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.

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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.

 

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101 – Costa Prasoulas – Applying Philosophy And Martial Arts To The Fight Of Life

Martial arts school owner Costa Prasoulas shares how philosophy influences his life of acting and martial arts.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Costa’s ancient ancestral history of martial arts 
  • The philosophy that Costa upholds in his martial arts academy
  • How Costa’s career in martial arts movies began
  • Observing martial arts fight scenes from a different perspective 
  • The self defense approach to Covid-19
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

I think of philosophy and its beautiful relation to martial arts is the fact not that it gives you answers, but it creates questions. It creates an open channel of thinking. In relation to martial arts, there's not one answer. There's many ways from a technical avenue, from a stylistic perspective and many answers, there's not one thing, right? That's why there's so many variations and so many possibilities.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George and welcome to another Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So today I'm joined with a special guest all the way from Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales. We were going to, actually like a lot of things, do this interview a couple of months back, but at the time of recording this, as we all know, the world changed and so things got delayed. So welcome to the call Costa Prasoulas. How are you today Costa?

COSTA: Yeah good thank you George, I'm very well thank you. It’s nice to be with you.

GEORGE: Cool. Costa has an interesting background and who better to tell us – look, if somebody has a Wikipedia page, it deserves mentioning, right?

So who better to tell us a bit of an intro and then Costa can take over, but… Costa Prasoulas is an Australian actor and martial artist trained in Muay Thai, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Pankration and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having won the Australian Open Martial Arts Championship in 1992, Intercontinental Kickboxing Champion and won a silver medal at the 2009 World Games. His acting credits include Cop's Enemy and Z-End.

How cool is that? My work was done for me and a really good intro.

COSTA: It's quite interesting, you know, I didn't even know that I had a Wikipedia page until about last year when my daughter came up and she is like, “Dad, guess what?” I said “What?” She goes “Oh, we were looking at you at school with some friends of mine. My daughter is in year 12 mind you. And she goes, “You’re on Wikipedia!”

I said, “Really?” I had no idea. And so it only came to my attention that I was actually on Wikipedia like maybe over the last sort of what, 18 months. So it's quite interesting. But it's cool that you said that, I didn't even know myself.

GEORGE: That actually makes it a lot better, you know. If it was instigated from the marketing standpoint and, you know, it's still good that you can get it. But the fact that it was up there without you knowing…

COSTA: Yeah, I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea, no idea.

GEORGE: That can lead to the next question, like: how did it come to that? I mean, you've obviously done some cool things within the martial arts space and then movies. So give us a bit of a background, how this all got started for you and where you came from?

COSTA: Sure. Primarily, from a very young age, I was about five and a half or six years of age when I started really sort of getting involved with martial arts. And the primary reason was my father. My father was actually, he dabbled in amateur Greco-Roman wrestling in Greece.

When my parents sort of settled then in Australia, in Sydney and I was, you know, my dad was always sort of in the combative arts anyways, so I had that primarily from a cultural background, that Hellenic combative ideal of you know, mind, body and spirit. My ancient ancestors you know. And so that was kind of like, I never really sort of, I kind of grew up with that sort of mentality. To me that was normal because of the way that my life as a young kid sort of was involved in that.

So I kind of like progressed with some other martial arts as well. With Hapkido, Taekwondo, I moved on to Muay Thai, I spent quite a number of years competing in kickboxing, sort of Muay Thai and stuff like that. I spent a lot of time in Europe, because we have quite a bit of family in Greece, so I kind of lived over in Europe for quite a few years. I competed quite a bit in Europe, spent a bit of time in Holland, sort of Muay Thai kickboxing style is more dutch or European K1 style, which was quite sort of not very popular back then, especially in the 90s.

It was sort of very new to the sort of Australia South Pacific region. I spent a bit of time in Thailand, travelled to South Korea, traveled quite a bit. Over the course of those years, I was involved in quite a few sort of choreography and martial arts sort of scenes. You know, doing bits and pieces for commercials and stuff like that.

Then finally I had one of my friends, and she's sort of like to me, well, why don't you get an agent and do this professionally? And it kind of sort of led to that, there was a production that was happening maybe about 10 years ago, 11 years ago and I was kind of involved behind the scenes for choreography. I think it was half an Australian-Indonesian production and we’ve got a lot of Asian cinema mates. You know, there's always combat and there's lava death and revenge, there's always something happening, so it's pretty cool, you know, it's our style, right?

