Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label Jiu-Jitsu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jiu-Jitsu. Show all posts

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wrestling With God, Part 1

            Have you ever wrestled?  When I was a young kid, my older brother used to like to wrestle with me.  Of course, he was 8 years older, so it wasn't much competition.  However, he always let me do well enough so it was still fun for me.  I used to wrestle with my kids when they were younger in much the same way.  We would wrestle on the bed and I would tickle them and it was fun for us all; I had to be careful, though, not to hurt them since I'm was so much bigger and stronger.
            One of the most fascinating stories in our Bible is the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  Can you imagine? A mortal man wrestling with the Creator of the universe?  It's almost unthinkable!  This is one of the pivotal stories of the Bible. It is where the name Israel comes from—the name of God's chosen people and the name of the country we know even today as a key player in our world’s geopolitical power struggles.
            As we study this intriguing passage over the next few weeks, we will consider the ways we wrestle with God and the effect it has on us, on our circumstances, and on the people around us.  I invite you to read the blog each week as we study this story together.

22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Key Points
            Let's begin by pointing out a few key elements in this story.  First of all, you need to understand the larger narrative of Jacob's life and relationship with his twin brother Esau.  There was a great sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau and it was fueled by their parents favoritism.  Their father, Isaac, favored Esau, but their mother, Rebekah, preferred Jacob.  Jacob was a cunning man and he found a way to trick Esau out of the family blessing and inheritance.  It infuriated Esau so much he vowed to kill Jacob.  Jacob had to run for his life to a foreign land.
            Well, years went by and Jacob grew up and grew wealthy with wives, servants, children, and possessions.  He decided it was time to finally face his brother Esau.  He began the journey home, not knowing if Esau still wanted to kill him.  And that's where we come to the strange story in Genesis chapter 32.  Jacob has sent all his possessions across the Jabbok River and he is all alone on the other side of the stream.
            There is a great element of fear in the story.  There is the fear of what Esau might do.  There is the fear of the darkness of nigh and it is terrifying that a strange “man” attacks Jacob.  A deadly struggle ensues that seriously injures Jacob.  And thenperhaps the most terrifying element of allwe find out the "man" is actually God.
            We know the “man” in this episode is God for several reasons.  First of all, the “man” himself claims Jacob has "fought with God".  Second, Jacob renamed the place “Peniel” at the end of the story (Peniel means “face of God”).  Third, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”” (Verse 30)  As strange as it is, the story clearly indicates God—in human formis the man who wrestled with Jacob.
            But it gets even more strange because Jacob wins!  Jacob must have been an incredible wrestler, because the passage plainly says the “man” (who was God) realized He would not win.  That's incredible!  How can a man win a wrestling match with God?
            Well, in a sense, Jacob was a wrestler all his life—the Bible says he came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau.  His name, Jacob, literally means “heel grabber”.  Still, how can any mortal wrestle with God and win?
            Jacob didn’t actually "win".  He just sort of fought God to a stalemate.  Jacob managed to hold on to the point that God couldn’t get away.  Even when God dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob would not let go.  It may be that God realized the only way he could win the match was to kill Jacob or hurt him so grievously he might as well be dead (and God didn’t want to do that).  God also knew the sun was going to rise soon and Jacob would be able to see God’s face in full light.  It has been said that no one can see God’s face a live.  God’s face is so glorious a sinful human being cannot endure the pure, sinless, glorious face of God in its fullness.  Such a sight would overwhelm and consume anyone without the protection of Christ’s atonement.  (Since Christ had not yet atoned for our sin on the cross, Jacob was without protection and unable to look upon God's face in the full light of day.)
            Yet Jacob was determined hang on to God until God blessed him.  He was even willing to risk death to receive God’s blessing.  Time was running out.  Every minute that passed brought the rising sun closer to the horizon; God’s face became more and more visible in the growing light.  There was no more time for God to wrestle.  For Jacob’s own safety, God needed Jacob to let Him go and so God gave Jacob the blessing he wanted.  That’s pretty amazing!

