Clay pots and porcelain.

" A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot . . .  it has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain."  - Mildred WitteStouven

Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures. -wikipedia

Me sparing with Prof. Sergio Costa

What lengths are you willing to go to change your life? I say it often here at, that you are going to have to endure some challenging things to grow, and if one is wise they make the choices of those things up front instead seeing what we can get away with, thus leaving these fateful choices up to life. It is advice I wish I had been given when I was young. One cannot remain clay in life, some parts of us must undergo the heat of the furnace.

This video, for my unknowing friends, is what it looks like to "roll" or spar in jiu jitsu. Correction, this is what it looks like when the blue belt rolls while the black belt is taking a sweet afternoon nap.

This is me, a 4th stripe blue belt, against a highly advanced honest to goodness brazilian black belt, Prof. Sergio Costa. Two weeks ago it was me versus the legendary Prof. carlos Lemos Jr, my mentor and master; to be clear, it was the same blue belt, and merely a different genius taking a nap while I frantically tried to make something special happen on the mats. It is always better in our heads, let me be clear about that. This week, my teacher, Professor Sergio, came up from Florida to support the team at the IBJJF competition here in chicago. These are two of the gentlest men, yet the most dangerous in the world on the mats.

In this video, one of us was dying at the end, and the other had just woken up from a nice nap it seemed. It will not even take you a second to figure out who played each part. Professor Sergio was laughing, smiling and barely breathing afterwards, meanwhile my lungs were exploding. This was just round one. Round two, someone yawned, decided to wake up from his nap, and show me who was the teacher. It wasn't pretty, take my word for it. Sparring a Black belt in Jui Jitsu, especially one from Brazil, is like trying to survive an attack from a 600 pound gorilla with 4 arms and 4 legs, after 3 Red Bull energy drinks. Quite literally, drowning on dry land to be honest. But, I would have it no other way. This is the good stuff, this is the struggle that makes us learn and grow, if it was easy it wouldn't be worth it. 

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A clay pot must go through the heat of the furnace to become porcelain. And, like porcelain, we will never get to our greatest potential if we look for the easy and simple life, basking our aging clay-like carcass in the sun. We must, without question, take on the hard things in life.  We must find something that we struggle with to achieve a fulfilling life. In fact, we must be broken before we can be healed in order to grow. It is just like Kintsugi, also known as Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing fractured pottery with a lacquer mixed with gold or silver. 

The art of Kintsugi has similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, whereby flaws and imperfections in an object are embraced, imparting further value on the object. The mere act of highlighting the cracks and repairs with the boldness of gold or silver, draw notice to an unfortunate event in the life of an object, increases its perceived value. The result is an object that has a history, a story, a journey. As in Kintsugi, as in our own lives, there is no attempt to hide the damage, the misfortunes, the mistakes, the path.  Rather the imperfections are looked at closely, quite literally illuminated, to show their value and their continued use. And, as in the highlighted repairs in the porcelain, our own observed flaws should not be hidden, rather they should be revealed openly to honor our painful existence and better reflect our growth.  It is how we engage our shortcomings in life that reveal our final value to the world.

I am beyond grateful that I added this difficult challenging art to my life. I am eternally grateful for what these mentors and my brothers on the mats have taught me. Thank you gentlemen. I cannot imagine my life without these weekly deep dives into  "high level problem solving".  Jiu Jitsu and all the struggles and hurdles it provides, offering us the promise of personal transformation, has a way of laying down gold fillings, highlighting our limitations, and offering us the promise of a better day tomorrow if we are willing to enter its furnace. Brazilian jiu jutsu, "the gentle art". No punching, no kicking, just complex moves and strategies, a healthy lifestyle, a way of walking taller and encouraging us to be better tomorrow than we were today, on the mats and out in the world. I cannot imagine my life without it anymore, how can you? Come join me and some good kind men, women, teens and kids. Take up the study of this great art with me, walk the path with me. I promise you it will be worth it. I'm waiting for you, my friends. Come join me. 
Life is shorter than you think. And, the problem is, we think we have time.