And there was this fight scene that I needed to create between the main actor and three villains. And these guys were all fantastic actors, but their martial arts skills left a lot to be desired. And they were wonderful actors, great guys, but they needed a lot of training.

And I primarily turned to the director, I said, “Listen,” I said, “I need to work with these guys,” because when you do stuff like this on screen as opposed to competitive or real sort of situational combat, it's very different. It's very, very, very, very different. You know, you extend your kicks, you need to do your thrust. And you always take use of your environment.

So if we're say for example doing a scene, I don’t know, I’m just going to pick say in a coffee shop or something, right? We're utilizing tables, chairs, stuff that could be used as weapons and you take all this into consideration. Then you know, the number one priority is safety. And usually with action things, I think that it's hardcore action movies especially martial artists don't get enough credit as much as they deserve, simply because it's not just dialogue where if you make a mistake, or there's a slip-up or some kind of retake needs to happen, it can be done.

Whereas with fight scenes, especially when you're dealing with weapons, the tables and chairs and you’re looking all of a sudden like Jackie Chan, what these guys do, they’ll spend easily eight to nine hours to pull up a two to three minutes scene. It's just massive, because you're doing a number of different takes and angles and there's mistakes and then you’ve got injuries and you’ve got… So there's a lot at play, there's a lot more to handle.

Anyway, I said to him, you know, we need to do this, we need to spend X amount of time. So we kind of sort of started to progress down that avenue. And then he was sort of running out of time, so it was going over budget, it was going over time so there's all these little factors to take into consideration. And he goes, “You know what mate?” He goes, “Stuff it, you do it.” Because it's an Asian movie, right?

So you've got to remember that the Europeans are usually the bad guys, you know, in a lot of the Asian movies. So you’ve got to understand the historical context of why that happens. So he goes, “You'd be perfect for it, so no problem.” So it kind of like took off from there, and it was a major movie, especially in… That movie was quite big in Indonesia.

It kind of like stems from there, it's been an interesting sort of… I really enjoyed it, especially because I don't really compete much now. Now I'm focusing on my Academy and my acting, I love my family as well, so I try to juggle my time quite effectively at work. It's pretty cool, it's pretty cool.

I've been getting a lot more drama serious roles, I kind of like being stigmatized, kind of like a mafia boss, you know, that kind of role. So the last couple of years my roles have been primarily more of a, like a godfather, you know, like a stand over guy, like that “Don't mess with me” kind of dude, you know, which is pretty cool, you know, it’s nice.

GEORGE: Yeah, I saw a few clips and you match that persona pretty good. Yeah, you’ve got the martial arts experience, you were with a bunch of actors, they’re actors, but they don’t know what they’re doing – how does that process work to actually get actors on par with a scene and how much of it is orchestrated and improvised? Is it 100% orchestrated and is that why the length of the time, or…?

COSTA: Mmm, that’s a good question. So you'll find that with straight out actors, it takes a long time to train them. So if they’re doing usually a big budget production, where you get big Hollywood actors, or you know, mainstream high end actors, they’ll spend the time to train them and they’ll, for example look at the film that we all love, like John Wick and yeah you can go look and see that Keanu Reeves was already trained, he had been training in martial arts for years.

But in this particular one, they wanted to change it, so they brought in Jean Jacques Machado, they brought in a lot of guys with another element and he was just training relentlessly for like 3 to 6 months. And this guy has been consistently active and they were able to pull off this scene. So there was a combination of choreography and sort of go with the flow, let's improvise. So with guys like him, you can.

If you take someone, let's say for example, that’s had no sort of athletic training and really hasn't been evolving in forms of martial arts or combat, it's really difficult. So that's why you'll find, depending on the region, depending on what they're doing is they'll use people that will have a background in it. Or you know, a lot of the extras, all the supporting actors, will be very highly trained martial artists to make the flow seem effective.

You know, when you think of Liam Neeson in “Taken”, where he’ll do… the camera angles are very close, so you know where you see he’s not doing much, and he’s very sort of like a one hit, one finish and done. That’s how they get around working with guys like that. So they don't have to overly train them, because they’re more drama based actors, they’re not fight actors.