A Lesson for Us
            There is a lesson in this for us.  How badly do you want God's blessing in your life?  How far are you willing to go?  Jacob was willing to risk death for the blessing. How about you?
            We say we want God to bless us. We say we want Jesus to save us and be our Lord. But how far are we willing to go?  Are you willing to pray regularly?  Are you willing to read your Bible everyday?  Are you willing to attend a church with other believers and learn how to live as a Christian?  Are you willing to be held accountable by others on the same spiritual journey (and hold them accountable as well)?  Are you willing to love others and serve as Jesus did?  Are you willing to make sacrifices for your goals as a Christian (sacrificing your time, your pride, your energy, your resources...)?  How far are you willing to go for God's blessings in your life?
            I don’t mean that we must do something to earn God’s blessing or to win salvation. We cannot do anything to earn it. It is given freely by God’s grace.  However, blessings come to those who are determined, not those who could care less.  And the Truth is, becoming a Christian—a follower of Christ—will change you permanently.  Jesus said it is like being “born again.”  Just like Jacob limped for the rest of his life due to his encounter with God, you will be permanently changed if you become a follower of Christ.
            There is another lesson here.  God’s wants to be directly involved in your life. He doesn't stand off at a distance; He get's up close and personal.  I have been learning Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu for over 2 years.  People like to joke that their pastor does Karate, but BJJ is not punching and kicking.  It is more like wrestling than Karate.  I have invited my wife to come try it out she won't do it.  She says it's gross.  I guess she may be right.  Jiu-jitsu is very strenuous and you're soon drenched in sweat, but not just your own sweat; it's everyone else's sweat too.  You see we are rolling around on the mats dripping sweat all over each other.  It's up close and personal work.
            Now think about that.  God wrestled with Jacob all night.  They were rolling around in the dirt together sweating and bleeding all over each other.  God was willing to get Jacob's sweat and blood and maybe even tears all over Him.  You see, God doesn't stand off at a distance.  God wants to be directly and intimately involved in Your life.  Are you willing to wrestle with God?
            As God wrestles with you, He may push you to your limits and test your determination.  All of this helps you grow.  It might hurt and it may even leaving you limping, but God will always keep you safe. Remember, He was willing to let Jacob win in order to save Jacob’s life.  We see an even greater example of God's protective nature in the New Testament.  Jesus shows just how far God will go for our benefit. Jesus (who was God incarnate) sacrificed his own life on the cross for our sake. God was willing to die so we can live.
            There is one last lesson I want to point out today.  No matter what you are wrestling with there is hope.  You don't have to win; you just have to hold on to Jesus long enough for the blessing to come.  So take courage today.  Whatever you are facing, don't give up.  Cling to Jesus.  Don't let go. Just hang on until Jesus give you the blessing.

[i] Paraphrase from Luke 2:9-11

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell… The Art of Losing

1 Peter 5:6 – So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

            Jiu-jitsu is a martial art that uses grappling to defeat an opponent.  Unlike other martial arts like karate and kung fu that teach kicking and punching, jiu-jitsu teaches students to wrestle an opponent to the ground and choke them or twist their joints until they submit.  When a student establishes a proper choke or joint lock, their opponent submits by tapping them so they will release the hold and not injure the opponent.  The “tap” is the most important move in jiu-jitsu.  It allows students to spar at full power without getting hurt and clearly defines when a person submits and the match is over. 
It doesn’t take long for jiu-jitsu students to let go of their ego.  You can’t hang on to your pride for very long when you are getting “tapped out” on a regular basis by people who are smaller and weaker than you.  Even the best jiu-jitsu artists tap out thousands of times in the course of their training.  Tapping out is a great way to learn.  When you tap, you go back and figure out what you did wrong and try again. 
            What is true for jiu-jitsu is true for life.  No one likes to lose.  No one likes to admit their mistakes.  It damages your pride and humbles you, but that’s a good thing.  Losing and admitting our faults are the best ways to learn.  The Disciples messed up again and again in the New Testament and, by God’s grace, it was OK.  They learned from their mistakes and went on to do better.  Through these flawed, mistake-prone people, Jesus established his Church and changed the world forever.
            Since Christians are the Disciples’ spiritual descendants, we should give ourselves and others the freedom to make mistakes, fail, and try again.  We have to change our attitudes so that losing isn’t seen as the end.  It’s just a chance to learn and improve.  Selfish-pride and ego should have no place among God’s people.  Lighten up on yourself and others too.  Seek to be and do your best, but understand that the road to your best will most likely lead through many failures along the way.  If you don’t make a few mistakes, you are playing it too safe. 
            So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

God loves you and so do I,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Arguing with Jesus About Nonviolence

