artist. I've not run a school. But I've worked with martial arts school owners for longer than I've done martial arts, and I thought if there's one thing that I could probably bring to the table, was my knowledge of running a business online. Can somebody get something out of that, that they can provide value through their membership that's not on the mats, you know, the vehicle of the mat is gone, and it can be done online. 

So, I put together this thing, and I gave it away for free and I just wanted to make sure we can help and looking back at it now, you know, some guys did. Most of your jiu jitsu guys did exactly what you did – shut completely and kept things going for free. I think the karate guys, the Taekwondo guys had it a bit easier, because Zoom is a bit easier. I mean, I've got guys in the UK that are still running their Zoom classes, and you know, it's become a thing. But it's interesting to look back, because a lot of guys that did go one path did it successfully, you know, the online thing, and some guys are still trying to get their students back. And then the guys that actually cut everything and carry the weight, when they flicked it back on, we're in the same situation as you were – that the goodwill carried over. Nobody had to put in a cancellation, I think was the key thing. Nobody had to assess what we were doing and put in a cancellation and they're not able to get open doors and carry on. 

John Will

JOHN: Look, it's also good to take the macro view – life is long. Yeah, like people who've been around for a while in the martial arts, the way I looked at it was – you know what, this is just the long service leave that I would never take unless someone's got a gun to my head. So, someone did put a gun to my head, saying “You're taking long service leave,” and I went, “Maybe I should be!” Just like that, you know, the race is long. I think a big lesson, which is one that I would have, I've been recommending to people anyway. 

So, we can talk about, if we have a discussion about making a living from martial arts, okay, let's call it business. I don't think of it like that, but we'll say that. If you're talking about making a living from martial arts, to me, it's not just about how much money you're getting in. I don't think that matters actually as much as people think. You can get in 60, $70,000 a year that's, yeah, very modest, running a nice little school. But it's what you do with that 60 or $70,000 over 15 to 20 years that will make you fantastically independently wealthy or not. There are other people who are boarding $300,000 a year, 400 grand a year, and they still don't own their home, and they still have credit card debt. Like, I don't know, other people who might only earn $60,000 a year, but 20 years later, they own three, four houses with no debt. 

So, it's not just about the money that comes in, it is how much you're keeping. And I think a lot of people have a bucket, and the hole in the top of the bucket is the same size as the hole in the bottom of the bucket! And they're wondering why the day after the rain stops coming that they’re dying of thirst. I mean, guys, you need to learn how to plug the bottom of the bucket and even a little sprinkle of a rain, meaning the income, will see you with an excess of water. So, you can't just concentrate on making money. You've got to look at your lifestyle, maybe tune that a little bit better. And then your investment strategy – maybe tune that a little bit better, and create a self-managed super fund, so you're not going to get taxed and then you've saved 30% right there. 

Do all these little things and not put all of your attention on “I need another customer”, because we've, what do you call it? A modest amount of income. It's never been unbelievably good. You know, it's not been hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Plenty of people earn that, we haven't. But you know, it's easy to accrue millions of dollars and have no debts, if you just put it in the right spots, and learn a tiny bit about self-managed super-funds, 401K or, you know, in America, IRA lots. I'm not talking about being serious, just spend half an hour a week, and do that for a year and you'll be ahead of 99% of the planet. Read the richest man in Babylon, and then just double it. I believe this is what you should do, like, not 10% you should save 100% of one of your two incomes. 

GEORGE: Nice.

JOHN: Get two jobs, or if your wife's got a job and you've got a job, or work two jobs, suck it up and save 100% of one of those jobs. Just do that for five or 10 years, and wait. But people don't want to do it. 

GEORGE: Patience and resilience, yeah. Hey, John, thanks so much. I do have one more question. Again, at the seminar, you were talking about reevaluating the reasons why you do what you do. 

JOHN: Yes. 

GEORGE: And I wanted to ask you that, you know, you mentioned the reasons that you train, still train, you know, for where you're at in life has evolved and changed over time. So, what is that for you? What keeps you going? 

JOHN: So, when I started, it was about, I mean, if you really dig in, it was probably about building self-confidence. You know, if you drill down, I could say it was about self-defense, but probably really about when you get into some fights – it's not just self-defense that you're then looking for, it's really about your confidence having taken a hit, and you need to build your self-esteem, stuff like that. But you can say self-defense, but unless you're getting into like a fight every week, you're only getting into a couple of fights a year, which most people aren't even doing that. But say it was a couple of fights a year, because you're the kind of personality that can't take a step back, let's say. 

Then, it's still not about self-defense, because a couple of fights a year, really? You're going to spend all that money and all that time and get all those injuries? You're better off just having the two fights a year and getting beaten. In terms of the injury, and the money, it doesn't make sense. So, I think it's about self-esteem. I started out like that, then it becomes like you're fascinated with the concept, and the way you see yourself as this thing. So, you have to like, so you don't suffer cognitive dissonance, you have to make the vision that you have in your head and the reality of who you are the same. That requires training. 

And then it's like, morphs again, for me, it morphed into, like just the adventure of it all. Like, it's just an adventure to, you know, training overseas in different countries. It's like the hobbit going on a journey. You know, it's like, you don't know what's going to happen. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, like, COVID was a bad thing, but don't cry, because you're sad you're alive. You want to go live to be an adventure, I will don't you realize that when you're a hobbit on an adventure, there's a troll that's trying to eat you. 

So, what you're telling me is you don't want all of the adventure, you just want the fun bits. That's not an adventure. An adventure is the contrast between the bad and the good things, and that the grind and fun day, and the lack of money and the money, and the hunger and then that nice meal, and you know that it's an adventure because of contrast. If there's no contrast, you're in hell. So, it was then for me about all the adventure and all that. Now, it's not so much like that. For me now. It's about I like design – by design, putting things together in a more optimal way, which goes to design. I like that and problem solving, creative problem solving, or problem solving that requires creative thinking. I like that stuff. 

My martial arts practice is a vehicle to just keep that part of my brain. You know, training like, keep it active. I like doing that. And for me now, it's much more about that and leaving, sounds a bit weird, but leaving a good footprint in the world. So, I like to do that with the footprint, try through teaching, because I have, to some degree, a captive audience when they're on the mat. So, I can teach them this thing that I like doing myself and that they're there for. And then I can slip in some other stuff when they're not looking, to make them maybe live their lives a little bit better. And then I'm making a better footprint on the planet. So, that's why I do it now. Not for the money anymore. 

GEORGE: Love that. And that, what you just said, brings things sort of full circle and kind of what I experienced when, you know, when I listened to you at the seminar. It's not just the jiu jitsu, it's the life knowledge, and everything else that's being taught in between. 

JOHN: Well, I don't want to get into this whole thing about being a guru. Right? Because a lot of martial arts people are portraying themselves as some kind of life guru. But if you look at their lives, you do not want their life. They are hollow, in debt on their credit card, bad relationship, they're plastic, inauthentic. I don't want that. But I'll just say, listen, I want to try to live my life by example, and I'm happy to be judged. 

In all, every facet of my life, I'm happy to be judged, because I'm trying to do the whole thing well, balanced. And then people can make their own decision. So, they can go, they can look and go, “You know what, I'm going to listen to this person, because they seem to have ticked the boxes. So, I'm going to listen”, you know, and then they should listen to a lot of other people. And then they should step back and then make up their own mind about which advice they can take from who to create a better life for themselves. 

GEORGE: John, thanks so much. You know what, yesterday I walked into one of my favorite little book shops. It's a niche little book shop, I pop in there every so often. And I was pretty lucky, right? Because I walked in, and I saw these three stacked next to each other, and I thought, yeah, that's something I don't see in the bookshop every day. So, I'd love to say I've read them all, but it's been one day of about 10 pages in. Yeah, so they are available on the website, BJJ? 

JOHN: They are on my website, BJJ. Oh, the name of that book, Rogue Black Belt. 

GEORGE: Rogueblackbelt.com. 

JOHN: You can get them there as well. Basically, I mean, it's an autobiography, but it didn't start out to be that. Someone like yourself just asked me a question. They said, “What are the 10 best things you've ever learnt?” You know, like the 10 best life lessons I've ever learned to think about. I wrote them down. And then, oh, is that 11? Oh, 12. Oh, hang on, there's 24, 25, so that in those books, there were 60 most important things I've ever learned. So, I wrote them down. And then I put them in chronological order, and then told the story that went with that – turned into an autobiography by accident. 

GEORGE: Great, awesome. Well, I'm looking forward to diving in and perhaps I can, I'll swing you in for round two after I've got some more insight. 

JOHN: Yeah. 

GEORGE: Perfect, John. Thanks so much. So Rogueblackbelt.com, you mentioned? 

JOHN: Yes.

GEORGE: And bjj.com.au. Anything else? Any last words? Anywhere we should check out any of your seminars or any… 

JOHN: Oh, they can figure it out, I'm not trying to sell it. 

GEORGE: Perfect. John, thanks so much for your time. Much appreciated. And I'll catch you in the next one. 

JOHN: Thanks, George. 

GEORGE: Thank you. Cheers.

 

Here are 3 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. Join the Martial Arts Media™ community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media™ Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like to work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

3. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

104 – John Smallios – Aligning Your Jiu Jitsu School With A Higher Mission & Purpose

Every student at Higher Jiu Jitsu knows their mission statement. John Smallios shares how a clear purpose simplifies their message.

.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The mission statement that John upholds in his Jiu Jitsu academy
  • The critical factors that influenced the close-knit culture in Higher Jiu Jitsu
  • The one thing that John avoided which now guides his students on the same path to learning
  • Aristotle’s philosophy of learning
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

With regards to the mission, hopefully if you ask any Higher Jiu Jitsu student, they will tell you that our mission at Higher Jiu Jitsu is we help everyday people build quality of life with Gracie Jiu Jitsu. And that's in my mind all the time.

GEORGE: Good day, George here, and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business Podcast, episode number 104. So today I've got an old friend with me, someone I haven't spoken to in a while, and we got chatting again on Facebook and thought we'd catch up, talk a bit about Jiu Jitsu business and things past the whole pandemic. So I'm with John Smallios.

JOHN: How is it going, man?

GEORGE: Good. How are you?

JOHN: I'm doing well. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on.

GEORGE: Your school's name is Higher Jiu Jitsu, right?

JOHN: Yep. That's the one.

GEORGE: I've always wanted to ask you, where did you get the name Higher Jiu Jitsu? What was the thinking behind it?

JOHN: It's pretty cool, right? Well, basically, I had a nutrition coaching and personal training venture that I was into at the beginning, and the name of that was Higher Health, because I was always interested in getting better and improving on health in many different ways. And there's always ways to improve in that realm. And then I was running the BJJ Commune.

I think there might have been a time maybe when you came to Higher potentially. I think it was still the commune at that time. And the commune was that because it was an open map pretty much. Everyone was more than welcome to come. There was no affiliation at the time. And then things developed and changed. And then I was faced with a little bit of a spot where it was very hard running two businesses at the same time.

And I was kind of doing a similar thing, because I was looking at helping people, whether it was during nutrition or movement, or in this case Jiu Jitsu. So I thought, you know what? It's time to amalgamate the two and make it one, and Higher Jiu Jitsu was born. And I like it. It's got a nice ring to it. And I just love the idea now that it's endless refinement and you can always do better on the Jiu Jitsu mats and off the Jiu Jitsu mats, of course. But Higher Jiu Jitsu it is.

GEORGE: There we go. Actually, you just from minded me now of the first conversation we had, because you worked with us way back, version one of our Academy Program, which is a coaching program for school owners with marketing and emails and contents and so forth. I recall being on a call with you and you had this divided attention of how are you going to make this thing a thing?

Because you had the health of the business working with Jiu Jitsu. But when I stopped by in Sydney at your location and you had me joining for the open mat session there, I recall that step was already refined and you were already on your way with this whole amalgamated venture, as you say.

JOHN: Yeah. It was actually really tough at the time because I'm just so passionate about all of those realms. It was hard to make… I think I put more pressure on myself than I had to at the time and I wanted everything to just be seamless and perfect, in a way. Things aren't always perfect. But I guess changes had to be made and it was within me. I'm sure you weren't the only person I was chatting to that about.

It was just a constant dilemma in my head like, how can I make this work better? Because I wanted to represent one particular movement, one particular philosophy, and I didn't like being split through the middle. At least that was in my own perception. Maybe other people didn't take it like that or see it like that. But in my case, I wanted to have one sole purpose. That's how it worked out.

And it was much better off because now all my heart and soul is going into the one avenue and I can improve all different aspects of that one particular direction, which is awesome. And so now I have a health program within my Jiu Jitsu school. I don't do too much personal training with regards to movement coaching anymore. But in saying that, when I'm doing private class with my students, I'm definitely teaching them how to move and I'm definitely teaching them how to build awareness throughout their body and throughout their own movements.

So in a way, the first dream still lives on. It's a different brand, I guess. I did marketing at uni. So I was studying branding or studying all different aspects of marketing. So perhaps in my head I guess I was a bit more choosy and just wanted it to be on point. But now I feel good. Now I feel like Higher Jiu Jitsu is my one and only professional kind of endeavor. And day in and out, I'm looking at improving on it in all aspects of it. So it's worked out well.

GEORGE: Yeah. Perfect. I think sometimes as entrepreneurs we can get stuck in how the vehicle has got to run. And so now you're divided. We sort of just jumped in on the story that we know together, but I think we should just probably give some more context for you on what this was on how you were going on the health side and how you were going on the Jiu Jitsu side.

But as I was referencing, I think you get so stuck in the vehicle that you forget actually the higher outcome that you're trying to serve. And so removing yourself from the vehicle, which is health and which is Jiu Jitsu, and thinking, all right, well, what is it that I actually want people to get? What is that outcome? And then something that I've been really working on is how do I incorporate that in my actual mission statement?

And not a mission statement of the, hey, here's the thing that you put in the wall or shove under the desk and never look at, but just something that is congruent with the outcome that you want to serve within your business for you personally, but also an outcome obviously that you want for, in your case, your students or your clients as such.

JOHN: Okay. So in that case, I thought about this long and hard, and whether I was working with my client with regards to movement, or if they came up to me and said, “John, I want to lose weight. I need a nutrition program,” or if they said, “John, I want to learn Jiu Jitsu,” my goal, and it is the same thing to this day, is to help the client, the student build quality of life.

And quality of life for me is something more than health. It's on the mat. It's off the mat. It's your physical being. It's your mental being. It's your emotional side. It's everything in one. And it's your ability to flourish in life. And I was thinking, even though there's different avenues and different roads that I thought I was on, it was all within the one highway, I guess, within the one direction of building quality of life.

So with regards to the mission, hopefully if you ask any Higher Jiu Jitsu student, they will tell you that our mission at Higher Jiu Jitsu is we help everyday people build quality of life with Gracie Jiu Jitsu. And that's in my mind all the time. So it means that, again, the purpose is quality of life. And who do I serve? I serve the everyday person.

And the everyday person is of different age groups and different professions and might have different interests, but is not like an athlete who's looking to be a world leader. That's not the student that I think will flourish at Higher Jiu Jitsu. I think it's the everyday person that's going to really, really thrive at our school. And how do we do that? We do that with Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

And of course, Gracie Jiu Jitsu can encompass anything and everything. So Gracie Jiu Jitsu is your diet. It is your health. It is your movement in Jiu Jitsu. It is self-defense. It is all of these aspects. So that's the mission statement right there: we help everyday people build quality of life with Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

GEORGE: I like that. I was not aware that we were going to have this type of conversation. It's really cool. And I like it because it's something that I'm spending a lot of time with now. I'm not going to reveal my mission statement just yet on this call because it is a work in progress. You said you were struggling to get this refined. I know that refining that takes a lot of work.

But in doing that, it brings a lot of clarity, because there's a lot of things that you just eliminate. And I guess I'd put that to you. How does that change the way you go about attracting students or talking to people? Because now I guess you're more aligned, right? You're more in center of, well, this is what I'm trying to achieve and this is who it's for. So how do you find that adapts your message? And I'm curious to know because it's very important to you, because as you mentioned, all your students should actually know what the mission statement is as well.

JOHN: That's my job there. So in all of our communications, the things that I do and say publicly and just every day in the gym ought to reflect that if I'm going to be true to it. And I think I found a nice touch, just the touching point there. Okay. So how does it affect my communication when I'm talking to people on a YouTube video or on a call with a potential student who wants to be a part of the school?

For that, and I'm not afraid anymore to acknowledge that our school is not for everybody. And there are some people who I much prefer go into a highly competitive school. And there are a lot of highly competitive schools around the area that just love and would live and breathe competition all the time. And look, we have students that compete. I competed a whole bunch as much as I could earlier on in my Jiu Jitsu journey.

