Introduction to guest:
Brought up on the south side of Johannesburg, in a South African government housing estate (similar to “the projects” in the USA), Rodney learned quickly how to be tough.
But although Rodney survived the violence outside of his home, inside wasn’t safe either – “things turned rough in my teens. My abusive, alcoholic mother kicked me out of the house at 17, and as a result, I never finished high school.
Destitute and homeless, I found myself sleeping on the inner-city streets of Johannesburg. With less than $20 in my pocket, I decided then and there, to change the trajectory of my life. I realized in my darkest moments of my despair that success comes down to what you do on the inside, no matter what’s happening to you on the outside.”
Rodney turned to martial arts to get through this incredibly tough time in his life.
“My martial arts practice taught me to be resilient, to embrace my fears, to develop laser-like focus, and to never give up. Having developed these qualities (I had to!), I went back to school, put myself through college – doing my undergraduate work in psychology, completing my Masters in Leading Innovation and Change – and earning my Doctorate in 2019 from the University of Leicester’s School of Business.”
Rodney is mostly known in the world of modern martial arts for his Crazy Monkey Defense System that focuses on teaching students how to train for life, prepare for the street, and challenge themselves to improve 1% each day.
He is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu under the legendary Rigan Machado.
He also coaches tier 1 operators from various fields in the art of self-preservation.
But self-defence isn’t all Rodney is passionate about…
“I am incredibly passionate about the ecology of mind-body integration as the next frontier of human flourishing. My goal is to teach others how to attune to their embodied intelligence through tools that encourage both embodied integration for health and personal mastery.
On the one end of the spectrum I am an advocate of being able to defend oneself, while on the other side I believe that learning to fight should make you less aggressive, not more. Most people who teach martial arts today are either completely focused on competitive success — or for those in the reality-based world, obsessed with the fight on the street. Personally, I believe there is a middle ground.
I believe it is in this middle ground, in the experience of martial arts, where ART should be seen as valuable as fighting skills — and in doing so the experience on the mat becomes one of personal transformation leading to self-mastery. I want to make this clear however, that I do not believe self-mastery through martial arts is possible unless the martial skills one trains in is grounded in reality.”
Key quotes and takeaways from the show:
Being immersed in aggression and violence is not good for your psyche – You need to balance the martial and the art.
“Jiu Jitsu isn’t complicated, people complicate it.”
If you only learn/teach people how to fight (without teaching them soft skills), it amplifies insecurities and you/they become a mercenary – the Samurai and the tea ceremony example. You need balance because, if not, the person that you charge to protect society becomes the very person that then destroys it.
“If I don’t have the art aspect, the point that teaches me how to create value in my life, I have no need for the combative, because there’s nothing to defend.”
Wabi Sabi – appreciating the beauty in imperfection.
How you hold your body changes the way you show up in life, feel and think.
Mindfulness in action – Be present in any situation! Be calm, focussed and centred. Be able to sit with feelings without judgement. What is your narrative?
People who practice mindfulness have a better reaction time.
Emotions are useful tools – there’s no such thing as a bad emotion.
At least 70% of communication is non-verbal.
Mindfulness communication (full presence during communication) made a huge difference!
Put your mask on first!
The body is one organism.
“You’re just a man.”
Question of the day:
“Will Artificial Intelligence ever help us to regulate our emotional states?”
Questions from listeners:
Does Rodney think BJJ gives people a false sense of proficiency in a fight? Most of sport Jiu Jitsu will not work and going to the ground is a dangerous option.
Links to podcast sites:
The full podcast:
In this episode, Rodney describes his life as a nightclub bouncer, how to stay safe on the street, and how he transformed from a self-proclaimed “bad-ass” to someone who uses martial arts to cultivate positive thoughts, feelings and emotions.
If you like these topics, and Rodney’s story, you will also like our podcast with Geoff Thompson, who also transformed from a factory worker, and an extremely violent individual, to BAFTA winning writer, filmmaker and teacher.
To be notified on future podcasts:
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If your question gets answered and you miss the live show, you can watch it here later.
- 03:27 – Rodney’s story.
- 07:20 – Rodney’s life as a nightclub bouncer and his near-death experience.
- 11:56 – What really works for self-defence.
- 22:22 – Why boxing is useful in a street fight.
- 26:06 – What should a trained male boxer do against a female attacker?
- 27:49 – Rodney’s story on avoiding violence and knife defence
- 35:24 – The Crazy Monkey Defense System and Rodney’s other self-defence programmes.
- 27:30 – How to transfer the lessons of martial arts into everyday life.
- 38:21 – Why did Rodney call his system “Crazy Monkey”?
- 40:33 – How useful is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a fight?
- 46:33 – What did Rodney learn from Rigan Machado?
- 50:29 – Injuries Rodney has sustained through martial arts.
- 56:20 – How to train into old age – the secrets behind longevity of training.
- 59:08 – Rodney’s solo training methods.
- 01:01:40 – Have males evolved to be “warriors” and is this archetype changing?
- 01:12:49 – 6 principles that you can take from martial arts and use in everyday life.
- 01:21:27 – Will Artificial Intelligence ever help us to regulate our emotional states?
- 01:25:04 – Rodney’s mindset when living on the streets of Johannesburg at the age of 17.
- 01:28:00 – Gaz’s “email list technique” for dealing with negative thoughts and emotions.
- 01:28:49 – Emotional granularity.
- 01:30:40 – Shaun’s “inviting Mara to tea” technique.
- 01:31:17 – Mindfulness in action and being aware of the narrative you tell yourself.
- 01:37:54 – What Rodney found through his PhD research and how it helped leaders.
- 01:42:46 – The art of self-reliance.
- 01:48:28 – The body as one: embodied intelligence.
- 01:52:30 – Being open, vulnerable and relying on other people in the context of self-reliance.
- 01:57:00 – The hardest thing Rodney has ever done.
- 01:57:40 – Rodney’s opinion on what makes a good coach.
- 01:58:30 – Rodney’s opinion on what makes a good leader.
- 01:58:46 – Resources recommended by Rodney.
- 01:59:39 – What Rodney would have done differently if he had the choice.
- 02:03:26 – Gaz’s fun fact about Marcus Aurelius and humility.
- 02:04:23 – Where you can find Rodney.
- 02:05:14 – Where to join future discussions.
People and resources mentioned:
In alphabetical order:
- Adam Kayoom
- Apijarn (Rodney’s nickname for his Muay Thai teacher – Apidej Sit Hirun)
- Brene Brown
- Carol Dweck
- Chris Parker
- Crazy Monkey Defence system
- Dean Stott
- Dr. Howard Rankin
- Full Contact Living by Dr. Rodney King
- Homer’s Iliad
- Jason Bourne
- John Wick
- Lieutenant Colonel Grossman
- Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
- Marcus Aurelius
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Rigan Machado
- Victor Frankl
- Weaponize Your Body (Rodney’s programme)
- Willie Toweel