Jesus, Nonviolence, and Self-Defense
Luke 6:27-36

            I have always been fascinated with martial arts.  When I was only 6 years old, I begged my mom to let me sign up for a judo class that advertised to kids at my school.  My mom—who is very submissive and nonviolent—would not let me join the class.  She didn’t like any kind of fighting and she didn’t want her son participating in something she considered too violent.  However, the allure of martial arts never faded for me and I watched martial arts movies and tried to teach myself the moves from books I checked out of the library.  When I was 10, my mom finally relented and allowed me to join a martial arts class with some friends.  My friends dropped out after only a few months, but I was hooked and became a lifelong martial artist.
            It's 30 years later and my love and appreciation of martial arts and self-defense have never faded—even after I became a pastor.  In fact, based on some things I learned in seminary about the positive effects of martial arts, I even developed a Christian Martial Arts program that combined elements of martial arts with prayer, community service, and scripture memorization.  I taught my own martial arts classes for 7 years.  Even though I am a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, I am currently learning a new martial art called Jiu-jitsu and I love it!
            People are sometimes puzzled by a pastor who has so much interested in punching, kicking, and choking people.  I mean, isn’t Christianity a nonviolent religion?  I got a few questions about it from the Board of Ordained Ministry when they interviewed me to see if I was fit to be a United Methodist minister.  “Do you like fighting?” they asked.  “Absolutely not!” I replied, “but I love sparring.”  Sparring is practice fighting.  Although I detest fighting, I really like to spar in a friendly setting.  The same is true of verbal confrontations for me.  I love to debate, but I can’t stand to argue.  I can spar with someone (or debate someone) and then give them a genuine hug full of love and mutual respect afterwards.  I may even love and respect them more because of it.  I do not like to fight.  However, if I am forced to fight—either physically or verbally—I am quite confident in my ability.
            How do I justify my love of martial arts and resolve to defend myself given Jesus teachings and life of nonviolence?  I often find myself thrust into an awkward position—arguing with Jesus about the subject of self-defense.  Actually, I am not really arguing with Jesus; I am arguing with the way people misunderstand or misuse what Jesus said.  Let’s look at one of the passages where Jesus urges a nonviolent response.

Luke 6:27-36
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. 
General Interpretations
Christ’s teaching and exemplary example of nonviolence are extraordinary.  Jesus wisely understood that given the socio-political-religious conditions of his time, the best way to change his world forever was through a nonviolent, peaceful revolution.  This was God’s plan of salvation and Jesus willingly drank from the cup God handed him.  By not resisting the Roman authorities and willingly dying on the cross, Jesus affected salvation for all humanity for all time.  Jesus astonishing sacrifice sparked a social and moral revolution that changed the world forever.
Following Christ’s nonviolent example, other notable leaders have made significant changes to better our world.  Mahatma Gandhi led India to win independence from the British Empire through nonviolent resistance.  Martin Luther King, Jr. helped transform civil rights in the United States through nonviolent protest.  So, we can certainly see that Jesus’ revolutionary teachings to “turn the other cheek” and to “love your enemies” are powerful weapons indeed.
Many Christian pacifists[i] interpret Jesus’ teaching to mean it is always wrong to injure other humans, no matter the circumstance.  They would argue that even self-defense is wrong.  If Jesus was willing to lay down his life—even for his enemies—we should do likewise.
On the surface, complete Christian Pacifism may seem reasonable and many who take a simplistic view if Christ’s example accept this conclusion without much thought.  However, this simplistic view is not the whole of Jesus teachings or actions.  To make my point, I would draw your attention to other examples of Jesus teachings and actions.
First of all, there is the story of Jesus and the money changers.  The story is found in all four of the Gospels—Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 2.  In the story, Jesus enters the holy Temple in Jerusalem and violently flips over the money changers tables and drives them out of the Temple with a whip because they were cheating people and dishonoring God’s house.  This is not exactly the gentle, peaceful Jesus of our nonviolent dreams.
Second, when Jesus enraged the people of Nazareth with his preaching at their synagogue in Luke 4, a mob tried to push him off a cliff.  However, Jesus did not allow them to hurt him.  Luke 4:30 says, Jesus “...passed right through the crowd and went on his way.”
Third, when Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin (John 18:22-23), one of the high priest’s guards slapped Jesus across the face.  Interestingly, Jesus does not “turn the other cheek” and passively invite the guard slap him again.  Jesus doesn’t strike back with fists, but rather he fights back with words.  Jesus defends himself saying, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”[ii]
Let me give you one more example.  Luke 22:31-38 tells the story of how Jesus predicted Peter would deny him.  You remember this story.  Peter is adamantly professing his eternal loyalty to Jesus even in the face of death and Jesus says, “Peter before the rooster crows in the morning, you will deny me three times.”  Well, embedded in this story is a strange instruction from Jesus to his disciples.  Let me read it to you straight from the Bible.
Luke 22:35-36 – Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?”  “No,” they replied.  “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!”
The implication here is that in the past the disciples were able to move about the country safely due to the goodwill of the people.  But Jesus is about to be arrested and executed and his followers are going to be in danger everywhere they go.  Even traveling will be treacherous.  The disciples will need a sword for self-defense.  Since we know Jesus is not encouraging military aggression—his plan is to allow the religious leaders to arrest and crucify him—Jesus must be telling his disciples to purchase swords for self-defense.  What!?!  That doesn’t seem like the peaceful, pacifist Jesus I was taught about as a kid!
In fact, the passage from Luke 6:27-36 where Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek” is not about nonviolence at all.  It is about receiving personal insult.  Slapping someone in the face was considered a great insult to Jews of Jesus day.  So Jesus is not talking about a grave, life threatening danger when he said “turn the other cheek”.  Jesus is saying, set your ego aside—even if you are in the right.  Love your enemies.  Bless those who curse you.  If someone insults you and slaps you in the face, love them the way God loved you when you were His enemy.  Show extravagant love by going the extra mile and turning the other cheek. 