And so I'm not against competition in the slightest. But it's nice that we have a lens with which we can discern between student A and student B; the student who wants the hard, super tough training, and then the student who's more than happy to be a little bit more patient. And more than anything, I think the student who's looking to enjoy the art.

The art is a bit different, because we're not really… Well, I'm not overly interested in practicing the sport of Jiu Jitsu. So rarely, very, very rarely, unless there's a comp coming up or something or I talk about the points, I'm talking about positions, I'm talking about safety whilst we're training Jiu Jitsu. I'm talking about your ability to manage distance to prevent strikes, let's say, even though that's not in the sporting realm.

All of that is reflected in my communications online. And hopefully that's what people get. I talk a lot about movement and how the body works with regards to techniques and talking about how to gain leverage. Because when you're looking for leverage in Jiu Jitsu, you're doing that through your own body and through the grounds and through your opponent.

So definitely there's a lot of things that I can focus on more than others and it makes my life so much better. And it makes everyone's lives better and easier, I guess. Because if you don't like kind of the tone of what we do and say, then just tune out. That's fine. And then I've found that you can't please everybody. I'm sure you know that. Over the years when I first started the school, I wanted to please everybody. And I don't think that has the effect…

GEORGE: And you pleased no one.

JOHN: Yeah. In a way, it was like a school, where you didn't know if we're here or there. Whereas over the years, I've kind of really… I wouldn't say I've been stubborn about it at all. I'm still trying to be open-minded, for sure. Some students will come in and I'll say, “Hey, man, maybe this isn't the spot for you.

Maybe go to the school up the road and try them out as well. Find the school that's most important for you.” So, yeah, definitely it helps. Knowing who you are, I'd say, knowing your values as a school and as a person can most definitely help you attract the people that are going to get the most utility out of what you're offering.

GEORGE: I like that. It comes down to a couple of things, right? I think maturity, just maturing in your business and getting in tune with, what is the type of business that you want? What is the type of business that you want to build? I mean, if you are the guy that wants to build multiple schools and take a step back and not be that involved, maybe you'd take a bit of a different approach.

But if you want to stay close to the business, close to the purpose, close to the mission and be really in tune with what your customers want and build a business that you actually love and not despise, I think that's a big thing. Because it's very easy to get caught up in this fake want of growth and want this moving thing. But it's very easy in business to build this thing that you despise as well.

You build this business that you look at and you're like, “Oh, what have I built? I've built a monster that I don't want.” And that's when you're going to have to talk with a mirror and reflect and think, all right, well, I don't want to take this thing. What is it that I want to build? Anything to add on that, John, before we move on?

JOHN: Most definitely I do, because I think that's just really important. So when I got into Jiu Jitsu, George, it was love at first sight. I was watching the UFC and then I went and did a class on Jiu Jitsu. And I'd always wanted an athletic endeavor. I just hadn't found that yet. I wasn't good at soccer. I never got picked into the rep teams, unfortunately, at the time.

Now, I tried boxing and my parents didn't want me to do that. I tried to do rugby league. My parents didn't let me do that. And then I was like 18 and I found Jiu Jitsu. And I was like, wow, this is something that I can really hone in on. And I can really take it and enjoy it and do something with it. And so I started off at SPMA, as it was known in the day, as Anthony Perosh and Elvis Sinosic school.

And that was a beautiful experience right there. And they did things a certain way. And then as a white belt, I flew off to Brazil to get stuck into it, into the Mecca of Jiu Jitsu or what I thought was the Mecca at the time. And I got to go to many different schools. I was traveling and I was using Jiu Jitsu as the vehicle to travel, really. So I'd go all the way up to the North of Brazil, to the South of Brazil, and all along the way I just stopped at different schools and trained and learned. And that was awesome.

I went to America and I went to the East Coast, West Coast, training and learning all there. And Europe, I've spent some time in Greece and Italy training there as well. And I think that experience really helped me just see how schools run and see what aspects of schools I liked and what I didn't really like. And I think Elvis and Anthony's school at the time, they were very successful. They're great businessmen.

And they built that school up to something that was a monster academy. I think it had definitely over 500, 600 students, I think at the time, within two venues. And I guess being a student there, you could see the nature of that, how it reflects in life, and I guess all the challenges that they faced. And at the time, I think I was a little bit critical, but I'm not critical anymore at all because I understand that because now I'm a school owner myself.

So I understand the dilemmas that we face. And so with Higher Jiu Jitsu, I'm just happy that I've managed to incorporate all the things that I love about our school. So as a super passionate, enthusiastic white and blue and purple belt, I came in and I've managed to create the school. There's still a few things that we can improve on. But right now, I'm very, very satisfied that we have the school that has all the beautiful things that I love about a Jiu Jitsu school.

Most definitely the culture. You go to different schools and within minutes you can feel the vibes. You can sense the moods of students and teachers and the Jiu Jitsu. And I love coming into Higher Jiu Jitsu and many students tell me that as well. I had a student come in last week that was like, “Man, your school, it's an electric vibe.” And that makes me really happy. And that's something that I really want to focus on.

Post-class when we're shaking hands after the class, well, now we get fist bumps due to the nature of the times right now. But with every fist bump, I'll call out my student's name. And I know every student's name at Higher Jiu Jitsu. And I hardly forget them, which I'm very proud of, but that's important. There's a lot of teachers that don't know their students because they have so many students that it just becomes impossible to really remember names, for example.

But I make sure that I know every student's name and every other student knows each other's names. And we've got a very, very nice tight-knit community. So I think just the fact that the experience of seeing different schools and now seeing the likes and dislikes has helped me create something that I thoroughly adore right now. That's Higher Jiu Jitsu. So anyone can come in. Everyone can feel it for themselves. Some people might not like it. So be it. And the people that like our school tend to absolutely love our school.

GEORGE: You seem very attentive to the feel, the culture. And I was actually going to ask you, how do you feel the mission statement plays a big role in the actual culture? But then you also mentioned that you know everyone by their first name and you call their names as you address them. I think we all do some form of a handshake and a fist bump. Attention to detail is what I'm hearing. But what else do you feel contributes to a great culture in your school?

JOHN: There's a lot to do with that, a lot of aspects of that. Here's one really big one: having everybody on the same page, going in the same direction. In 2016, we affiliated with Pedro Sauer Association. And prior to that, we didn't really… Well, I had a syllabus, but I had made that up myself. And there were a few holes in there and we weren't super certain about implementing it with every class.

Whereas now we have a syllabus and it means that every student is on the same path of learning. And of course, students can go to different seminars and students jump on YouTube and BJJ fanatics and try these different DVDs and different techniques. Of course. And that's not a problem. But the syllabus is the thing that guides everybody in that same direction.

So when you come into class, like the higher belts would help the lower belts. Because the higher belts know the techniques that we're practicing, they get to help them. And I think the knowledge has to go from the top down, as in I'm coming to class and I'm teaching and I'm sharing the technique of the day and the details that work for me and that are required for the technique to be on point.

But then you've got the higher belts taking over, and we'll call out the newbie, the beginners, and say, “Hey, come with me for this class. I'll help you out.” And then the newbie, they feel like they're well looked after. They feel like they're welcome. They don't feel like a burden to the rest of the class because they don't know anything. And before you know it, they're a part of the school, too.

And with that being said, the higher belts, they also get to learn and they also get to learn by teaching. So I think the fact that everybody's on the same page really, really helps. Whereas previously, we had, as you know, the Jiu Jitsu commune. I was actually promoting the fact that we don't have an affiliation. There'll be students coming in from different schools, different systems, different trains of thought, different philosophies, and it wouldn't create a cohesive kind of a group.

Everyone had their own ideas and it was a little bit just like, “This is what I do. Okay. This is what I do. This is what I do.” And you couldn't go deeper. I think the syllabus is just such a big help. There's a lot of other things that we do at Higher Jiu Jitsu, too. So when a member comes in and signs up, I tell them, “You're not just paying for Jiu Jitsu tuition, you're paying to be part of a community.”

So on the first Friday of every month, we have the hangout. And that's just when we go out for dinner and drinks. And I remember when I was like a white and blue belt, if somebody asked me if we managed to go to have some dinner after the training, it felt great. It was awesome. You get to hang out with your Jiu Jitsu friends. I always found that the conversation with Jiu Jitsu people was always free flowing and you don't ever have to try because if you never run out of things to say, it goes back to Jiu Jitsu all the time.

And just the best people you find on the mat. Everyone's awesome. The people who have the humility to have Jiu Jitsu as part of their lives, they're just great people that associate with Jiu Jitsu. So the hangout really helps to kind of get off the mat and have some other conversations outside of Jiu Jitsu and eat and drink together and have some fun. We do the Higher Hikes now that it's summertime.

So that's us going out on a Sunday and meeting up and having some time off the mats and hanging out together. And there's many, many aspects of Higher that I think really helped that culture. Most definitely. Does that answer your question?

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. I was fascinated just by your perspective of sort of top-down and I never really thought of it with… And especially in times of COVID, people spend a lot more time online and studying online and online Jiu Jitsu, online this. There's a Zoom class for pretty much everything. How do you feel that could impact?

If you've got sort of this top-down approach and you've experienced having this commune effect of just too many influences or too many perspectives, how do you feel that can actually impact the way you teach and the way you go about things if you've got the syllabus or more like a philosophy that you sort of stand by? And people are plugging into different philosophies all around and checking things and picking up different techniques. Do you feel that compliments or sometimes there's a bit of a clash or they need a bit of a course restructuring in the direction in that?

JOHN: I don't think it affects anything. Firstly, I'll mention, too, that I think the knowledge is top-down, but also bottom-up as well. On Fridays, George, it's a Lab Friday. So what lab is, is we come in and I don't have an agenda for the day. Every other class that I come in, I know what I'm going to share. There or thereabouts, the class goes a different route, maybe someone asks a question and it sends me on a loop into answering that person's question. That's rare though.

But Lab Fridays is when people come in and it's like a basic Q&A. So the white belt can come in and say, “Hey, I learned this on YouTube. What do you think?” And I'll say, “Yeah, that's pretty cool. Maybe you can think about this and this aspect as well.” So it allows for a lot more open-minded learning. And that's why I started the commune, because I wanted to be a bit more open-minded and I didn't want to have a super stringent focus on a syllabus.

And I think A, the syllabus that we have, it's evolving. It hasn't been stagnant. And every time I teach the syllabus, every time we go through cycles of the syllabus, it's a new me. All of our coaches are always learning. And we do courses ourselves and we learn ourselves as well. So the cross collar choke that I did yesterday would have been a different cross collar choke than we did three months ago.

There would have been many different details that added to it. And if the students are concentrating, if they're focused in on details, then they can see that the technique is always evolving, because that's what Jiu Jitsu does. Jiu Jitsu doesn't stay the same. It's always an evolving martial art. And if you can see here, that's our logo. Can you see that triangle?

The triangle, what we have is it's one part of the triangle, the second, and third part comes up and then it drops down. So it's not a closed triangle. It's a triangle that the top is always open and it allows for new techniques to come in and maybe some techniques to be jettisoned if they're not effective anymore. So I think our art is just an amazing one.

And I think if we stay stagnant in martial art, then just like in life, if you stay stagnant, if you don't want to learn anymore, if you don't want to develop yourself, then very soon you'll find yourself falling behind. And that's the same with our Jiu Jitsu as well. So with that being said, George, it's never been a problem. We've got some very enthusiastic students that always do their homework and always go beyond our program.

And I have no problems with that, as long as they're respectful to the class. So what I don't like to see if I'm teaching a cross-culture because I did last night, is to see two students doing something completely different because they want to. I don't think that's been a good student in that class. If you're going to come to the class, then focus, there or thereabouts on what the class is.

So if we're doing a cross collar choke and then you develop it into your own Apilado or a triangle that's kind of related to the cross collar, I have absolutely no problems with that. But if the whole class is doing guard and then you choose to do mounts because you're learning your own mount DVD, and it's not an open mat, it's a scheduled class, then I almost feel like you don't really need to be in that class.

So it hasn't been a problem at all whatsoever. If anything, I like students just going elsewhere. It shows me that they're keen to learn and that they're enthusiastic. I think sometimes, depending on your experience level, if you start looking a little bit too far beyond the syllabus, I think it can have adverse effects on your learning. So for example, the way, Phil, my teacher puts it to me.

He's like, “When I studied marketing at Macquarie, all the subjects of the Macquarie uni marketing degree, I did them at Macquarie.” Whereas if I had done branding at Macquarie and consumer behavior and New South, and then something else that Sydney Uni, then it really takes away from the effectiveness of the whole program.” So if you're a white belt at Higher, I'd probably advise you to go on to Pedro Sauer online. That's our online portal.

And we have Master Sauer and all the black belts of the association that share technique on that portal. And it tends to be more focused on our way of doing things on the mechanics that we do and the techniques that we have in the syllabus. And then I think as a blue belt and beyond, I think there's no problems whatsoever in you looking elsewhere. And then bring it back. Bring it back to the crew. Bring it back to the nest, share your knowledge, and then we all get better.

GEORGE: I love it. So we have a mutual friend who was on the podcast on episode 101 – Costa Prasoulas. Hello, Costa. And you seem to share a lot of similar philosophies. Is that due to your Greek heritage or is that something else that you just pay attention to?

JOHN: I don't know. What philosophies do we share? Cons is an awesome guy. His values are on point and he's a guy by the book. He's respectful and he's honorable and he's a school owner as well. And he's been in the game for a very long time. I guess I'm happy that I share similar views as him. But what in particular?

GEORGE: It's not something that I can actually put a finger on. It's just when I speak to you and when I speak to him, I can hear congruences in the values, just the way you approach things. Very attention to detail. Very in-depth. Very thought out. I mean, just a simple thing where I think most guys would go get a logo designed and you'd kind of just say to the graphic designer, well, just put something together.

And you'll just look at it and say, okay, that's good. Where you actually show a triangle where actually there's a purpose behind it. That's a very fine attention to detail level that most people just don't think of. And discussing your mission statement, the thought, and I think the real deep work that went into really thinking of this is exactly what this is supposed to communicate by itself without you having to say it.

There's a real in-depth attention to detail and values that come from that. I hope that I did it justice, but there's just some similarities there in the way you guys communicate.

JOHN: Yeah. Maybe it is our Greek backgrounds. All right. Let me kind of give you a little something. So Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, distinguished two aspects of learning: the ethos of something and then technique. So the ethos of something is, I'm probably going to botch it up for sure now, but just the overarching kind of idea behind it. How can I say it? The philosophy behind it, perhaps, and the way that you go about this particular thing.

GEORGE: That's the reason why?

JOHN: Yeah, that's definitely a part of it, too. And then you've got the how, which is the technique, which is the ins and outs of doing things. And I think it's really important that we have an idea of both. So Higher Jiu Jitsu has an awesome syllabus, for sure, full of really beautiful techniques. But if various techniques are done in a way that's not congruent with people's intentions of being there, then they're just techniques.

So what I'm trying to do here is kind of bring a beautiful ethos, a beautiful vibe, a beautiful feel to Higher Jiu Jitsu. And then within that, kind of add the technical aspect as well. And I think having those two aligned helps to create the fireworks of a beautiful Jiu Jitsu school. I don't know. Does that help, a bit of Greek philosophy in there?

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. You did it great. I don't know Greek philosophy, but for me, that sounds awesome.

 

JOHN: Well, Cons is really keen on his Greek philosophy. I think he dropped some knowledge in your podcast as well. Cons is awesome. I haven't gone to his school for a little bit, but I plan to go there again soon. It's just hard as a school owner. The night off that I have, I'm wanting to spend it with my kid and my wife, because usually I'm not home. But Con, I'll be coming to your school very soon again.

GEORGE: That's perfect. Hey, John, so good to catch up. Wanted to chat a bit, how are you going with your kid? How's the new little man in life affecting life?

JOHN: I'll tell you what, it's amazing. It's so beautiful. You think you love something and then a kid comes along and it's like, whoa, I've never felt this before. It's just a whole new realm that's opened up in my heart with this boy. And every moment that I spend with him is just a gift, that's so beautiful. Yesterday he rolled. He was on his back and he's been working on it a little bit.

I've seen him. He's trying to turn here and there and he could never really succeed with it. But yesterday, just by himself, I had him on his back and then I was in the kitchen and I came back and he was on his tummy. I was like, wow, that's awesome. So having a kid is amazing. It presents a lot of challenges, for sure, with regards to running a school.

I guess you've touched on it, George, I'm pretty thorough with my work and I love my work. And I put my heart and soul into everything that I do and I want to put my heart and soul into being a dad and into being a husband and into being good to my family. And then I want to continue putting heart and soul into the school. And it's just a little bit hard logistically because when I'm at home and I'm trying to do my writing, because I try to write every day, I try to write a thousand words a day so I can get my articles out so I can keep the pages of podcasts going and the emails have to be written.

