Competition postponement and adversity management


Imagine you have prepared intensely for four months leading up to a tournament. Everything went as planned and you are ready. On your way to the venue, you find out the event has been postponed for two days later. Is that good or bad?

Earlier today I posted this hypothetical scenario on my Twitter and Facebook pages, and asked my friends about it.

On each site, one person transferred the situation to fighting (although I hadn’t been specific about the type of competition) and made a similar remark, adding one extra interesting ingredient: the matter of losing weight.

Yes, let’s say it’s a Jiu-Jitsu tournament – where the weigh-in happens just before the match – and you’re on a diet. Starving yourself to make weight. Again I ask: is that good or bad?

It’s certainly an adversity, but random adversity isn’t necessarily bad, is it?

After all, the same hurdle is placed in front of all your opponents.

Note that nobody in the competition (barring someone with insider knowledge) knew about the postponement. Everybody was caught by surprise – not just you. And since the competition is necessarily between you and someone else, the answer depends on who was affected the most.

Basically, if you were less affected than your opponent(s), the delay was good.

Yes, it depends on your state of mind. Of course you must take into account that everyone was affected; this may act in your favor, but it also hinges on your fragility. If the sacrifice of dieting is much greater to you than to your adversaries, then evidently, even if you stay positive, you have been most affected.

It’s not possible to predict the unexpected. But, depending on your state of mind and your position, you may benefit from it. By making adversity your friend.

Thanks to philosopher Nassim Taleb for the concept of fragility and antifragility which is so pervasive in our lives. Good day to all.

Beware of the Sudden Stop

It's not about the speed, it's about how to stop. Photo by Francois Malan
It’s not about the speed, it’s about how to stop. Photo by Francois Malan

I was reading the amazing new book written by Paul A. Laudicina, Beating the Global Odds, and bumped into a quote the author used as the chapter “Fast and Fickle” epitome:

It’s not the speed that kills you, but the sudden stop. –Rüdiger Dornbush

And this (for some, obvious) observation caught my eyes.

After 20+ years deeply involved to Jiu-Jitsu, everything in my world has the art as a reference, and immediately it reminded me the conversation I had with Grand Master Francisco Mansor, right after he suffered a heart attack, a couple of years ago.

Tio Chico, as always, gave me a lecture about the subject, explaining me that hearts have a problem not with excitements, as the common sense makes us to believe, but with the sudden calm down.

I don’t want to go too further into this and risk to be called a charlatan by my dear doctor friends (and odd enough few of my best friends are doctors), but the reason is that the veins and arteries expand as the heart pumps faster, and when they abruptly constrict to accomodate the lower blood volume (when the excitement ceases), the clotting risk increases.

These similar dangerous behavior in two total different matters made me think on it as a pattern of the Nature and, of course, try to reflect and learn from that.

Either on Jiu-Jitsu or business; on relationship or leisure; on nutrition or achievements; BALANCE plus CONSISTENCY tend to be a better path than spikes.

However, as twenty-seventh President of Harvard University and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers also pointed, the crashes are way more spectacular.

It’s all about innovation, not productivity

Classic moment in the GracieMag Brazilian Newsroom, September of 2006. We all miss this place.
Classic moment in the GracieMag Brazilian Newsroom, Sept. of 2006. We all miss this place.

I had to move out from Brazil.

Then, a few months latter, our chief designer also traded Rio de Janeiro by Belo Horizonte, and like we always do (as I love changes thus it became a mark for GracieMag), we surfed the wave and decided to trade our physical newsroom by a virtual one.

This was in July of 2007, and the decision seemed to me so 21st centuriesh that I was very proud of it.

We would make our team happier. No commute, no traffic, more time with their families. We had the Skype, after all (of course that was before Skype was purchased by Microsoft and became a mess), we had IMs, Nextel, and all the future and its tools on our hands.

“The world is flat,” taught me Tomas Friedman. And it’s all about systems, taught me Michael Berger.

It took me four years to realize how fooled I was by these authors.

We were living the “Modern Times” movie, very well documented decades earlier by Chaplin and his genius.

Sure, we had no much choice as for myself. I was launching the GracieMag US Operations and the only way of doing it was to come and clean the path by myself.

As for the newsroom, dismissing it was a big mistake. We would do much better if we had not done so, no question. During these endless four years, yes, we kept the level of productivity but killed or at least suspended the best we had: innovation.

We were heading to become a machine without a brain and worst, without a heart.

Nothing could replace the days we passed together accomplishing an issue, sleeping over in the newsroom, going to a bakery at 3am, having the most creative ideas we could have, and laughing a lot. We all missed it, I’m sure.

It wasn’t too late though. We started to fix it in the end of 2011 and we now have two newsrooms, one in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and other in Irvine, CA, where I am writing these happy words.