Resisting Evil
            There is no doubt that Jesus’ nonviolent approach has brought about remarkable change in situations where change seemed completely impossible.  However, to teach that Jesus advocated pacifism in every situation is just not accurate.  To passively allow someone to break into your house and harm you or your family because “Jesus said so,” is a total misunderstanding of what Jesus said and did.  Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that "to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally."[iii]
            I do not believe Jesus wants us to sacrifice our health or safety to someone who threatens us.  Nor do I believe Jesus would ask a nation to refuse to fight to defend the safety of its citizens.  You have the God-given right to defend yourself and I encourage everyone to learn how.  And thankfully, we live in a country where the constitution guarantees our right to keep and bear arms so we have an extra tool available to defend ourselves (God help us) if we ever need to.
            What I have learned in my life—what I have taught many people—is fighting should be the very last resort.  Sometimes however—and very rarely—fighting is the only solution.  Physical violence is a very short term solution.  It usually leads to more problems than it solves.  However, sometimes it is the only course to take.  And if you find yourself in a situation where you must fight for your life or limb, then fight with all your might and know that God is on your side.
            At the same time, there are occasions when the best course of action is nonviolence.  Sometimes, God calls us—like He called Jesus—to endure suffering for His glory.  Such times when we choose to refrain from fighting are not a sign of weakness at all.  Rather, they require great courage and resolve to suffer harm for a purpose greater than our own personal safety.  I pray that you will have such a close relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit that should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to refrain from fighting and suffer abuse for the sake of Christ, you will clearly know it and have the strength and courage to be faithful.   

In closing, I would like to point out how great was the love of Christ that caused him to willingly lay down his life for us on the cross.  The sacrifice was made greater by the fact that Jesus could have saved himself.  You see, no one could take Jesus' life from him unless he willingly surrendered it.  Jesus could have called down an army of 10,000 angels to come save him and destroy the world because it offended him.  This was totally within his power to do and he would have been completely justified to do it.  Yet, Jesus’ great love for you and me—though we absolutely didn’t deserve it—and his wisdom to know what was needed to save our souls and change our world forever compelled Jesus to suffer abuse, be nailed to the cross, and remain there until he died.  His act would have been amazing enough had he been unable to prevent it.  Yet it is even more extraordinary precisely because Jesus could have avoided it and chose not to for your sake.
How would you respond to such an amazing love as this?  Close your eyes and reflect on the love of Christ for a moment.  You see, Jesus was nailed to the cross, but it wasn’t the nails that held him there.  It was his love for you that kept him on the cross until he died to pay the price for your mistakes and wrongdoings.  Do you understand that?  Now what are you going to do about it?
I would suggest that you decide this day, to commit your life to him, to love him the way he loves you, and to love the people of this world—good and bad—because Jesus loves them too.

[i] For more a more, see this great article -
[ii] John 18:23
[iii] The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues for Our Time, by Dr. Norman Geisler and JP Moreland, Greenwood Publishing, 1990.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How I Lost 12 Pounds in 6 Days

I have been training in a martial art called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a little over a year. It is excellent exercise and teaches the practical skill of self-defense.  Through the strenuous 90 minute classes two or three times a week, I have lost 15 pounds, increased my strength and endurance, and mental toughness.  The encouragement and accountability of my teammates at Veritas BJJ in Dalton, GA makes all the difference. They keep me going. I keep them going. We keep each other going.  This article is about how I took off an additional 12 pounds in 6 short days to prepare for my first BJJ competition.  To read about my fight, click here.

I am not a fan of fad diets--especially crash diets. My philosophy is eat healthy and in modetation and exercise hard. There aren't any magic pills or shortcuts.   Do the work and enjoy the results.  However, I found myself weighing 205 pounds one week before my first BJJ competition and I didn't like the weight brackets for my age group.  For a man my age (41), the weight division was set for 200 pounds and up.  What that means is any man older than 35 and over 200 pounds would be in my class.  So I could potentially be fighting guys who were 250, 300, 350 pounds, or even larger. I sometimes roll (or sparr or wrestle) with guys that big in my training class.  It's great training, but a serious and obvious disadvantage in a competition setting.  The next lower weight bracket for my age group was from 180 pounds to 199 pounds.  Man, that was so much more attractive to me.  Couldn't I just loose 5 more pounds and make that weight division?  Thanks to some encouragement from one of my training partners, Vince Caggiano, I decided to go for it.

I got online and researched several weight loss plans and decided on one an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter named George Saint Pierre uses to cut 20-30 pounds in a week before his fight.  I didn't need to lose that much and didn't want to risk my health or deplete my energy, so I decided to modify the plan and make it milder.  Furthermore, I'm a pastor, a husband, and a father and I needed to be able to function normally in the real world.  My modified plan worked for me.  For the full plan and a discussion about how it works and how it affects body performance, click here.

