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Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu Interview With Albino & Preto

REPETITION AND THE BLACK BELT MENTALITY: A CONVERSATION WITH A BLACK BELT SCREEN-PRINTER

For this issue of OUTSID/IN, we’re looking at a concept that should be familiar to every grappler: REPETITION. To help us break it down, we talked to Shane Taylor, a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the owner/operator of The Brooklyn Press, a screen printing shop, a business that was literally built on REPETITION.

Outsid/In:  

Shane earned his Black Belt at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He currently instructs at Evolution Grappling Academy.

As a black belt and a screen printer, you’re no stranger to REPETITION. So let’s talk about that. Tell me about the Brooklyn press. Tell me what you do. 

Shane: 

I am the owner of the Brooklyn press, a custom screen-printing shop focused on custom apparel and accessories. We do screen printing, and there’s a lot of repetition involved. So yeah, this seems appropriate!

Outsid/In:  

Let's try and figure out the numbers here. You personally, how many screens in your life do you think you've pulled?

Shane: 

Gosh, for the first 15 years of my screen-printing existence, I did everything by hand. So, rough estimate is I've probably pulled a squeegee close to a million times. Yeah, probably over a million actually.

Outsid/In:  

That’s amazing. That is the very essence of repetition right there. Where does your mind go, while you’re doing the same action over and over again?

Shane: 

Screen printing can be a very meditative process in a way. You're focusing on the micro. When you're printing a large run of shirts, or totes or whatever it might be, you're doing the same movements over and over again. And so, I like to use the opportunity to try and be mindful of what's happening in the present, almost on a microscopic level.

Outsid/In:   

So, you don't lose focus.

Shane: 

Absolutely. And it can have a funny effect on the time. Because you’re existing in this micro cosmic world of very small gestures and movements. It gives you the opportunity to be very present. And, sometimes, it'll seem like a lot of time has passed when in reality not very much time has passed at all.

Outsid/In:  

Since a lot of your time ‘off the mat’ is spent in a meditative state, do you look for a more ‘active’ experience when you get on the mat? To counteract your daily life?

Shane: 

Yes and no. Training Jiu Jitsu can be a more active experience than printmaking. But I think they both maintain that meditation. One of the beauties of Jiu jitsu is that it allows us to focus on what's going on in the present. It's actually much easier for your mind to wander when you're printing and just loading shirts onto the press and pulling shirts off the press. And, because it's that very same thing over and over again. Whereas in Jiu jitsu when you have somebody on your back, trying to cut off the blood supply to your brain, it's probably best if you're only thinking about that. And I think that's one of the things that draws people to Jiu Jitsu is the fact that very little else seems important in those moments.

Outsid/In: 

While it's happening, it's the only thing that's happening.

Shane:  

But there are also so many other things happening at the same time. And the higher up the ladder you go in the training, the more you get to experience. The more levels of awareness.

Outsid/In: 

As a black belt, do you think that’s what a ‘black belt mentality’ is? Having more levels of awareness?

Shane: 

Yeah, I think so. There’s that phrase: The brighter a candle shines the greater amount of space it illuminates. I think that's relevant in Jiu jitsu. iThe more you're able to see in the moment, the more that you're able to see what's going on.

Outsid/In: 

You've been doing Jiu jitsu for how long?

Shane:  

14 years, and I've been screen-printing for 16 years. So, it's funny because I started Jiu Jitsu and screen printing at screen-printing roughly the same time in my life. I think those two practices sort of co-evolved together and informed each other, especially as it applies to repetition. You just keep doing it.

Outsid/In:   

You keep showing up. 

Shane:  

You keep going to class. You keep training. And also, drilling is a big part of it, too. The more that you drill, the more the movements become second nature and then you're able to explore around the movements in a live training situation.

Outsid/In:   

Yeah, do you feel like you've earned a black belt in combat or a black belt in “showing up”?

Shane:  

I would say, the latter. In showing up. But then again, what is a black belt? Really it just proves that you kept going. I mean, I think the Japanese kind of view of a black belt, more traditionally, was just that it means that you have a basic understanding of the fundamentals. And I think that's probably a good way to describe how I see my own black belt in Jiu Jitsu. Some people say training begins at Black Belt. And I think that's a fair assessment. 

Outsid/In:   

Is it the same in your work?

Shane:   

Haha, I would say, maybe I have a black belt in screen printing, but only because I have a strong understanding of the fundamentals. There's really a lot more to learn and a lot more to explore and to refine. So I think the correlation is there.

Outsid/In:   

Would you say you've experienced ‘mastery’ in either of those fields?

Shane:  

Yes, I'm a master at getting tapped out by my seniors.

Outsid/In:   

Hahah, a true master.