Not as coincidence, GracieMag is getting super innovative again, and the readers are praising it over and over.

The memory is always romantic, and we all tend to try to replicate past, good moments, so I started to go work at 4am, 5am, for several days every week. And I always pass in a nearby French bakery that opens at 4am to hang, still dreaming the old days.

I’m glad Marissa Mayer from Yahoo! just decided to walk our walk. We’re in good company :)

Why Google Plus?

Jiu-Jitsu tournaments coverage is big part of GRACIEMAG history.

The first time I smelt press paint was in 1994 when the Jornal Gracie cover featured the Brazilian Nationals, also the first tournament organized by CBJJ (Brazilian Confederation of Jiu-Jitsu).

That was four years before we launched our website, so the print issues were our platform for “real time” coverage. I would sleep over in our tiny newsroom to have the print piece distributed possibly a few days after a big tournament like the Jiu-Jitsu Worlds or the ADCC. We kept the practice also after going online and welcoming more members to our editorial team.

In 2003, our entire team (including designer) traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil when we finished an entire issue about the ADCC in a hotel room. That magazine was in our hands less than 2 days after the event wrapped up.

Of course, the medium has evolved and diversified. We still carry tournament coverages in our print pages, but nowadays we are able to take the news to our readers, followers, friends in several different platforms, such as, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Now we added Google Plus into this party and people are wondering why.

It’s kind of odd, as, as far as we know, nobody else is doing it (But remember, nowadays it’s super common to live cover via Twitter, but we also were one of the firsts to do so, back in 2008.)

We however felt like Google Plus is very fit for the type of coverage our audience enjoys. The interface is simple and slick, it’s super fast to load, the refresh is immediate, and it’s wonderfully presented on mobile phones.

Thus, we are doing it because we think it will improve the experience of our thousand of customers through the world.

But we also are doing it because we LOVE to innovate.

Starting on 2013 Houston Open, GRACIEMAG is using Google Plus as a platform for its tournaments Live Coverage.
Starting on 2013 Houston Open, GRACIEMAG is using Google Plus as a platform for its tournament’s live coverages.

Wrestling dropped from the Games. Is It a Shocking News?

Despite being an ancient, legit sport, wrestling was dropped from the Olympic Games.
Despite of being an ancient, legit sport, wrestling was dropped from the Olympic Games.

I was reading the papers early this morning when I bumped into the news that IOC dropped wrestling from 2020 Olympics.

Shocking news. Or is it?

I don’t know any other Olympic sport that requires so much dedication, mental toughness and physical skills than wrestling. Don’t get me wrong, every Olympic athlete of any modality passes through a brutal funnel to get there, I just think wrestling even surpasses them all, and one of the reasons is also the lack of recognition. That is, you are a monster, train like a maniac, need to perform in a hand to hand combat against another super athlete and still, even if you succeed, the world doesn’t give you any credit. Thus, to stick with all the hard work needed through years and years in order to become an Olympic, you really need to have an off the curve focus and sense of purpose.

Therefore wrestling has all the athleticism characteristics that one should look for, when watching those games.

It’s also an ancient modality, so it has tradition. And it’s practiced worldwide, which fulfills another requirement to be in the Olympics.

So why did they kick wrestling off the Games?

Well, I guess “the Games” are also “the Business.”

I’m not familiar with numbers such as attendance, TV and Internet audience, tickets sold, costs of all the logistics of having the worldwide trials, and the cost of opportunity of having a more popular sport instead of wrestling seizing the same time slot during the Olympics. But I bet these are the factors that counted for the decision.

I feel sorry for my Jiu-Jitsu peers that dream the day the modality will be at the Olympics. Like in wrestling, only practitioners can understand the value of a Jiu-Jitsu match, and how much sweat, blood, dedication, focus and suffering is involved in that strange scene of two people tangled on a mat, looking for an arm, a leg or a neck.

And these people are just not enough to bump the media rates in a game of billions.

* * *

PS. At this point, wrestling is out of the 2020 Summer Olympics, but there will be another voting in September that can change it. According to Sports Illustrated, however, it’s unlike they will change the decision. Let’s hope they do, at least for the sake of tradition.


Sport Illustrated

The New York Times

A useful tool to monitor health

Black belt Jim McPherson sadly passed away Wed, Jan 23, victim of cancer. Photo borrowed from Romero Cavalcanti’s Facebook page.

The Jiu-Jitsu community is now mourning the death of Romero Cavalcanti’s black belt Jim McPherson (Ian McPherson’s dad), who passed away yesterday, victim of cancer.

As more as we try to push a health lifestyle, it’s still impossible to fully prevent some chronic diseases like cancer, in its thousands of different types. Some believe that a vegan way of eating is perhaps the best way to do so but, still, there’s no proof of it.

