On this episode of The Hard To Kill Podcast, we explore the mental and physical benefits of practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and how jiu jitsu helps veterans dealing with trauma. Our guest, Dr. Gino Collura, draws upon his experience in neuroanthropology and combative training in Colombia to explain how Jiu Jitsu can foster trust, community, and a sense of identity among practitioners. also discusses the potential neurohormonal benefits of Jiu Jitsu, how it differs from other martial arts, and how it can help veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

We also learn about We Defy, an organization that funds Jiu Jitsu training for veterans, and the potential of Jiu Jitsu to create valuable relationships between veterans and civilians. Tune in to discover the unique challenges and rewards of Jiu Jitsu and its potential for personal growth and healing.

Listen to our conversation on The Hard To Kill Podcast



 Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Combat sports like Jiu-Jitsu have long been praised for their physical and mental benefits, and the latest episode of this podcast explores the advantages it can offer for veterans in particular. The episode delved deep into the world of Jiu-Jitsu and how it can help veterans in healing from trauma by rebuilding their identity.

Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that requires practitioners to put themselves in vulnerable positions, which may not be easy in the beginning. But as they progress and learn, they create a sense of trust and camaraderie with their training partners. This bond and trust have been compared to that found in military units, and for this reason, Jiu-Jitsu is gaining traction as a way to help veterans cope with life after service.

“Jiujitsu provides a civilian friendly institution that is socially accepted and is socially encouraged as a sport, but at the same token, speaks to the spirit of the warrior ethos and allows you to continue building on that warrior identity just in a different way and one that is productive as a civilian.” – Gino


Overcoming Emotions and Ego

However, it’s not just veterans who can benefit from practicing Jiu-Jitsu. Anyone can gain from the physical, emotional, and mental challenges offered by this combat sport. Although Jiu-Jitsu may appear to be dominated by egos or an obsession to win, it goes beyond that. It’s an art form that requires total engagement of the brain and body and demands complete trust in training partners. Practitioners who stick with Jiu-Jitsu see that there are long-term benefits that go

Military Camaraderie 

 Gino, talked about his experiences in Colombia, where he met veterans who believed in confessing their actions and being absolved of them as a way to deal with their trauma. While this approach may not be applicable in the West, its fundamental idea of a spiritual rather than a clinical approach to dealing with trauma can be used here with some modifications.

“And so subconsciously, there’s a blueprint that’s being created that I can trust you. Right. So, yes, we’re trying to get after it, and we’re trying to stomp one another, but at the same time, I know that it’s a chess game and you’re not trying to actually kill me or hurt me.” – Gino

Rebuilding Trust

Jiu-Jitsu offers a unique way of dealing with trauma. By practicing specific moves with a trusted training partner, individuals can simulate the act of fighting or responding quickly in a high-stress situation. The adrenaline release caused by this training serves as a safe and constructive way of dealing with the fight or flight instinct that often accompanies PTSD. Training in Jiu-Jitsu also creates an environment where individuals can learn to trust and rely on each other, just like in the military, building a sense of camaraderie that can help veterans feel more connected to a community.beyond winning or losing, such as building a strong sense of self and community.

We Defy

Gino also talked about the organization, We Defy, which funds one year of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training for veterans who have never trained before. The organization fundraises to cover the costs of training, gis and supplies, and travel expenses. It’s a unique way for veterans who may not have access to or knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu to get involved and benefit from its advantages. The organization vets each gym to ensure that the training experience will be positive for the veteran, and it’s geared towards promoting both mental and physical health outcomes.

Letting The Warrior Thrive Again

Overall, the episode showcased a side of Jiu-Jitsu that isn’t always highlighted – its potential to help veterans deal with trauma and rebuild their identity. It remains a reminder of the transformative power of combat sports, both for mental wellbeing and community building. Jiu-Jitsu represents an effective and productive way for veterans to reintroduce the warrior ethos in their lives and continue building their identity in a productive way as civilians. Jiu-Jitsu’s nature as a dangerous sport is also mitigated by its strict regulation and the ability to engage in full intensity sparring without causing permanent damage. It offers a unique avenue for challenge, growth, and community-building for anyone who chooses to take it on.

Next Steps

Make sure that you subscribe to the Hard To Kill Podcast and stay tuned for some more BJJ inspired episodes. You’ll also want to follow Dr. G on:

IG – https://www.instagram.com/doctor_gino_/ AND

His book, “Seven Layers of Successful Relationships” – https://amzn.to/43mTkAe


Gino [00:00:00]:

When you look at what happens, the meaning making process that is that is created amongst veterans, right. And what the mission is and what they are doing, man, that brotherhood. That sisterhood. It is damn near impossible to find that anywhere else right in the civilian world until the implementation of Jujitsu and widespread community because the level of stress and also the level of close proximity that you have to your training partner.

Dave [00:00:30]:

Welcome to the hard to kill Podcast. With me. Your host, Dave Morrow. The goal of this podcast is to be a catalyst for change in the health and wellness of our military community and make each of you harder to kill. My mission is to help 100,000 veterans lose 2 million pounds by listening to the amazing wisdom and knowledge shared by my guests. Sit back and enjoy. Hey, folks, welcome to another episode of the Hard to Kill podcast. I am chatting with Dr. Gino Kalura today. He’s a behavioral scientist with a keen expertise in trauma, combative stress, and human resilience. He published something really interesting that made me really compelled to chat with him here today. He had a 2018 publication called Brazilian Jujitsu a tool for Veteran reassimilation. He’s been pulled, I guess, in the direction of helping veterans for a long while. He has a pretty cool backstory, kind of Jack Ryan ish. So good timing because season three is out and I’m just crushing episodes every night, so I’m sure we’ll get into that. So, Gino, thanks so much for a reaching out and having a chat with me before the new year and chatting with me on the podcast and sharing your knowledge with the community. So, Gino, man, welcome to the podcast. And let’s start with, I guess, your cool background, and then we’ll get into your research.