Whereas, if we go back a bit, where you’ve got guys like Keanu Reeves and Van Damme, you know all these guys. Like Jason Statham, he’s a classic example, you know, these guys are all trained. It's much easier for them to flow, so they can work well. So if you and I both trained and you were in a supporting scene, we would improvise a lot and we would work off each other, so that would reduce that flow. And that's why you'll see scenes, have you ever seen the movie called “The Raid”?

GEORGE: No.

COSTA: Ok. watch “The Raid.” So… it's pretty cool. They did like a 15 minute high impact fight scene where they were just going with the flow. And this probably took them, whereas with a normal actor it would take him 3 days to shoot a 10 minute scene, they did it in a span of like 12 hours, just like that.

And some people are highly skilled, but they're terrible on camera. Like they’ve just got no reaction, because you've got to fake it. If you punch me here and I don't react to that, well it doesn't look very realistic on film, does it? You're trying to sell it.

GEORGE: That's interesting. I've always tried to look at movies just from the devil's advocate point of view of, hang on, was that really your hand and how was the angle and how did the punch land? Was it from you, was it from someone else, and was it a double? Yeah.

COSTA: Accidents do happen though. They do happen, a lot of people get injured, you know? There's many people who have had broken foot or broken ribs or mishaps and stuff like that. And it just depends on sometimes you just get caught up in the moment, or you could be on uneven terrain and you’re working off ladders or tables or chairs, accidents do happen. People do get hurt – it’s not intentional, but it can happen, especially when you’re dealing with weaponry in another sort of environment and stuff. And there's also, there's many things, there's also the continuity factor.

So for example, when you’re looking at a base movie, let’s say for example we're doing a scene, we’re doing a dialogue scene, we’re sitting, let's take the coffee shop like we did before – this is where you'll notice things like, they're having a conversation but we’re doing a number of retakes, so we’re there for an extensive amount of time, where you’re drinking say for example, I don't know, sparkling mineral water. But your glass is half full, you're wearing your Breitling watch on your left hand and your hair is styled this way and your shirt has got one button untucked. And then you'll see the same thing later on, but the glass is empty, your shirt looks a little bit differently. That's because they're doing a number of retakes, all this stuff comes into effect too.

So if you've caught a punch on your right side and you're kind of like tripled with bleeding, the makeup comes in and the director of photography to create continuity purposes, because it's very difficult. If you have to do for example a sidekick to the knee, and we’ve got a kick, you’re doing this, you might end up shooting like 50-60, a 100 sidekicks over and over and over again. Say, you start to sweat, all this stuff comes into it.

It's quite…it's a lot harder than what people think, it's not that simple. That's why I said to you in the beginning, I said, there's a much higher appreciation for those action sequences and what some of the big actors and the stunt guys actually go through to produce the final product, it's actually quite an intense process.

GEORGE: I think I'll be looking at 2-3 minute fight scenes with a new level of eyes.

COSTA: Yeah yeah, you tend to appreciate it a lot more, a lot more.

GEORGE: So you've got Zeus Academy?

COSTA: Yes I do.

GEORGE: And so with your background of acting, have any of your students followed that same path? Or have you directed them in that way when you spot some talent?

COSTA: Not necessarily. I have offered my students when there has been opening for extras roles, or you know, like background roles and they need people, I will offer it and some of them have been involved in a few short films, like for the Toronto film festival, Sydney film festival, you know the Cannes film festival, they're doing a lot of short films, productions and stuff like that. Nothing major, like not big budget productions or sort of mid budget productions.

I think it's not something that I push them to do, it's something that if any of them are interested in that avenue, at some point I'll probably look into it, but I have offered when there has been opportunities arisen and some have taken part, but I don't really push them down that avenue. As a professor, a martial instructor of the academy, people have different goals. Primarily all of our students that come don't come for that reason.

It wouldn't be for martial arts choreography or for that, you know, it will always be something. If something changes in the future, especially some of the guys that have been with me for 10-15 years and they enjoy this and they want to pursue this, definitely.

But I think it's a very oversaturated industry, to be honest with you. It's very little, like the way that the industry works now is very different to what it used to be. So most of the time now, you know, people will make a lot of short films, they’ll make a lot of black pilot productions with the goal to eventually get it on Netflix, or Stan, something like that and get picked up.