What can help, sometimes, is to diagnose the disease in its early stages, and therefore have more odds of beating it. I personally try to run comprehensive blood tests every six month. This is not to diagnose cancer in particular, but to monitor my body and health in general.

I encourage everybody to do the same.

Below I’m sharing the protocol I use, most of the parameters given by my friend and physician Matt Krieger a couple of years ago, and a few added last year by another friend (also doctor). You can hand it as a reference to your own doctor and ask if it’s good for you.

In case he adds parameters, I ask you to please share with us.

Blood Test Protocol:

MP: (A/G Ratio, Albumin, Alkaline Phosphatase, BUN/Creatinine, Calcium, Chloride, Globulin Glucose Serum, LDH, Potassium, CO2, SGOT, SGPT Sodium, Total Bilirubin, Total Protein, GFR)

LIPID: (Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglyceride, VLDL HDL/Cholesterol Ratio)

CBC: (Red Blood Cell Count, White Blood Cell Count Platelets, Hemoglobin Hematocrit, MCH, MCHC MCV, Neutrophils, Basophils, Eosinophils, Lymph Percentage, Monocytes)

THYROID: (T3 Uptake, T4(Thyroxin), Free thyroxin Index(T7), TSH)


I would also get a Hair analysis looking for essential, non essential and Toxic elements.

* * *


How the Reputation Murder works

You know I am against rape. I am against any type of violence, domestic, urban, between countries or whatever its may be.

This is obvious. I think everybody who follows me or GRACIEMAG has the same opinion.

I was avoiding speaking about this recent case involving three Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in Maryland for several reasons.

The main one is that Jiu-Jitsu cannot be blamed for anything.  Human beings are capable of doing bad things, students, teachers, competitors, practitioners, etc… I do believe with all my heart Jiu-Jitsu can make people better.  But sadly it doesn’t always make changes in them.

The case is  being covered by many news outlets with commitments beyond our mission that is “To Promote Jiu-Jitsu”.

I fully support the victim and stand in sprit with her in her recovery. That said, we at Graciemag to this point didn’t think we had anything greater or positive to contribute to this story.  Actually we felt that the more we addressed it the more Jiu-Jitsu would suffer, which is not our mission.

However, for the last two weeks people took advantage of the situation to practice what a famous Brazilian journalist calls “reputation murder”.  In this case specifically the murder of Lloyd Irvin Jr.’s reputation.

Is there anyone seriously thinking he has a “rape culture” in place?

Even if you don’t like his teaching style or marketing style or anything about him, how is it possible to blame him for the actions of two of his students (one with him for less than a month, the other for seven months).

Look, it does seem that these two guys truly did something despicable.  But the truth is… no matter how bad the circumstances seem and how strong are the evidence is against them, the world we live in gives people the benefit of being innocent until they are proven guilty by the legal system.  As much as I don’t approve of the circumstances as fellow human beings we owe them this.

I understand that people have differences with Lloyd Irvin, his language, his way to do business. I’ve disagreed with him on a few things in the past.  I have called him and told him directly.  We talked about my disapproval, he explained his side.  I may not change his views,  and he may not change mine, however at least we respect each other and speak honestly to each other.

But now I must speak equally as honestly to some in the Jiu-Jitsu community and say that I think using this sensitive moment to attack him is cowardice and disrespectful to both him and the woman who suffered the night of this attack.

People are kicking the dog, because they think it’s dead. They didn’t stand against the dog when he was alive and barking.

Bringing past stories (no matter how unsightly they may be) to associate with this isolated case will not push me to judge him.

Lloyd has wife and son.  I know this man NOW and have for many years.  He has been a significant contributor to the betterment of our beloved Jiu-Jitsu for over a decade and a half (admittedly not I am not in agreement with ALL of his contributions but on a whole they have done far more positive and good for us than anything else) And unless something relevant that links him DIRECTLY to this particular case comes out I’m backing him.

Because I feel the information he has shared with me CAN make a positive come from all the negative I’m providing a forum for him to share his side of this story and hopefully bring some healing and growth for us.

If any of you should ever find themselves in need of a safe haven to fairly tell their side of a story I am open to listen.  Our channels are closed however, for attackers, or reputation murderers, whatever reasons they have.

PS. Shortly after I wrote the opinion above, we received Lloyd Irvin’s official statement about the case. It can be read here.

UPDATE added on 1/24/2013:

Looking for a reason behind my article, other than have an opinion, some people are demanding that I disclose my business ties with Lloyd Irvin. I guess every time Graciemag writes well about Bochecha, we would have to disclose that Koral (his sponsor at the present moment) is an advertiser. Ridiculous, but there will go:

LI never paid any airfare, hotel to me or any of my staff. He invited me to speak in his last seminar in Orlando (the only one I ever went) but there was no money involved. I wasn’t paid to speak, nor I paid to speak.