My Plan
My goal was to loose 10 pounds in 6 days without damaging my health or depleting my energy. That was a few more pounds than I actually needed to drop, but the extra pounds would be a buffer in case the official scale was a few pounds off from mine.  I hoped the milder diet plan wouldn't sap my energy too much because I would only have a few hours to rest and rehydrate between weigh in and my first fight.

The idea is to drink a lot of water at the beginning of the week so your body starts flushing fluids.  Then, you start drinking less water toward the end of the week, but your body keeps flushing.  You also limit salt intake, which helps your body let go of more water.  Here were the goals I set for my one week plan.

Water intake: 2 gallons
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: enough to satisfy me in 3 meals
Salt: none

Water intake: 2 gallons
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: enough to satisfy me in 3 meals
Salt: none

Water intake: 2 gallons
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: enough to satisfy me in 3 meals
Salt: none

Water intake: 1 gallon
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: enough to satisfy me in 3 meals
Salt: none
10-15 minute hot bath with 1 cup of Epsom salt before bed

Water intake: 1 gallon
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: enough to satisfy me in 3 meals
Salt: none
10-15 minute hot bath with 1 cup of Epsom salt before bed

Water intake: 0.5 gallon
Carbs: less than 50 grams
Protein and Fat: a full satisfying amount for breakfast and lunch and as little food as possible for the rest of the day
Salt: none
10-15 minute hot bath with 1 cup of Epsom salt before bed

Before weigh in (8:30 AM) - As little food or water as possible
After weigh in - sip up to 1 liter gateraid or water per hour and eat a satisfying amount without filling up too much to competcomfortably at 1:30 AM.

It's good to have a plan and they look great on paper, but real life is messier (especially as a pastor).  Here’s what my week actually looked like.

I wake up and realize we are having a covered dish luncheon after church today. It's gonna be tough to stick to my plan today.  After my morning shower, I weigh 205.0 pounds.  I fill up my Pleasant Grove UMC water bottle full of 20 onces of water.  I can use this to keep track.  I decided to skip breakfast to limit calories in case I indulge a little at lunch.  Also, I realize almost all my breakfast food is full of carbs.  For lunch, I have a fried chicken breast, green beans, pinto beans, and some broccoli.  I skip all the yummy looking cream corn, bread, and other carby sides.  I do get a small brownie (can't resist).  No sweet tea for me.  It's water only.   I know the fried chicken breading has carbs and there's salt in there too, but I'm not going to be militant about this diet.  I live in the real world.  Besides, this is half as much food as I would normally eat at one of these church feasts, which are both a perk and a curse (for the health) of a Methodist pastor.  The hardest part of the meal were the wondering eyes of my parishioners wondering why I was eating so little or why I didn't get a serving of their famous such and such, but my church folks are gracious people.  For dinner, I had a left over piece of chicken breast they let me take home.  At the end of the day, I came up short on the water.  Two gallons seems like a lot to drink.  I'll have to do better tomorrow.  Other than that, this isn't too hard.  It was interesting to me to note that I would lose 1 to 3 pounds each night while I slept.  I weigh my heaviest at night hefore.bed and lightest in the morning.

After my morning shower, I weigh 202.6 pounds.  I decide skipping breakfast is easy enough and will save me a few calories. That will be my plan for the week.  I get started right away on my water and have 30 onces down before I even get to work.  I'm gonna make the goal today.   I have lunch at the Engine Room with my mens Emmaus reunion group from church (spiritual accountability).  I have baked chicken, green beans, blacked eyed peas, and broccoli.  For dinner, I skip the lazagna my wife made for the family.  Instead, I cook a boneless chicken breast on a George Foreman grill sprinkled with curry, onion powder, and garlic powder.  No salt added, but it tastes salty so I'm thinking they added salt water to this chicken breast before they froze it.  There's no salt in the spices I added so far as I can tell.  I met my water goal today.  It wasn't that difficult.  I had to miss my BJJ class tonight so I could attend my son's awards ceremony at his school.  Real life here.