And if that’s a success, you get a percentile cut and you’re progressed to a seasonal production, whereas… and most of this is free work, you know, it's a very, very oversaturated industry. Especially, here in Australia it's very difficult, especially with action movies, very few productions get done here, they’re more in the hardy tardy kind of thing, they’re not into that kind of hardcore Asian, that John Wick sort of Transporter style movies. You’ve got a lot more Europeans and Americans and Asians that do that style, you know?

GEORGE: Fantastic. So behind you there's a nice display of different trophies and so forth. Give us a bit of background on what's going on there.

COSTA: Yeah. I just mixed up all of my intercontinental kickboxing title belt, a couple of trophies like some, a gold medal from the Sydney BJJ comp, I've just… it's bits and pieces. It's nice, this is some of the stuff that I have. I'm at home now, so I’m not in the office, this is a small one, my home stuff, there's a lot of stuff in the gym. I don't primarily like to make the Zeus Academy about me, I like to have the impression that it is about the academy, you know?

GEORGE: Lovely.

COSTA: That way it gives me a little bit more freedom to do my acting and do some other stuff that I do. So the way that I work with Zeus Academy, we’ve kind of got 5 branches. So we've got our standard martial arts training and different classes, where we offer Muay Thai, high level Muay Thai. High-level Brazilian jiu jitsu, Pankration, mixed martial arts, Hapkido and we have our kids’ taekwondo/kickboxing programs.

So we have those styles that we teach there. So then my second avenue is, I do quite a bit of work, I used to and I still do occasionally, but not as much as I did before, due to all the circumstances that have happened throughout the world and stuff. I do quite a bit of work with corrective services and security, sort of protection, sort of area. I do a lot of the training of the guards personally myself.

I also do my film work and we run quite a few anti-bullying programs for schools and we also have remedial massage, personal training, weight control and you know personal sort of little things that we work on with individualistic sort of people, depending on, you know, their personal issues that they're dealing with. And we've also got our manager in Zeus, she's pretty much our psychologist and does a few other things as well.

So I kind of run it with those five sort of little sub branches, but all under one academy. So there's many things that I kind of like to do with Zeus Academy in that respect, so it’s kind of like a little bit different from your average martial arts Academy. And it's not that I kind of like planned to take it to any of these specific avenues. I truly believe like if you work hard and you have faith and you believe in what you do, you're very passionate about what you’re doing and you know, you keep at it things fall into place, you know.

And that's kind of like, it’s kind of happened, with the competitive scene, I love competition. I'm not, I don't push it. We have a few very, very high-level competitors. Not a huge amount, but I do find that they take a lot more of my time and a lot of time that I would like to spend. And it’s great, I understand it because I did it myself, I used to compete quite a bit over here and in Europe as well and Asia.

But it's not something that I'm a big fan of going down that avenue. I will support it as much as I possibly can, but to go into that sort of fight lifestyle it's just a whole lot of time consuming with very little return, to be honest with you.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. So I'm curious just on your, on your academy, you mentioned your you know you've got five sort of different pillars.

COSTA: Mhm.

GEORGE: So different audiences. So when it comes to marketing, is it, do you focus on one primary target audience and then there's a bit of cross-promotion in between, or you sort of just have people coming in from all angles across all five pillars?

COSTA: So from a marketing perspective, I just market the academy, primarily I always market the Academy for its philosophy. The philosophy of the Academy, because I do a lot of, I actually studied philosophy quite extensively ever since I was young. So I studied a lot of Socrates, Aristotle and stuff like that. I think of philosophy and its beautiful relation to martial arts in the fact not that it gives you answers, but it creates questions. It creates an open channel of thinking.

In relation to martial arts, there's not one answer. There's many ways from a technical avenue, from a stylistic perspective and many answers, there's not one thing, right? That's why there's so many variations and so many possibilities. And I think that's what philosophy does.

So when I market Zeus Academy, it's more about the philosophy of the academy. We try to make the fist work as a whole in terms of, you know, mind, body and spirit. If one of the fingers are injured or damaged or is not functioning properly, then the whole unit is not going to be able to form at its maximum capacity of power. So we try emphasizing that balance.

I think people are in there, we look at sort of those various aspects of it, but in other terms of marketing, we work a lot with referrals. So we work a lot with referrals. And I also get a lot of clients through my acting. So there's a lot where I’ll be on set and they go “Wow man that's great! What do you do?” It's like, ok, yeah.

