testing testing testing …
By Frankie Forza
Best estimate — Sonny Nohara and I were two of the first 3,000 people in the world to earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The truth is — every time I rolled with Sonny Nohara in practice, I wanted to beat him, dominate him.
Unfortunately, Sonny usually got the better of me in our ultra-intense training sessions.
We had well over 100 high stakes battles in the gym, where the air was often so thick with that “I am the Alpha Male/Top Dog” tension.
I hated losing to Sonny, even in practice, and I know he felt exactly the same way.
The thought of rolling a full 10-minute round with Sonny — and also never knowing which top grappler or UFC fighter would show up at Robert Drysdale’s gym, because those young lions literally came from all corners of the world — I used to get butterflies in my stomach just driving to practice. Those practice sessions were like MINI TOURNAMENTS!
Sonny and I were not the best of friends. We were not asking each other to lunch or dinner or sending each other Christmas presents.
But you know what?
Sonny’s one of the two or three best training partners I’ve ever had. Our training room rivalries forced me to dig deeper, made me up my game.
Sonny made me better, cornered me to victory in several tournaments, and helped raise my Grappling IQ. We were not the closest of friends but I always deeply respected him, his work ethic, the fact that he was living the Lifestyle.
Some days, it felt like I was surrounded by nothing but 30 Hawaiians — like I was the only non-Hawaiian on the mats!! Haha.
But I tell you what, looking back now… those gym wars on the Drysdale Jiu Jitsu rank as some of my fondest memories in my 17-year dance with this wonderful sport.
Thank you Robert Drysdale for being so awesome that you brought us all together and attracted talent from all over the world who educated and elevated us. Thank you Sonny, and Matt Villiatoria, Aaron Buck, Boston Jay Viola, Rene Lopez, John Freeman, Bones, Sonny Sebastian and countless others who challenged me day-in, day-out.
Gosh, I wish my body could hold up like that forever… pushing to the max, to the brink, was so much DANG FUN!!
When my body still agreed, there was nothing I liked more than an all-out “Who Wants It More” battle in training or competition. Those satiated, satisfied and fulfilled me the most.
In this YouTube video series, the longtime training partners and Las Vegans — who received their black belts from world-renowned instructor Robert Drysdale — discuss their addiction to the so-called “Gentle Art” how it can take a toll on relationships with spouses and significant others:
Frank and Sonny reminisce about what it was like to religiously and passionately train in the sport BEFORE THERE WAS ANY MONEY TO BE MADE — back when the idea of profiting off your jiu-jitsu was relatively far-fetched.
In Part 2 of their conversation (below), Frank and Sonny talk about Vegas’s status as “The 9th Island” and their intense training room rivalry:
Part 3 of our Conversation:
Part 4 of our Conversation:
Part 5 of our conversation:
Part 6 of our conversation:
Part 7 of our conversation:
Excerpts from the Conversation between “two guys who have paid their dues, been around a long time and seen everything.”
BEFORE THERE WAS MONEY IN THE SPORT — A Burden On Relationships
Frankie: “We were in the sport when there wasn’t a lot of money in it, when it wasn’t fashionable or en vogue, back when your wife or significant other would say, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Get a real job.”
“The jiu jitsu wife had never really been done before, so nobody really knew what they were getting into.
“If someone is a football wife and their husband is a player or coach in the NFL, they are at least comforted by a big bank account or a credit card.
“Nowadays you can convince your spouse or significant other, “Hey, I’m going to open a gym and I’m going to make money. Back then it was, “Wait, you’re coming home, you’re tired all the time, you’re hurt all the time.”
“In jiu jitsu it was kind of like a surf bum — “My husband has an addiction but there’s no money coming in.”
Sonny: “Yes, it does take a toll on any relationship when one person is obsessed with jiu jitsu.”
ADDICTION TO THE SPORT
Frankie: “Literally, every waking moment was me thinking of jiu jitsu. If I wasn’t at the gym training, I was still thinking about it. So you’d be at dinner, talking to your wife, but you’re kind of day-dreaming, thinking of jiu-jitsu.