Gino [00:01:54]:

Man, that is awesome. It’s a real pleasure to be here. Dave, I love what you’re doing in this community. The deposit of movement, the lives that are being influenced for greater potential and what that looks like for their life. It’s needed, right? So massive. Two thumbs up. That’s really awesome. My story is a pretty unique one. It’s a little eclectic, very unorthodox for sure, to how it is I got to where I am now. So I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, and got exposed to trauma for the first time. Real trauma. When I was in third grade, my aunt was shot in the face in front of me, driving myself and my two cousins home from school. So the condensed version 14 year old kid took dad’s hunting rifle, thought it would be a good idea to target shoot at cars going down the road, and she took one round to the face. So she’s still here with us today. Everything is okay, but you can imagine being eight years old witnessing that and kind of what that does to you, right? And how it just embeds a whole different take on the realities of life and how precious and how fragile this thing is. So fast forward. I got into martial arts. It was kind of a thing that my parents did to help me cope because look, man, I was eight, right? I was filled with anger and fear and not understanding. Right. So judo actually was a pivotal thing for me growing up as a kid and then that kind of graduated into boxing and then Filipino martial arts and Brazilian jujitsu. So fast forward through there. In college at that point, I had really grown an affinity for martial arts and for combative training in general. Got into firearms as well and started working some security gigs as a bouncer, right? So, I mean, nothing crazy door guy, that sort of a thing. And that in of itself just brought its own scuffles. Tampa has a small city within the perimeter of Tampa called Ebore City, which is really known for its nightlife and it’s like a mini version of Bourbon Street, if you can imagine that. So lots of action there, right? So I got exposed to other levels of trauma, being involved in that kind of a profession as well. And then that graduated into me getting into executive protection. So I went to EP school down in Miami and that later dovetailed into me going and doing some pretty cool stuff, pretty legit stuff with Blackwater. They have a training facility up in Moyak, North Carolina, and I went through their highway Security operations course, which is how to teach guys and gals how to deal with non permissive environments, right. From an EP perspective and a PSD perspective. So all that to be said, I spent time, I spent about three and a half years in Colombia, South America, specifically Cartagena, and did EP work. And for anyone who has done it, I mean, I think the majority of folks know like, it’s not the cool, fancy, flashy stuff that a lot of people think it is, right. It’s pretty monotonous work and especially if you’re not doing something that is DoD related or federal government when us on the corporate side, it’s a lot of handholding and babysitting and more than anything a lot of logistics and planning. Right. But it was a wonderful experience. And it opened the door for me to meet guys who were in Colombian special operations. And there’s a unit there called La Hungla, which means the jungle, which they are commandos that go into coca fields where the raw cocaine plants, coca plants are grown that they later churn and refine into cocaine and they burn them down. Right? And they also go after Nakotra Ficantes and guerrilla groups and very high speed guys. A lot of 7th group special forces type folks are down there working as technical advisors and trainers and that sort of thing on our end of the house. So had a great opportunity to befriend a few of them and man, their interpretation of trauma and how it is that they maintained operational tempo was very different than anything I had ever seen with counterparts that were in the US military. And the biggest thing was how they viewed embodying and dealing with trauma. It was a spiritual experience for them. Right. It wasn’t this idea of clinically. If you look at from an operating conditioning perspective when we train, if you take a look at what the US military did, the shift right between circular targets to silhouette targets, there’s a very real reason for that as far as it being able to condition the reticular activating system and what you’re looking for when you’re getting site picture, site alignment and you’re getting ready to engage a threat.

Dave [00:06:28]:

Sorry, Gina, I just want to interrupt you. There opera and conditioning. Can we just get a brief definition of what that is and then we’ll carry on?

Gino [00:06:35]:

Absolutely. So if you take a look so there was a classical psychologist by him, a BF. Skinner, and he came up with this idea of operating conditioning. Right? So essentially what it is is if you take a rat, you put them in a cage and you give some sort of stimulus to create a response. You do that enough, it becomes habitual. It becomes something that is just second nature, because there’s this concept called HEB’s Rule, right. What Hebbs Rule says is neurons that fire together wire together. Right. So if every single time I know I am in a condition red, or if I know, like, there’s threats that I need to be ready to engage and I see that silhouette pop up, it triggers that immediate response. And what I need to do versus a circular target that doesn’t look like a human being. There’s a gap there. Right. And so if you look at some of the numbers, especially going back to the Vietnam War, it was to the effect of about 30% to 40% of active engagement that took place. Most soldiers didn’t even take a shot. As soon as they came up, they froze. And that’s something that not a lot of people like to talk about, but that’s the truth, right. Or the accuracy. There were not accurate hits and accurate shots, so that was something that they saw. Okay, so clinically, we need to do something about that. But when you look at classical Western psychology, as wonderful as it is, there’s also certain elements that it loses or it forgets from a cultural perspective that are very important. Right. So going back to the Colombian side of things for them so it’s a Catholic nation, right. And I can’t say that it’s a blanket statement for every single person in their armed forces and how it is that they deal with trauma. But the guys that I worked with, I believe in what it is that I’m about to do as far as confessing, and I’m getting rid of it. I’m handing it over to something much more powerful and bigger than I am, and I’m absolved of it. I got to keep it moving, right? Because as you can imagine, Dave, right. Like having to operate in your backyard, in your own country, day in, day out. Day in, day out, as opposed to being dislocated from your home, and you’re on a 1012 month deployment, and that is what you do. Like, you are eating, breathing, being deployed, right. As compared to, no, I’m going to run and do this raid, and then I’ve got some training exercises in the afternoon, and then I’m at home having dinner with my wife and my kids. It’s a different mentality, it’s a different shift. But the resiliency factor of these guys and how they could do this week after week, month after month, year after year, and just maintain that resilience, it fascinated me. It really did. It fascinated me. So spent about three and a half years in country, came back to the States, took about a year off to kind of cool out and go through my own reassimilation process and started my doctorate degree at the University of South Florida in what’s called neuroanthropology. So it’s neuroscience mixed with medical and cultural anthropology. And I really wanted to hone in on the cultural element, right, because the creation of belief systems and how it is that we self regulate and the interpretation of stress and trauma. So I spent seven years completing my doctorate degree. Within those seven years, I spent a lot of time with folks in the special operations community and took a deep dive in how it is that activities that were physical, mental and social, like jujitsu help with the reassimilation and identity management and reaculturation process.

