Posted Mar. 1, 2017

​A recent humor website reminded me of something. Not every piece of advice you receive is good. No matter your situation, someone in your life will offer an observation, a suggestion or a proposed solution.

Some people will do this even if they have never been in your situation, don’t have all the facts, or aren’t taking your personal feelings on the matter into consideration. Some people just use giving advice as a method of controlling someone else or bossing them around.

In life you need to filter out the bad advice and the bad sources of advice in order to find helpful insight. How do you do this? There are a few questions to ask.

1. Does this person have personal experience in this arena?

The person offering the advice doesn’t have to be a world leader in research on the subject. They merely need either professional experience in the matter or have faced a similar situation and resolved in a sensible manner.

2. Do they have your best interest at heart?

If the person offering the advice has demonstrated genuine concern for you, then you can expect the advice is at least thoughtful and intended to help, rather than control you. If the person has been known to be manipulative, perhaps the advice is a way for them to hold influence over you. It may also be a way of holding it over your head later. If you follow their advice and it works, they may try to imply you owe them something. On the other hand, if they were right and you don’t listen they have the opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

3. Is this person reliable?

People may pass on bad advice inadvertently with no ill intent. There are those however, who might purposely mislead you in order to achieve some ulterior motive of their own. If you have doubts about the person’s sincerity or the source of their motivation to help, it might be best to steer clear.

Ultimately in any situation you have to be willing to look deep into yourself and objectively determine what is best for you. No one else has to live with the outcome. It’s ok to consider outside opinion, but you need to decide what’s best for you and take ownership of the outcome.

The only exception to these principles is the question of whether or not you should train Jiu-Jitsu. In that case, the answer is yes. You should train Jiu-Jitsu. Coach Don believes Jiu-Jitsu resolves most of life’s dilemmas. 

Posted Feb. 19, 2017

Nashville’s Hot Chocolate 15K

Coach Kim and I decided to run the 15K over her birthday weekend. We also accepted the “Run the Year” challenge to log 2017 total team miles in 2017. From New Year’s Day till the first day of official classes at the gym Jan. 18, I faithfully ran 2-3 miles and walked almost two more daily. After that, actual running fell by the wayside as I focused on tasks associated with improving the school and setting up business functionality.

The morning of the race we walked nearly 1.5 miles to the race start point. Standing in the corral waiting to start I could feel my back tightening. The combination of the motel bed, prolonged standing, and anxiety about never have actually run 15K before caused the tension to activate my long-standing sciatica condition. I knew then, this was going to be a long morning.

The slow easy pace at the start was not uncomfortable, but attempts to lengthen my stride or quicken my steps were met with increasing back pain. Coach Kim was trying to encourage me and coax a little more out of me. It was well-meant and heartfelt, but to no avail. I implored her to go and run the best race she could, knowing she had been training much harder for it than I had.

Reluctantly she agreed and trotted off at her pace. After just a couple of miles into the run, I was forced to slow to a walk to alleviate the excruciating back pain. I felt guilty for not keeping up with the training so I could actually run with my wife. I cursed myself for not being strong enough to gut out the run. I began to despair that I had bitten off more than I could chew.

As I alternated between walking and running, I observed others along the route. There were runners of every shape, size and age. A gentleman who appeared old enough to be my father trotted easily past me and off into the distance. A woman with a shirt emblazoned with weight loss slogans loped by me and jogged away. As I watched, I thought, “If they can do it, so can I.” Acknowledging that this endeavor was as much an exercise in perseverance as physical ability, I continued to alternate between running and walking.

At approximately the halfway point an elderly blind woman jogged ahead of me with her running guide. The runner had a smile on her face and a grace in her posture and carriage to be the envy of any woman who dared lace up their running shoes.

As the countdown miles dwindled I began to think about finishing the race at a run, rather than walking across the finish line. I continued to envision the blind runner and her guide.

With just over two miles left on the course, I could feel my aching back muscles begin to relax. I could finally quicken my pace and lengthen my stride.

I began passing runners who had passed me previously. I overheard one runner encourage another, “Don’t worry about anyone else. Run your race.” I internalized those words and contemplated them as I continued to run.

Never did I feel out of breath or weak in the legs. The entire struggle was focused on the unexpected back pain. As I contemplated the wise words shared between two training partners, I acknowledged that I too must run my own race.

As I crossed the finish line I slowed to a walk. Shortly afterward, I encountered the blind runner again. I told her she inspired me and encouraged her never to stop. Her smile grew even broader across her face.

Only one male runner in my age category finished behind me. To me, this does not matter. I finished. So did he. And last, or next to last, we both lapped everyone on the couch.