LI places one page advertising on Graciemag. His advertising dollars answers for less than 0.2% of our income. It’s crazy people think I would hurt my principles to keep a LI page ad. Graciemag sold last week, only counting our Brazilian edition, over 400 2-year subscriptions. That alone is probably over 50 times more money than what we get with one page ad. As I’m writing it, the first day of the Europeans is finishing, and we’ve sold already only there dozens of subscriptions.

We have several different streams of income world wide: tens of thousands of individual subscriptions, over 200 retailers (GMA) in subscription basis, bookstores, newsstands, advertising, tournaments, iPad subscriptions, goods etc. Fortunately, we are not dependent of any brand, school or company. We have 15 full time employees, some of them working for us for over 10 years now. This LI ad money doesn’t pay even the company that does our book keeping (just to give an example).

People don’t accept different opinions, so they look for a reason I can have my own opinion, and then, before knowing any facts, attack me. Ironically they blame money as the reason, the same money many people out there accuse Lloyd to be obsessed with. No, I can assure you, I’m not position myself for money, I always position myself for my principles, and for what I think is a fair course (of course, I’m not the owner of the truth, so it’s just my opinion, I don’t expect everybody to agree with me). Let me emphasize again (next time I will draw if people still don’t understand my words:) I’m not defending a particular person, I’m defending a modus operandis that is, do not judge because we are not the law nor God.

How much philosophy there is in a box of guavas

Boxes of guavas and other fruits helped me to understand the Jiu-Jitsu philosophy
Boxes of guavas helped me to understand the Jiu-Jitsu philosophy

Last night, I went to Gracie Barra Dana Point, house of my big friends Flavio and Ricardo Almeida, for a 30-minutes, quick Jiu-Jitsu training session.

After the workout, Coach Scott Pearson asked me to give the final message for the class, and introduced me as the person in Gracie Barra who understands the most about nutrition.

That was too kind but not true, Gracie Barra is a huge organization, and many people know more than I do about the subject, Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. himself being the most notable of them. But, anyways, that “title” gave me a big responsibility on talking to a group of white, blue and purple belts, many of them already a parent, about such important matter.

Jiu-Jitsu way of eating, to me, means fruits

Before starting my speech, I looked to the big pictures of Master Carlos Gracie, Sr. and Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. framed in the wall, and right away felt them besides me as if they were physically present. I immediately was pumped with confidence.

I spoke of course about the importance of eating mainly fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional cooked food, and remembered the time I started to work and live in Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. home, back in 1994, when I came to see to box of guavas, apples, mangos and bananas all over his kitchen, pantry and backyard, and how that unusual view had a huge impact on me.

Carlinhos used to eat (and does it until today) cooked food only once a day.

I’m a Jiu-Jitsu evangelist, and I believe that Jiu-Jitsu may help a person’s life in many ways. But when I say Jiu-Jitsu I’m not talking only about the obvious benefits of training in the mats. Perhaps where Jiu-Jitsu can help the most is when you acquire the entire Jiu-Jitsu philosophy conscience, and looking for nutrition’s habits that may impact in a better living for you and your children is a sign you are getting there.

Now let me go. My 2-years old daughter is asking me for some more broccoli.

* * *

Disagree? That’s okay. There’s a comment section below waiting for your thoughts.

How to cease your fear of flying

The helicopter approach to the fear of flyingOut of all fears, one that can strain you a lot, depending of what you do, is the fear of flying.

There was a former New York Times sports writer who was being prevented of traveling to cover the major games because he suddenly developed this type of phobia, in a way he couldn’t stand stepping in a plane any more.

Then he came up with a very creative (and a bit expensive) solution:

He hired a helicopter service and, every week, he would go to the top of a building. The first time he only looked to the helicopter, paid the pilot, and went back home. Next time, he just entered in the helicopter and had to step out, right away. A week later, he was able to fly a few feet and then asked the pilot to land. And then he followed this drill progressively until, in a few weeks, he was flying through Manhattan without any concern. Then, he was back to his routine, reporting for the paper all over the United States.

The Jiu-Jitsu Helicopter Pilot

A very similar approach can be implemented by Jiu-Jitsu teachers, when a student is back to the mats after a long period, specially if the reason he was absent was an injury.

In this case, you need to be very sensitive, and pair this student properly for a roll section. It’s the time the student needs to get confidence and get back in shape, bigger challenges can wait a little. So, don’t match him against someone much heavier than him, or much younger or way more skilled.

Remember, your ultimate mission as an instructor is to improve your student’s life through Jiu-Jitsu. Challenges are of course necessary to fulfill your goal, but you will have much more chance to be successful on your job if your student spends more time in your dojo.

So, before challenge him, heal his fear of flying.