Dave [00:09:53]:

All right, I’m going to be real with you here. You need to police that belly fat. You got to get rid of that gut. It is one of the things that if you’re not tracking, you may be tracking your professional career, your family. You may have that all sorted. But if your health is not sorted and if you are fat and overweight, this is a serious health concern, and you need to start policing it right away. The reality is most veterans are actually more obese than their civic counterparts. I know it sucks, but it’s just the reality. A whole host of things get in the way. Could be mild traumatic brain injury. There could be mental health issues, there could be injuries. The list goes on and on and on. Not only that, if you’re a dad and you are overweight, the chances of your kids being overweight is four times greater. That’s right. Four times greater. Childhood obesity is an early death sentence. I know it’s dramatic, but it’s the truth. And if you don’t want to be one of those dads that passes on the standard of obesity and metabolic disease, then you need to start listening in real close, because I have a program that has been helping veterans for the last three years get fitter, leaner, and harder to kill. It’s called the Beast program. It’s a three month program that is designed by me, a veteran with all the best and latest science, to not only help you lose 20 pounds of useless body fat, but to get stronger and to dial in your health, metrics and nutrition with a custom plan so that you can go attack the rest of your life healthier and wealthier. If you want to sign up and get more information, you have to head to the link that is in this podcast at go. Davemoro. Netbeastplication. Once you put in this application, you’ll be evaluated whether or not you’re suitable for the program and if you are ready to invest in the most important thing that a man can have, which is his health. All right, brother. See you on the other side. Back to the podcast. That’s fascinating because you’re putting, I guess, the research behind what I’ve recently felt and what I’ve observed over the last few years amongst my my friends in the veteran community. And so that’s why it was so easy to kind of bring you on here and want to hear about how this research that you’ve conducted literally benefits the veteran. If you look at the veteran or the veteran community as a whole, specifically with healing from trauma and the reasons thereof, I guess we’ll start with why do you think or what did your research conclude or can we say conclude? What was it able to show with respects to BJJ and the veteran coming home from war and their outcomes?

Gino [00:13:03]:

So bear with me, man, because this is going to be a loaded one.

Dave [00:13:07]:

No doubt, man. We start with the hard break first. Get them out of the way.

Gino [00:13:12]:

Yeah, let’s do it, man. Let’s get after it. Why not? Why not? So here’s the thing about it, right? So when you break down the complexity of martial arts at a 40,000 foot view umbrella, there’s so much variation, right? I mean, you’ve got, like, old school karate and taekwondo and Tang Sudo and you wing Chung kung fu, all this stuff that’s out there. And something happened in the 90s, right, as far as a lot of I don’t want to call it myths, right? But things being dispelled about efficacy and what was effective in a one on one empty hand combat situation where it is just two people, there are no weapons, you’re not on concrete, and you are in this thing called an octagon, and it’s just one man trying to impose his will on another. And the world got kind of taken by storm by Hoist Gracie, right, and what it is that he was able to do in the first few UFCs, right? And that fascinating. So me having a background in judo, I understand grappling, I get it. Right. And love judo to death, right. And as far as standing on your feet and being able to toss somebody with the weight of the earth, hitting them afterwards is awesome. Right. But what the Gracie’s were able to do with what they call coast and Judo and translate it more into something that is, listen, I don’t care how you get the guy out of the ground, just get him to the ground. And then once we’re there, we’re going to submit him as opposed to pinning. So Judo has submissions, but it’s notorious for throws pins. Throws pins, right. And they have their time in their place, but Jujitsu takes it a step further as far as let’s finish it. What does it take to finish it? It really highlighted the importance of technique and timing right. And how to stay super calm. Right. When someone’s trying to rip your arm off or strangle you breeze through it. Right. There’s always a way out. Right. But man, it sounds like, okay, that’s easy. But it’s not. It’s really not.

Dave [00:15:08]:

That was this morning. That was this morning for me. I had some young buck and he was trying to rip my freaking head off, man. My jaw still sore and I was.

Gino [00:15:16]:

Just like, man, dude.

Dave [00:15:17]:

But one thing I did learn, because I did some of the combatives work with the military, especially with just so many chokes, it was just like days and days, it felt like, of just chokes, chokes. And and getting out of the choke is yeah. Because the first few times you get a choke applied, you freak out, man. It’s like, I can’t breathe. Oh, shit.

Gino [00:15:35]:

Without a doubt.

Dave [00:15:36]:


Gino [00:15:36]:


Dave [00:15:36]:

Or it’s like, absolutely. I feel the blood draining from my brain. Okay. In that split second, what are you going to do to not panic? And I really appreciate that because I can not panic in these situations because I had that conditioning years ago, like a decade ago, whereas I think somebody coming in fresh. It might be really super stressful. So on that topic of stress, I’d love to talk about the Gracie’s, too. Just the first time I ever saw I saw that just he’s on his back. Because I was watching, like, pride fighting and those things back.

Gino [00:16:12]:


Dave [00:16:13]:

What’s this guy doing? Why is he on the back? These guys are going to kick his ass. They’re going to stomp all over him. And it was just a kind of touch on that point that, yeah, they revolutionized things. And now we’re seeing kind of that evolution because it became like the dominant martial art on the ground as opposed to everything else. Because back in the day, those fights were wild. I love these. There’s a karate against Taegwondo. You didn’t know what you were.

Gino [00:16:41]:

Those are classics, man. Those are classics.

Dave [00:16:43]:

I love watching them on the Internet, because that brings me back to high school era, for sure. First kind of, you want to talk, like, mixed martial arts was just the Wild West. Yes. So to bring back to Jiu Jitsu and the whole idea of it kind of dominating the fighting space because it’s practically very effective, so then now apply to the veteran space, how did that evolution kind of start to happen?