No one's going to write them for me. So I'm trying to be there in the morning, trying to write my emails. And I can see Roscoe, my son, just staring at me and smiling maybe in the corner of my eye. It's so distracting and I want to just sit there and cuddle him and play with him for the next five hours. So it's difficult. It presents some challenges, but these are such beautiful challenges and I'm more than happy to kind of work through them and find a way and I guess work with my wife. It's teamwork. I think teamwork is really, really important.

Touching on that, I think teamwork is a big one. As school owners, I think we need help from other people. And I think a lot of the times I've fallen into the trap of trying to do everything by myself. Whereas now I guess I have no choice but to delegate. So I felt like there are some awesome students at Higher Jiu Jitsu that have aspirations of their own school.

So I'm bringing them in now and showing them the ways that I do things. And then hopefully there are some certain tasks and things around Higher Jiu Jitsu that I don't necessarily have to do. And so that's how I'm slowly trying to delegate to other students and then I can focus on the things that I do well, that are unique for me. And so writing those articles I think is an important one. I don't want to delegate that. I love doing that. Yeah. So it's just an ongoing challenge. As you know, you're a dad, how do you find balancing work and family life?

GEORGE: It's always a learning experience and being attentive. I mean, kids know only one currency and that's time. They don't understand work, this, that. Where I live, which was a good idea right before we had kids, this is a lounge converted into an office, which is great, but it has no door, which means my daughter will come and jump on the couch and I'm like that's gone.

For me, I mean, the big discipline is early mornings, just getting a solid, early routine in. I'm up between 4:30 and 5:00 and just knock out some hours of deep work, getting some creativity in. And if I can just set that momentum early, that just helps the tone for the rest of the day, that at least I've set that momentum. And then, yeah, once the kids are out the door, I have my space, then it's simpler.

I mean, it's always a juggle. It's always a challenge. I think just really trying to be when I'm attentive, to be attentive. The beauty of our life and probably the most disruptive in our lives as well, these mobile things, just really trying to put them aside and when I'm attentive, I'm attentive.

JOHN: That's the thing, because your attention is so important. And it's hard to direct your attention and you can't pull your attention left and right all the time, because I don't think it works like that. I think if you want to do deep work, as you said, I love that book, by the way, if that's what you were referring to; if you need that, then you need… I like having time gaps.

So I like working in an hour, at least two hour blocks, and really delving into the depths of the task or the job that I have at hand. So it is difficult, but that's all right. We manage and we live on. We continue and we do our best to kind of move forward with it and make it all a little bit better every day.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. Hey, John, it's been great chatting to you and good to catch up. I'm looking forward to getting on your mats again. Real quick before we go, if people would like to learn a bit more from you, where can they go?

JOHN: Hey, hey, hey, the Higher Jiu Jitsu podcast. That's where they can go. Can I plug it?

GEORGE: Of course, you can.

JOHN: Thanks, George. So it's me and me and my student, Matty. It's his birthday today. Happy birthday, Matty. We have the Higher Jiu Jitsu podcast, and I think we're about 28 episodes in. And it's plenty of fun. The why on the podcast is an interesting one, because sometimes it is for us just to come in and have a chat, but it's to help the everyday people on that journey of Jiu Jitsu, really.

And we take all different dilemmas. Sometimes a student will ask me a little question in class and I'm like, ooh, that'll make a nice podcast. Or if there are certain kinds of themes or patterns of problems that I can see, then that's our chance to open things up and work on the ins and outs of how to approach the problem and what to do in order to get better.

So the Higher Jiu Jitsu Podcast. Everybody, check it out. It's plenty of fun. I think it's cool – higherjiujitsu.com.au. If you're coming to Sydney, you're more than welcome. We're in Woolloomooloo. We're right just on the outskirts of the city, which is actually really nice. A beautiful school at the PCYC City of Sydney. So if you're ever in Sydney, come in. You're more than welcome. Thanks, George. Thanks for having me, man. It's been a pleasure to chat to you. Thanks for all the work that you do with the Australian Martial Arts Community. I think your work is making everyone better as well. So keep it up. It's awesome.

GEORGE: Thank you, John. Much appreciate it. And look forward to seeing you back on the mat.

JOHN: Yes. Perfect. Thanks, George.

GEORGE: Thanks, John. Speak to you soon.

 

Here are 3 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. Join the Martial Arts Media™ community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media™ Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like to work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

3. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

Podcast Sponsored by Martial Arts Media™ Partners

76 – Practical Tips On How To Grow Your Martial Arts School

Robbie Castellano from IMC Australia shares practical tips on how to grow your martial arts school.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How creating a 5-year plan grew Robbie Castellano’s school from 135 to 500 students
  • How local and international martial arts tournaments improve their student retention
  • The ultimate test for turning over your school
  • The importance of having an effective leadership program
  • How finding a strategic school location completes half of your marketing
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: G'day, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. I have today with me Robbie Castellano who is actually a returning guest. We won't get into the details why. He'll probably be a returning guest again, but this is the first actual official podcast we're doing together. So, welcome to the show Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thanks George. Glad to be here.

GEORGE: Awesome. So, just a bit of introduction. So, Robbie's based in Sydney. They run IMC Australia. And also looking at the website now, I'm seeing number one rated martial arts center in Australia as rated by ISKA. So, yeah, we're going to have a bit of a chat and hear what Robbie's up to. So, welcome to the show Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thank you George.

GEORGE: Cool. So, just give us a couple of minutes intro, just your background, what you've got going on, etc.

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically started as a kid. Went to a local karate school which is in Western Sydney. Started at the age of four, five. Trained up until I was a teenager and then started working part time for my instructor, teaching. Always loved teaching. So, it was always good to teach the kids and then eventually teaching adults. And then got to my twenties and decided I wanted to go and see the world, so I went traveling around the world for about seven years and I still came back home every now and then to teach a little bit, travel again before eventually settling and managing the school for my instructor and then eventually buying it out 100%.

GEORGE: Excellent. So, in the travels, were you actually instructing as well?

ROBBIE: Na, not really. I was always training, like I was in Thailand and Belarus and England and Colombia. I eventually stayed in Colombia for a few years where I eventually met my wife, but it was always just training, it's hard to teach in a different language.

GEORGE: Got you. I've always wondered if that's an opportunity for young kids if they are learning martial arts and they can instruct if there's an opportunity for them to actually travel abroad and just plug into different schools and instruct for a while.

ROBBIE: Yeah. I'm sure there would be, but I didn't do it, no.

GEORGE: Okay. So, from teaching to owning the school, how did that journey evolve?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically I was in Thailand to do a bit of training with my wife and my instructor had a … he gave me a call saying that he's had a few problems with his current manager and basically asked me if I want to take the reins and manage the school for him. So, I did. I got on the first plane back and started managing the school. We sat down and had a chat, worked out a five year plan. So, I would manage it for five years and then eventually buying it out which I now own. Yeah. So, when we took over, it was up to about 135 students when I managed it and we built it up to about 500 mark now. So, it's going well.

GEORGE: Got you. So, how do you feel that helped, as in having that five year plan and having a good structure and sort of knowing, alright, this is where you're going and I guess, maybe easier to make the purchase as well, sort of.

ROBBIE: That's it. I'm pretty fortunate that I had an instructor, Paul Zadro, as a good mentor. He already did all the hard work of going to the conferences overseas and learning the dos and don'ts. So, we basically sat down and it was like an apprenticeship. The five year plan was to learn the ropes, how to run the floor, run the business side and yeah, to help me eventually to buy it out. So, without that five year plan, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. So, we've designed that now in our whole IMC organization for the rest of the generation to come through and do the same thing.

GEORGE: Okay, fantastic. So, how does that look then? So, you've got the sort of five year structure where you know how to groom and educate and train people to take over location. How does that look? Do you … are you looking for that within instructors who can take that role or are you looking at that as more sort of an expansion type …

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, a bit of both. We've got our leadership program and those youngsters that want to come through to eventually open up their own school, we tell them, this is what you have to do. They've got to go through all the reins of being an instructor and then floor manager, program director and then a school manager and then and then the system is to buy out, if they want. We pay our managers fairly highly. So, if they’re happy to just keep their wage and that's fine. If they want to go bigger and more responsibility, we've got a plan to buy it out as well, for them to buy it out.

GEORGE: Got you. How many instructors have taken up that role, taken that path?

ROBBIE: Yeah. At the moment, myself has done it. We've got another instructor Mitchel who runs the IMC Wetherill park school. He's doing it at the moment. He's on the five year journey. We're about to open up another school in the West of Sydney, a young girl and she's going to start the five year journey as well.

GEORGE: On the five year mark, so, does that take 100% ownership or do you still sort of run under a type of franchise model or?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, the deal that I had was, I'll take over 100%. Okay? That was always the plan. My instructor always wanted that for me. I've been with him since I was a kid. So, he helped me out. I would want the same for my juniors that have been with me forever too. So, yeah, I was to buy it out 100%. It was still under the IMC organization, but our schools are separately owned.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, when it comes to … so, you have … you mentioned how many locations again?

ROBBIE: We now have four.

GEORGE: Four locations, all Sydney based?

ROBBIE: All Sydney based, yep.

GEORGE: All Sydney based. Okay. So, when it comes to things like marketing and the bigger picture, how do you guys go about that? Is that a team effort or do you still operate individually?

ROBBIE: Yeah definitely. Look, we're big on our organization with team effort. Be individually owned but we all work together. So, every Monday we'll come in, do a team meeting and we all throw out all our different ideas, marketing strategies, statistics, everything, and I think it's … it works in our favor because we've got a lot more heads together, create different ideas and to grow our schools all together. We swap and change instructors sometimes too. I'll send one of my junior instructors over to a different school for a week so they can pick up some new stuff and vice versa.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's super powerful. So, you almost have this whole mastermind group within your own organization and everybody can come from different angles and different perspectives.

ROBBIE: That's right. 100%. Yep. 100%.

GEORGE: So, how do you then take those … let's say, if we had to walk through it, you guys have your Monday meeting, somebody comes up with an idea, then what sort of a process of rolling it out within the schools? Would you trial something first at one school or would you just roll it out and run with it and access the results after?

ROBBIE: Yep. Look, every Monday we'll come through statistics, that's usually the first thing on the agenda, where we've lost, where we've gained and then we'll do our marketing for the month, what we're doing and then we always close the meeting with an idea. If someone's got an idea, we'll get that person to try it in their school, see how it goes and if it's successful, then we'll try it in the other schools. If it fails, then the other schools don't do it obviously.

GEORGE: Got you. So, can you say a bit more just about sort of that structure of that Monday meeting? So, you mentioned you've got statistics, you talk marketing, etc, is there anything else that you cover within moving the organization forward?

ROBBIE: So, we always talk about what we're doing that month. So, whether it's a life skill project or something like that, gradings or if we're doing seminars, how to organize that. But pretty basic standard meeting. Nothing too drastic. But it works. Everyone turns up and everyone is on the same page. That's important. If one ball drops, then the rest will crumble in the end. So, it's important to keep it all together.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, let's talk a bit more about … so, you're based in Liverpool right?

ROBBIE: Yes. Western Sydney. Yep.

GEORGE: Western Sydney, got you. I believe that now that we're talking about it, Paul Zadro, I did see him on the news taking on the political role. Is that right?

ROBBIE: Yeah. I think he's got to that stage in his life where he needs another challenge. He's a very successful man, so I think he wanted that next challenge. So, he worked for the local Liverpool seat. Unfortunately he didn't win, but I'm sure he had a good experience. He made a lot of contacts as well. It was actually good for us to watch it so it all works.

GEORGE: Got you. Actually, I did another podcast interview yesterday with Jim Morrison in Canada and he was mentioning their 15th birthday this year and the mayor’s coming along. I was like, hang on, you can't let that story just rest. How do you get the mayor to attend your birthday?

He said, no, okay, they actually train together, but it was interesting that he mentioned how much community evolvement that creates, because of having the … obviously having the mayor and the kids train there, but just getting really involved with projects that they do with kids with autism and sort of being on the forefront. Would that open different avenues for you within the martial arts school with having Paul in that position?

ROBBIE: Oh yeah, for sure. Look, it's just another way to get your name out there. You know what I mean? We had the New South Wales Sports Minister come to our school with this campaign and he came to see what we do in school, how do kids train. We did a couple of demonstrations for him and that goes all over social media as well. So, it's just another avenue of marketing and getting your brand out there again. So, yeah, it definitely helps.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, let's talk about Liverpool. So, we were just chatting about it earlier just … IMC Australia number one rated martial arts center as rated by ISKA. So, what's a big focus for you? Is it just … I guess let's start from the beginning. What styles do you teach?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically we're a multi-style school. We teach karate, kickboxing, MMA, jiu jitsu. Our main clientele is kid's karate. Probably makes up 70% of our school. MMA, jiu jitsu is just sort of an extra thing for people to come and kickboxing program is pretty big as well, but our basic main focus is kid's karate.

GEORGE: Got you. And then the competition component with that is?

ROBBIE: Yeah. ISKA a good organization that has multi-styles, so you can do from kickboxing to middle ninjas, five year old kids competing. So, we always start on the ISKA circuit. It's probably the biggest in Australia as well, covering all the different states and we've always had a strong tournament team going into these martial arts tournaments and most of the years, we always rate number one. That helps our students with retention as well. Sometimes kids get bored in their normal training, so they want an extra bit of push, so they join the tournament team and they'll compete.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, is that tournaments and things happening locally? Do you give students the opportunity to travel abroad?

ROBBIE: Yeah, pretty much. There's always a tournament nearly every month. Some are in Sydney, some are in the country. There's tournaments in Queensland, Melbourne, even in Perth where you are. I think Graham MacDonald runs the ISKA in WA. Every couple of years we take a team over to the US Open, compete over there. Last year we actually went to Jamaica for ISKA World Championships there which was awesome. I love traveling and when martial arts and traveling come together, I'm very happy with my life. Any opportunity to go overseas and take a team, we're onto it.

GEORGE: So, how did that help the team? When they go to a place like Jamaica. I spent a lot of time in Jamaica when I was in my young travel days when I was working on cruise ships. Crazy place, but it was always good fun. Just beautiful beaches and friendly people. So, when a team goes and they travel to a place like that, how does … what's the effect on just the culture and the team when they get back?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Well, you know yourself. If you're traveling and you go overseas, it's a whole new experience, you know what I mean? They get to see people from different countries, different styles, different ways of life. So, any type of traveling is good for anybody. You always come back a different person and I think it brings a team together as well. You spend a couple of weeks with somebody overseas on those tours, and it brings back a closer relationship too. So, it always works well. There's never a negative experience on these trips.

GEORGE: Got you. So, where are you guys headed as a … and you personally, you're part of the IMC group, what's the path forward for you?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, look, we've designed our leadership program to keep growing. All that school was of course anyone's goal is to also keep growing. My personal goal is to open up another school which we're in the frame of doing hopefully this year and then, yeah, just keep going. Do as much as possible and the sky's the limit.

GEORGE: You mentioned your wife trains as well. So, is it just you in the business? Is it family business or?

ROBBIE: Yeah. It's just me and my wife. She mainly does all the admin for the school which I'm pretty lucky because that's what she studied in university. So, it all planned out and worked together. She stays at home, I pretty much run the school. I've got my manager of the school, so I don't have to always be there. I try to have at least a couple of days off in the week to spend with my family, but it's all about the system. You've got to design those systems, then you've got to stick to them and make sure they work. As soon as one of those systems kicks out, it all falls apart. So, I think it's so important that you have those right and stick to it.

GEORGE: I'd love to ask you about that. So, you're mentioning, obviously you're preparing to go for a second school, so yes, your systems have to be in place and you mentioned, okay, you've got your wife involved, but you mentioned she doesn't really come to the dojos, just working at home.

ROBBIE: Behind the scenes, yep. She's not behind the scenes.

GEORGE: You've got family, you've got kids, right?

ROBBIE: Yeah, I've got two little kids, five and two. My son who's five, he trains and he's one of those karate kids that pretty much lives at the school and he loves it. So, I'm very grateful for.

GEORGE: So, how do you manage this and moving forward? So, you mentioned you're really clear about your systems and then your family time. So, how do you create that balance and especially knowing that you've got the new location coming as well?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Well, it all comes down to the right person, right? If you can open up another school, you wouldn't do it unless you had someone that you believe in that could do it. So, that's where our leadership program comes into place. So, we have a person now that's ready to step up, she's pretty much been managing my school for the last couple of years. I sort of stood back a bit to see how she runs it all by herself and she's proven that she can do it easily. So, we sat her down and asked her if she wants to move forward and open up another school and run that one and she agreed. So, she's in the process now of training somebody to replace her which is awesome. All about the systems.