So I actually had a guy join us, he actually signed up last night. It was a fellow actor. “I've always wanted to do Muay Thai, I’ve always wanted to do BJJ, I always watch the UFC,” and it's like, that's great. You know, I didn't… I hate the UFC, yeah I'm not a big fan of the UFC. But I get that through my own individual thing.

So from terms of marketing from all the five different aspects, it'll be more by referral, sort of personal thing. But when we're doing general marketing, we just sort of market the academy. I keep it very simple, like it's very rare that I’ll, you know, “Come now and get this free,” I'm not a big believer in things like that.

I'm a big believer in “Less is more.” Like one of my marketing strategies that I sort of do on social media will always be related to something that I do to the philosophy of life. And I think as the leader of the Academy, I think you’ve got to lead by example.

When I think back to my ancestors, Alexander the Great, Leonidas, or Constantine the Great, which is where my name comes from, Constantine, they were always in the front line. They were the first one on the battlefield. They weren't sitting behind, directing, they were saying “This is what we're going to do and this is how we should do it.” So I’ve always kind of had that philosophy with myself and with my students, you know? So I try to do the same.

I try to lead, it's just been one of those things that I kind of do. And it's kind of worked for me and I'm also a big believer in, you know, knowledge is power, but I think yes and no. I think knowledge without action is okay, but you need to take action. So that kind of like means that’s philosophy too, well let's take action. If I can do it and I'm almost 50, you can do it too, you know?

GEORGE: I love that! I was going to ask you about, I was looking at your social media posts and the essence of the philosophy coming through that – it kind of reminds me that the day I started training martial arts and I don't know if you know my story, but I mean my martial arts lifespan is really short, I started when I was 36. But one thing, when you were mentioning the connection of mind, body and spirit, you know, that's what was the selling point for me.

It was all the personal development work and everything that I've done over the years and really trying to master myself and find myself, you know, finding martial arts was kind of the vehicle of the physical, you know. That was the body part which really connected for me. So if you look at the philosophy of Zeus Academy, what is that one core philosophy that sort of stems over all five different styles and avenues that you have?

COSTA: I would say one word. If I could sum up my Academy in one word, it would be family. Because family gives you a sense of security. It gives you a sense of protection, it gives you a sense of strength. It gives you a sense of knowing that there's going to be someone there, or anything there beside you to be there at your best points, but also at your worst points.
Because we all fight different battles and strength is not just a physical thing. It's like you just said before, it's all those three attributes, right? I think our family, not so much when I say the word family, I'm talking about encompassing all of those avenues and those attributes and those qualities that we all possess.

And it's one of those things and I think really you know what I'm talking about. But it's really hard to explain this to people that don't train. They don't want to get involved, especially when you real hardcore, tough like in close, like heavy, like kind of like grappling systems or really, really, really up close and personal hard style Muay Thai and stuff like that, you really develop a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and family.

And that's what I mean by the term family, you know, you get that vibe and you get that sense of belongingness, again you know that you're part of something that is within you as well as external. I don't know how else to explain it, but that's what I meant.

GEORGE: It's 100% clear, what you’re saying is 100% clear. I love that perspective that you share, because I don't hear a lot of people talk that deep, you know, about this. For me it’s an ongoing learning cycle. I mean just everything, the mind and martial arts. The mind, the body and spirit as you mentioned.

COSTA: 100%. And I think we always start… I mean it doesn’t matter what you do, I don't think what age… it doesn't really matter what your mind frame is when you begin with. I think once you spend an extensive amount of time, we all link to that, right? And it doesn't matter what you're doing. Whether you're working on losing weight, you get that mental, emotional and internal satisfaction and understanding that you start to apply to your everyday life.

You know, whether you're a hardcore competitor, you know you start dealing with nerves and soft control and composure and feeling pressure. And no matter how many times I step into that ring, my heart is pounding! And I’ve got to channel that energy to my advantage and the more I do it, the more I'm able to channel that fear to a more positive approach. It doesn’t mean it goes away, it’s there and that’s where it’s always going to be.

And I don't care who you are, I don’t care how many fights you've had: every time you step in that ring your heart pumps and you feel that, right? But you just start to channel that energy to a more positive effect. It's like saying don't be happy, don't cry, don't laugh, and don’t feel fear. It's not going to happen, it's not going to happen at any point in time. It's just how you channel that, right? And I think the more you stay involved when you train you really start to learn these qualities about yourself a lot more.