Gino [00:17:15]:

And just from a context perspective. So talking about the other martial arts and just how broad stroke martial arts in general are, and then kind of siphoning down specifically to Jiu Jitsu and why it kind of took Storm. So there’s a pop culture element, right. What happened to UFC? Obviously the army was watching and so was the Marine Corps. And you look at the US. Army Combatants program as well as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. And the current version is Heavy Jujitsu. There’s a lot which it changed and it switched quite a bit right. From the early two thousand s to now, there’s been quite an evolution in what they teach and the different levels involved and associated with it. But I say all that to say because of that the way in which that we engage in the activity, the exchange that is jujitsu, that is the gentle art, we are able to go 100% not recommended, but you can you can go 100% controlled. Everything that I got, right? And everything that you got. And we’re two titans colliding. And at the end of the day, I can get up and shake your hand and say, thanks bro, that was great, right? And then on to the next one and I can go home, I’m going to be sore, it’s not going to feel great. But at the same token, there’s something very powerful about that. You can’t do that in most martial arts. If I were to go 100% in the boxing ring and you and I were to get after it and you crack me and you knock me out and you break my jaw, that’s a problem, right. That’s not going to be conducive to being able to blend into my civilian role, going to work the next day and what’s involved there. So one of the things that’s really unique about Jujitsu is this idea that I can push you. I mean, I can really push you, just like you can push me to the edge of really like my gosh, he has his hooks in and he has me in a rear naked choke. And if I don’t tap, he absolutely has the ability to kill me. And not that you would because you’re in the confines of a training institution, but, you know, look, a blood choke. Yeah. You’ll go out, but you hold it long enough, you absolutely can’t kill somebody. Right? I mean, it doesn’t happen often, right, because we’re a sport. But the reality of it is that it could, right? So the thing about that is you have such and I don’t know, have you ever read the book On Killing by Lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman.

Dave [00:19:27]:

I had him on the podcast.

Gino [00:19:28]:


Dave [00:19:29]:

Yeah, great.

Gino [00:19:30]:

Oh, my gosh. I got to go back and watch that episode or listen to that episode. That’s amazing. So he is a huge focal point for me, like, on the lit review side of my dissertation. I did a lot of exploration right into his work and a lot of things that he brought forward. But one of the things that he talks about is we are the only mammals, as far as human beings are concerned where we methodically and strategically figure out ways to kill one another for reasons that are not survival based political. Right. But if you look at the animal kingdom, it’s a quick spat of survival or if it’s a fight. So, for example, $2 that are fighting for dominance, right? They lock horns. Piranhas will flick their fence and their back tails at one another when those bugs could gord each other on the side, right? Those piranhas could bite each other, but they don’t because it goes against species survival. Right. And so there are elements where it’s a very extreme circumstance where that will happen, but not at the scale that we as human beings create and kind of impose in the international community. So all that to be said, when you look at what happens, the meaning making process that is created amongst veterans and what the mission is and what they are doing, man, that brotherhood. That sisterhood. It is near impossible to find that anywhere else in the civilian world until the implementation of Jujitsu and widespread community because the level of stress and also the level of close proximity that you have to your training partner, right? So, like, for example, boxing, unless you and I get into a clinch, we’re at distance, right? And we’re taking shots, giving shots, whatever. Jujitsu, man, you are constantly in a sandwich. And it’s small movements here, and it’s small movements there, and it’s like the most vulnerable areas of my body are connected to the most vulnerable areas of your body. Right. So it’s kind of that thing where if you and I are standing chest to chest and let’s just say from a self defense perspective, right? And what’s the worst thing someone can do? Like, they do the chest puffing and they throw their hands up, and what you’re exposing your neck, your diaphragm, your stomach, your ephemeral. Yeah, exactly. Right. But you see it everywhere, and it’s like you would literally makes no sense.

Dave [00:21:49]:

Why you’re doing, hey, I bet, like, I just know how to fight.

Gino [00:21:54]:

Yeah, exactly. But we are now putting ourselves in these situations where from an evolutionary perspective right, I’m exposing areas I wouldn’t typically expose. And so subconsciously, there’s a blueprint that’s being created that I can trust you. Right. So, yes, we’re trying to get after it, and we’re trying to stomp one another, but at the same time, I know that it’s a chess game and you’re not trying to actually kill me or hurt me. We’re just trying to learn, though, in the very beginning, right. Emotions and pride and ego, those are all things, man, that have to get ironed out. And that is why Jujitsu has such a high attrition rate. That’s why a lot of people don’t stick with it, because there’s a lot of things internally that are misaligned that have to get realigned. And 90% of the time, what keeps people on the mat training is not the art itself, it’s the people they’re rolling with. And they’re training with very similar rights in the military. I’m not fighting for the call. I’m fighting for the person to my left and to my right because I love them, right? And they’re my brothers, they’re my sisters and I want to protect them. Right? So it’s very similar in that fashion of having the camaraderie that is fostered in the warrior ethos and it’s built around doing something that has a very high stress level element, very high adrenaline, dump, cortisol dump, all that nine. Right? And when that happens, it’s very hard to mimic. That going to no disrespect, of course, but like to CrossFit or going to something else where it’s kind of independent and it’s a singular thing when you are taught and trained to work from an operational perspective as a group, right, where one is none and two is one. Well, to have that, you can’t do Jujitsu without somebody else. I can go hit a heavy bag, right, but I can’t roll it’s different. Right. And so it demands that dependence, but that dependence is also predicated on trust, right. So if you and I are rolling, Dave, and you put me in a real naked choke and we’ve been training partners for a couple of years, I know you’re not going to hurt me, right. And you know I’m not going to hurt you. Right. But at the same time, we’re going to push each other. There’s very few arts where you can do that with. And that’s one of the very special things about Jiu Jitsu. There’s many, many others, but that’s one of the biggest things from a meaning making perspective that really hits.

Dave [00:24:08]:

There’S so much there to kind of get into. And just on like a personal anecdotal note, you’re talking about staying with it and that kind of white belt mentality, that’s something that I forced myself into because I really decided, I made the decision because my son wanted to get involved. He’s six, right, and he’s loving it. And I’m like, okay, when in my life am I going to be able to have a white belt moment with my son where we’re at the exact same level?