Posted Feb. 13, 2017

​Scrolling Facebook early one morning this week I found a memory from about eight years ago. It was an image of a bunch of Jiu-Jitsu students attending the grand opening ceremonies for the new location for the USA Jiu-Jitsu organization. The most striking thing in the image was how few of the people in it were still training in that location, or even training at all.
Maybe you didn’t know this, but the U.S. Census Bureau tracks statistics on recreation activities, including martial arts. Recent census info estimates about 6% of people between ages 6 and 24 are inclined to participate in martial arts training. The same data indicates that of those who try martial arts, about 84% quit before achieving the rank of black belt.
This information refers to martial arts in general and not Jiu-Jitsu in particular. But, based on the comparison of the time investment to achieve black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and other traditional arts it stands to reason the attrition rate is considerably higher for Jiu-Jitsu.
Now, I don’t point any of this out to lessen the value of anyone’s participation in the martial arts. In fact, the point is to illustrate just the opposite. There is tremendous value in the study of martial arts for any student who puts in the time, whether they train for a month, or a lifetime.
Modern Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center promotes a set of values for our students. For our youngest jiujitieros we advocate four; Respect, Optimism, Charity and Kindness. Adults are exposed to all eight values as represented by the major rays extending from the sunburst of the school’s logo. The additional values along with those mentioned previously are Honesty, Integrity, Perseverance and Gratitude.
Instilling these values is part of the daily experience of training at our school. From the specific discussion time we spend with our young students, to the conscious display of these attributes we integrate into training with our adults, these are the guiding principles of our pursuit of ever-improving Jiu-Jitsu.
There are physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits to training in martial arts. We believe exposure to these benefits is universal for all who train. Whether the interest in Jiu-Jitsu is a passing moment, or a lifelong pursuit, there is something for everyone who studies with us. We’ll welcome all who approach training with a willingness to learn. If you leave our school, you’ll go with our blessing and memory of time well spent. If you continue your journey with us that just means you have more time to build more memories, experiences and skills with us.
I miss my old training partners, but I cherish my current students. I hope as time goes on many of them will be able to look back on these times as fondly as I do the early days of my training.
See you on the mats!




Posted Feb. 9, 2017

Playtime and Childhood Development

I’ll start by saying I’m not an early-childhood development expert. But, I raised two healthy, well-adjusted boys to manhood and I’ve been teaching Jiu-Jitsu to kids for a while now.

Our public schools are being held to higher and higher standards even as it seems the quality of our education system is slipping in comparison to some other nations. So, it makes sense to some to cut out frivolity in favor or more time-on-task and increase instructional hours during the school year.

Among the first things to go is recess. As an elementary school student I recall those playground times as some of the most important in my development; learning to socialize with other children, being physically active, and getting the fidgets out of my system before the next set of classes.

It seems today children have less and less opportunities like this. While the article is a couple of years old, Emily Sohn wrote of her concerns in a Health and Fitness column for the Washington Post. (Find it here: She cited a study which indicates when kids receive more play time, they behave and perform better.

Since our schools may be eliminating this time for physical activity, we should focus on ways to help them get it elsewhere.

Jiu-Jitsu is just such an opportunity. Besides learning useful self-defense techniques and anti-bullying strategies, kids get developmental exercise, time to socialize, and time to just be kids.

I’ll conclude by sharing my hope that the kids enjoy my classes as much as I enjoy teaching them!

Posted Jan. 20, 2017

In the continuing quest for enjoyable and wholesome foods to fuel our pursuit of physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being I found a sweet and spicy chicken dish that’s packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients. My post-training meal last night was quick, simple and delicious. Try it out:

1 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes

1 lbs. Broccoli Florets

2 large scallions

3 tangerines

¼ cup Soy Sauce

2 tsp. Sriracha

2 TBS. Honey

2 TBS. Rice Vinegar

1 TBS Canola Oil

2 tsp. Sesame Oil

1 TBS Corn Starch

Cook cubed chicken and diced scallions in large skillet or wok with canola and sesame oil. Steam broccoli 3 to 5 minutes.

Whisk remaining liquid ingredients and the juice from one tangerine together with corn starch in a bowl for sauce.

Toss broccoli in with cooked chicken. Add sauce. Toss in segments from remaining tangerines. Heat just until sauce thickens.
Serve alone or with a side of rice or quinoa.

Posted Jan. 19, 2017

​I tell people all the time my mission in life is to spread the love of Jiu-Jitsu throughout the world. In my previous job I talked about Jiu-Jitsu and all that it has brought me since I discovered it. I converted two coworkers. They agreed after relentless badgering to try a class. Both signed contracts at my professor’s school. One trained for a while and set it aside for other life events. The other trains as circumstances allow after moving to a place where academies are far from home.

I don’t consider either of these encounters a failure. I transferred my energy and love for Jiu-Jitsu to people I valued. They have taken from Jiu-Jitsu what they chose. I believe in both instances the experience has enriched them.

When I was teaching Jiu-Jitsu in a small gym tucked in the corner of one of Saddam’s palaces in Iraq I brought in hundreds of Soldiers, contractors and Defense employees to train. Some used the opportunity as a way to pass the time while deployed to Iraq. Some continue to train today and have gone on to earn blue, purple and even brown belts under instructors around the globe.