After my morning shower, I weigh 199.6 pounds.  (This is the first time I've been below 200 lbs in about 15 years!)  Same plan: No breakfast.  For lunch I have a grilled chicken house salad from Zaxby's. There's probably more salt in there than I'm supposed to have, but at least it's not a hamburger and salty french fries.  I have a funeral to lead today.  They are having a meal for the family afterwards.  The pastor is usually at the meal (perk and curse, remember).  I have a fried chicken wing, 2 deviled eggs, and some grean beans.  No dessert (that was the hardest part).  Folks, church dinners are the best dinners on earth.  Everyone brings their very best so you're eating the best of the best.  If you aren't going to church, do yourself a favor and start today.  Food evangelism.  It's a real thing.  After the funeral, I got called in to do some difficult pastoral counseling at the hospital.  It was a late night.  I stopped by the grocery store and bought a t-bone steak, some cauliflower, and broccoli for dinner.  I put onion powder and garlic powder on the steak and grilled it on the George Forman.  I steamed the broccoli and cauliflower--no salt on anything.  The steak is good, but bland.  The veggies are satisfying.  My appetite has shrunk considerably.  I am full and satisfied after the meal.  My unexpected pastoral care at the hospital required me to miss BJJ class again.  I'm glad to serve, but hated to miss the training time.  I hope this doesn't effect my weight loss or competition performance.

My weight after my morning shower is 198.4.  I skipped breakfast again.  I had yet another Zaxby's grilled chicken house salad for lunch.  I keep thinking of branching out, but I go right past there on the way to do hospital visits and I like them and they fill me up.  We have dinner at church on Wednesday nights and my training partner, Vince, is the cook.  The menu is buffalo wings, pigs in blankets, homemade french fries, celery, and carrots.  I have 5 wings, celery and carrots, and skip the fries and dessert (arrgggg!).  Latter that night, I have a leftover hamburger patty for a snack (no bread).  Drinking the water has been easy.  I easily make over 2 gallons.  I think it may be tough to only drink a gallon tomorrow.  Before bed, I take my first hot, Epsom salt bath.  I'm a little chilly tonight so I'm looking forward to it.  This is supposed to help my body shed extra water.  The water is hot!  I'm just barely able to submerge myself.  After 10 minutes, I'm done and my heart is pounding and I'm hot.  It takes a while to cool down enough to go to bed.  I'm half a pound lighter after the bath.

Weight is 196.4.  No breakfast.  You guessed it, Zaxby's salad for lunch.  Home for dinner, I have a hamburger patty and left over steamed broccoli and cauliflower before a 90 minute, no-gi BJJ class (no-gi means we don't wear the traditional martial arts uniform, just shorts and a t-shirt). Today I'm only drinking half a gallon of water, which has been challenging.  My body wants more, especially after the BJJ class, but I am disciplined.  I have another hot bath before bed.  It is not fun.

Weight is 194.2.  This is my day off work, but I've got house and farm chores to catch up on.  Plus, I'm only supposed to drink 32 onces today.  That's gonna be tough.  I'm thirsty.  The MMA plan suggested the use of a natural diaretic, so I have an idea.  I'm gonna drink a cup of black coffee this morning.  (It's a mild, natural diaretic that encourages your body to shed water.)  I'm not a big fan of coffee (especially black), but that was the best cup of coffee!  It's probably because I was thirsty and it was the first non-water liquid I'd had all week.  I'm still urinating even though I'm thirsty.  I have a late breakfast with my wife of scrambled eggs with onions and cream cheese (no salt).  For the remainder of the day, I will consume only 4 onces of unsalted peanuts.  The limited food is not too hard.  What I really want is to just guzzle water, but I'm only sipping.  I dred my hot bath tonight, but I do it.  I feel weak and dizzy afterwards.  I don't think these hot baths are good for my health.  I think I will omit them if I ever use this diet agian.  I end the night with a cup of iced, black coffee.  It helps cool me off.

I take a warm shower and then weigh 192.2.  I am thirsty.  I can't wait for weigh in so I can drink and eat.  Between the time I wake at 6 AM and weigh in at 9:45 AM I will sip through about 12 onces of water and eat a small, 100 calorie granola bar.  I feel a little weak, jittery, and uneasy, but the limited food and water eases me.  At this point, I'm worried if this is going to adversely affect my competition.  After a 2 hour drive, I weigh in at 194.6 pounds wearing a pair of shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops.   Boom! I count it a success! Now, time to drink and eat. I open a 32 once bottle of gateraid.  I need to be careful not to guzzle.  I pace myself as I eat the best peanut butter sandwich of my life, a few salty snacks, and an apple.

Within an hour of my weigh in, I need to pee.  I will go to the bathroom 4 times before my match.  That's a good sign.  It tells me, I am rehydrating.  I feel settled again.  The mild nausea and wooziness from earlier are gone.  I'm a little jittery, but I think it's just pre-competition nerves.  I feel good and strong and in shape to fight.  To read the details of my match, click here.

My six day diet was a success.  It got me into the weight division I wanted without stifling my performance or hurting my health.  Also, it helped me overcome a weight loss plateau I was stuck at For a long time.  I've been wanting to get back below 200.  I am on a week of vacation right now and I don't have a scale.  I suspect I will gain back a significant portion of the weight, if not all of it.  We will see.  I continue to drink a lot of water and eat a little better--more meat and less carbs.  Plus, I am jogging this week to keep burning calories And get ready for an upcoming 5K race.   I will update you in a week to see where my weight is after vacation.  At any rate, I count this as a success because it accomished all my goals for the BJJ competition and I won 1st place in my weight/age/rank division.   To read about my fight, click here.

