“Don’t Like It, Train More”, Chris Ulbricht of Garden State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Don’t Like It, Train More — When something happens that upsets you, don’t dwell on how it makes you feel but rather get to work on fixing it. Whether it’s changing the situation, the location, or the people you’re around you can go from feeling like a victim to feeling grateful to yourself for taking control of […]

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Don’t Like It, Train More — When something happens that upsets you, don’t dwell on how it makes you feel but rather get to work on fixing it. Whether it’s changing the situation, the location, or the people you’re around you can go from feeling like a victim to feeling grateful to yourself for taking control of the situation. This phase comes from an old martial arts fable about a student who is getting angry that he keeps losing competitions. The master says “ Don’t like it — train more.” When we empower ourselves, we shift from a victim mentality to a mentality of gratitude.


As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing

Chris Ulbricht is the owner and instructor at Garden State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Red Bank, New Jersey — opened in June of 2013. Chris has been teaching, training, and competing in Jiu-Jitsu since 2008. Garden State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy (GSBJJ) has classes for kids and adults of all ages and currently has hundreds of active team members.

In addition to GSBJJ, Chris also owns Elevation Escapes — a Jiu-Jitsu Adventure travel company. These trips combine Jiu-Jitsu training with exotic locations and fun excursions with a group of people that share the same interests.

Finally, Chris is also a licensed real estate agent with Exp Realty. Chris withs with buyers and sellers in both the residential and commercial real estate worlds.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

Sure! So I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu back in High School. Before that I was into playing in bands and skateboarding, but it was getting into Jiu-Jitsu at that time that finally gave me something that I was extremely passionate and focused on.

I eventually dropped out of college and moved from my hometown of Oceanport, New Jersey to Camp Springs, Maryland to join the top Jiu-Jitsu team in the country at that time and pursue a career competing full time.

After a couple years down there, I moved back to New Jersey when I was 22 then opened up Garden State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy when I was 23. I bought the school from my first instructor so my Jiu-Jitsu school that I’ve had for the past 7.5 years is actually in the same building that pretty much started in!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

After spending basically over a third of my life so far on the same mats there’s literally thousands of crazy stories, however there is always one that comes to mind. About three years ago we had someone walk in for a Jiu-Jitsu class and the gentleman seemed to be in a very odd mental state — really hyped up and not very aware of the social cues we were giving. He wanted to jump right into the class that was in session but we denied his request as he appeared to have an open wound on his leg. We scheduled him to come back the following week.

The next day, I was getting my haircut and they had a story on the news about a 9-hour hostage situation in an apartment complex in our town — it wasn’t until later that night that I found out that it was the guy from the night before!

This experience made me and my staff really grateful that we trusted our intuition and that we all walked away from the experience with nothing more than just an interesting story.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Whether you think you can or can’t you’re right” — Henry Ford. This is an idea that I share with my students all the time, especially the kids. The idea is that if you go into something thinking that you can’t do it, you basically don’t even have a shot. However, if you believe there’s a chance then even if the odds of it are 1/100 you CAN make it happen if you don’t give up.

In Jiu-Jitsu, oftentimes we do rounds of sparring against people who have been training far longer and are far more skilled than us. If someone goes into that expecting to lose, they will surely lose. However, even if the odds are slim, if they go into it believing that they can win — they probably eventually will. Maybe they’ll win 1 in 10 rounds the first month, but then possibly 2/10 the second month, and so forth. If you don’t quit, you’ll eventually be successful.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

One book that I really love and recommend to everyone is “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell. Basically it profiles various famous people’s stories of success and shows how they were able to seize opportunities that were presented to them, and by doing so were able to to surpass their competitors (other businesses, musicians, athletes).

I’m a big fan of the quote by Seneca, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity” and that’s what “Outliers” is all about.

For me personally, I was given a tremendous opportunity to open up my own martial arts school when I was 23 but had I not been ready to work extremely hard for years, that opportunity would have been wasted.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am! First off, I recently made the goal that I want to start doing more fundraising and volunteer work. I was able to raise over 1000 dollars for our local food bank over the summer by running a Drive-In movie night in the GSBJJ parking lot. I’ve also just started working with Caregiver Volunteers that helps homebound seniors in my county.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

You are 100% right about that. There are so many people who have and continue to help me with all the things I’m working on. However, one person who really stands out is my dad, Steve.

My dad has always given me great advice throughout the years and has constantly challenged me to make sure I’m always considering how the choices I make will affect others.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

We sure are. As a society, we are constantly bombarded with media messaging telling us different things that we should be upset about. To me, gratitude starts in a very odd place — existence. What I mean by that is that if you are reading this article, it means you exist! It also means that you are here on this planet as a human being, which is as far as we know the best way to experience the physical world.