GEORGE: So, let's say you're starting the systems, what are the core systems that you have to have in place before you feel that you're ready to open that extra location?

ROBBIE: I think, well, my instructor always told me as a test, if you go on holidays for a month and your school grows by that person that you've left in charge, then they're capable of running the school on their own. If it fails and you lose students while you're away, then maybe that person isn't. So, that's one little test we do. We make sure everyone's trained up.

Okay. So, we've got our leadership program like I said and we have different levels in that leadership program and if someone isn't up to standard in a certain area, we make sure that they need more training. We do our staff training once every couple of months, a big staff training or we make sure everyone's up to speed because there's always new casuals and new leadership members. We just make sure our standard's high and up to date.

GEORGE: And sort of the core system? Like the system of systems that the … the one thing that kind of steers everything and puts everything in place, what would you say that is?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, it's pretty straight forward like every other school. You know what I mean? There's so much information out there now. You can go on Facebook and see a whole lot of stuff even for free. It's funny because, like I go to the ISKA tournaments and I speak to so many school owners that are trying to do martial arts full time and I tell them all the different stuff, they like to go to an EFC conference for example.

I tell them they should go if they want to grow. And then they don't do it. You know what I mean? It's simple stuff that you can follow and they just don't do it and then they wonder why they don't grow. You know what I mean? So, yeah, just all the basic normal stuff that's out there. Follow the system that everyone has created. There's plenty of information out there.

GEORGE: Okay, cool. So, Robbie, you're well established, you guys have got … you tick all the boxes, you've got the systems, you've done your ten thousand hours and beyond in business. So, if you had to break it down, what advice would you give to someone going from zero to a hundred, a hundred to two hundred, two hundred to three hundred students, etc?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, first of all, if I was … first thing I'd do is find the right location. All our schools and even our future schools, we open up on a main road. So, that's half of our marketing already done for us. You can try to beat the rent and get something a little bit cheaper in the back alleys, but you're going to pay more in marketing. So, all our schools must be on a main road. So, that's one thing I'd be looking at. The next thing is, is I'll be trying to find the first person that walks into my dojo with leadership skills and I'd be starting to train that person to help and eventually put them on staff. That would be my first things.

GEORGE: So, location, super important, and then really identifying that leader from the get go. Anything else from that point?

ROBBIE: From there, if I started to grow my school, the next thing I would a hundred percent put in would be a leadership program, whether it's kids or teenagers, because that's going to be your core of your school of who can run your school for you while you can concentrate on other things to grow. So, I'll be a hundred per cent be all for leadership programs straight away.

GEORGE: That's gold right there. Good location, half your marketing's done, find your right leader and start focusing on the team building.

ROBBIE: Straight away. Yep.

GEORGE: Anything else you would add to that?

ROBBIE: From there, the school would grow because you would've trained your staff to how you want it, to follow the systems, I'll probably sign up with, if I didn't have an organization like I do, I'd probably sign up with … I mean, there's plenty of companies out there that help you, I'd kind of like to stick with the Aussie groups. I'd be signing up for that straight away as well because that's going to help you grow your school. These guys have got it all in place for you.

That's what I keep saying to these guys that I was talking about. It's already done for them. They've just got to sign up and follow it. They don't do that. That's why they don't grow. So, if you're serious about going to school, find a good mentor that's done it before and follow the system. It's not rocket science.

GEORGE: Do the work, right? Okay, awesome. So, one or two more questions. You mentioned your location in Liverpool, right? So, you're on a main road. It's also probably, on a wild guess, reckon that Liverpool has the most martial arts schools per square meter in the whole of Australia. So, what's your take on that, on the competition?

ROBBIE: It's true, there's so many martial arts schools right where I am in … I remember telling my instructor about it when he offered me the job. I said, oh, but there's so many schools around here, how are we going to compete? He pretty much said if you do the things that I tell you to do, you'll be the biggest and you won't worry about them. That's what we did and now we are the biggest. I've got a school that's 200 meters down the road from me and he's still successful. He's got I think about 400 students and I've got 500 students. It doesn't matter.

Would I be bigger? Probably. I probably wouldn't be able to fit everyone in if he wasn't there, but it doesn't affect this really any way. As long as you keep your school professional and provide a good service, people always come. Know what I mean? So, it hasn't bothered us, no.

GEORGE: Thanks for being … I'm going to ask one question and I've been contemplating whether I should ask this question, but I think it's worth talking about it, because it's a … I've got my take on this word and question and a lot of people do. I'm going to keep my appointment back, my appointment, my opinion for now and I'm going to ask this question on a few podcasts and see how it goes. So, here it is. McDojo. The word McDojo. What does that mean to you?

ROBBIE: What is a McDojo? What even is a McDojo? I've heard the concept before. People say if you're big and you're charging quite high fees that you're a McDojo, I reckon it's all crap to be honest. Okay? Because, I mean our standard hasn't dropped and I challenge anyone who hasn't got a big score or has a smaller score and think that their standard is higher, then bring that student in, and see if they can keep some of our students. I'll bet you they can't.

So, just because we're large and we charge a higher fee, doesn't mean our standards drop. If anything, I think our standards rise because if we don't provide a good service and keep a higher standard, then they'll leave and they can go down to the road to the $10 a week school, that's fine. So, I think it's a load of crap to be honest.

GEORGE: Love it. Awesome. Robbie, it's been great having you on. Where can people go to connect with you or find more about you?

ROBBIE: Yeah, you can see our website, www.prestonskarate.com.au or you can add me on Facebook at Robbie Castellano. You should find me on friends of all the high profile martial arts in the country. So, yeah, add me, I'll be happy to help you if you have any questions.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Thanks a lot Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thanks George, really appreciate it mate. You're a legend and it's awesome what you're doing, I love it.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

It's a private Facebook group and in there I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets. Things that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it's called the Martial Arts Media Community and an easy way to access it is if you just go to the domain name martialartsmedia.group. So martialartsmedia.group. G-r-o-u-p. There's not dot or anything. Martialartsmedia.group. Then we'll take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks. I'll speak to you on the next episode. Cheers. 

 

Here are 4 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. *NEW** – Premium Martial Arts Websites with Easy Pay Plans.

If your website is not delivering new leads consistently, doesn't represent your true value or you simply need to make a change. Click here for details and a demo.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

3. Join the Martial Arts Media Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

4. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

75 – Growing Your School With Video & Teaching Martial Arts For Special Needs (From A Wheelchair)

Jim Morrison talks about contributing to the community, creating content & teaching martial arts to kids with autism and special needs.

.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The surprising benefits of giving back to your community
  • How Jim Morrison teaches Taekwondo in a wheelchair to students with special needs
  • The importance of being genuine about your martial arts business
  • How to communicate effectively to your target ‘avatar’
  • Useful techniques in creating awesome martial arts videos
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

You know, just like martial arts, we all start as white belts, right. Every single one of us, the greatest martial artists to ever walk the Earth, started on their first day and they sucked. And you know, we have to really embrace the suck, right, that's what it is. We know how hard martial arts are, right, if you can't embrace the suck, then you're never going anywhere from there.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George Fourie, and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business Podcast episode. So today I'm speaking with Jim Morrison, all the way from Barrie, Ontario. How are you doing, Jim?

JIM: Awesome, how are you?

GEORGE: Very good, very good. Great to speak with you. This is the first time we've just been chatting before the show, and Jim's been going for about 15 years in his martial arts school, Champs Academy. And yeah, we're just going to have a conversation and add some value for you as the school owner. So let's jump in.

JIM: Awesome.

GEORGE: First up, Jim, just to … just give us a couple of minutes, who you are, what type of styles you teach, all the rest.

JIM: Awesome. We're a martial arts academy that primarily focuses on Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We've had our studio in place here in Barrie for about 15 years. Before that I was in the martial arts industry teaching for my instructor for many, many years. I think since I was 17, I was teaching. And then I started martial arts when I was about eight years old, so it's a long time ago.

And yeah, we've grown and grown. We started as a small school out of a community center that expanded to a small unit and then that unit grew, and now we're in a 10000 square foot space, yeah, and we're looking to open another two schools in the next two years, so yeah. We're programmed for growth.

GEORGE: Awesome, so 15 years, break that down a bit. So you got started with the same business that you've got now, 15 years ago?

JIM: Yes. So we've been, Champs Academy has been in business for 15 years, this is our 15 year anniversary, so we're actually going to have a big anniversary party this year, mayor's coming and everything so it should be really fun. But we started 15 years ago, it was a small school, we were just teaching out of a community center.

I always had aspirations to make this a full time career, at the time I was working construction during the day, and teaching at night. But you know it was always a big thing for me to be able to make the plunge, and make myself a career martial artist.

And it was just, I'm a growth minded person, and over the years the industry's changed a lot, but I've been able to try and stay on top of all the growth and all the changes over the years. And yeah, I think we've done a good job of staying on top of the pulse of our community, and it's helped us kind of grow.

GEORGE: Hang on, you're not going to let that off so quickly. You've got your 15th birthday party, but the mayor is coming. How did you do that?

JIM: So actually, the mayor is, his family's training with us now, too, but before that we'd also made contact because what we do in our community, we do a lot of outreach stuff in our community. I think that's really important, because if you want to be the go-to location in your area, you need to make sure that you're present in everything you can possibly be in your community.

So we do a lot of work in the schools, we offer free bully prevention courses that we go into schools and teach. We go in and do self defense courses, stranger danger courses, things like that. We do Cub Scout groups, anything like that we do big group areas.

We also work with a lot of special needs in our community. So the word of our club gets out in so many different avenues, even outside our own marketing. We're so well known in the community by now that when I approach the mayor, the mayor's office knows who we are, so it's easier for us to get our foot in the door and put our name on his schedule, right?

So that's something we've always tried to work at is that easy way to start our marketing, to start to open up to the community, and give back, and it's something that gives you back in return. So it's helped us a lot.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So you got … so you used that a lot as in a … I mean you probably can't use it as in the front of your marketing that you're taking the mayor along, can you?

JIM: Of course, you have to be respectful of the fact that he's going to fit in a job, and you're not the only thing he's dealing with every day. But I think whether it's the mayor, or we've got in contact with our local politicians in many different levels, and the big thing we try to do is be respectful of them, but we also encourage them to be part of what we do.

Even on small ways, whether it's sometimes we teach an autism group. And for example, autism in Ontario right now is, there's an issue with funding and things like that. So there's an opportunity there for us to a part of that, a voice in that community, because we work with a lot of autism groups, and that means we're on the page of the news as well.

So it helps both ways, obviously we're genuine about getting back to our community and helping these different groups, but at the same time, I'd be lying if I say it didn't help us in some way, because it does give us a voice outside of our club.

GEORGE: Yeah, it's such an underrated marketing strategy to just actually care and give, and if you do that, you can actually be surprised what comes your way. Instead of just thinking about, how do we get? How do you give, and things start to shape up for you.

JIM: Yeah, I think the ethics of what we teach, we always know that giving back is a part of that. We've all been taught that since day one in martial arts, but somewhere along the way when we start a business, we kind of want to put those ethics on a shelf or those ideas on a shelf. And I think if we explore them a little more, I think really there's a lot of benefit for our own club from giving back to our community, and doing anything we can, because it spreads the word of what we do.

And if that's the message of what we do, well, people connect with that. That's a passion that people connect with. And in this day and age, when people are inundated with marketing, and advertising, and flyers and media and commercials on TV, they have choices that they never had before, and when they hear somebody who's genuine and passionate about what they teach, and they see that they're somebody that cares about their community, I think that speaks volumes for what the product we sell is, and that's helping people get that message, too, right.

So I think we want to always expand in that general direction. It keeps in touch with my family's ethics, but as well as what I teach in the martial arts club.

GEORGE: Yeah, for sure. I'd like to talk a little more on that. I mean I work with a group of martial arts school owners called Partners, and a bit of our focus with marketing is … a lot of what you're saying is, how do you become an authority in your space? How do you stand out? And a lot about standing out is not by leading with the marketing of the offer, and how do you join, and how do you get a member in?

But rather, how do you give? How do you go that layer up, and how do you create content that provides value that connects with people that maybe they're a good prospect for martial arts, but they don't know it yet, or they have their problems that you can solve, but they don't know it yet.

Like you speak about autism, and I think most parents that have kids that have autism aren't thinking that martial art is the solution. So there's so much in your marketing that you can do, that is not about the offer, but it's about speaking to people on a higher level. So if you don't mind sharing, how do you go about speaking to groups that are potential prospects for your school, and how do you work within the community to get them through the doors?

JIM: Yeah, well that's a great question, because it's not an easy thing, because a lot of times it's even hard to find these specialty groups, even if you have the best of intentions. I think if we all started, the first time I ever started teaching any specialty groups is I was teaching Taekwondo, and I was approached by a parent that I was teaching the one son Taekwondo, and the other son was in a wheelchair. And she said something along the lines of, and I'm paraphrasing, “It's too bad there's nothing he can do like this, because it's helped my other son so much.”

 

And I said, “Well, if I had a group of kids like this, I'd be happy to do that,” and she said, “Well watch what you say, because I'm going to help you do that.” And the next thing I know, I'm in a rented wheelchair, teaching Taekwondo classes from a wheelchair, I don't actually have to use a wheelchair, thank god, but I'm teaching classes from a wheelchair to a group full of kids in wheelchairs. And it was such a great experience for me that I wanted to make sure that we continued to spread that message.

So then, when I had students that had autism, or I had a student that was in a wheelchair or something like that, we would highlight them. And what I mean by that is, any chance we got, not an advertisement, just to put something in the local newspaper, put on our website, put on our Facebook page, we're so proud of this student, and how far they've come. They are a leader in our school, and we're so proud of them, and to see how far they've come in their training.

And what we found was, a lot of people responded to that because just seeing that, hey, you know what, this is not something that is elitist just to the athletic kid from school. This is not just a … you know, martial arts, we have a horrible reputation. We have the worst … outside of our clubs, the marketing is horrendous. Most people think we, as people, are thugs, and we're tough guys, and we're all those other things, when the reality is we're almost the exact opposite of those things. Because the ethics of what we grew up with taught us to be so much more than that.

So I think it's up to us to break that wall down, and show people that everybody can do it. And that was kind of where we went with it, and right now we have three or four different special needs groups that we teach, specialty classes only for each of them, on top of the kids that we teach in our regular program that are special needs as well. It's become a niche for us, not intentionally, just because we're trying to reach out to the community that we serve.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So do you actually then teach in a wheelchair?

JIM: Yes. I actually sit in a wheelchair, and like I say, I don't use it, and if you want to be humbled … If you ever want to feel humble, try and teach kids that actually sit in a wheelchair all day how to do things from a wheelchair. And muscles in your arms that you're not aware of, and your shoulders, will start to hurt in a way that you have not had any experience with, because they're so much stronger than we are at using their arms in different ways that we haven't had to use them in. So it's actually very humbling experience, but it's also very … I don't know, I guess it's something that I love doing. Something passionate for me.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So tell me a bit more about that. So how do you then adapt, adjust your whole class structure, and like, what kind of strains does it put on you, and how do you prepare for that? How do you go about teaching a class from a wheelchair?

JIM: Well, whether it's from a wheelchair or any other special needs group, the first thing we always do is we have a system that our instructors use, and it's basically, it's our own self-assessment more than it is theirs. And what we look at is, we say, okay, what is the highest functioning action we can expect from this group, and it's usually higher than they actually think they're capable of.

So what do we think that is, and we have to draw a picture of what that specifically looks like for whatever group we're looking at. And then we look at the lowest functioning factor, and we say, okay, we have to meet them here, but we want to get them there. So we have to start to look at the physicality, very often the communication is a big factor, because like I say, we have a Down's Syndrome group as well, you know, they're not going to pick up on the same gestures and movements that you and I would in a class. Even the specifics of how you're holding your hand, things can be different depending on the physicality and the mental capabilities of the group that you're teaching.

 

And that's not to diminish where they're going to be going; it's just to say where the starting point is. So we always have a little chart, we do that, and that way any of the instructors that are, if another instructor's going to teach that, they can look at that chart and decide where on that chart they're going to focus that day. And of course, it can vary day to day, too, 'cause as any instructor knows, teaching any group of kids, there's days they come in ready to learn, and then there are days they come in, and I don't know who gave sugar to all these kids before they walked in here, but they washed it down with coffee. So on those days you going to do what you going to do, right?

GEORGE: Yeah. Definitely. Okay, so now … And just to clarify, so this is teaching Taekwondo classes, or Jujitsu, from the wheelchair? Or both?