And eventually, you might start young and you see in many aspects and I've seen this throughout a number of decades of their training. So now I'm a bit closer, this would be like my 40th year probably, like training from young life. And so when you're young you know, your parents are trying to develop that strength, confidence, that eye contact, all those qualities right.

And then you sort of get to your teens, when you start to be a little bit more mentally aware how your physical presence, your mates. And you may start to compete, even if you don't like, you know, you may be trained with people that do compete.

So it gives you that sharpness. And then you go through that whole sort of phase and if you learn to battle through those, you know, those points where, you know, you're going to get hit. You're going to get knocked down. You're going to get beaten up, you're going to get some shocking injuries.

I don't even want to start with my injuries, I'll be here for like ten minutes. Blown out knees, knee reconstructions, fascitis in the elbow, disc fusion, you know. Dislocated ribs, dislocated rib cartilage, you name it. It's like, it's just consistently it hasn’t stopped.  So you know, we don't play long balls for a living, do we?

But it teaches you to fight through life. And I think it was actually Sylvester Stallone that said the best thing in the Rocky movie, no one hits harder than life. So when you learn to overcome and channel these things, and the only way you’ll learn to overcome and channel through them, is by using what you said before, that is mental, any internal physical strength and attributes.

Because the external physical presence doesn't matter at this point. And you learn to overcome and become a fighter in life. And as you progress, irrespective of age, I think when you get to sort of our age and over, you’re kind of like, you are more appreciative of this. And it's a constant learning thing, isn’t it? Like, “Oh master Costa, master Costa!” Yeah for sure, it's a title man but it doesn't really mean anything, you know.

I mean at the end of the day, we're constantly learning. Constantly, constantly. There's always something to it. I think the day that we think that we know it all is this day we stop growing.

That's my philosophy as a whole thing through the Academy, from the top. And I try to sort of slowly, you know, nurture our instructors that have, you know, that work at our Academy, that teach for me. All my instructors have been with me for a minimum of six to seven years, if not more, that have been featured in our Academy. And the idea is, I want it like that, because I want this philosophy to talk to it. I don't want it to be because it's me; I want it to be because it’s the Academy.

As you keep getting older and older, you know, we’ve got some, you know, students that are in their sixties. Yeah, one guy's almost seventy. So it's really nice to see these people, you know, and they're pushing and challenging themselves and they're doing stuff that they never thought was possible.

So I never think it's too late to start, but I think we, all at some point after a level of training, at some point in time, especially within these systems, especially in the system that I teach at the Academy, we really appreciate this mind and body evolving and the connection to life.

When you see that, I think you also create a lot of longevity in your students. And it also gives them a sense of attachment. So for example, we'll go through little things. I was talking to one of my students yesterday and he asked me a question about Muay Thai. And, you know, how it's more of a sport and stuff like that.

Actually, I said this when we were at the convention together, when I did the Muay Thai as well. And you know, a lot of people don't know that Muay Thai is actually a very traditional martial art and it comes from pre-Thailand, before Thailand was actually called Thailand. It was Siam, right?

So it was the Siamese people, their military forces were trained to defend the people of this land.  And there were a lot of weapons involved in, there was archery and there was ground techniques and it was stone throwing techniques. And there was all of this stuff that was used in those times back then, you know. And in order to preserve this beautiful art, they were training it and they made it into more of a ring sport, which is what we have today.

But there's a lot of traditions, you know. The way that we bow, the Mongkon and what that symbolizes. And I don’t know if a lot of people know the Mongkon actually comes from the ancient times, which was embedded into the warriors back then. But before they would go on the battlefield, then it was either blessed by a holy man or a priest. And there's always some, you know, amulet or stone or something in Mong Kong and it would never be touched by the warrior.

So even to this day, when you see a Muay Thai fighter get out of the ring, and you will see the ropes, come around, you come to your instructor, your corner man, they will whisper a prayer or you know a blessing of some sort and then he will remove the Mong Kong, the warrior doesn't touch it. So it was to keep the evil spirits away, to keep the warrior and the fighter safe on the battlefield, or in the arena.

And you know, we talked about this thing and I hear people like training like seven, eight, nine years in Muay Thai, and they’re like, “Wow man! it's like, it's good stuff!”  And this is where the mental stuff comes in and you start to appreciate. And not only that: mentally, you make a connection to way back in history and thinking, “Wow man, I'm doing something that was done centuries ago,” you know?