Sonny: “It’s funny, I’m kind of past that point in my jiu jitsu journey, I still love jiu jitsu but I’m not as focused on it. And my wife now, she’s a professional in the education system, kind of high up there, so she’s always focused on thinking of what she has to do, so the tables have turned.”
Frankie: “That’s how I used to fall asleep — I used to play jiu jitsu in my head.
“I was so excited, even after training jiu jitsu twice a day, working at UFC, and then I would go home, couldn’t sleep, and would just play jiu jitsu in my head.”
WHY DO SO MANY HAWAIIANS MOVE TO LAS VEGAS (hence the nickname, “The 9th Island)? How many Hawaii transplants do you think live in Las Vegas?
— Sonny answers circa Minute 4:25 of Video Conversation 2
WHY DO SO MANY HAWAIIANS ‘LIKE TO SCRAP’?
— Sonny answers mid-way through Video Conversation 2.
ALPHA ENVIRONMENT — TENSION BETWEEN TRAINING PARTNERS, INTENSE GYM BATTLES
Frankie: “The thing about fight sports is… If you’re not trying to be the Alpha, if you’re not trying to be the hammer, then you’re the nail. So it’s not just a matter of ego — it’s also a matter of survival.
”Meaning, if you’re not winning, then you’re usually the nail, and you’re usually getting hurt. So it’s self preservation, it’s survival. It’s not just ego gratification — even though that’s often a big part of it.
“If you had to go fight in a cage… I may be a nice, gentle guy… but I’m getting ready to walk into a cage. So I may have to go to a place mentally that allows me to be in the right frame of mind.
“Look, that other guy (opponent) is serious; he wants to hurt me, he wants to knock me out — he doesn’t care. So if I don’t put myself in the right mental state then I’m probably going to get hurt. So I have to be willing to hurt him MORE THAN HE’S WILLING TO HURT ME — and he’s willing to hurt me A LOT.
“Although in training there is a little different dynamic. Nowadays, people are more considerate in training. We were part of what I call “The Guinea Pig Generation” where were still figuring it out (balance). Every day (training) was ‘Everyday Porrada.’”
By Frank Forza
Nobody else LOVED Lamar Jackson as an NFL franchise quarterback — only one team did.
Only one team truly believed in him and was willing to bet big on him.
Every other team, their coaches, their scouts, saw at best a backup QB, at worst a speed burner who should be converted to wide receiver.
The Perception Game involved in NFL Drafts, and in companies claiming they know what Top Talent actually looks like, is a fascinating and faulty one.
People, bystanders, onlookers, supposed “experts” … sit in chairs and cast judgment on someone …
And it’s amazing how often the alleged “experts” misjudge and misunderstand and are flat-out wrong — both on the NFL gridiron and everyday American life and society.
Skeptics are a dime a dozen; they are quick to put labels on someone and tell you all the reasons you can’t do this, won’t do that. They love to tell you all the reasons you’re doomed to fail, quick to point out how you are lacking in the conventional measurements that they consider so important.
They pin labels on you, misjudge you … just like they tried to paint Lamar into a corner, tried to put him into a box, dubbing him a “running quarterback.”
There’s a reason even experienced eyes miss out, misjudge and misunderstand a phenomenal talent like a Lamar Jackson:
People don’t understand what they’ve never seen before, what history has never seen before.
They don’t understand people who see things differently, think differently, move differently, do things differently.
They fear people like that — which is why most people (teachers, coaches, HR hiring managers, executives, etc.) usually play it safe with their “draft picks.”
Because they are unimaginative, poor perceivers, and can’t see a window into your soul, into the intangibles and spirit energy and heartbeat and fire that are often the true difference between success and failure.
There’s an old saying that often rings true, in the business world and beyond:
“A class talent hires A class talent, B class hires C class talent, C class talent hires D class talent.”