JIM: The wheelchair classes are all done for Taekwondo specifically, it just lends itself a little easier to the techniques we teach. We see that the kids get a quicker grasp of the movement, and therefore they're encouraged. Of course, most physical situations that a kid is facing if they're in a wheelchair, they're very aware that they're working from a deficit of some kind, so one of the first things we have to do for all these kids, and this is the same for any kid, is build their confidence.

So they need to see some progress. Just like any kid would, right, so we just have to look at it from that same standpoint we would be teaching any kid off the street, and just say, hey, we need to build their confidence, so they know they can do this journey.

And then from there you can lead them down the journey you want, but if they don't believe in it, they're going to give up pretty quickly, regardless of whether they're in a wheelchair or special needs, or they're fine, and they just need to get started in martial arts, right? So we need to build that confidence before we step anywhere.

JIM: Sorry, that's why we find some of the Taekwondo techniques lend themselves a little easier to that.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And that was actually my next question, and I think you've probably answered it, with how does the mind-set differ? The mind-set of someone that has the special needs versus a normal child, and do you have to change the process of how you get them to instil that confidence in themselves?

JIM: Very often, yes. Because like I say, they face more challenges. I mean that's … things that we don't even think about, you know. When you pull up to a building, you and I don't have to figure out what part of the curb we have to get to, to get in a building. Something that simple, and those kind of things weigh on a person, you know, just think about all the things that weigh on us when we hit traffic, and it's slow, or things like that. Well you know, they're facing that plus when they get to the plaza they're going to, they can get in the door because they don't have a dip in the curb big enough for the wheelchair.

So you have to take into consideration what you're facing, so I think a lot of times, for us that's the biggest piece. For kids that are facing any more challenges than the average kid, whatever it is, like I say, start with that confidence piece and build from there, because the more success they could feel, there's nothing like seeing a kid break a board, right, but if you see a kid break a board who didn't think he could possibly break a board, there's something that changes inside you as a person when you see that, right, you get to be a part of something special.

And that's something, I think, that they experience, but also you as an instructor experience. So there is a mind-set we have to get past, and I can't attitude that we have to get past, because they really can't do a lot of the things that everybody else takes for granted. So we've going to get past that and give them some confidence, and give them some successes.

GEORGE: Yeah. I mean think about that next time you're stuck in traffic, you know? How tough life is.

JIM: Yeah. You know, we think about that with all our students. We try to … One of the things, getting back to the point we were saying is teaching from a passionate place, I think we try and talk to our instructors, and our staff and we say, look, you can't fake this thing we do. We don't have the kind of job we can call in, whether we're teaching anybody, an adult, a kid, we don't know what these people face in their daily life, and we could be the best thing that happened to them today. So we can't bring half an effort. We have to bring the best effort, and I think if we do that, it translates.

And like I say, in this day and age, people have choices they never had before. I started in the 80s, and my parents put me in the martial arts club that was closest to my house. That was it. That was their precursor for hiring a martial arts instructor for me. And it worked out great, I was very happy with it, but it could have easily worked out horribly, 'cause now that I know the industry a little bit better I know there's good and bad in everything. And our industry's no different, right?

GEORGE: That's it. So Jim, what's been the biggest shift for you over the last 15 years, from where you started up to now?

JIM: Well I think the biggest thing is to go to the idea of marketing. I think marketing, when we first started, first of all, like I say, they didn't have … people didn't have as many choices. There was one or two martial arts clubs in town, and even if the martial arts were something that the parent couldn't pronounce, if it was the closest thing to what they thought it was going to be, they just signed the kids up.

Nowadays, with the internet, it's a great thing but it's a curse, and it's a great thing because people have more choice, they have more variety, they can test drive things before they do it, they can go and look inside your facility before they get there. But it's a hard thing, because if you don't quite know how to communicate that to people, I think that you're missing out on clientele that they should be in your facility, they should be training with you.

And I think that's probably the biggest change in marketing, is getting a hand on what happens on the internet, whether it's your website, or social media, or specifically Google Analytics, and all the details. Getting content out there so people can taste test what you're doing, and they have an awareness of what you do. And the more we can do those things; those things I think are the big change over the last 15 years.

It used to be me and my students with flyers going door to door, nowadays, if I get a flyer I do what everybody else does, and I put it right in the recycling bin, and that's about the end of that. But we get so many clicks per video we've put out, and so much interest off Facebook, and our website, Instagram … That's the wave of the future. If you can't … You really have to get professionals on your side as far as what kind of web presence you're having, and that'll make a huge difference.

GEORGE: Definitely so. So do you have a … I guess when I hear the things that you have going on, you've got this big pool of ideas just sitting there to create content from. Do you have a specific strategy that you follow? To create content for your school?

JIM: Yes, well first of all we look at … The biggest thing is, we communicate what we do. So again, it's about being honest. Stick to the virtues that we teach every day. If we want to be honest about what we do, and what we don't do, I don't create MMA fighters. There are great clubs for that and I think it's fantastic, I fought MMA for a few years, but I don't want my kids to do it, so I don't teach it in my school, 'cause my kids are a very big part of my school now.

So I want to communicate exactly what we teach, so what we teach I want to show people the quality of what I teach, I want to give them a taste of what the class looks like, or feels like. I want them to see whatever my strengths are, I want to make sure I magnify those, and I want to make sure that I'm reaching the people that are looking for me. So again, that's about knowing you’re … I don't know if you guys use the same term, but we call it an avatar, which is your ideal customer.

So we always keep the ideal customer in mind and try and keep our content specific to reaching them as well. So it's two sided, it's making sure we're honest about what we're putting out there, but we're also making sure that we're targeting our avatar, so we're not wasting energy and money pretending we're something we're not.

GEORGE: Gotcha. Now I know that for a lot of schools, I know it's a bit of a … people get stuck when they want to create video, and I think even though martial arts school owners and instructors are super confident and know how to run and teach a class, there's something that just, there's this barrier that gets stuck when it comes to creating video and getting confident with that process. What was it like for you getting started with video, and how did you venture through any obstacles to get it in motion?

JIM: Yeah, well that's a great question 'cause I really sucked at it at first, so that's a great question. When we first started doing content and things like that, I really didn't know what to videotape, and I would just take my phone and videotape part of a class, and post it. And do the kind of things like that.

And it got mixed reviews, sometimes I'd get people saying, “Oh, that's a great thing,” or sometimes I'd videotape a class, and didn't realize that it looked a little hectic, 'cause I was taking a video of the part where they were having some free time. And so somebody else, they're like, “Wow, that doesn't look formatted or structured at all,” and now they get a bad taste of what we do.

So I didn't really know what to do. So I have to give credit where credit's due, my son, I have a … So I have a big family, I'm the proud dad of seven little kids, so.

GEORGE: Awesome.

JIM: I have seven kids, yeah, and my oldest son is 19, and he's now running our head office, and he's of course a little more in touch with technology than I am at 44. So he started getting really involved in what we videotape, and he's really good at researching what works out there. He started following some industry leaders, which I always recommend. Look for people that you know, whether you teach Jiu Jitsu, or you teach Taekwondo, or whatever you teach. Look for people anywhere in the world that are, who's got the most views, and who's popular for other people to watch.

Go and watch your heroes, the people you see who win tournaments and things like that, why are they getting views? You know and sometimes, we as martial artists want to give it the quick answer, “Well that's easy for that guy, he's Chuck Norris's student,” or something silly like that. Or, “That's easy for that guy, he's a world famous Jiu Jitsu fighter, it's Kit Dale,” or somebody like that. But it's not just the big name, right, it's making sure what people are really watching Kit Dale's site for is going to be those great Jujitsu tutorials, or those little pieces where they get a taste of something they want to learn.

So if you can mimic what they greats do, you don't have to know how to do the great content, you're just going to find your own niche inside that. And then I think, really, like I said to go back to, is being honest about what you offer. If you're not a Jiu Jitsu program, you know, don't model yourself after one, model yourself after what you really are targeting. And then you can specify to your avatar a lot easier.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And I'll probably add to that, because that also, and what I see is creating an obstacle. Because sometimes you look at your peers, and you look at the guys that you aspire to, but they're already at such a high level, and now you're entering this video realm and your expectations are to be exactly like they already are. And I think that puts a bit of a big roadblock in, because you want to get started, and just be perfect at it, but you've going to run the reps, right?

JIM: You know, just like martial arts, we all start as white belts, right. Every single one of us, the greatest martial artists to ever walk the Earth, started on their first day and they sucked. And you know, we have to really embrace the suck, right, that's what it is. We know how hard martial arts are, right. If you can't embrace the suck, then you're never going anywhere from there. If you could ever take a video of what it looked like your first day of martial arts, how proud would you be looking at that based on your current knowledge of martial arts? Well, you'd be almost embarrassed instantly, right?

Well it's the same thing with your first video. It's going to suck, but that's where you start. That's your starting point, and if you're not willing to take those steps and make those efforts, and try something new, try this, because if you haven't done social media marketing, and you haven't done it well, then you're not going to be able to go anywhere. But in that same breath, there is market leaders that can direct people, there are professionals out there that are really great, making sure you have a good website. Go to people, they're specific to our market in martial arts, and they design great websites that already attract great Google traffic.

There are people that already know how to use Facebook, and they can give you guys, anybody tips out there on how to find those little niches that they can target. You know, there's a lot of different resources out there, but just like martial arts, if you're not willing to go out and try these things, if you're not willing to go out and learn from somebody that's maybe a little further ahead than you, then you're going to stay a white belt, right, just like you would in a martial art.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's so true. I love that saying, and I heard that the first time in High Performance Habits, from Brennan Bechard. Embrace the suck.

JIM: Yeah, I read the same book. That's another thing I think is very important too, is martial artists, we're designed for growth. We have to realize, as martial artists, you and I, we should be constantly reading and listening to podcasts, and if you're not growing, you're dying. We have to really start to look for more things out there that can inspire and encourage us to grow, and become better at what we do. ‘Cause that's what we're doing here, that's what we're selling, so it's a lie if you're not doing it yourself.

You don't want to stand up there and tell everybody, “Growth is important, prove yourself, do these things,” and then you're going home to watch the same TV program and fall asleep in bed doing the same thing you did for the last five days.

I try and do something each day, just to grow, I don't think it's too hard, I think you can find some podcasts, or watch some videos online, or whatever you need to do to feel like you're making steps forward. And that kind of thing too can give you a little bit of confidence to take another step too, 'cause you can find people that are doing those things out there that you want to follow.

GEORGE: I love that, and I'll just add, one thing I'm noticing about you is, you're just doing what … you're just being true to yourself. And it's a big component of the things that we teach in our Partners program, we always talk about how do you create content? Well, just do what you do. If you have yourself in check, and you are growing, and you are being true to yourself, and you've got integrity, and you've got all these attributes that martial arts teaches, talks about, and you are living that, then just live it. Just live it, be it, and let that become your marketing. Let that become the way you spread your message.

JIM: Yeah, and then it just comes down to communication. And then it's just finding the avenues for communicating what you do. And then being honest with that, and putting it out there, right, like we just … I just spend the entire afternoon with my son, we were videoing different content for social media, we should have enough now for the next six months off of today's. Tiring day.

GEORGE: Awesome.

JIM: But yeah, great stuff, and but the thing was, I make a point like, because we don't teach high end MMA, for example. I'm using that as an example, but if you do, I mean, great, that's what you should focus on, and you should make sure you're communicating that. So there's no judgment on it, I just say that that's not what I sell. So because I don't sell that, I try to make sure each thing that I put out there is directly representative of what you would see when you walked into my club. So that means that when you walk into my club, you're already qualified to yourself as a customer.

So by the time I'm reaching these fingers out into the community to bring in people into our club, people that walk through my door, people that call me, people that email me, people that send us Facebook messages, which happens all the time, daily, all that stuff is already qualified as genuine leads because they know what we do. I've already given them a sample of what I do, so, and it's easy to find if you search me up, you'll find me everywhere. Instagram, Facebook, all over YouTube, everything, and that's purposeful. Because it's not, I'm not bragging, it's not something that I'm better than the next person, it's a window.

It's not about how good I am, it's a window into my club. So when you see that window, you can look in, and if it's not for you, you can decide that too, but if it is, you've already qualified yourself as somebody that would be interested in what we do. So we're not selling cars here, we're selling martial arts. If somebody walks through the door, if they make the effort to do that part, and we've done the advertising right, you should have 80 to 90% sign up rate minimum.

I mean that's a given, because if you've done a great job of your marketing, they're coming in for that, what you're selling. So they're already almost buying. They've got their wallet in their hand, they want to buy your product, so it should be an easy conversion at that point.

GEORGE: Just don't stand in their way.

JIM: Yeah. And make sure you know when to shut up, and you know when to talk, and you know when to answer questions, and you know when to listen, right?

GEORGE: That's it. Love it. Hey, so Jim it's been great speaking to you, and it sounds like we could speak another couple of hours, but we might do that on another one. What I do want to ask you though is, what would you do different? Going back over the years, what you've done, what's the one thing that you would tweak or look at differently in a way, moving forward, if you had to start all over?

JIM: I think what was really intimidating for me was a lot of the stepping my marketing to different angles, doing things that I hadn't done before. Because just like you're saying, I was intimidated at first, and when I first stepped into it I knew I sucked. I could watch other people do a much better job, and I didn't really understand that. I think I would just be a little gutsier with the going for that stuff, especially social media stuff. It's almost free. It's so cheap compared to any other marketing.

So I think what I would do if I could go back is spend more focus on those kind of things, and just do that, get that message out there more. I think I was a little bit too silent for too long with that, and now that we've got that ball rolling, we see the results of it, and it's great.

GEORGE: Love it, yeah, it's just something you've going to nurture and be patient with, and I guess just stay clear of all the distractions. I mean there's marketers pulling you in so many directions, and so many ideas, but it always comes down to the … I always, and I can't recall who mentioned this to me, but one of my coaches mentioned to me, always look at what people do, versus what they say.

JIM: Yes.

GEORGE: Which, people might be telling you to do this, but they're doing something completely different.

JIM: Yes.

GEORGE: And I think it's just important to focus, do the hard work. The hard work is creating the content, fine tuning your message, and looking after yourself. And if you can get that through, and be patient with it, you're going to build a following and it's going to start … that's where you get the whole snowball running down the mountain, and it just catches momentum. And you've got leads coming in from everywhere, and after a while you can't track where, it's just happening.

JIM: Yes. And I think that's the trick. Just get started, just go for it, just start putting your word out there. And like I say, be genuine with what you're putting out there, watch people that you trust, and watch what they're doing. And again, like you say, don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. Go follow them. Go follow them on Instagram, go follow them on Facebook, and you know what, the thing is that this day and age you can find all that information so easily, so you just have to be willing to take that next step and go for it, and follow the right people, and even make mistakes along the way. Be a white belt, embrace the suck, do your thing and just go with it, right?

GEORGE: Love it. Jim, been awesome speaking to you. If anybody wants to know more about you, and what you do, where can they go to find out?

JIM: Anybody can contact me anytime, I love helping people in my community, I love helping people in the martial arts community, so my email is direct from our website, so www.champsacademy.ca, or info@champsacademy.ca is our email. You can email me through there, I'm on Facebook as well, you can look for, I'm Jim Morrison, I know everybody's going to remember that, and I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram, I'm everywhere, so look for me there, and I can even put you in contact with my son, who handles a lot of this stuff as well, and he'd be happy to help. That's part of our mission.

GEORGE: Awesome. Fantastic, Jim, look forward to speaking to you again in the future.

JIM: Yeah, anytime.

GEORGE: Awesome, cheers.

JIM: Cheers.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

It's a private Facebook group and in there I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets. Things that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it's called the Martial Arts Media Community and an easy way to access it is if you just go to the domain name martialartsmedia.group. So martialartsmedia.group. G-r-o-u-p. There's not dot or anything. Martialartsmedia.group. Then we'll take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks. I'll speak to you on the next episode. Cheers. 

 

Here are 4 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. *NEW** – Premium Martial Arts Websites with Easy Pay Plans.

If your website is not delivering new leads consistently, doesn't represent your true value or you simply need to make a change. Click here for details and a demo.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

3. Join the Martial Arts Media Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

4. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

13 – A World Class Australian Jiu Jitsu Jetsetter’s Perspective On The Perfect Martial Arts Gym

She travels the globe, dominates tournaments and is the driving force behind Australian Girls in Gi. Here's BJJ Black Belt Jess Fraser's story.