So basically the way that I Iook at it, is that as long as someone got to exist they have something to be grateful for and that everything we get in life beyond that is just extra. Therefore, we always have the ability to think about at least one thing we’re grateful for.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

Feeling grateful is definitely not always easy! As humans we are emotional creatures — we often experience hardships by how they feel and not what they are. I’m sure we can all remember times as a child feeling DEEP DESPAIR about not getting dessert after dinner or missed playdates — things that now looking back we realize were so inconsequential in our lives. When we become emotional about different things going on in our lives it makes it difficult to be grateful for all the good things we have. The only answer to this is having perspective.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

For sure! Gratitude is like savoring a delicious meal. When we are not in a mindset of gratitude it’s like we’re mindlessly snacking away at life without consciously taking the time to notice how delicious it is.

Gratitude also sends ripples to the other people we come in contact with in our lives. Generally it gives people joy to see other people who are happy. When you express your gratitude it helps show other people how they can get into this mindset in their own lives. People usually prefer to spend time with people in a mindset of gratitude because people that are grateful for everything in their lives are more pleasant for others to be around.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

I remember watching a Youtube video where they we’re editing comedy movie trailers to look like horror movies just by changing the music, color tint, and framing of the scenes. Gratitude is like that because it shapes our perspective, and we are all the main characters in each of our own stories. Just like those movie trailers, a mindset of gratitude can make an otherwise crappy situation so much better — much like the difference of a dark tint and sad music compared to bright colors and upbeat reggae.

Changing our mindset to gratitude makes us focus on all the good things each day and not the little things that may bum us out.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’d be happy to! Below I have 5 topics that I use reminders to myself about things to do or think about to promote gratitude and perspective. These are things that I’ve shared with my students that I believe have helped them in tough times, as well as to enjoy all the good times.

6 Months, A Year, 5 Years — Oftentimes if I’m upset about something, I’ll ask myself “Will I still care about this in 6 months? A year? 5 years?” More often than not, I can determine that most things bothering me won’t matter in even 6 months.I remember times where I traveled to California for Jiu-Jitsu competitions only to lose my first or second match. At that moment, I would be so mad at myself for losing. However, now years later I’m just grateful for all the experiences I’ve had traveling and competing. Grateful for even the losers for the lessons learned, and truly even just for the chance to experience the emotions of both winning and losing. If we can put our minds in the future we will tend to realize that we will be grateful for the good things far longer then we will be upset about the bad things.

Act As If — Many psychologists agree that conscious behaviour is the first step to something becoming unconscious or a habit. Even if you’re not feeling especially grateful, just get in the habit of saying thank you to people around you. Supercharge it by writing a good review for a business or a thank you note to a friend. In Jiu-Jitsu, we will almost always thank each other for a great training session at the end of class. In addition to verbally saying thanking each other, we also clap at the end of class to show our appreciation for each other. Once you act grateful, you’ll start to feel the nakful.

Don’t Like It, Train More — When something happens that upsets you, don’t dwell on how it makes you feel but rather get to work on fixing it. Whether it’s changing the situation, the location, or the people you’re around you can go from feeling like a victim to feeling grateful to yourself for taking control of the situation. This phase comes from an old martial arts fable about a student who is getting angry that he keeps losing competitions. The master says “ Don’t like it — train more.” When we empower ourselves, we shift from a victim mentality to a mentality of gratitude.

Tony Soprano — One of my favorite quotes that’s referenced in the show “The Sopranos” is, “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky.” — Ojibwe saying. What this means to me is that no matter how we feel about it, life always goes on! Things are going to play out how they play out so there’s no sense in getting upset about the little stuff along the way. With this realization, we can be grateful that life is gonna do it’s thing! This can alleviate a lot of stress and let us sit back and appreciate life as it comes instead of complaining about the past or worrying about the future.

Acts Of Kindness — No one experiences life through their emotions alone. For me, I can have the worst training session ever where maybe I feel like I totally forgot all my Jiu-Jitsu. It happens, everyone has off days. However, there’s been times after a “crappy” training session I’ve gone on to teach a kids Jiu-Jitsu class later that day and am instantly grateful to have the opportunity to share this art with others. Sometimes we get in our own heads with expectations on what we need to do or what we deserve. If we are kind to others we can feel gratitude for sharing in experiencing the positive interaction with them.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Definitely! I’d say it’s important to get out of just your own head. That can mean having a conversation with a loved one about different things you both are grateful for, or even just making a list of things that you’re grateful for on a piece of paper.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

I would recommend the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book will show you the behaviours that show gratitude and attract others to want to be around you. Even if the strategies the book outlines don’t seem natural at first, eventually they will become genuine and second nature.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish I could have invented the internet, there’s so many ways to learn and connect with others to improve one’s life. However, since it’s too late to invent the internet, I’d say the movement would be for every person in the world to just start by being grateful for all the people in their lives and try to be the best version of yourself for them that you can be. That’s what my goal is for my family, friends, real estate clients and everyone with me at GSBJJ!

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can find out more about GSBJJ at www.GardenStateBJJ.com . I’m also on instagram at @Ulbreezy , @GardenStateBJJ, and @ElevationEscapes.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity

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