Gino [00:24:41]:


Dave [00:24:41]:

Much bigger. But he’s learning basically at the same rate. That is so rare. So that’s been a big moment for me. Yeah, it is. It’s great. And he’s always like, hey, dad, I’m going to get you a mountain. I’m like, yeah, let’s do it. I love it. It’s cool to see. Yeah, it’s cool to see because with our Gym the Kids program is enormous. It is so cool to see just so many kids just wanting to get good at a combative sport, because I think we’re missing that. And I’m glad you’re talking about the veteran population, and I wanted to touch base on the model that you present in your paper, which is like the physical, mental, social model. And you were talking about the Special Forces guys in Colombia. They would go to church. Yes. So the first thing that came to mind is like, oh, my God, I don’t know anybody that goes to church anymore here. And we’ve kind of been ripped apart as a community here. And Canada and the US. Are very similar in a lot of ways culturally. So I was wondering if you could get into that a little bit more. Like you’re talking about the bonds you make at your gym. It’s different than a CrossFit gym. You’re literally in tight, very intimate. You’re sweating on each other. You’re farting, you’re purping, you’re getting in your buddy. It’s gross. But you finish and you’re like, dude, that was sick. I had a great time. So where is Jujitsu fitting in? Is it kind of fitting in as, like, our new for those that take it seriously? And I’ve noticed this. It’s almost I’m not going to say it’s a religion, but what I’m saying is that it fills a void. Is that part of what Jiujitsu is doing? It’s filling a void that, like Nietzsche said, like, God is dead. But then what are we going to replace it with? Is this kind of what a lot of veterans are starting to replace their spiritual side with and their community side with, which is Jujitsu.

Gino [00:26:43]:

So it’s interesting, right, because there’s a duality here, and you hit something that was very important, this idea of it becoming a religion, right? Some people call it a cult, right? Because you do hear that sort of talk, right, about Jujitsu? But at the same token, well, as.

Dave [00:27:01]:

Soon as you flash the gang signs, as soon as you flash the gang sign, get guys like you like, hey, bro, hey, cool. People are like, hey, cool, I listen to your podcast. I’m like, oh, thanks, man. I guess I’m in the gang now. This is cool.

Gino [00:27:18]:

Okay. But legitimately, it’s a real thing, because when you really start talking to two Jiu, Jitsu guys, and they kind of figure out what camp they’re a part of and the Laney engine, whatnot it just creates this open camaraderie where it’s like, oh, that’s my dude. Yeah, I love that guy, right? But I met him once. But that’s really I know that he trains, and I know where he trains out of, but that is absolutely a very real thing. But as far as what is being. Fostered and created when you look at this. So there’s a concept that was created back in the 40s by a French sociologist called Emily Durkheim, and what this is called is collective consciousness, right? And so what collective consciousness is whenever you have more than one person and they’re interacting and intertwining with somebody else, there is a consciousness that is formed where we don’t have to talk, we can feel what is going on between one another. And that is at a very rudimentary, fundamental, basic level. Now, add physical activity on top of that. That is physical activity with intent to do something, as in a submission or a pin, then it amplifies that, right? And that is an addicting thing because and I talk about this in my book, which I forgot to mention it, but in the book, basically what I say is we live in a time of connected disconnection, right? So we are more connected with these things now, right? But internally, we are more disconnected than we’ve ever been because there’s so much damn stimuli in our environment that we don’t take the time to stop and be able to take a step back, achieve an objective perspective as very difficult to do, right? But what jujitsu forces you to do is cut everything out. You have got nothing to worry about in this very moment except for the guy who’s trying to choke you. That’s it. Right? And our brains are wired and designed to not multitask. I don’t care how good someone says they are at multitasking. Your brain is not wired to multitask. We are focused and literally conditioned to focus on one thing at a time. You know, when we do it, it feels really good. It has a very fulfilling thing. And when we do it with another person, it feels really good because now we’ve done something together, right? There’s a moment that you and I have shared that no one can ever take away from us, right? And so, as silly as that may.

Dave [00:29:41]:

Sound, that sounds very sensible.

Gino [00:29:42]:

It’s powerful. Yeah, it’s very powerful. Right, man.

Dave [00:29:49]:

Because, boy, wow, you got me all hot and bothered, man.

Gino [00:29:55]:

Oh, my gosh, Dave. I love it, dude. But it’s a real thing in the sense that we’re a tribal species, right? And so having that tribe that’s forged and the sweat and the blood and the tears listen, also injuries, right? Everyone knows that in this community. It’s not a question of if it’s when injuries are going to happen. Matter of fact, I’m still recovering. I’ve got a separated shoulder. That happened about four months ago from Roland. And you’ve accepted, right? And you just keep pushing through it. But that in of itself fosters strength. It pushes you right, to get to another level of understanding within and what your capabilities are. So sorry, I went on a tangent there. Let me circle back to your question as far as what’s happening. As far as the religious side and jujitsu being a replacement. So since the feeling of fulfillment is something that jujitsu can provide, as far as the individual, you look at what it is that a lot of different religions do for people, right? And what it does as far as meaning making and making their existence be a part of something bigger than them. And then it takes my ability and my need to make sense of something, because that’s what your brain wants to do. Your brain hates ambiguity, does not like it, right? It wants to make sense of its environment immediately. When there’s things I can’t understand or I did something where I look back retrospective, I’m like, oh, my gosh, I cannot believe I let that happen. I cannot believe I engaged this particular target or whatever the case may be that will eat you up and gnaw at you over and over and over again, right? And so when you have something that you can turn that over to and just, you know what? I know it’s not on me. Whatever it is that I believe in is going to absorb that and take care of it for me. Well, when I step into a jujitsu academy and I start rolling, everything that I have been worried about, that day goes away, right? And now I am focused on this one thing. So it allows my brain a reset and a reprieve to be able to engage the next day with a better attitude. Because also there’s a neurohormonal perspective to all this. And it’s not just the belief system, right? There’s the biological side, the neuroscience side, which says, look, man, we have this thing called the HPA axis, right? Your hypothalamus, your pituitary, and your adrenal glands. And it is solely responsible for that stress response system and dumping epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, all that stuff. Well, I mean, Dave, you train, man. So if I’m lifting weights, right, and I want to get gains outside of my nutrition and my workouts, what is the most important thing for me to be able to get those gains? What would you say? Rest.

Dave [00:32:28]:

Thank you.