14697302_10153902630630779_273388180_o

IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The necessity of female martial artists sticking together to overcome challenges
  • Cross training in other martial arts gyms: great for community or a retention killer?
  • How male martial artists can improve their teaching skills with the ladies
  • What injuries can teach you about training martial arts
  • What the meaning of a true martial arts family is
  • The one core skill set martial arts instructors need to drive transformation
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

TRANSCRIPTION

You wouldn't believe: I walked in with this sling on and these guys, they remember you and they remember your whole name and they remember everything about you and they run across the room to hug you. It’s just the most incredible thing.

Hello, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media podcast, episode number, lucky  13. Today I have a different guest with me – different in the sense of, not a martial arts business owner, although she has a leading organization within the martial arts industry and she's also a martial arts expert, Jess Fraser. And once again, the attempt was to go one angel and the conversation really evolved into some deep elements and there's some real gold there for you as a martial arts business owner.

The reason why I want to do interview Jess is because she's quite the jet-setter. She travels all over the world, I've been following her on social media for a while and if she's not in New York, she is in Canada, she's around America, Las Vegas. She is in Bali, she's in Melbourne – so she's truly living the martial arts lifestyle of just being passionate about training and learning, and also, have a great organization, Australian girls in GI, which we're going to talk more about. 

So, first up, some news and what's been happening. You might have seen posts around, depending on when you're listening to this of course, about a survey that we've been running at martialartsmedia.com/survey and it's all about discovering what it is that you as a martial arts business owner need or struggling with, your pain points and what the obstacles are. Then we can find out where things are going wrong, what do you need help with: then we can interview better guests and of course, we can deliver better content and better solutions and the result of that is putting together a web class that is going to be invaluable by the way it’s going now.

And I'm not saying that to toot my own horn here: it’s shaping up to be a very valuable piece of information that I'm going to give away for free that most people would be charging a lot of money for. That's just from comparing to what the information that is floating around the internet at the moment and what people have been told to do with marketing their martial arts school, I can tell you that it could be a good game changer for you. And that's not me to hype up the training, it's truly a decade worth of experience and other people's experience that has gone into this.

So, I'm really looking forward to releasing that. Depending on when you're listening to this, we'll keep this survey going, because no matter when you're listening to this, we'll keep it running so that we can keep adjusting our approach and keep interviewing more guests and keep optimizing the delivery of our content, which is what you would probably have seen in the solo type shows coming up and the solo videos: it’s all based on the feedback that I'm getting through this survey. So thank you for that if you have completed it.

If you haven't, it’s at martialartsmedia.com/survey, it will take you about two minutes – much appreciated if you can do that for us. If you're enjoying this show and you would like to leave us a review, we would much appreciate it, it truly helps us in the rankings. You can go to martialartsmedia.com/itunes, I put the link there, so martialartsmedia.com/itunes and that will lead you to iTunes, just leave us a review. A five-star review would be magic, but an honest review would be appreciated. All right, so that's it from me, please welcome to the show Jess Fraser.

Good day everyone. Today I have with me a different guest. If you've been following the podcast for a while, we've been talking a bit to martial arts business owners, martial arts school owners and getting their perspective on how they run their business, how they do their marketing and all the rest. So today I wanted to turn the table and I wanted to bring in an expert martial artist, but not just anyone: someone who travels the globe, truly lives the martial arts lifestyle. I don't think she's ever in Australia – well, I did catch her in Australia now and I want to welcome you to the show, Jess Fraser – how are you doing today Jess?

JESS: Great George, thanks for having me.

GEORGE: All right, cool. So a bit of an intro, but first and foremost, from your side, who's Jess Fraser?

JESS: That's a big question, isn't it? I guess for the purposes of today, the easiest answer is: I am a black belt, I have recently received my black belt from my coach Justin Sidelle, who is based out of Bali MMA. He's an American guy, he's from San Fran and he's now based out there, so that sort of sums up what I'm like. I'm quite international and a bit of gypsy, which some people think is a bad thing and I think is a really great thing. But yeah, I travel the world training  Jiu Jitsu . I've been based out of Australia for a long time, but for the past 14 months, I've been traveling exclusively for  Jiu Jitsu  and plan to do so for the next year or so again.

I'm a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu , I'm also the head and founder of a huge organization called Australian Girls in Gi, which is Australia focused, but of course has female members from all over the world. And basically, we're a gym and affiliate neutral community organization that fosters the growth and development and retention predominantly of women in the sport of Jiu Jitsu . So that's kind of being my greatest achievement in life, both of those two things. And I'm living the life based on them.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. We're definitely going to expand on the girls in GI, but for now, just a bit more about your martial arts career. You do travel a lot, so I take it there's a lot of competition involved in tournaments?

JESS: Yes, well, there was. I started competing very early on, I think 10 months into my journey, I was doing the ADCC trials and came second in that. And then about a year later, I was later in Abu Dhabi representing Australia as a blue belt, so it's been a lot of competition for me, but mainly it was because I felt like to lead an organization like I wanted to, I really needed to be an authority in some way.

And because I didn't have the belt that I wanted to be the leader that I wanted, I felt like I had to prove myself through competition. And I guess over the years I realized that maybe don't mean as much as how you treat people and what you give to the community and how you are within the community, you know? Maybe it does, but you don't need to exclusively be a competitor to be a great leader.

At the time as a blue belt or a purple belt or a brown belt even, I felt like I needed to compete a lot, so my competing was prolific. I've been to Abu Dhabi three times, I won the trials three times, which is a pretty good run. I'm a NAGA champ and all that kind of stuff, I've done a bunch, like the advanced division of NAGA or whatever, I've been to the world's a bunch of times and I've won medals there. And I've won medals once I've gone over to Abu Dhabi, I've done all that kind of stuff. I've never taken the top spot, I would love to, but at the same time, I'm in the game, you know?

I'm running with the pack and I'm proud of that, and I've been at each belt level. Yeah, that's kind of being me as a competitor. I have a background of, I came from a background of teaching krav maga, I was an instructor in that for a long time and before that, I was a yoga instructor. So my life for the past 13 years has been quite physical and the last 10 years has been in self-defense and martial arts as a whole.

GEORGE: OK. I find it interesting that you say that you had this bigger vision all along and that you felt that doing all these achievements in martial arts was what's going to allow you to be recognized as that leader. Am I right in saying that you didn't really feel you could be the leader that you are with your organization based on your martial arts credentials?

JESS: Yeah, I felt like, maybe it was just a personal perception, but in Australia, I'm the 12th female to earn her black belt in Australia. We couldn't even fill a bus, you know? There's not many of us and there're not many brown belt women, so it's really quite new in Australia to have a female black belt at the table, as it were. There are so many male black belts here, the community is actually really strong and really large, but as far as females, not so much. I sort of felt a bit of a , who are you, but who do you think you are, to start this organization that was a bit challenging for some of the old school guys.

And I say guys, because I mean the guys, it wasn't the women who were stopping me from doing it. There was  a lot of pushback about creating an organization that was about breaking down the walls of cross training and really bringing women together to train. Now, I had to. It's not like Australian Girls in Gi was aimed to only be, oh, we're all about unity and all gyms should come together. The fact of the matter is there was just the only female at each gym, so if we wanted to train with other females, it was out of necessity.

That kind of cross training and all welcome policy, it's not that I was ever going to exclude anyone, but we desperately needed the coaches that were men to give us the green light on that, you know? It's only just now in the last year or so that female coaches are emerging in Australia of higher rank. I felt that as a lower rank, I didn't have the authority of the black belt or the 20 years in martial arts or whatever. I did have a lot of experience in yoga and krav maga, but we all know that that's not necessarily transferable, definitely not physically.

I felt like I had to do my time and earn the respect of the community, and whether that be proving myself out on the mats, or proving myself with my rank or the quality of my  Jiu Jitsu  or whatever, I just felt like I had to just not get anything wrong, you know? Not cause any dramas with anyone, try not to cause any politics, just really toe the line so I can let this thing happen. I also think that even if I was a competitor that was losing a lot that would be cool for the community too, at least they'd see me trying and failing and that in itself would lead other women that wanted a hero in that department as well, you know?

So either way, it would have been fine, I need to be trying, I needed to be perceived to be trying, so I could be really a part of the community. From the get go, from my very first competition, I competed, and then I was straight on one of the tables saying, hey, do you need some help and I was always volunteering and I was helping on events, from the get go, just trying to be as proactively involved in the community as possible, whether that be out on the mats or reffing or whatever – I just needed to be everywhere to try and make this thing happen for Australian girls in GI. And it worked, whether my process was right or wrong, it doesn't matter, we've ended up in a really great place.

GEORGE: Ok, it's got to be hard to avoid politics – I said we'll get to this later, but we're talking about it now, so we might just expand to it and then go back to the other stuff we want to discuss. I can see how there's got to be some politics and a feel of a business threat of a way, there's this organization under your own organization and what does it involve? How do you get this message across, to explaining to people what it is about and how it might benefit their organization with Australian girls in GI?

JESS: The thing is, the gyms that aren't open to cross training and aren't opening their doors either way, in or out, just aren't involved and that's totally fine. I'm not a missionary, I'm not trying to convert them. If that's what that style of gym requires, that's totally what they want to do and I'm not interested in pushing back on that, I'm not trying to make a change, I'm trying to foster help for those women out in the community that doesn't have another female to train with and their coach is like, you know what you need? You need to roll with another chick! I want to be able to solve that problem for her.

So the gyms that are really into it and feel safe and secure with open doors policy or a visitors policy or travelers policy, they're really involved. And what we can say absolutely is proven, is I can prove to you student retention. So if you're a coach and very often business owner, which is often the same person, I can prove to you that I can positively influence retention of your members. Now, we all now that that's just as difficult as sales, and just as important as sales, is to keep them. So if I can help you with that, I can help your income! Simple as that, the amount of women that's in the sport that tells me, look, Jess, you're the reason that I'm still here, is ridiculous!

They call me , they have me as a service where they can message me, they can contact me online and stuff, and when they're having a hard time or really feeling like they want to give up, they reach out either to me personally, or the AGIG community and we keep them! We save them.

GEORGE: OK, cool. Sorry to interrupt, but because we've gone down his track, now we've just got to take one step back:  how does it exactly work, what exactly is the organization about?

download

JESS: So what it is, predominantly, like my day-to-day is an online forum that's very heavily moderated on Facebook, so we have a public page that people, like fans and mainly male teammates ad stuff and fans of female Jiu Jitsu and that kind of thing, they follow that and they can see our events coming up and see the photos and what we're getting done on the public page. And then, that sort of filters down as the second tier of the thing and it's the members. The members are all in a closed group, it's just one of those group forums on Facebook.

Each person that sends me a request gets a relatively large letter of terms and conditions as a response when they send that request, though. It's full of things, like terms or conditions of involvement. Now, there's no fees or anything to be involved in AGIG at all on that level, but we do ask, I do kind of list what I require out of members and that is like politics free, no bitching, no reporting to your coach that you roll with some girls and her arm bars are bad – there's none of that.

We're a unified group and try to lift each other up as a whole and then the group is used for discussion and not defamation, so the girls can use the group online to discuss problems they might be having, as a teammate or a technique or whatever it is. Kind of like the conversation that most guys would have on the mat after the training sessions or in the changing room after the training session – when you're the only chick on the mat, or the only chick in the changing room, you miss out on all of that conversation or perhaps you're not invited to the meal after training or whatever, so we provide that online.

We provide that communication and support and debriefing, very often there are positive things that the girls say after their training, like they finally got a sweep on some massive blue belt guy or whatever it is, and we all cheer for her, she's all happy, you know – that's what we do on day-to-day, that's the support on day-to-day. The group on Facebook is predominantly women, but there are male coaches in that group, like kind of invitational, like silent witnesses in the group so it is really important that the space is a space where women ask questions of women that answer and that females get the opportunity to see that in fact, like all the other women their peers do have a lot of authority in this field and are problem solvers and experienced and all that kind of stuff.

So it's really important that the male involvement in that membership online forum is quite silent, but those guys also really benefit from it, so they're getting to know they can go to understand things in Australia with this being so young. These guys are learning how to teach women as well, it's not an everyday thing for a lot of them, and a lot of these people are really remote. In Australia, the key places that you'd be doing BJJ would be probably the major cities, but there's heaps of Jiu Jitsu along the coast, you know?

And a lot of the coaches are purple belt guys and they don't have a lot of support, maybe they're one trip away to a black belt occasionally, they might have one female student and they've never taught a female before, they don't even know how to deal with her size or whatever, so we're supporting everybody in that way, the teams that want to be involved. So that's the online presence, but then my actual life, my real work, I create face-to-face events.

We do female-only competitions throughout Australia, but I try not to focus on the competitions to be honest, because I think that's not what everyone wants to be doing, but it is what a lot of people want to be doing, so I  try not to focus fully on that, but I do provide it as a service if they want it, mainly for the little girls. The under 12 are the most popular because mine's the only comp where they don't have to fight boys, which is like a Godsend for a lot of them. I do round robin style things, for ages 5 and up, so we do get a huge adults presence to that, but we also get predominantly little girls, they just want to have a wrestle with a girl, and it very often doesn't happen at the comps for them. So I do that.

I also do seminars all over the place, because I want to share my Jiu Jitsu with these girls, I got to black belt with the help of this group, so I want to share my black belt with them, that's really important to me. I also travel Australia, doing events so that every single woman gets to roll with a female black belt. I give my body to that, I really want them to know what they're gunning for, and to that end, I try to stay really good at this sport, so what they're gunning for is really high quality and it's really important to me that that's what they see, and that's setting the bar.

I spend a lot of time and money cruising Australia, trying to get that to happen and then I do also run camps and they're awesome. The camp in Melbourne, which is coming up in January, and I think we've got maybe 25 tickets left. That camp in January is huge, it's 4 days, I think it's 6 instructors, 5 assistant instructors, it's non-stop Jiu Jitsu and socializing and it's all accommodation included. it's all meals included, it's out in the bush setting and there are canoeing and pools and it's just the best thing ever, so that's the big thing that I spend most of my year working on.

And also, I do camps in Bali, so I've got one coming up on the 21st with Luanna Alzuguir – hall of fame, everybody knows Luanna, she won ADCC three times. I'm doing a camp with her, which is quite a different style camp, and that's coming up in Bali like I said, 21st of November till the 25th and that's a total DIY thing. You do your own accommodation, your own food, you just meet us at the gym each day. So that's what I do, I make it happen for the girls.

GEORGE: Awesome. I'm going to be getting back to this one more time, but I want to stop at Bali quickly because I've been following you on social media and I see you travel a lot.

JESS: A lot, yeah.

GEORGE: You pretty much live in Bali. I think I saw you in New York as well, around the States, I think there was a time you were in San Francisco or Canada, I can't remember which one.

JESS: Yeah, yeah.

GEORGE: So all over the place. Now, with all this traveling, what is the biggest benefit that you're getting, what is the biggest learning experience that you're getting from traveling and training in all these different locations?

JESS: The biggest thing that I learned this past year, what I did is, I was a brown belt when I left Australia and I really felt, again, that I had to prove myself a little through competition. The biggest lesson for me obviously is that I don't, but I went on a big journey, I kind of packed up my life and left my lovely boyfriend and left my job and my house and everything and sold everything to go on this big mission to do a lot of competition.

I had a lot of world's and Pan Ams and all the NAGAs and STRAGA open, and everything you can possibly think of. Abu Dhabi, everything, paid for, booked, everything, and I went on the journey, and I sort of started in Bali and really worked out that that was my team and that Justin and I really worked well together. And that we will continue to, whether it was remotely or not. He's a really great coach from a distance as well, he's such a great mentor to me, he's always challenging me and asking a lot of me technically and he's really expanded my Jiu Jitsu.

I started there and then I came back to run that camp at the beginning of the year in January and I jet-setted again and went to Hawaii and Hawaii was amazing. I was kind of unsure, not really knowing what I was doing. I was sort of being a bit like a Pokemon, finding them and fighting them, you know? I was just cruising around, trying to get to every gym possible in the world and just roll with everyone. I just wanted to feel what other people are doing and see how they're staying inspired and stuff because I was feeling a bit stagnant in Melbourne when I decided to leave everything behind. I was just on a mission at the time, I was preparing to compete.

I got to Vegas and I hurt myself pretty badly, pretty quickly. I ruptured my bicep, I did a pretty major tear on my left shoulder and ruptured the bicep on my left arm, so I was out of action for a long while and had to find a way to come to terms with that, that I packed up my whole life to travel for Jiu Jitsu and was sidelined for the first 2 weeks. And then, within four months, the bicep fully ruptured and it was the weird thing, it was kind of hanging on apparently by a thread, and on a Thursday I fully ruptured it choking someone. On Monday, because it was fully detached, I was rolling again, and I was at Marcelo Garcia‘s academy by that Monday.

