"If you look at a beautiful technique, you can see it's congruent. And if you look at a beautiful human being, you can see that they're congruent - what they think, what they say and what they do is all in line."
On the Martial Arts Mind podcast, we often find ourselves discussing the synergy between student and teacher - how these two roles intertwine in the classroom, how they power the engine of growth and discovery, and how they're frequently two sides of the same coin.
Nowhere is this more true than with our guest this week. Sensei Gabriel Van Rel has been practicing Aikido, Judo and Tae Kwon Do since the age of seven. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, his focus on Shotokan karate took him to the North American Cup and the Gichin Funakoshi World Shotokan Karate Championships, and saw him as the youngest member of five-man team that won the US National Championships.
As a full-time instructor with his own dojo, he joins us from London, England to explore his own practice: what it means to train whole-heartedly; how he sees his own path and his place in his students' lives; and the meaning and manifestation of mastery on and off the mat. In the process, we delve into what it means to be a full-time practitioner, how our teachers shape our training and our lives, and what it means to find meaning on the mats.
We hope you enjoy our discussion with Sensei Van Rel. For us, it's meaningful, insightful and full of the promise of where serious, sustainable martial arts can lead.
“Those who dare to teach and lead should never cease to learn.”
Buzz Durkin is a 10th degree black belt in Okinawan Uechi-ryu Karate. For more than four decades he has led one of the most successful traditional martial arts schools in North America. A member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, he has graduated hundreds and hundreds of students to the rank of black belt and beyond. He’s known around the world for the longevity of his students’ practice; on any given day in his dojo, you might find 3 generations of a family - a grandfather, a father and a son - all training in different classes.
But more than any of that, he is still a student of the martial arts - a dedicated proponent of the karate style he began studying over 50 years ago. His deep belief in the power of hard physical training, coupled with the emotional control and mental discipline that are hallmarks of serious martial arts practice, mark him as a true leader and role model. His ability to relate to people and his understanding of human nature are well-known in the martial arts world, and he’s quick to point out that they are at least as important as any physical abilities he may have developed over the years.
In this episode, we discuss his work over the last 50 years: from early martial arts experience in the 1960s, to his tour of duty in Vietnam; the growth of his own karate school and the capability of a good teacher; the beauty and relevance of traditional martial arts; the importance of positive community; not burning out, staying engaged and enjoying the practice.
It is our most sincere honor to be able to spend time in conversation with him. We hope you enjoy it.
More about Buzz Durkin at buzzdurkin.com
Learn about Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at brooklynbjj.com
Check out the Martial Arts Mind Blog at martialartsmind.com
With the rise in popularity of MMA and jiu-jitsu over the recent years, many of the more traditional approaches to martial arts have fallen out of favor. Seen as artifacts of a different time, styles like kung fu and karate are sometimes given short shrift as “impractical”, “out of date” or “ineffective”.
Thomas Clifford - our guest today - challenges this notion. A lifelong practitioner and martial arts leader, his decades of experience training and teaching span both traditional and modern disciplines. He believes that practices from kaju kempo to the five animal frolics provide a deeper and more enduring value than they’re sometimes given credit for.
With their capacity to benefit participants on a physical, mental and emotional spectrum, they have become more than devices for self-defense or tournament wins - they provide serious insights, rare opportunities for self-development and invaluable lessons for inner growth.
But more than that, he argues that these practices develop skills and attributes we need in the world at large: responsibility, sustainability, accountability and maturity. We can learn flexibility of thought from the Chinese healing arts; an appreciation for our own shortcomings as we study our instructors and peers; and the importance of perseverance as we learn to lead and follow in the classroom.
Critic, thinker, provacateur, student, teacher - Tom Clifford is all of this and more. As a teacher straddling the classical and the contemporary (kung fu, kaju kempo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu), he challenges the conventional thinking around the division between what is “modern” and what is “traditional”. And he raises the possibility that the embedded wisdom in many of these older styles might contain the key not just to survival, but to larger-scale success.
This is an important conversation for all modern martial arts practitioners. We found it insightful, illuminating and engaging. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.
In this episode, we discuss Tom Bisio’s book, “A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth”. You can find a link to it here.
If you’re interested in the MAM/BBJJ “Chop Wood Carry Water” t-shirt we mentioned on one of our other episodes, you can find it here through DojoPrints.
For more about Tom Clifford’s dojo in Pearl River, NY, you can head here.
And the Martial Arts Mind blog is alive and well. More episodes, essays and articles are here.
Garry St. Leger’s (@gstleger) accomplishments are too long to list, but among them: he is a decorated judo black belt whose rank as #1 in the country led him to the Olympic team in 2008, and onto the US World Team in 2010. He is a jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie and John Danaher, and serves as a coach and trainer to some of MMA’s most quickly-rising stars. He is sincere, serious, focused and, above all, committed to sharing the values of long-term martial arts practice with others.
This is a conversation about Garry’s extraordinary journey as a lifelong martial artist. It’s about his practice, from childhood training in Brooklyn with his twin brother under Olympian Parnel Legros, on to the US Nationals and then the Olympic team, and up through his present life as a coach, instructor and teacher. It’s about how he manages his own training, how judo has impacted him, and what he wants to impart to his students. It’s about the moments when he thought he was finished - done with the martial arts - and the powerful experiences which brought him back.
But most of all, this is a conversation about giving. It’s about the mindset and practices that led Garry to the highest levels of international judo and which continue to inform his life on and off the mat. His dedication to the art, to his family and to his students is unmistakable and inspiring.
We are both honored to have Garry as a teacher, partner and friend, and it was a supreme pleasure to have him as our guest on this podcast. We enjoyed this exchange immensely - hopefully you do as well.
You can find Garry St. Leger on Instagram (@gstleger) and on Facebook (@gstleger). Contact him for details on private lessons and seminars.
Anthony “Q-Unique” Quiles is the perfect guest to start off the podcast for 2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he’s a member of New York’s legendary breakdancing group the Rock Steady Crew and co-founder of the iconic underground hip-hop group the Arsonists. He’s traveled the world as frontman for his own rock groups StillWell (with members of Korn and P.O.D) and now King’s Bounty. And - no surprise for MAM listeners - he’s a lifelong martial artist.
From his hardscrabble background in south Brooklyn to hanging with hip-hop legends to appearing on stage across the globe, Q's is a true New York story. He takes us on a journey through his early days kickboxing with Brooklyn icons Louis Neglia and Jerry Fontanez; how martial arts values influenced his life as an artist; the lessons he learned as a martial arts parent, shepherding his own son through to black belt; returning to training in his 40s (and having to spar with Shihan Dunn); reflections on his life and relationships in the music industry; and his ongoing commitment to improvement, progress and black belt as a student of Jiu-Jitsu.
Funny, deep, charismatic and memorable, this episode explores what it means to be an artist, a parent, a practitioner and a citizen of the world with someone whose creative vision is sharpened by his martial arts training.
Q showcases the best part of a martial arts life. We sincerely hope you enjoy the conversation.
Learn more about Q-Unique's most recent projects: https://www.q-unique.com/
Visit the Martial Arts Mind blog: http://www.martialartsmind.com/
Check out our podcast home at Brooklyn Podcasting Studio: https://www.facebook.com/bkpodcastingstudio/
More about Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: https://www.brooklynbjj.com