Sunday, December 27, 2009

FMOC Readership Survey 2009: Win a $15 Gift Certificate to iTunes!

Nearly a wrap, 2009 is tick-tick-tick-ticking away....

Against the clock, I briefly reflect on the year that was for FMOC.  This is post number 28, my final of 2009.

What started as an experimental, weekly muse in January subsequently became a self-imposed, death-defying biweekly publishing schedule in June. The results, while not altogether measurable, have been favorable—insofar as I am concerned.

While often having to dig deep on Sundays, following fun-filled weekends or before hard-hitting weeks of work, to produce some semblance of content, I managed to put forth intelligible posts on every cycle.

FMOC has been a satisfying experience for me on many fronts, but I can call out a few in particular:

1. It has afforded me a sliver of a presence online, complimenting my life offline.  In a lighthearted way, I have crafted a brand.  We are in a period for/of publishing like none other; the means to produce content is there for all.  To anyone with even a remote interest in creating a blog, book, you name it, wait no more.

2. It has been a tremendous vehicle to keep in touch with friends, old and new alike.  I don't know exactly how many people read FMOC or visit the website, but here and there, I get a comment, online or offline, which justifies the effort I give toward it and reinforces the experience as rewarding to me.

3. To teach is to learn.  FMOC is my chance to learn about random subjects that are of interest to me, and by writing about them, I teach (that is the idea, anyway), therefore increasing my own learning—and writing.

The CEO of Accenture, Bill Green, has been quoted saying, "...we keep one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow."  With his words in mind, I turn an eye toward the year ahead, with a request for your feedback.

It will be your gift to me. I want to know: should I continue to write FMOC in 2010?  And, if so, what improvements can be made to make it more enjoyable to you, the reader?

I quickly assembled a readership survey, using SurveyMonkey.  Its seven questions will take you no longer than two minutes to answer.  Not every question is required (*).  To sweeten the deal, I included one question (number 2) that, if answered correctly, provides a chance to win a $15 gift certificate to iTunes.

Click this link to gain access.  Please be honest in your replies, completing the survey by January 8.

If the general response is to keep FMOC alive, I will consider all suggestions, eventually weaving them into the blog's design, functionality, and most importantly, content.

To everyone who has read thus far, many thanks for one year of satisfaction.  I wish you much happiness, health and prosperity in 2010.  (I have a positive feeling about it... you should too!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Life: Not Tapping Out

Although never a supreme athlete, I have always stayed active and competitive, mostly through team sports—baseball, basketball, football, etc. But with age, responsibility and a full calendar, it has become harder to be involved with any group athletics.

Nowadays, I take brisk walks or jog, usually in the morning, which is my time to ponder the day ahead. I often follow those trips around the block with push-ups or sit-ups and other calisthenics to maintain strength and flexibility.

Early this year, though, I rediscovered a sport that currently has my attention—one that combines individual focus and team orientation and draws on my competitive nature: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

Wikipedia provides a suitable description of BJJ, “…promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant using leverage and proper technique; most notably, by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat them. BJJ can be trained for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. Sparring (commonly referred to as 'rolling') and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition.”

In the 1990s, BJJ was made more prominent outside of Brazil by renowned expert Royce Gracie, of the famed Gracie family, which is credited with founding this particular style of fighting. Royce took the MMA world by storm, winning three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships.

All told, I have spent almost a year in Brazil, most of which was in Sao Paulo. It was in “Sampa,” as the megalopolis is routinely called by its habitants, that I first discovered BJJ. With a friend who lived nearby, I dropped into a class one night and was immediately captivated by its natural flow. Despite the initial attraction, I never made it back to another class while in Brazil.

Fast forward five years to 2009. While driving through the Houston Heights, one of the city’s historic neighborhoods close to Cherryhurst, I came upon the Brazilian Arts Foundation, and within it, The Heights Jiu-Jitsu Club. I recognized this club as an opportunity to conveniently acquire a new skill, all while reconnecting with the rich culture and heritage of Brazil.

A day or two later, I phoned Marcos Cerqueira, the club instructor, who has a black belt from the Carlos Henrique Jiu-Jitsu Team and an impressive fighting record in his own right.  (Click here to watch a short video.)

Our conversation went like this....

"Marcos, I have a lot going on during the spring and the summer; maybe I should wait until the fall to start your class.”

He replied, “Okay, that’s fine, but why don’t you drop by a class one day next week, have a look, then come back whenever you are ready.”

His open attitude was the only impetus I needed.

I stopped by the Brazilian Arts Foundation one night during the following week to check out my first BJJ class in Houston. I was hooked from that point, ordering an Atama Gi a few days later.

Marcos subtly continues to push BJJ to the top of my priority list, hinting that noticeable improvement comes with increased commitment, a truth I cannot disclaim.

Last weekend, we had our annual belt ceremony at BreakAway Speed, a training facility for Houston area athletes and where Marcos also trains students. To my surprise, I was awarded a stripe on my belt, an incremental sign of progress before graduating from one belt color to the next—hardly an accomplishment for some, but fun for me nonetheless.

(Me and Marcos; courtesy of Emily Covey)

(Marcos Cerqueira Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Class; courtesy of Emily Covey)

Life has generally improved for me since making the choice to try BJJ, so for that alone, I take a moment to thank Marcos for encouraging me to keep at it.

By no stretch am I the most dedicated person who trains under Marcos, nor are my goals as lofty as those of many of his other students. I try to attend two classes a week. I have not fought in a tournament yet, and frankly, am not sure that I ever will. Be that as it may, I have still learned a lot from practicing BJJ over the last several months.

There is certain respect for the opponent and self-control in BJJ that I appreciate. I enjoy the camaraderie shared among team members. I like the mental aspect to BJJ, which can be equated to a game of chess, one person reacting to the every move of another.

There are untold parallels between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and life off the mat.

In fact, this morning, while reflectively reading a book, Streams in the Desert, I paused to reread a Bible verse (Galatians 6:9), which basically states a challenge, by Paul to the Galatians, “to keep on doing good and to not give up.”

This verse rings as true in life as it does in training BJJ.

While our lives are not full of joint-locks and chokeholds, we inherently face difficult situations. Just like in BJJ, the strategy in life is to overcome the challenges we face, growing stronger all the time by learning from others.

Not tapping out.