I guess the big journey for me has been about finding a way to be in this sport without being a competitor, even though I want to be really good at it. Just discovering how other people are approaching that, big lessons about acceptance and friendship and support in the sport and what is truly important to me, because even in the four, four and a half months I had off, my life in Jiu Jitsu didn't change. In fact, my involvement in Jiu Jitsu didn't change at all, so it really taught me that the physical side of it is just sort of like the way to be involved in the community.

It became much more holistic for me and I am now sort of traveling more in Australia, now that I'm traveling Australia, I'm traveling more for the relationships than the sport. But I guess big lessons for me were about balance in life and maybe not putting all your eggs in one basket and even though I was injured, I was traveling and there's no way that you can wake up in the morning in Vegas as an Australian and think, oh God, it’s all bad – it’s all good! You're not at work, and you're traveling and you've got all these amazing people that you can go and see, and I just think that this community really can lift you up, even in some pretty bad times.

I traveled and I went and I saw my family, that's why I ended up in Canada and then I trained with a  bunch of teams in Montreal, even though I couldn't roll. There was a top team in Montreal, they took care of me. I couldn't roll, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't because I was in danger of making this arm worse that we thought it was going to get better. And they just let me come in and drill. These were complete strangers and they helped me get through a really really hard time in my life. They had a rack up at the back, so you come in for class with these guys and Fabio is an exceptional team leader.

He would let me come in, welcome me with open arms, he remembered me from an Abu Dhabi fight, I fought one of his girls in Abu Dhabi, a purple belt. And she was on the mat, preparing for camp and instead of automatically assuming, oh, you guys will be in the same division, which we would have been for world's, he was like, come on in, jump on the mats!

And they had a sports rack in the back of the gym, so I'd come in and we'd do drills that would not hurt me every day for an hour and then when the guys got to roll, I'd just do squats. So it was a really nice couple of months with those guys, they really supported me to get me back to the mats. And they did, I got to a point where I could roll light and then I fully ruptured the bicep and as soon as it was gone and I knew I could roll, I was on the plane straight to Garcia!

GEORGE: This is going to be maybe a tough one, but let's say you take Marcelo Garcia out of his gym: what is it that stands out with training there in comparison with other gyms?

JESS: Paul Schreiner is the short answer!

GEORGE: OK.

12764685_10153329697680779_6982615983708885658_o

JESS: For me, I love Marcelo and like everybody, I look up to him in a huge way. I think that his Jiu Jitsu is absolutely beautiful, I think that his attitude is absolutely beautiful. I see him manage a room of people that are all elite, there's some bad ass guys in that room, and girls, real good people. And he's managing all these egos so beautifully and he does it with such good grace. Him and his wife, they're just doing an incredible job with that gym. I don't know much of the back workings of that space, but I've always been really welcomed in there and I'd been out there, it's almost three years ago now, but at the time I was there, I'd been out there two years before for world's prep. And these are people that let me come in as a purple belt.

I paid my fees, which doesn't really allow me how I was behaving as a purple, but I paid my fees, turned up pre-worlds prep and was just trying to tear through everyone. I was like, I'm getting ready for world's, it's my time to bash people! It's like, you pay the fees to the gym, but there are these people there that train every day, it's their bodies you're using for that pre-camp. Maybe they didn't sign up for your pre-camp. Maybe your pre-camp doesn't mean as much to them as it does to you and I look back now and I think it was a really unfair way to behave.

So I went in there this year and was like, you wouldn't believe: I walked in with this sling on and these guys, they remember you and they remember your whole name and they remember everything about you and they run across the room to hug you. It’s just the most incredible thing and most incredible sport, they're kind of like my heroes that I follow on Instagram and stuff. From my first experience from feeling like that with Marcelo's, where it was so warmly welcoming, I wanted to go back there.

But the biggest thing for me, and I love Marcelo, I'm not saying it like I have favorites, but for me, the first time I was there, Paul Schreiner just blew me away as a coach. He is just exceptional and he's dedicated his life I believe to becoming an exceptional coach, he's continually upskilling as a coach. I'm sure as an athlete he just loves the sport so he just gets better by design, but this is a man that invests in the coaching aspect, which I find is really rare across the board.

GEORGE: How does that differ? What exactly do you mean, how does his coaching compared to another coaching?

JESS: I think that he is really well studied in communication and I asked him quite a bit about it because I went back there for him. I wanted to just sit myself in front of that guy and go – just teach a man, I just want to see you teach. I want to see your process and I want to see what you do. Of course, when I hurt myself at the beginning of the year, I had to make a decision on how I wanted to be involved in the sport and I couldn't be involved that year as a competitor and maybe never again, I don't know. I'm 37 and I'm broken, maybe this is why people quit competing.

That's something to come to terms with, but as far as my interest and what I learned was, I don't want to just be an exceptional athlete, I want to be an exceptional leader and a coach. And I don't think that just comes from being good at a sport. I trained for two years to become a teacher of yoga and we weren't just learning how to do the act of yoga, we were learning how to teach and how to communicate with different personality types. It was two years full-time study, and I just haven't seen really many of my coaches learn how to teach.

They might be really great at the sport, but I would like to see, and this is what I search for, exceptional coaches. And I don't think that that just happens accidentally by having a cool personality and being charming, I think that happens when people are really interested and they're upskilled in both departments. Not just physically as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner, they really are learning how to communicate. There're heaps of courses online that I've seen that are available that people just don't utilize, and they should. I can't just expect to use Facebook and think that I'm going to influence the world if I don't go find out how social media works. Get upskilled, whatever I'm going to do, learn about the thing!

For me, it’s very clear that Paul is investing in how to coach and I did ask him about it, he said that he studied a lot about how Iyengar yoga practice is done and how they approach teaching this thing. It’s very perfect, very detailed practice. I don't know much about the rest of his background, but it’s very clear that he's not just upskilling and not just focused on the sport, he's focused on how to communicate the sport to others, which is what a coach is. If you take Marcelo, long long long story short, if you take Marcelo out of that gym, oh man, there's layers under that. You take Marcelo out, you've got Paul, you take Paul out, you've got Bernardo. You take Bernardo out, you've got Marcus Dimarco, who is ridiculously good – all of these men are really fantastic like athletes and coaches, but for me, it's Paul Schreiner that just blows my mind.

GEORGE: So, it’s all in the communication, in the process, not as much the expertise, but the delivering of the expertise.

JESS: Absolutely, absolutely. For me, one of my first coaches, and he's still a coach, my coach Martin Gonzales at Vanguard in Melbourne, one of the things that he said to me years ago was that he sort of finds potential offensive, that potential is actually a waste if it’s not realized. It’s a waste, potential should be just the precourse to something great, you should be able to do something with it. And if you don't, that's on you. It’s not the greatest of things, I sort of see athletes that are really good at this sport are not necessarily the greatest of communicators.

They have the potential to be, they have all this information that they could hand over to you, but if they don't, it's value to them and them alone. And that's totally fine, that's the kind of athlete and person that you're going to be, but it’s not the side of sport or the community that I'm looking for. It sort of comes down to, again, with Australian girls in GI, there's two groups: the teams that really don't want to be involved in that sort of thing and the teams that do, and that's cool.

I'm all for the teams that do, the ones that want to cross train and get involved: they're my tribe, they're my people, let's do great things together. And I'm kind of leaning towards in having mentors and leaders that weren't necessarily the greatest of all time, even though, obviously, Marcelo is amazing, but I want them to be the greatest of all time at sharing. Sharing the information and what is truly beautiful in a coach is if they're the greatest in the world in sharing information, but they also have the greatest Jiu Jitsu behind them.

And I used to look at that sort of backward, I used to look for the best in the world, athletes, but the reality is, a lot of them that have got to that point have done so by having to be really self-focused. I wouldn't say narcissistic, but they had very self-focused lives. And to flick that switch just because they've retired might be quite hard for them. I don't know, it’s just stuff we haven't looked into and haven't unpacked yet. I don't think that just because you grew out of competition, whether it be through age or injury that makes you an exceptional coach, no.

GEORGE: Excellent, that's insightful. A few more questions on that now: the reverse of that – what's the worst practice that you see in your travels? Don't hold back.

JESS: The worst practice, how do you mean?

GEORGE: Why would you avoid training at a certain gym? Is it a commonality that you see around the world, whether it’s in New York or Bali or anywhere, that you feel it’s not acceptable, it’s not a place that you would train for that reason?

JESS: Ok, so somewhere where you wouldn't revisit?

GEORGE: Yes.

JESS: To be fair, everywhere I had on my list was great, and I had a massive list, and it changed from time to time. I really want to do a huge east coast of America tour, there're some people over there that are just off the hook. There's such a great run of people if you go all the way from New York down to the tip of Florida – man, it just never ends, but I just ran out of time and money and stuff. But everywhere I went was really great. I chose names definitely, even though I've just said I shouldn't do that, but I've had these dreams of meeting certain people for a long time and so I kind of had a list of names that I wanted to follow.

And I did ask a lot of questions, there were some people that I had the plan to go to, and a couple of people said, well, I don't know, maybe his online presence is great, but he's not very good of a teacher. So I listened to people, I listened to my peers for guidance, and  never really hit any roadblocks. I hit two problems in San Diego that I would say I wouldn't return for. One of them because of expense, there's a couple of gyms there that I just can't justify it – it’s Jiu Jitsu, you know? I've already spent $6000 to be there as an Australian and I can't justify $80 a day, I just can't do it, which is really disappointing. So I guess just out of necessity, there were a couple places I couldn't return to.

There're a couple of places that would require you to either remove your patches, which I am never going to do for anyone, no one's going to tell me to remove my patches. That's fine, if that's what they don't want in their gym, or a higher GI at an exorbitant price, I remember where they would be a brand, so you get stuck in this loop of getting sort of sold to, so you have to buy all their equipment so you can train with them. And that's fine if that's what they want to do. Like I said, if people want to be involved, they want to be involved with my thing and I guess that's what this business is doing as well, just setting the price at what they believe is the value of their academy and I agree with them, it’s absolutely worthy of that price – I just can't pay it.

That was me as a traveler – if I lived locally, yeah, I would probably train there, but I just can't afford the drop in prices, so that was a road block for me. Having said that, I'm happy to pay. I've paid my way around the world, I didn't expect to walk in and have any handouts anywhere.  I've definitely paid everywhere I went and I pride myself on that. I don't want to be in anyone's pocket, it's just, I know my limits with costs, you know?

So that was one thing. I also had a really nasty interaction with a very well regarded black belt at some point in my travels, where he really questioned me about being a nomad. We trained and he's been a hero of mine for a long time, so I was really hurt by it, but I understand what happened now. I came as a visitor and definitely they allow visitors at that gym and welcome them, but I believe that that is just because that's just the way that the sport has gone and they're sort of backed into a corner to not be closed doors anymore because of their fame.

But I don't believe that the head of that system likes it, I think he, in fact, resents it a great deal. He took me aside and kind of shamed me in front of a bunch of people for being a gypsy, for having more than one team patch on my back, for being on the road, a whole bunch of stuff. Said to me, look, I can tell in your Jiu Jitsu, I can tell by the way that you feel when you play Jiu Jitsu that you've either never had a master, or never let anyone be your master. Really kind of domineering, quite intimidating, very upsetting conversation, where he tried to question everything about me.

And that's fine, that's cool. I know self-defense, and I mean that on an emotional level, so I was just like, oh cool, that's really interesting, thanks for that and just left. That's fine, but that I found quite alarming and now that I've been through it I find that that was, you asked me earlier about the big lessons of the trip and I really thought on that one for a long time, cause I really loved him, I had all of his books, I really loved him and it was very evident that women on the mat were challenging to him and he called me a gypsy as if it was an insult and all that kind of stuff.

And then my beautiful coach in Bali, Justin, when we spoke – and I never mentioned who the person was but we spoke and I said I had a kind of a hard encounter and I spoke about a couple of things and he was like, yeah, but you're a gypsy, it’s the best thing! So I had these two men call me a gypsy: one thought it was beautiful and one thought it was horrifying, so it was quite interesting. But again, it comes back down to this thing: there're lots of academies and lots of humans that really respond well to kind of a dictatorship, they want to thrive in that environment.

These are guys that would probably thrive in the army too, but there're lots of humans that can't thrive in the army and can't thrive in that environment. So I see myself and people like me within the community that really liked cross train and travel and make this a lifestyle, not a membership. We really need that, say Studio 540, oh my god! That to me is the most progressive, amazing place, I love what they've done down there.

There's a whole bunch of coaches and they're all elite and there's Leticia Ribeiro there and Justin Flores is there, it’s so good. It's a melting pot of shared interest and shared the joy for this thing by the beach. That's everything to me that sums up why I love Bali MMA, you know? And why I love training up here in the Gold Coast and all over Byron, all this kind of stuff. It’s a lifestyle for me and being called out for it, saying it like I was doing the wrong thing by not having respectful lineage or loyalty, I was really taken aback by that with this.

He's a professor and he's somebody I looked up to for a long time, so the big lessons for me, I guess apart from acceptance of myself and my role in this community was I started to see the correlation between, everybody says, it’s my family, the team is my family, they talk about his family thing and there's all this push for respect and lineage and in fact, I kind of looked at that and I dissected it and looked at the idea of family and the fact that not all of us – and I'm not talking about my family because my family is wonderful, but not all of us are lucky enough to be born into the perfect family.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have two parents that stay together and are loving and are brave enough and are bold enough to get us through everything that we need to get through. Maybe there's fraction in the family or maybe the parents weren't even there or maybe there's a problem with your brother or whatever it is, but there's plenty of people that don't have the perfect family and don't have the luxury of it and to me, I've started to see family in that way. Lineage, definitely in the Jiu Jitsu community is a luxury, it’s actually a privilege.

These men that are so stern about it, you should have one master and one lineage and everything else or whatever they say, some kind of swear word or something, some kind of insult about changing teams. The thing is, if you were lucky enough to get all the way through with one coach and one master that your really like and you still like his Jiu Jitsu, that is a privilege like no other and you should be happy as hell. It’s amazing. And you know what? I'm jealous because some of my coaches have failed me. The reason I bounced was because my coaches failed me, one of my coaches had a complete mental breakdown. It’s hard to stay loyal to a guy that's no longer in the sport.

So having this, not grand master, but it’s pretty close, guy call me out for being a creonte essentially, OK I thought, well, you know, you're lucky enough to have a  nice, perfect family with two parents and a brother and a sister and a dog, but the rest of us, us orphans that have to band together, our bonds are just as real and they're just as important and they're just as worthy and in fact, if you've got someone like me that's not had the best upbringing as it were in Jiu Jitsu, and she's still in the sport and she's doing great things for the community, I think that should be commended not condemned.

And I guess that's a big reassurance for me with Australian girls in GI. The amount of women that I know that had a boyfriend at their gym and then when the breakup happens, the boyfriend gets the gym and the breakup – how could she be loyal to her coach? How is she able to stay perfectly near the sensei kind of stuff, if she's also got this real world problem for her that means that her whole life's been turned upside down. She loses her friends and her teammates in that exchange and it happens!

It happens to women in this sport, I'm sure it happens to guys too, but more often I see the girls that have to move gyms and I think that those kind of people that stay in the sport, that's real loyalty. They're loyal to the sport and just because something happened at the gym doesn't mean they're in the wrong. I think there needs to be an alternative way at looking at cross training because some of us need to, some of us need to, otherwise, we wouldn't thrive.

GEORGE: That's excellent. Well, I've got to tell you, I applaud you for your individuality and to do that, you know, it's funny, we're probably going to end it here, but you almost talk about this whole dictatorship of martial arts, and it’s funny, you're part of this family, until you do your thing. It’s all family, but as long as you do family our way, it's OK, but if you do family your way, it's wrong.

JESS: Yeah, that's right!

GEORGE: That's true gold right there. Thanks a lot for your time, it’s been great chatting to you, I feel like we really hit the mark here in these last 20 minutes with your learning and your experience and I think it will be great, because the majority of the people that listen to this podcast are men and are obviously martial arts school owners and it will be a great insight for them to get a  ladies perspective on how it is for you on your side and how things work. So with that, with the Australian girls in GI, how do people get involved with the program?

JESS: The easiest way I would say is to go to the website and then there's a bunch of ways to get actually involved with Facebook, but just so you don't have to remember all the different links or whatever, there are links on the website. The website is www.australiangirlsingi.com. That's the website, there's the get involved in Australia and you can become a member or a fan. The member takes you through to the forum, so that's the group. It would just be facebook.com/groups/australiangirlsingi, so if you sort of do Australian girls in GI in any formation on Facebook, you will find us.