And I'm carrying this tradition on.” And you feel that sense of connection. And I think if you're able to touch people like this, you create a very, very, very, long journey. A sense of, you know, lasting students. Yeah, I guess.

So this is the core approach I kind of like to use with all my systems. And I think it's important because I think that the past has a lot to teach us and a lot of stuff that we can take. You know. I'll learn something from you and you might have learned it from someone else. You know, it kind of like carries on.

It's not always something new, it's something that was always there, but we just adapt. And that's the secret, I think the adaptation of taking these things and adapting to how we see fit in our current circumstances. I think that's an important point, you know?

GEORGE: Yeah, exactly why I do these interviews, it's just, I learn so much. It’s a very selfish thing, you know, like I mean yeah, people saying “Yes, it's marketing,” and stuff, but the podcast interview is for me, it's selfish in the way that I like to learn. And that's why I can just talk and listen – well, I listen more than I talk, fortunately, in the podcast.

It's just exploring and you’ve got such a wealth of knowledge to share, just those things you just shared about Muay Thai. You know, it makes me think of, you know, I’ve never stepped, you know, in a ring like that, but I just love watching that ritual of fighters walking around the ring and blessing, walking along the rope and there’s just something magical to it.

COSTA: When you hear stuff like this and even if you… you get a much nicer appreciation. And I think if people had this appreciation stylistically as well, we all would understand that we're kind of like trying to get through the same journey through different paths. But in the end, we’re trying to meet the same kind of goal, you know? In that heightened level of spirit and awareness and achievement and you know, progression, success, learning and all of those things, you know.

GEORGE: I wanted to ask you just before we wrap things up but here we mentioned the things in the world have changed and so forth in a… I mean, I don't like to talk about it that much, but in the context of what we spoke about, I mean, let's be real right: people faced challenges in different lights, you know?

Some people saw this as an opportunity, some people were really struggling with it, you know. I think it was a… to me, I look at it as a real test on humanity just in general, you know. How do we cope with diversity and you know, how do we adapt when things don't go the way we had them or are used to living, for example.

With all this perspective that you have and the philosophy that you shared, how did you approach all this? And what are the things, when all this started to develop, what are the things that sort of really resonated with you from all the years of study that you've done of philosophy that you really put to practice to pull you through?

COSTA: It's a really good question. It was an interesting time. I viewed this as a form of self-defense. I mean, it wasn't a direct or physical – well, it was and it wasn't, but you know in a way it was a self-defense sort of like situation, or kind of like scenario that the world had faced. Like, we needed to protect ourselves in a different way of course, but nonetheless the overall sort of theoretical way is, “Okay, we need to protect ourselves. What do I need to do?”

You know, we all have good days, we all have bad days. We try to have more good days than bad days and I think once you accept, I think the key point here is accepting the fact that you're going to have bad days. You're going to fail, you're going to trip, you're going to stumble, and you’re going to be pissed off. You're not going to be your best. You accept the fact, but you know the next day is a new day and you know, it's a good thing to step up your game and get a little bit better and make amends and change things.

And you know, then we kind of like minimize the bad days as opposed to the good days. They’re going to be there and we need to accept that they're going to be there, but if it’s a 50/50 ratio, we try to make that you know, a 60/40 and then a 70/30 and 80/20. And you know hopefully we get to a 90/10 ratio and that's where we want to be, right? But it's going to be there.

It's going to be there. It's like one of those things that we said before, you can’t eliminate, and you can't get rid of fear. It's going to be there. It’s how you channel it and how you react to it.

So this is how I kind of viewed the whole situation. What did I do? I probably did a ton of things that I probably never would have done, you know? I started writing a book about what, six years ago. It's about internal strength, unleashing the warrior within kind of thing.

So it's got to do with a lot of the stuff that we've been discussing. So it’s got to do with some training, it’s got to do with some physical stuff, it’s got to do with some mental stuff, it's got to do with historical moments in history and the way that things had adapted, had changed to that particular individual who’s taking part and what the mind frame might have been like. Some of the stuff that's happened to me and I've encountered, I got a chance to actually work on my book, which was great.

GEORGE: Great.

COSTA: We really got our online platform working. Just something that I had the intention of doing, but never really got around to it. Got an app, online training done. Yeah, I hooked up a major partnership deal between Zeus Academy and Nike.

GEORGE: Oh yeah?