As I said in the beginning, I'm not a fan of fad diets.  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, eat right and exercise hard.  There are no short cuts.  I suspected I would put back on most if not all of the weight I lost.  I was right.  After a week of vacation, I weighed in this morning at 201.2 pounds.  I got plenty of exercise during my vacation--jogging 3 miles twice and rising countless miles on a bike.  Also, I didn't eat too badly.  Yet, I still gained 8 lbs.  I am still happy.  I am close to the 200 mark and with a little mindfulness about what I eat and continued hard exercise and BJJ 3 times a week, I may be able to drop and maintain below 200.  I hope so, because it's a good weight for me.

My First Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Fight

I started training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in March of 2014.  This is the story of how I won my first BJJ fight at the Smokey Mountain Grappling Tournament in Alcoa, Tennessee on May 23, 2015.  I only had a few weeks to prepare for the competition and a week before the tournament, I decided to lose 10 pounds and fight in a lower weight division.  Click here to read about my weight loss experience, which was a victory in itself.

I weighed in at 194.6 pounds at 9:45 AM and began the process of hydrating and getting some energy in my body while I watched my team mates from Veritas BJJ of Dalton, GA compete.  I love these guys and gals.  They train very hard at jiu-jitsu and inspire me to do my best.  If you're in the Dalton area, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Here's some pictures of my team mates during the competition.  Here's Coach Jason Finnell coaching Caitlin Kelley "Cupcake" during her competition.  The next picture is the moment she won her division with a shoulder lock.  She won first place.  (Photos by Vince Caggiano.)

Here's Kevin Bruce winning his no-gi match by rear naked choke.

I have competed before in Tang Soo Do competitions and I always have jittery nerves before it's my turn.  It's the same way when I preach on Sundays.  Even though I've been doing it for almost 15 years, I still get a little nervous before the service starts.  I just try to control my breathing, relax, and stretch.  It's almost time.

Coach Jason pulled me aside to encourage me.  "Chris, I expect you to blow through your competition today.  Your good and you've been training hard.  You shouldn't have any problems.  Regardless of what happens,  I'm proud of you.  Just remember to relax, breath, and stay calm.  Don't rush things.  Take your time and wear you opponent down before you try any submissions.  Establish your dominant position and then hold it until your opponent stops fighting."

They call my name.  I'm the first one named from my division to fight.  I walk onto the mat to take my place in the ring.  I close my eyes and say a short prayer to center myself.  "Father, help me to do my best and keep me and my opponent from being injured.  Please be glorified by what we do here.  Amen."

My opponent stands across from me.  He doesn't look so mean.  He's a little smaller than me with salt and pepper hair and beard.  I'm glad I lost those 12 pounds so I could fight in this division.  We shake hands.  The referee signals for us to start.  My game plan is not to rush.  I'm going to take my time.  I will let my opponent try to take me down to the ground, but I will counter him.  I'm quick and have great reflexes and I'm usually successful at this.  We have just started to clench and fight for grips on each other's gis (uniforms) when the ref stops us and tells us to hold our position.  He explains the clock has malfunctioned.  I joke with my opponent that we already broke the clock.  The kidding blows off a little more steam and helps me relax.  In a moment, the ref tells us we can let go of each other and take a break while they fix the clock.

I step over to my coach, Jason, and listen to him remind me to stay calm and not rush.  "Make sure you don't concede your grips to him."  "Ok, coach.  Is it alright if I go ahead and try and take him down?"  "Sure.  Remember, snap him toward you.  Then when he pulls a way, push in.  You can just go back and forth like that until you get him off balance..."  Coach sits back down and I just pace slowly around to stay calm and loose.

The ref calls us back together and decides to restart us from neutral.  Only 20 seconds has run off the clock at this point.  We touch hands again.  "Go!"  Almost immediately, my opponent tries to take me to the ground.  It is sloppy and he hasn't done anything to break my balance or posture.  As I expected, I can easily counter him and follow him down almost immediately into side control.  This is one of the most dominant positions for me.  My body is on top of his and I'm perpendicular to him while he is flat on his back.  All my weight is pressing down on him.  He's burning way more energy than me just to breath and there's very little he can do, while I have a multitude of options to try and submit my opponent.

I remember coach Jason's advice earlier that morning, "Chris, don't rush. When you get on top, relax and take your time.  Hold the position and let your opponent wear out.  When he starts to settle down, then go for the submissions."  That's what I'm gonna do.  I press my shoulder into his face and drive all my weight down while trying to counter any movements he tries to free himself.