But it's important to know that there is two different groups, different areas online in Facebook. There's the public page, and you will pretty clearly find that that's a public page, because there's no discussion going on, that's just where we put all of our updates so the world even knows that we exist, because otherwise if we're in this closed group forum, you guys don't get to see it.

The closed group forum is in that way for function, we're keeping the girls protected. You've got to understand that the first words, Australian girls, people searching for that group are not always desirable! I'm glad they're a fan of my work, but they're not the same kind of fans that we want, so I had to make it a secret group to protect the women in there. And there's a lot of women in there that write things that they don't want the public to see.

We're dealing with a lot of PTSD and anxiety and that kind of stuff, there's a lot of anonymous posts that people message me and they can post anonymously via me. So just jump on Facebook, just type in the words Australian girls in GI. You'll find us, there're heaps of events coming up, there's always events coming up in Australia and the only one that's quite international at the moment is Bali and that's in a couple of weeks. So that's the easiest way to find us, just send me straight a message, I'll always get back to people if they send it straight though the age and I can direct you.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. Jess, thank you very much for your time.

JESS: No worries.

GEORGE: And I hope to speak to you soon.

JESS: Yeah, great, thanks, George!

GEORGE: Thank you, cheers!

And there you have it, thanks for listening. If you'd like the transcripts of this show, you can go to martialartsmedia.com/13, that's the number 13. And I really enjoyed this chat, because it’s different to what we normally do, talking about the marketing side of things, and people's journeys and so forth, because this is a completely different journey and Jess is so well traveled and has got such a lot of experience dealing with different martial arts schools, so it’s great to get that perspective and most importantly of all, a ladies perspective, because in the industry that's mainly male dominated, for the most part, it’s great to hear the challenges that a lady has, trying to fit in with the whole martial arts arena and things that get in the way of politics and relationship and so forth.

There're a few things there that really take home with your marketing and especially the coaching side. The one thing that she mentioned was learning from all these experts, it’s not always about the expert, but it’s the delivery of the content, the delivery of the teaching. We all, as martial artists, we all want to learn and prove ourselves and we've got to do that in all areas in life: we've got to do that in our business, we've got to do that in our communication and everything else. So there we go – thank you very much for listening, we'll be back again, we've got a few more great interviews lined up, so watch out for those- looking forward to speaking to you soon – cheers!

 

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

FREE GUIDE

The Martial Arts
Fb Ad Formula

Please fill out the form and we will send you the free guide via email

General Website Terms and Conditions of Use

We have taken every effort to design our Web site to be useful, informative, helpful, honest and fun.  Hopefully we’ve accomplished that — and would ask that you let us know if you’d like to see improvements or changes that would make it even easier for you to find the information you need and want.

All we ask is that you agree to abide by the following Terms and Conditions. Take a few minutes to look them over because by using our site you automatically agree to them. Naturally, if you don’t agree, please do not use the site. We reserve the right to make any modifications that we deem necessary at any time. Please continue to check these terms to see what those changes may be! Your continued use of the MartialArtsMedia.com Web site means that you accept those changes.

THANKS AGAIN FOR VISITING!

Restrictions on Use of Our Online Materials

All Online Materials on the MartialArtsMedia.com site are Copyrighted and all rights are reserved. Text, graphics, databases, HTML code, and all other intellectual property are protected by US and/or International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, reengineered, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without explicit permission. All of the trademarks on this site are trademarks of MartialArtsMedia.com or of other owners used with their permission. You, the visitor, may download Online Materials for non-commercial, personal use only provided you 1) retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices, 2) you make no modifications to the materials, 3) you do not use the materials in a manner that suggests an association with any of our products, services, events or brands, and 4) you do not download quantities of materials to a database, server, or personal computer for reuse for commercial purposes. You may not, however, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit or distribute Online Materials in any way or for any other purpose unless you get our written permission first. Neither may you add, delete, distort or misrepresent any content on the MartialArtsMedia.com site. Any attempts to modify any Online Material, or to defeat or circumvent our security features is prohibited.

Everything you download, any software, plus all files, all images incorporated in or generated by the software, and all data accompanying it, is considered licensed to you by MartialArtsMedia.com or third-party licensors for your personal, non-commercial home use only. We do not transfer title of the software to you. That means that we retain full and complete title to the software and to all of the associated intellectual-property rights. You’re not allowed to redistribute or sell the material or to reverse-engineer, disassemble or otherwise convert it to any other form that people can use.

Submitting Your Online Material to Us

All remarks, suggestions, ideas, graphics, comments, or other information that you send to MartialArtsMedia.com through our site (other than information we promise to protect under our privacy policy becomes and remains our property, even if this agreement is later terminated.

That means that we don’t have to treat any such submission as confidential. You can’t sue us for using ideas you submit. If we use them, or anything like them, we don’t have to pay you or anyone else for them. We will have the exclusive ownership of all present and future rights to submissions of any kind. We can use them for any purpose we deem appropriate to our MartialArtsMedia.com mission, without compensating you or anyone else for them.

You acknowledge that you are responsible for any submission you make. This means that you (and not we) have full responsibility for the message, including its legality, reliability, appropriateness, originality, and copyright.

Limitation of Liability

MartialArtsMedia.com WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES OR INJURY THAT ACCOMPANY OR RESULT FROM YOUR USE OF ANY OF ITS SITE.

THESE INCLUDE (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO) DAMAGES OR INJURY CAUSED BY ANY:

  • USE OF (OR INABILITY TO USE) THE SITE
  • USE OF (OR INABILITY TO USE) ANY SITE TO WHICH YOU HYPERLINK FROM OUR SITE
  • FAILURE OF OUR SITE TO PERFORM IN THE MANNER YOU EXPECTED OR DESIRED
  • ERROR ON OUR SITE
  • OMISSION ON OUR SITE
  • INTERRUPTION OF AVAILABILITY OF OUR SITE
  • DEFECT ON OUR SITE
  • DELAY IN OPERATION OR TRANSMISSION OF OUR SITE
  • COMPUTER VIRUS OR LINE FAILURE
  • PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, INCLUDING:
    • DAMAGES INTENDED TO COMPENSATE SOMEONE DIRECTLY FOR A LOSS OR INJURY
    • DAMAGES REASONABLY EXPECTED TO RESULT FROM A LOSS OR INJURY (KNOWN IN LEGAL TERMS AS “CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES.”)
    • OTHER MISCELLANEOUS DAMAGES AND EXPENSES RESULTING DIRECTLY FROM A LOSS OR INJURY (KNOWN IN LEGAL TERMS AS “INCIDENTIAL DAMAGES.”)

WE ARE NOT LIABLE EVEN IF WE’VE BEEN NEGLIGENT OR IF OUR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES OR BOTH.

EXCEPTION: CERTAIN STATE LAWS MAY NOT ALLOW US TO LIMIT OR EXCLUDE LIABILITY FOR THESE “INCIDENTAL” OR “CONSEQUENTIAL” DAMAGES. IF YOU LIVE IN ONE OF THOSE STATES, THE ABOVE LIMITATION OBVIOUSLY WOULD NOT APPLY WHICH WOULD MEAN THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECOVER THESE TYPES OF DAMAGES.

HOWEVER, IN ANY EVENT, OUR LIABILITY TO YOU FOR ALL LOSSES, DAMAGES, INJURIES, AND CLAIMS OF ANY AND EVERY KIND (WHETHER THE DAMAGES ARE CLAIMED UNDER THE TERMS OF A CONTRACT, OR CLAIMED TO BE CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER WRONGFUL CONDUCT, OR THEY’RE CLAIMED UNDER ANY OTHER LEGAL THEORY) WILL NOT BE GREATER THAN THE AMOUNT YOU PAID IF ANYTHING TO ACCESS OUR SITE.

Links to Other Site

We sometimes provide referrals to and links to other World Wide Web sites from our site. Such a link should not be seen as an endorsement, approval or agreement with any information or resources offered at sites you can access through our site. If in doubt, always check the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address provided in your WWW browser to see if you are still in a MartialArtsMedia.com-operated site or have moved to another site. MartialArtsMedia.com is not responsible for the content or practices of third party sites that may be linked to our site. When MartialArtsMedia.com provides links or references to other Web sites, no inference or assumption should be made and no representation should be inferred that MartialArtsMedia.com is connected with, operates or controls these Web sites. Any approved link must not represent in any way, either explicitly or by implication, that you have received the endorsement, sponsorship or support of any MartialArtsMedia.com site or endorsement, sponsorship or support of MartialArtsMedia.com, including its respective employees, agents or directors.

Termination of This Agreement

This agreement is effective until terminated by either party. You may terminate this agreement at any time, by destroying all materials obtained from all MartialArtsMedia.com Web site, along with all related documentation and all copies and installations. MartialArtsMedia.com may terminate this agreement at any time and without notice to you, if, in its sole judgment, you breach any term or condition of this agreement. Upon termination, you must destroy all materials. In addition, by providing material on our Web site, we do not in any way promise that the materials will remain available to you. And MartialArtsMedia.com is entitled to terminate all or any part of any of its Web site without notice to you.

Jurisdiction and Other Points to Consider

If you use our site from locations outside of Australia, you are responsible for compliance with any applicable local laws.

These Terms of Use shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the the State of Western Australia, Australia as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such jurisdiction.

To the extent you have in any manner violated or threatened to violate MartialArtsMedia.com and/or its affiliates’ intellectual property rights, MartialArtsMedia.com and/or its affiliates may seek injunctive or other appropriate relief in any state or federal court in the State of Western Australia, Australia, and you consent to exclusive jurisdiction and venue in such courts.

Any other disputes will be resolved as follows:

If a dispute arises under this agreement, we agree to first try to resolve it with the help of a mutually agreed-upon mediator in the following location: Perth. Any costs and fees other than attorney fees associated with the mediation will be shared equally by each of us.

If it proves impossible to arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution through mediation, we agree to submit the dispute to binding arbitration at the following location: Perth . Judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitration may be entered in any court with jurisdiction to do so.

MartialArtsMedia.com may modify these Terms of Use, and the agreement they create, at any time, simply by updating this posting and without notice to you. This is the ENTIRE agreement regarding all the matters that have been discussed.

The application of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, as amended, is expressly excluded.

Privacy Policy

Your privacy is very important to us. Accordingly, we have developed this policy in order for you to understand how we collect, use, communicate and make use of personal information. The following outlines our privacy policy. When accessing the https://martialartsmedia.com website, will learn certain information about you during your visit. Similar to other commercial websites, our website utilizes a standard technology called “cookies” (see explanation below) and server logs to collect information about how our site is used. Information gathered through cookies and server logs may include the date and time of visits, the pages viewed, time spent at our site, and the websites visited just before and just after our own, as well as your IP address.

Use of Cookies

A cookie is a very small text document, which often includes an anonymous unique identifier. When you visit a website, that site”s computer asks your computer for permission to store this file in a part of your hard drive specifically designated for cookies. Each website can send its own cookie to your browser if your browser”s preferences allow it, but (to protect your privacy) your browser only permits a website to access the cookies it has already sent to you, not the cookies sent to you by other sites.

IP Addresses

IP addresses are used by your computer every time you are connected to the Internet. Your IP address is a number that is used by computers on the network to identify your computer. IP addresses are automatically collected by our web server as part of demographic and profile data known as “traffic data” so that data (such as the Web pages you request) can be sent to you.

Email Information

If you choose to correspond with us through email, we may retain the content of your email messages together with your email address and our responses. We provide the same protections for these electronic communications that we employ in the maintenance of information received online, mail and telephone. This also applies when you register for our website, sign up through any of our forms using your email address or make a purchase on this site. For further information see the email policies below.

How Do We Use the Information That You Provide to Us?

Broadly speaking, we use personal information for purposes of administering our business activities, providing customer service and making available other items and services to our customers and prospective customers.

will not obtain personally-identifying information about you when you visit our site, unless you choose to provide such information to us, nor will such information be sold or otherwise transferred to unaffiliated third parties without the approval of the user at the time of collection.

We may disclose information when legally compelled to do so, in other words, when we, in good faith, believe that the law requires it or for the protection of our legal rights.

Email Policies

We are committed to keeping your e-mail address confidential. We do not sell, rent, or lease our subscription lists to third parties, and we will not provide your personal information to any third party individual, government agency, or company at any time unless strictly compelled to do so by law.

We will use your e-mail address solely to provide timely information about .

We will maintain the information you send via e-mail in accordance with applicable federal law.

CAN-SPAM Compliance

Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from us and our partners by reading the unsubscribe instructions located at the bottom of any e-mail they receive from us at anytime.

Users who no longer wish to receive our newsletter or promotional materials may opt-out of receiving these communications by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Choice/Opt-Out

Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from us and our partners by reading the unsubscribe instructions located at the bottom of any e-mail they receive from us at anytime. Users who no longer wish to receive our newsletter or promotional materials may opt-out of receiving these communications by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Use of External Links

All copyrights, trademarks, patents and other intellectual property rights in and on our website and all content and software located on the site shall remain the sole property of or its licensors. The use of our trademarks, content and intellectual property is forbidden without the express written consent from .

You must not:

Acceptable Use

You agree to use our website only for lawful purposes, and in a way that does not infringe the rights of, restrict or inhibit anyone else”s use and enjoyment of the website. Prohibited behavior includes harassing or causing distress or inconvenience to any other user, transmitting obscene or offensive content or disrupting the normal flow of dialogue within our website.

You must not use our website to send unsolicited commercial communications. You must not use the content on our website for any marketing related purpose without our express written consent.

Restricted Access

We may in the future need to restrict access to parts (or all) of our website and reserve full rights to do so. If, at any point, we provide you with a username and password for you to access restricted areas of our website, you must ensure that both your username and password are kept confidential.

Use of Testimonials

In accordance to with the FTC guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, please be aware of the following:

Testimonials that appear on this site are actually received via text, audio or video submission. They are individual experiences, reflecting real life experiences of those who have used our products and/or services in some way. They are individual results and results do vary. We do not claim that they are typical results. The testimonials are not necessarily representative of all of those who will use our products and/or services.

The testimonials displayed in any form on this site (text, audio, video or other) are reproduced verbatim, except for correction of grammatical or typing errors. Some may have been shortened. In other words, not the whole message received by the testimonial writer is displayed when it seems too lengthy or not the whole statement seems relevant for the general public.

is not responsible for any of the opinions or comments posted on https://martialartsmedia.com. is not a forum for testimonials, however provides testimonials as a means for customers to share their experiences with one another. To protect against abuse, all testimonials appear after they have been reviewed by management of . doe not share the opinions, views or commentary of any testimonials on https://martialartsmedia.com – the opinions are strictly the views of the testimonial source.

The testimonials are never intended to make claims that our products and/or services can be used to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease. Any such claims, implicit or explicit, in any shape or form, have not been clinically tested or evaluated.

How Do We Protect Your Information and Secure Information Transmissions?

Email is not recognized as a secure medium of communication. For this reason, we request that you do not send private information to us by email. However, doing so is allowed, but at your own risk. Some of the information you may enter on our website may be transmitted securely via a secure medium known as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. Credit Card information and other sensitive information is never transmitted via email.

may use software programs to create summary statistics, which are used for such purposes as assessing the number of visitors to the different sections of our site, what information is of most and least interest, determining technical design specifications, and identifying system performance or problem areas.

For site security purposes and to ensure that this service remains available to all users, uses software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information, or otherwise cause damage.

Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy, currency or completeness of the content contain on this website or any sites linked to this site.

All the materials on this site are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of merchantability, noninfringement of intellectual property or fitness for any particular purpose. In no event shall or its agents or associates be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of profits, business interruption, loss of information, injury or death) arising out of the use of or inability to use the materials, even if has been advised of the possibility of such loss or damages.

Policy Changes

We reserve the right to amend this privacy policy at any time with or without notice. However, please be assured that if the privacy policy changes in the future, we will not use the personal information you have submitted to us under this privacy policy in a manner that is materially inconsistent with this privacy policy, without your prior consent.

We are committed to conducting our business in accordance with these principles in order to ensure that the confidentiality of personal information is protected and maintained.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding this policy, or your dealings with our website, please contact us here:

Martial Arts Media™
Suite 218
5/115 Grand Boulevard
Joondalup WA
6027
Australia

Email: team (at) martialartsmedia dot com

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT & PODCAST RESOURCES

Please enter your first name & email below to access the free download

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT & PODCAST RESOURCES

Please enter your first name & email below to access the free download

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT & PODCAST RESOURCES

Please enter your first name & email below to access the free download

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT & PODCAST RESOURCES

Please enter your first name & email below to access the free download

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT & PODCAST RESOURCES

Please enter your first name & email below to access the free download

Add Your Heading Text Hereasdf

Test Multistep in popup

Step 1 of 2

Name