Gino [00:32:29]:

100%. Rest. Rest. It’s so important, right? Like this older guys rest, dude. It’s pivotal, right? And so when do we do that with this thing? When do we stop and disengage the analytical, the critical thinking and just let go and let it be, whatever that is? We don’t truth of the matter, we don’t. It’s it’s a rarity nowadays, and it goes back to connected disconnection because there’s so much that’s going on. So that’s one of the things about Jiu Jitsu, right? So it forces you to look within. It forces you to really dig deep from an intestinal fortitude perspective and say, yeah, you know what? Last night, I got tapped 15 different times. I didn’t get one tap in. Am I going to show up the next day? Right? It’s a gut check, because that’s another thing. There is always someone better. And it will be that way for eternity, right? I think of times that I roll with my instructor and it’s like, I feel like a kindergartner, and I’ve been doing this stuff for a while, just plays with me, right? And I’m like, this is so disheartening. But it also gives you something to work towards, which is really cool.

Dave [00:33:41]:

Yeah, that’s so true, man. I get nervous, right? I imagine most guys do. When it’s time to grapple at the end of the coaching session, it’s like, all right. And I’m like, oh, crap. You get that little bump of adrenaline. I might get hurt, but it’s just like, all right, I’m not going to just run away. I have got hurt. My fingers a bit mangled up. And one thing I noticed too, the younger bucks, I go to the early class because it’s mostly like dad’s, 40 year olds, like 07:00 A.m.. So most young guys are not getting up at like six in the morning to show up to so I figured out a way to avoid the young guys because the young guys, man, and they go hard. I’m going to mess this dad up. Like, I’m sure in the back of my mind this old man is going down. And so my fingers got all mangled up, my knee got all jammed up, my hips were hurting for like three weeks and I was just like, but I’m still going to go. But I’m kind of courageous, don’t hurt me. But that fear, overcoming that fear, being in a place where I felt when I go on patrol, I’d have this, I guess this mammalian response, this fear response. I think we’re talking about the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, right? Those things are fired up when you’re in a war setting and you have to condition yourself and get yourself over that hump. Or you just curl up in a ball and not be able to do what you had to do. So overcoming that is really important. But then having that experience when you’re back home is hard because there’s nothing really hard other than life. Kids work, that’s the hard. But I don’t really have to overcome any sort of fear. Well, maybe telling my wife I’m going to be home for dinner. But that’s not like real fear. I’m talking deep rooted fear, but the combat is like a little micro dose of that. So what you’re suggesting that we need, and I’ll speak specifically for veterans, do veterans specifically need to just it’s almost like getting a drug. They need another bump in order to auto regulate and bring that whole access back in alignment because we’ve been overstimulating it for so long. That would be safe to say that it’s atrophied and that we need to kind of bring it back into check. So we’re not worried about those little I’m going to say little. It’s all relative things that bother us. During the day. Is that kind of the working theory here?

Gino [00:36:17]:

It’s an interesting analogy in the sense of the idea of the bump, right? And I want to piece that apart a little bit. When you take a look at the warrior ethos, and when you ingrain this identity of being a soldier and you’re serving your country and you are doing things that push you to go above and beyond what the average civilian could ever even possibly imagine, right? I mean, it’s seeing things, doing things. That your average Monday through Friday eight to five, working in a cubicle individual and no discredit to them, of course, but it’s a different way to live life. It’s a different day in and day out. It’s a different perspective on the fragility of life as well. When you go and you have that taste and you commit months, years to doing that kind of work, deployed, and you come back home, and now you’re expected to blend in, now you’re expected to be the Monday through Friday eight to five guy, right? When you have a very clear and different understanding of this thing called life and what’s okay, and what is not, it’s very hard to let that go, right? Because it’s ingrained in you, because it’s been baptized through combat, and there’s no greater way to go through fire than literally life or death situations. And you are exposed to life or death situations every single day. Where most people in the civilian world, in a first world country, things that stress us out are work deadlines or getting this email out to this person or, oh, I messed up that sales pitcher, when in reality, it’s like, okay, like, who’s trying to blow us up? Who’s shooting at us? Nobody, right? So when you step onto the mat now you get a taste, right, and you get to reintroduce that warrior ethos again, because now someone’s trying to choke me. They’re trying to hurt me. Combatively. And it’s a different realm of combat because it’s close quarter empty hand combat. But nevertheless, it’s this idea. There is this force that’s trying to impose its will. I’m going to impose my will, right? And let’s see where the kind of the chips fall. So you cannot get that right in a normal civilian setting. So Jiujitsu provides a civilian friendly institution that is socially accepted and is socially encouraged as a sport, but at the same token, speaks to the spirit of the warrior ethos and allows you to continue building on that warrior identity just in a different way and one that is productive as a civilian. And most people can understand because, oh, MMA, UFC Jujitsu, it allows for those connections to be built, and then also it opens up the freeway for communication between veterans and civilians alike. That’s one of the biggest things, man, I will tell you, in my research, where guys that I worked with had a really tough time connecting with civilians and they’re surrounded with them, right? I mean, they work with them all the time and they’re like, look, man, they haven’t been through what I’ve been through. They just don’t get it. They don’t understand, right? But when I can take away that preconceived notion, they’re not going to understand. And now say, look, I don’t even want you to talk to this guy. I just want you two to roll for the next 30 minutes, man, it’s amazing some of the magic that can happen in a relationship that can be created between two of them just by doing that, right? And so it’s kind of like the old adage, right? You hear people say the old school like, the best way to deal with conflict. Well, let’s step outside and put our dukes up. And at the end of the day, we’re both going to have bloody noses. But we’ll shake our hands and we keep it moving.

Dave [00:39:30]:

Pretty kind of similar shout out to my best friend Carlos, man, we smoked each other in the face when we were, like, six years old. Both had bloody noses. His brother was egging us on. He’s like, Hit him, hit him. And we just friends ever since. Yeah, but there’s a bond, right?

Gino [00:39:50]:

That’s the thing, right? It creates a bond and it’s a powerful thing, and a lot of folks don’t like to recognize it. But look, man, fighting is in our nature. There’s a reason why it’s called fight or flight or fight. Flight or freeze. Excuse me. Right, but the fighting part, man, there’s a reason why our species has survived and we are ingrained to fight it’s there. There’s no two ways about it.