Shane: 

I think if mastery is as simple as putting in the 10,000 hours, then there’s some level of mastery there. But I think that, for each level of ‘mastery’ that you unlock, you reset to a new level of novice-dom. Is novice-dom a word?

Outsid/In:  

I think we can make it a word. Why not?

Shane:   

So, you start back at zero, basically. And every time you level up, you're, you're restarting.

Yeah, I think that's probably a good way to put it. When you receive your black belt, you’re working towards this thing. Only to realize very quickly that you are the most inexperienced black belt. From the moment you tie that thing on, it’s like you become a baby black belt.

Outsid/In:   

Isn't that kind of important to the training journey? Becoming comfortable with the idea that you don't know everything?

Shane:  

Yes. I think so.

Outsid/In:  

It seems like that's more of the attitude. When you read interviews with Black belts, or you talk to one, they’re very humble. Less like ‘I know everything, I’m a master’ and more like ‘No, I don't really know anything.’

Shane:   

Yeah, totally.

Outsid/In:   

Which I think is important. To admit that you don't know something is pretty crazy.

Shane:  

Jiu Jitsu is the ultimate humbling experience. You can't fake being better than somebody else when you’re tapping out. You can't fake being more than you really are in Jiu jitsu. I think a lot about things like  ‘Is my partner having fun right now?’ Am I having a good time?  Do we both look cool, doing what we're doing?’ 

Outsid/In:   

Yeah. And that's kind of a funny thing to say, make sure your partner looks cool. But I really think there's something to that, because to look cool means there's a flow happening. And that takes it from ‘fighting’ into something like a conversation or a dance or something like that.

Shane:  

Jiu Jitsu, at its highest level is very performative, very rooted in self-expression. I mean, one of my teachers, Shihan Gene Dunn, he would say, ‘Don't do ugly Jiu jitsu in front of me, I only want to see beautiful Jiu Jitsu on the mats.’ And, I think there's a lot of ways to interpret that. But the way I kind of always took it was that it should be a beautiful artistic expression. And that's what I try to lean into, more coming at it from an arts background. My other teacher, Professor Brian Glick, he was a big advocate of saying that ‘repetition is the mother of all skill’. And, screen-printing and Jiu Jitsu are both very technical, highly process-oriented endeavors. But they're both art forms, and they're both vehicles for personal expression. And it's very collaborative because, most of my work at the Brooklyn press is printing other people's artwork. So, it's the collaboration of their design and my print work comes together to create the final product.

Shane Taylor of The Brooklyn Press talks Jiu Jitsu and Screen-printing with Albino & Preto

Outsid/In:   

Could you look at each training partner as a new job, or a new client?

Shane:  

Yeah, that's right. Not every training partner in Jiu jitsu is going to require the same approach. It depends on what your end goal is. I find that a lot on the mats, where it is very clear that you're not always playing the same game, or you don't always share the same goals, right, your partner's goal might be to smash you as quickly as possible. And your goal might be to have the most fun, or create the most amount of movement or the least amount of movement. Same for making sure you're on the same page with your clients. Some people are going to be more oriented around cost and speed, other people are going to be more oriented around quality and fine detail and color accuracy.

Outsid/In: 

That's a key part of training. To adapt.

Shane:    

Problem solving, right? Jiu Jitsu forces you to become a better problem solver. You’re solving problems in 3D. Same with screen printing: The registration or the alignment of two different colors on a print, might be a 64th of an inch off and you have the problem solve to get it dead on. So, you need to problem solve. But I would guess that, in whatever professional role, you’re probably finding the correlation between Jiu jitsu, and accounting or Jiu jitsu and, wholesale bakery management, or whatever it is.

Outsid/In:  

And that's what I'm interested in. I think that is but the best context to explore how Jiu Jitsu applies off the mat.   

Shane:  

It’s very easy to talk about how Jiu Jitsu prepares one to succeed, but it’s almost a better teacher on how to fail, whether it's in your professional or personal life.

Outsid/In:  

Repeatedly fail. Over and over again.

Shane: 

Yeah, fail again.

Outsid/In:  

In something like a career, you can look back on one big failure that you had, or in a relationship. But if you look at your personal Jiu jitsu career, it's failure after failure. Is that how you would describe it?

Shane:  

For sure. Learning how to fail teaches you how to succeed. If you look at any truly successful person, you’ll find a string of failures that were overcome. And if you look at any black belt, you’re going to see the same thing. There's no such thing as an overnight success. It's usually a ten-year story, fraught with failure and resilience. And the mat is very informative for being able to overcome failure in your personal or professional life.

Outsid/In:  

Well that brings things full circle pretty nicely.

Shane:   

I would pull the mic drop but I'm talking to you on my computer. So...

Outsid/In:   

Don't drop your computer.

Shane:   

Don't drop your computer.

Outsid/In:  

We won’t drop our computers. Thanks Shane!

Shane:

Thank you!