Tonight, Modern Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center opened its doors for training for the first time. A brother and sister who had been training in my home got their first taste of a formal academy. Adult students who had been coming to the house three nights a week also made the transition. Among them two new students who had never trained before tasted some of what Jiu-Jitsu has to offer. I’m proud to have facilitated that discovery.

The journey of Jiu-Jitsu is different for every practitioner. I’ve watched parents skeptically step on to the mats after seeing the joy and accomplishment their children have experienced to find that they also enjoy training. I’ve seen retirees take up the art out of curiosity to find that it fulfills physical and social needs they didn’t realize they had. I’ve seen body builders humbled by smaller training partners. I’ve seen timid young women become fierce competitors.

I look forward to serving this community and providing a conduit for the pursuit of Jiu-Jitsu. I honestly can’t wait to see who comes through the door next to train. Maybe they will try for a month and go on to their next pursuit. Maybe they will find Jiu-Jitsu provides them with something they need in their life for a season or two and abandon it as situations continue to change. It’s also equally possible they will find that Jiu-Jitsu becomes a permanent part of their being as it has mine. Regardless, I am dedicated to showing and sharing. None are diminished for exploring Jiu-Jitsu’s offerings. Whether someone wishes to sample and move on, or to practice for the rest of their lives; I will do all that I can to help them to find whatever joy they may from the practice.

Posted Jan. 9, 2017

Why do I train in the martial arts?  In a world where gun violence remains a top-of-mind threat how does hand-to-hand combat training remain relevant? As we recount the mass shooting incidents of the last several years, it is important to realize that physical assaults, strong armed robberies, carjackings and other violent acts occur at an alarming rate as well. Regardless of the threat, martial arts training can be extremely relevant. Specifically, training in martial arts which includes realistic, modern self-defense tactics can mean the difference between life and death. However, self-defense training is more often the difference between being a victim and being bypassed as a target.

One of the most meaningful events which underscored the importance of training in a martial art resulted in my companion and me not having a physical confrontation with a potential assailant.

It was the holiday season. Shoppers were bustling around a parking lot in a crowded strip mall. We had just made some purchases at an alcoholic beverage store. As we were walking toward our vehicle, we noticed a man walking through the parking lot. He appeared to be assessing people. The reason for his scrutiny is only supposition on my part in the aftermath, but he looked at the two of us and began to walk towards us.

At the time I was carrying two bottles in the crook of my arm. As the stranger seemed to be moving towards us, I handed one bottle to my companion. Each of us was now gripping a glass liquor bottle by the neck. I made direct eye contact with the individual. He made a nearly immediate 90 degree turn away from us.

I don’t know if he actually meant us harm. I don’t know if our change in posture or our focus on him intimidated him because he was not intending ill toward us, or if he had a thought of robbing or assaulting us in some way and thought the better given our reaction.

However, I do know that as a result of our situational awareness and our adoption of a pro-active posture for protecting ourselves, we were not the victims of any violence or ill will on that night.

What’s the significance? We train to deal with physical confrontation every day. Therefore, in the presence of the possibility of violence, we are prepared. We train to assess the intentions of those around us. Therefore, we can infer from stances, approaches and gestures when someone may have the intent of harming us.

What’s the result? While it’s impossible to say whether the individual in question actually had an intent to do us harm or not, the end result is we sent a clear message that we were aware of the potential threat and that we were willing, ready and able to deal with it. As a result, this individual redirected his path to avoid us.

If you are not currently training in a martial art, I encourage you to investigate a few. If you are training in a martial art, I ask you to evaluate your training in terms of how well it teaches you to deal with the real-world violence that threatens us.

If you are not confident you can deal with neutralizing an attacker’s ability to strike you or dealing with ending up being tripped or thrown to the ground, I strongly encourage you to find a school which trains students to do so. Any art which does not address positional hierarchy on the ground is not dealing with the reality of combat.

Originally posted Oct. 2016

Modern Martial arts and Family Fitness Center opens a new facility in the coming weeks. The center offers Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing and Self-Defense.

One thing that sets MMAFFC apart from other schools in the area is a focus on instruction for women. Realizing that there are women who are interested in experiencing Jiu Jitsu or Kickboxing but who prefer to do so in smaller groups just for them, we have created classes just for them.

What is it that women can expect from MMAFFC? First and foremost, any physical exercise can be a tremendous stress reliever and confidence builder. Martial Arts training builds on the exhilaration of working out by providing useful self-defense skills to empower you in ways other exercise just doesn’t.

Other reasons you’ll love training at MMAFFC:


Kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu are both known to burn as much as 1,000 calories per training session
Our classes help you get stronger and build your endurance
You’ll be welcomed as a member of the family and not just a client
Martial Arts training breaks up the monotony of your exercise routine
MMAFFC widens your social circle and introduces you to people who will quickly become friends
Your whole family can find fun and fitness at MMAFFC


Store twice as many tennis balls in half the space!