Dave [00:40:15]:

A question on that note, do you feel that there is a concerted effort to dissociate ourself from that truth of being human where we like to fight? Or do you feel it’s just a byproduct of our modernity and our comfort levels with life? Because things are really good. We don’t need to engage in combat. It’s easy. We have everything at our fingertips. We don’t need to fight for food. Or maybe it’s a combination of both. How do you see that? And especially for the veteran, right? When we come home, it’s shunned, right? The idea that we like to fight and the idea we want to be in the fight and we want to be down range again and we want to engage in enemy, these are things that are really antisocial things to talk about when you’re not in a veteran space. So is it just that society just really doesn’t get it? Or you think there’s forces that are trying to actively remove that from us so that we have maybe it’s out of good faith, maybe we want to have a less violent society so there’s no war in the future. What’s your take on that?

Gino [00:41:25]:

So I definitely think that there are forces in play. There the reason why I say that is because we cannot escape the primality of being human beings. Right. There are primal things indoctrinated us that are very necessary. And the idea that we can just turn our head to it and be like, well, let’s just ignore that response. That response has been there for millions of years, right, to keep you alive. And to think that you’re going to ignore that without considering the fact of just how fast things can change, how fast variables and dynamics can change in your own life, where you’re going to want to have that response and be really dialed in and tuned into it. I always use this example, right? So here in the States, what happened with Hurricane Katrina many years ago, new Orleans went from a first world city to a third world city in less than 24 hours. Raping, looting, murders, all kinds of right? And so this idea of I’m going to live in this box or this bubble and nothing bad is ever going to I’m never going to have to fight. And fighting is barbaric. No. Right. And so we take so many things for granted in first world countries that we don’t really dial into the fact of, wow, we have it good. But at the same time, man, it’s a very fine line as far as how close and how quick we can turn into a society where we go back how it used to be. Right? And so to take that for granted is a very dangerous thing. But I do believe that there is a movement to want to water down those things because it makes it much easier when fear does become a thing, when violence does become a thing. A lot of people who’ve never been trained or conditioned, they don’t know what to do. Right, so that freeze element of, well, Dave, you know better than I do, man, like Milliseconds matter, right, and how you are going to stay calm in that process to be able to get yourself out safely. And you’re those that you love safely, you better be clear headed. And that is a direct byproduct of having confidence. Right. And you break down confidence. It’s belief in yourself. Well, how do you gain that belief if you’ve never dialed into it? You’ve never proven, you never validated it. You got to validate it, which means you have to recognize it. So this idea of pushing it away yeah, I definitely think, man, that there’s something to be said about watering down that response. And truly, it makes us weaker. I absolutely 110% believe that it makes us weaker as a species, man, it’s kind of similar to your shirt, right? Like what your shirt says from Socrates right now, and I can’t see it from here. Right, but that’s probably something worth bringing.

Dave [00:44:01]:

Up because yeah, no man has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It’s something that I found once I started getting into the Stoics and reading the ancient philosophers, I was like, oh, they talked about all this shit before us. This isn’t anything new. We’re finding combative sports. They were doing wrestling. They knew they had to stay fit. They knew they had to eat. Well, nothing we’re doing now is new. It’s all been done before, and we’re talking about that before we went online. It’s cyclical. And they knew from an early age, you need to be trained in the combative arts. They trained all if you just look at the Spartans, everyone was trained. And it’s like Jordan Peterson’s quote, right? I’m going to bastardize it. But a good man is a dangerous man that has that voluntarily under control. If you know everybody is dangerous, you’re not going to mess with the other dude at the mall. You’re not going to get in his face. You’re not going to call them out and cross that invisible line because you have the actual understanding and it makes things more peaceful within your own community. Because everybody knows this guy’s a savage. This guy’s a savage. I don’t know what this guy can do. Mess me up. And so that physical nature of being strong and being capable makes things calmer. And I think that has been totally lost in the last, like, 30, 40 years. So, yeah, I’m glad you brought that up in that way, because I think for a lot of us, and especially a kid from growing up in the 80s, right, it was like, don’t watch violent TV. Don’t rough house outside, constantly telling you, don’t do that, it’s wrong. Don’t do that. It’s wrong, has an effect on a generation. So that’s why I was so keen on getting my son early on into jiu jitsu, so that he gets aware of his body, that he understands you can be physical, but there’s a line, and don’t cross that line. And if you do have to cross that line, you’re capable. Exactly. That’s something that I wish I had when I was younger. So I want to give them a gift now.

Gino [00:46:08]:

It’s invaluable, man. And I applaud you, right. Because being able to empower and give skills is so much more valuable than giving things. Right? And so being able to teach your son dose and then also lead by example, you’re out there with him, right? I was telling you that. That’s special. And he will forever, forever cherish those memories and what it means to him. I remember to this day, man, when I started Judah, my dad did it with me, right? And I have vivid memories, man, when I was eight, nine years old, of watching him get thrown, watching him throw people, then him throw me to this day, man, you’re talking, what, 30 years ago, and it still brings a smile to my face, right? So that’s good. It’s a very good thing.

Dave [00:46:52]:

Very good. One thing, the last thing I just want to touch on. I listened to a podcast with you and TJ talking about We Defy, a nonprofit that describe a little bit better because I’d love to get this disseminated, especially to the Canadian listeners, because I don’t think it’s being done here in Canada. And we’re looking to you guys, the Americans, for inspiration on this. So I know it’s not your organization, but I know you’re closely linked. What’s that all about and how is your research tied to this organization?

Gino [00:47:29]:

So let me just tell you, those guys are rock stars. I have a profound admiration, respect, and love for that organization because my research is one thing, but they’re doing it. They’re actively out there helping veterans, changing veterans for the better and their families as well. So essentially, how we define works is this it’s a group of folks that are all volunteers from across the country that have come together. They do fundraising events that essentially help to fund tuition for Brazilian Jiu Jujitsu for a year for folks who’ve never trained Jiu, Jitsu as a civilian. So there’s an application process, there’s an interview process, and there’s a vetting process as well, depending on where they live. And a We Defy ambassador will go and check out local gyms and kind of figure out which one’s going to be in solid alignment that will have a veteran friendly environment. Because that’s the thing, right? Like Jujitsu now versus Jujitsu 20 years ago, you have a whole lot more options. I mean, my gosh, man, 20 years ago, you were lucky if you found someone who is a purple belt. Right? Now, there’s black belts everywhere. It’s grown, right? Which is great. And as you know, man lineage and who you train under, and Jujitsu is a really big deal, right? Are they legit or are they not? How does it go back to the Gracie’s and then from the Gracie’s right up to Jigger? O’Connell? But We Defy’s mission is to go out and empower as many veterans as possible with the Jujitsu experience to encourage positive mental health outcomes and physical health outcomes as well. So I had the privileged opportunity to go to their annual gala a few months back and be their keynote speaker. And, man, when I tell you the energy was just electric, and to see hundreds of people, celebrities included, that were there supporting the cause, it was such a special thing. So, yes, TJ is an incredible asset to them. And he and I, we’ve talked for the past couple of years and just gone back and forth. And there’s a few other gentlemen that are involved in the organization as well that are officers that are just fantastic and really committed and dedicated to being able to get as many veterans exposed in training in Jiujitsu as they can. So obviously, they use my research and my dissertation quite frequently to validate, right? So whenever they’re putting it out there, like, look, there’s science behind this. This is real. And that has helped push their mission forward quite a bit.