I hear coach call out from the corner, "Relax Chris!"  I relax my muscles and slow my breathing.  I don't want to burn myself out.  I'll leave that for my opponent.  He's tiring and slowing down.  I feel his frustration, because I've been in that position before.  He starts to settle down and I see him looking towards his corner for advice from his coach.  Time to make my move.

I will attack his left arm and try a shoulder lock.  He's fighting hard because he knows what I'm trying.  He's slipping his knee up under me, trying to hook my leg and pull me into half guard (still a dominant position for me, but an improvement for him).  I fight it off and press my weight back into him.  I go for the shoulder lock again, but he's defending well and trying to regain half guard.  I'm fighting it off, but now he's framing up (this means he is using his forearm and elbow to press into my chest and face to keep me from putting pressure on him).  He's fighting valiantly and creating space between us so he can maneuver.   Now I'm having trouble isolate his arm for a shoulder lock.  He finally slips his leg in and pulls me back into a half guard and I don't fight it off this time.  It's time to go for something I've been working on and has been working for me a lot--an Ezekiel Choke.

I settle into half guard on top of him as I slip my left arm around the back of his neck.  He is feeling relieved at having finally removed the pressure of my side control.  I'm hoping to capitalize on his false sense of security in this situation.  Secretly, I grab my right sleeve cuff with my left hand.  Then I slip my right hand in front of my opponent's throat.  Now I scissor my arms and apply pressure to his throat, but I'm not in good position and he rolls over while I'm trying to choke him and I end up on my back with him on top and I have him in guard.  The choke isn't placed right so I let go.

Now I'm on my back with him on top.  I have him in my guard with both my legs around his waste, so he can't apply pressure.  This is actually a more dominant position for me, though the lay person wouldn't know it.  I have a multitude of ways to attack him from here while he has very little.  However, I don't like fighting from this position.  I still have a lot to learn. My coach knows my fighting style and calls out, "You've gotta sweep him, Chris!"

I get my grips on my opponents lapel and attempt a scissor sweep to flip him over on his back to put me on top of him, but he counters and he doesn't go all the way over.  I hear my coach yell, "Back up to your feet, Chris!"

I scramble back up to my feet and we are standing again, gripping each other’s gis.  Almost immediately, he tries to pull me down into his guard.  Again, his technique is sloppy and he doesn't break my balance or control my posture.  I easily counter him as we go down and I pass his guard--this time to the opposite side.  I'm glad I've been practicing side control from both the left and right side.  As I press my shoulder down into his face, I think "See buddy.  I can do this either left or right handed."

I go for the shoulder lock again (Note to self, I really need more submissions in my tool bag.  I know what to work on.)  I get his arm isolated, but he's fighting hard again.  My coach is giving instructions on how to complete the submission, but the opposing coach is giving instructions on how to counter it.  After a few minutes of struggling, my opponent slips his leg in and drags me into half guard again.

Ok.  I'm going to try the Ezekiel again. I know it works.  I trust my training.  I press into half guard, slide my arm around the back of his neck, grasp my right sleeve cuff.  Coach Jason is giving instructions on how to get out of half guard.  Good.  That'll serve as more misdirection. The opponent's coach is warning him to guard his throat.  I know he can't really from this position.  I slip my right hand across his throat.  Coach Jason yells out, "Use the blade of your hand!"  I keep my hand open, sag my left arm, and scissor with all my might.  We start to roll to my right, but this time my opponent can't roll all the way.  I'm in a better position and we end up side by side facing each other as my choke sinks in deep.  It feels solid.  I know it sucks because I've been choked this way in class before.  My opponent fights for a second or two and then taps out (to show he is giving up).   I don't let go until the ref calls for the stop.  Then, I release.  (The picture below is the moment my opponent taped from my Ezekiel choke.  Photo by Vince Caggiano.)

We break apart and the muscles in my arms arm burning and I'm breathing hard from exertion.   I think there were only about 30 seconds left in the fight.  We went for seven and a half minutes and we both feel it.

I hug my opponent and congratulate him on a good fight.  I shake his coach's hand and then go back and thank coach Jason.  My opponent hugs me again and says it was a great fight.  "How old are you?"  I ask.  "41."  "Same as me," I say.  "Us old guys can still fight!"  I say.  "What was your weight?"  "185," he says.  I'm glad again that I dropped the weight to fight in this lower weight division.  "What's you name?"  "Shawn."  I thank Shawn again for a great fight.

At this point, I'm thinking I need to catch my breath because I'll have to fight my next opponent in a few minutes.   The ref calls for the awards banner and I realize Shawn and I were the only two fighters in our division, so there won't be anymore fights.  I got off easy today, but I'm proud of my first fight.  I fought well and executed my fight plan perfectly.  I could have fought more people, but was glad to have my first competition behind me as a win.

Click here to learn more about Veritas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where I train.

Click here to learn how I lost 12 pounds in one week to prepare for my fight.