COSTA: Yeah. So I don't even think a lot of this stuff would have been done if that wasn't the case. Did I plan for, you know, to do these things? Not entirely, but I think the best way that I can explain it and this is why I use the term self-defense was, if I'm in a self-defense situation, I look at my options.

So the first thing that I would look at where we’re sitting now, yeah, I would look at what I have in my environment, right? I've got this chair right next to me, so it can be used as a defensive and an offensive tool. This is how I think, right? With my tools.

So this is the kind of way I thought about it. I'll write a book, the online training, will do this, I’ve got to look at maybe attaching the Academy  to something unique, prestigious and world class that people can associate with, and I have this ability to do because of my acting, you know? It's not something that’s simple and it's not something that I can solve, “I'm going to attach myself to it.” It kind of like fell into it, opportunities arose and I just took it.

What I do think though, I think that depending on people's circumstances, you know, some people have got it a lot harder than others, depending on where you are and what you have access to. I think that people that have been in the game for a lot longer, whatever game they're in, whatever industry they’re in, I think the ones that have been in there a lot longer are always far better, because they're able to ride the storm a little bit easier.

So with us, you know, teaching for how many years, over 20 years, I've had Zeus Academy for about 20 years, I've been teaching since 93. I could ride that with that wave a little bit longer. And also we had a lot more students that were loyal. I was kind of blessed from that perspective. I think it's tough for different people facing different situations. I mean, there was a guy who's only been open for a year or two and couldn’t sustain it, so he had to close. I think that's a key role as well.

I also think that people don't get into survival mode. So this is why I look at this as self-defense. So the first thing that happened was like, I was in survival mode. So my clear objective is to survive. I don't want to win, I don't want to gain, I don't want to get anything – I want to survive first.

Once I survive and I've gotten myself to a point where there's no threat to me now, I can then look at progressing. So I think from a philosophical mindset I portray that this is important. And I think people panic. Either they go too defensive, or they go too offensive. You’ve got to ride your time, you've got to be patient.

I think it's a classic example of… Like, if you have someone in side control. And they’re big and they’re strong and they’re battling you, it’s time to attack. The time to defend, you're on top, right? You’ve got to gas them,you got to ride them out, you’ve got to wait for the right moment until you attack the man, you go to attack the mount or you go for submission, or whatever the case may be, that's just from a technical perspective.

So when I take that approach and that's how I kind of handled that situation. That's how I think of it. Did I think of it intentionally? No, that's just the way I think, that’s just sort of my mentality, how I do things, you know? And on a positive note, it gave me a lot more time with my kids that I probably didn't get a chance to spend, you know what I mean? And I can't put a value on that.

I just truly hope that, just in terms of a humanity kind of thing, people become a little bit more compassionate and understanding with each other. And you know what, at the end of the day George, sometimes you need shit like this to happen that people can just come out of it and say, “Hang on: there are far more important things to life than just running around like a madman, becoming a slave to the system.”

Because a lot of us, and I'm sure you’re guilty of it, and I'm guilty of it and we're all guilty of it at some point in time, right? So it kind of makes you take a step back and, you know, analyze it. So that's how I work, I sort of thought about it and built a sort of approach.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Hey Costa, thanks so much, this was awesome. If people want to get in touch with you and know more about you, what should they do? Where should they go?

COSTA: Very simple. Our website is zeusacademy.com.au, but .com works as well. And email is info@zeusacademy.com.au. Instagram is, I'm quite active on Instagram, a lot more than Facebook. Instagram is my name, Costa Prasoulas and Facebook is the same as well. I'm usually quite active on my social media, I try to answer and talk to as many people as I can. I usually get through all of my emails and stuff like that, so if someone wants to get in contact, I'll be more than happy to, you know, touch base and say hello and answer questions people have and stuff like that. It’s great. I look forward to catching up with you too my man, soon!

GEORGE: Yes! When we can cross borders.

COSTA: Yeah, definitely, definitely, definitely, yeah.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Costa, thank you so much, thanks for doing this. Great speaking to you and I'll speak to you soon.

COSTA: Thank you for having me, it's been a pleasure.

GEORGE: Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top and 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 – the 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 Business Community and an easy way to access it is, if you just go to the domain named martialartsmedia.group, so martialaartsmedia.group, g-r-o-u-p, there's no .com or anything, martialartsmedia.group. That will take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – cheers!

 

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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.

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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

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