Dave [00:50:01]:

Okay, awesome. So if you’re listening to this and you’re in the BJJ space and you’re thinking, hey, I could probably get this started in Canada, now you know where the research is. Go forth and start getting this sorted out so I can get some free tuition. This is my self serving mission of the day. Give me some free jujitsu. That’s all I want now. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. I’m seeing the change here. I’m literally privileged enough to have been given money from the VA to start a program for fitness. Very cool. For female veterans here online. And so we’re just scratching the surface, right? Ideally, we would have fitness for every veteran in Canada and then tie that into Jujitsu. And everything you just mentioned about how important it is, love that. Just getting yourself healed up at an emotional and biological level and then also having that aspect of community as well. It just seems like a no brainer for most of us to get involved and to get training in the gyms. So I do have a question from a listener. But you know what? I’m going to ask you offline, if you don’t mind, just because I know we’re short on time, because I wanted to just go into where can folks find you and start reading your stuff and looking at your paper, reading your book. You’re all over YouTube, you’re all over socials. So where’s the best place to start getting into your research and your work?

Gino [00:51:41]:

Yes, I would tell you if you just do a basic Google search right. There’s a bunch of different resources that are going to come up. A good place to start to understand the research and my perspective and my discipline would be the web page for my book, which is www.sevenlayers.com. And on the seven side, so it’s WW sevenlayers, the V is substituted with the actual number seven. So the book is called Seven Layers of Successful Relationships. And just a quick plug in on that, right? So the premise of that book is this. It’s the quality and depth of relationship that you have with yourself will always define the quality and depth of relationship you can have with other people. Right. And when you look at different modalities that exist and how you push the understanding of what your capabilities are, truly not what society tells you and not what’s been culturally conditioned, not any sort of hegemonic influence, but truly within, that’s where you need to start. And one of the things I have people do, Dave and I talk about this in the book, is define yourself to yourself. When I had asked that quintessential question of who are you? Right. As esoteric and philosophical as that sounds, it’s a very important question. And then if I give you a blank sheet of paper and give you 20 minutes, it’s all right? Write out your constitution. Write out every single thing. If I don’t know nothing about you, write out every single thing that you stand for. And this is where Jiu Jitsu really shines, right? Because Jujitsu teaches you very quickly what you’re made of. Even if you’ve never not in the veteran community, even just as a civilian, right. You’re going to get pushed in ways that societally, day in, day out, you’re not going to experience, right. But it’s literally conflict every single time you hit the mat, and it forces you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, which we as human beings, that’s what we were designed to do, right? We just have forgotten that.

Dave [00:53:36]:

I love it, man. And I think this message that you’re pushing here to the veteran community, it’ll likely trickle down to all of us that have kids, and we’ll get them involved and we’ll create that warrior ethos for the new generations. Because my feeling is that we’re part of this next greatest generation because we spent 20 plus years fighting wars, and a lot of us came back with no idea of, like, what the hell just happened? We didn’t have a purpose. There was no victory. And I think the victory is going to come down to us creating the new politic or the new generation of warriors, fighters, whatever you want to call it, so that we can have a better, more fruitful and successful society moving forward. And I think Jujitsu absolutely part of that change, without a doubt. So gino. Thanks. Yeah. Thanks so much for having a chat with me on the podcast, man. This has been a hoot. I’ll be honest. Just scratch the surface. We didn’t even really get into the science. I wanted to really hit the HPA axis. But we got a lot of good insights into why Jiu Jitsu, if you’re on the fence and you’re listening, like, oh, should I do it now? You’ve got the science behind it. Now I think it’s time to take action. And you’re talking to a guy. I’m four months in and I was scared getting into it, and I’m still scared doing it, and I still show up to get humbled and be a white belt and to slowly progress and see the improvement and to do it with my son has just been a real privilege and an honor to be on. Amazing, man. Yeah. Thanks so much. Man. And we’ll have to do another one. Man you’ll have to talk more on your research and dive in even a little deeper. Man I’d love to have you back on. So we’d love to on another day. And awesome. And folks, don’t forget, train hard, fight easy. See you on the next one. Peace. Thanks for listening to the end of the episode. You’re likely an avid listener, and I appreciate that. And likely you’re somebody who would jump at the opportunity to support the podcast. So here is what. I’m offering. I have a Patreon page, and I’m not widely promoting it just yet. It is@patreon.com theharttokillpodcast and what it allows patrons to access is insider info, pre interview Q and A’s stickers, shirts, all kinds of extra little things that get added along the way, and the ability to build a little community and to have some input as to what you want to hear on the show. And since you’re an avid listener, I would greatly appreciate your input. So I have three different tiers of support. Starts as low as $5 a month and works its way up all the way to $35 a month. And this will help keep the lights on, help me get some better production value, help me find and hunt down even better guests for the future. So if this is something that you would like to support over the next little bit, I would greatly appreciate it. And that’s at Patreon.com thehartkillpodcast Love you. See you on the next episode. Peace.


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Dave is a retired infantry officer and Afghanistan war veteran. He’s the creator of the HRD2KILL training programs that were built on the principles that got him from not being able to get out of bed to competing in the Crossfit Open, Spartan Races and the Ironman. You can find more mobility based exercises in his new book, “The Nimble Warrior”, now available on Amazon or tune into his new HRD2KILL Podcast

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