B’s hire C’s for many reasons — Ego (they’re less threatened by them); the Law of Attraction (B’s and C’s are often blind to brilliance — especially intangible excellence — since they themselves are not); and Arrogance (the unfortunate belief that almost all workers are disposable);
Trust me, you won’t have to look very far in your own life to see this grotesque phenomenon of alleged “experts” underestimating others, playing it safe, and hiring to protect their own brittle egos.
What does future excellence, future greatness, look like and how do you pick it out of a crowded line-up?
Rule No. 1 to detecting and predicting it?
Let go of all your biases, your assumptions, you’re so convinced that greatness has to walk and talk a certain way, has to move a certain way, or else it can never be great.
No. Greatness, Excellence, comes in all shapes and sizes. All different personalities. The loudmouths, the quiet types. The freakish athlete (Bo Jackson), the athletically underwhelming (Tom Brady).
Once in a generation, once in a century, talents are easy to miss — because the Regurgitation Nation, the Copy Cat cookie-cutter/echo chamber evaluators, can’t see beyond the limited BOX they have constructed and want to fit everyone into.
Remember the word “EXCEPTIONAL” — which applies to those who are THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE(s).
Lamar Jackson is shaping to be such a force, Tom Brady most certainly is… and history overflows with amazing talents like Elvis, Elton John, Michael Jordan and many others (non-athletes, too) who were basically told, “You’re not good enough.
I love the incredible improvement and leap that Lamar Jackson has made in Year 2, and I expect he’ll continue to evolve higher up the chain of excellence.
What he’s doing is poetic, metaphorical, a powerful reminder:
It will always be hard for the so-called “experts” and “pros” to judge heart and determination and predict “exceptional” — partly due to their biases, partly due to their tendency to PLAY IT SAFE.
What I have learned: The more you play it safe in this world, the farther you will be from Spectacular. SPECTACULAR & PLAY IT SAFE DO NOT LIVE IN THE SAME ZIP CODE!
You want phenomenal? You want to hunt Greatness, you want to exude Excellence… you MUST take chances, you must incur INTELLIGENT risks, you must be willing to risk having egg on your face. Risk & Reward will always have that kind of relationship.
I love the chance, the risk, the Ravens took on Lamar. They dared to imagine outside-of-the-box. While others focused on risk, they focused on reward. Where others saw role player, they saw superstar. Where others saw solid, they saw special.
What might that mean for you and your life?
Remember, the “experts” missed on Brady and believed 198 players were better than him.
The “experts,” the critics, the executives … miss a lot.
Your boss misjudges.
Your coach misunderstands.
Your kid’s teacher misses what is special about them.
It is amazing how often people are wrong in their assessment of other people, in sizing other people up and trying to predict who’s going to fail and who’s going to thrive.
A friend of mine told me that in VC circles (Venture Capitalism), they typically bet on 7 companies, hoping 1 will hit — and they usually aren’t sure which one will hit.
But what if you could hit on 2 of 7, or 3 out of 7? What if you possessed that Eye for Detecting Exceptional?
To spot the difference-makers who are going to change the world, who are destined for greatness… it helps to be different yourself. To embrace difference rather than fear it.
And trust me, this is a play-it-safe world we live on folks. That’s the problem. That’s why so many incredible talents, loaded with intangibles, fall through the cracks (in Corporate America, in the arts, in music, in sports and beyond).
If my life has taught me anything it is this:
There is no glory, no lasting gratification, in playing small. If you truly want to be a DIFFERENCE-maker — then BE DIFFERENT. Genuinely.
And if you want your company to be distinguished and DIFFERENT from the rest — then hire people who move different, think different, talk different.
Learn to respect DIFFERENT rather than fear it.
Being different is a blessing in a world drowning in the Seas of Sameness.
That is the pivotal first step toward SPOTTING GREATNESS, the crucial first step, and most hiring managers, coaches and scouts are blind to it because of their sad tendency to PLAY IT SAFE and try to label everyone and PAINT THEM INTO A BOX.