Culture Is King

by John B. Will


Culture is king. The culture that resides at the heart any academy, organization, business enterprise, will shape, make or break … and even though we may start out with a clear idea of what that culture will look like, understand this – a culture has a shelf life and needs constant attention.


The culture is set and maintained, not from the bottom, but from the top and by the top cadre of students/stakeholders.


The beginners/Introductory class (if you have one – and if you haven’t, you should) is the place where we begin to set the tone. here are some of the CC’s (cultural cornerstones) I like to weave into those classes:


– Pay attention to detail – noticing and appreciating the details is what separates the great from the merely good. This habit can transform our lives in many ways.


– Be the kind of training partner that everyone wants to train with. Everyone has their own back-story, their own particular motivation to begin training; their reasons may not be your reasons – look after your partner emotionally as well as physically.


– Be aware of your personal hygiene; this is a close contact activity. Getting outside of our own heads is fundamental to be able to do well in the world.


– Extract the maximum value from your time on the mat. be on time, if repping a technique, keep repping until you are asked to stop. An extra few reps per session, especially over the long-term can amount to a huge compounding effect in skill-uptake.


– The way to be on the mat, is to imagine that the only people there are you and the instructor. never take a back seat. if you don’t understand something … ask.


In my academy, I also conduct Novice classes (3 months training in the Introductory class is a prerequisite for entry into this class) – and also Intermediate level and Advanced level classes. So here are a few more CC’s that I try to install in the higher level classes:


When initially introduced to a technique, ask the following five questions:


– What does our Right Arm/Hand bring to the technique? – What does our Left Arm/Hand bring to the technique? – What does our Left Leg/Foot bring to the technique? – What does our Left Leg/Foot bring to the technique? – What is the most important Angle/Direction of the technique?


In asking – and answering these five questions, students tend to build a pretty solid understanding of the technique and do so very quickly.


Also, as students progress, they need to learn that we cannot always ‘feel good’ and experience ‘success’ – indeed, a willingness to ‘embrace the suck’ is absolutely necessary if we want to move away from mediocrity and experience life beyond the ordinary.


Finally, for the purposes of this short blurb, beyond Blue Belt (before that we should be focused on an overview and fundamentals) students should begin to identify a preferred ‘game’. In doing this, it’s good to start by developing a three-pronged approach:


A passing style

A guard game

A top finishing game from (side control/mount/knee-ride, north-south, etc)


Hope this is of help to those here who want to build a better mat. – John B. Will of Red Cat Academy