Janelle: You're listening to "Staying In The Game", a Plum Dragon Herbs podcast where we have conversations about mindset and techniques for staying at the top of your game. I'm your host, Janelle Leatherwood. We're excited today to have Martial Arts Instructor and U.S. Army combat veteran JD Caputo on our show today. Hey, welcome to our show, JD. It's so great to talk to you today.

JD: Yeah, thanks for having me. No, this is fantastic. I'm a really big fan of the products and really love all the people over there at Plum Dragon. It's been it's been fantastic.

Janelle: Oh, thanks so much. And we're really excited. If you could just tell us a little bit about yourself for our audience, that would be perfect.

JD: Okay. So, guys, I'm JD Caputo. I am a three-time combat veteran of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, deployed in the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq with a follow-on tour. And I've been a lifelong martial artist. I started my journey in martial arts at about six years old. And it spans so many disciplines and so many different fascinating people along the road, it's just been one kind of nonstop adventure. And, you know, a few bumps, bruises, scars, and banged up a little bit along the way, but I picked up some wisdom and I'm just trying to share that now.

Janelle: Oh, thank you so much for coming on our show to talk to us. And tell me what multiple arts are you involved with right now? I know you do some boxing and pankration.

JD: Yeah. So I am actually involved in amateur boxing, and I do mostly coaching now. I actually coach, nonprofit, at the Oromocto Boxing Club in Lincoln, New Brunswick, Canada. And great program, great coaches. They're fantastic. Again, that's the Oromocto Boxing Club. If you would, hopefully we can slap a link in there and you guys can go check them out, they're great people. So definitely involved in the boxing, teaching Filipino kali. So Filipino knife stick and hand-to-hand fighting. I teach that on a private one-on-one basis right now. I'm a little more reclusive as I've gotten older, so I'm very selective about who I train, and I train them because I want to train them not because of the money. I went through kind of a process where if you've seen any of my videos, there's a lot of monetization that happens inside of the social media world as it pertains to martial arts. And I found myself really looking at that monetization as being like the end-state goal of success. And I lost track of what it really meant to be a teacher and to put your students first and really care. So I dropped back and as penance for this mistake, I just started kind of coaching, nonprofit there on the boxing.

So we've got boxing, kali, ever involved in pankration. Pankration is a wonderful martial art. My teacher is Aris Makris out of Montreal, Canada. And he is phenomenal. There's a lot of good torchbearers out there for the arts. It's a Greek martial art, which is fascinating, and one of the world's first martial arts as of recorded. One could argue for kalaripayattu out of India, but it really is pankration. And by private lesson, I'm training in kendo and iaido right now along with the historical European stuff that I like to do. So I just train all day, basically.

Janelle: Oh, that's awesome. Well, what are, like, some of the key points of advice that you give to people when they're trying to decide what art to go into or focus on?

JD: Well, it's a great question. First off, you have to decide what your needs are. Why are you in the martial arts? And a lot of people are very surprised when they answer that question for themselves honestly. And honesty is the key here. We can't build anything if we're going to delude ourselves, or we're going to... We can get into martial arts for the wrong reasons. A lot of people think they want to be the toughest guy in the room, and the first thing you learn in the martial arts is to avoid a fight because they're dangerous, and they're painful, and the risk is limitless. And so, find your reason for stepping into it. Don't try and be the toughest guy in the room because nobody even likes that guy, right?

Janelle: Right.

JD: Go for health, go for self-defense, go for what you feel a connection to, because the reality is, if you live in the Western world. And then, again, I don't know what your occupation is. If you're law enforcement, or a bouncer, or a soldier, you have a higher need to step into something that's very scientific, that's very repeatable, that's very manageable, obviously. And you need that consistency. You need the hard science of fighting. Most of us don't have that problem, so pursue the arts you want, and be guided by what you want, don't be guided by the opinions of other people. I see so many people that get into a martial art they don't even care about because somebody told them it was cool. Like, do what you want to do in the martial arts, because, honestly, it's there for you and it can do wonderful things for your life. And once you start, don't stop.

Janelle: Yeah. And depending on where somebody lives, they might not have very many options. Like when you were growing up, there probably weren't a lot of choices. How did you get into martial arts?

JD: So I'm going to date myself here. I was born in 1982 and martial arts really was whatever you happen to drive past at the time. I mean, this was the era of phone books. I mean, we didn't even have cell phones. Remember the '90s?

JD: It was a rad time, '90s and '80s. Like, there was no...

Janelle: Yeah, I'm a little older than you, so... Just a little.

JD: Come on. Twenty and holding, right?

Janelle: Yeah.

JD. But seriously, to answer the question, my first exposure to the martial arts was actually Taekwondo as it is for many martial artists that came up in the '80s because it was so prolific, it was everywhere. And I trained underneath Robert Summers. He was an incredible Taekwondo practitioner. A martial art that's often kind of looked down upon by a lot of modern practitioners in martial arts, and it's an incredibly effective martial art and a great start. I'm never going to denigrate it because it's how my journey began. So ...

Janelle: Well, and I'm sure the fundamentals of that, you know, form are applicable the lots of other martial arts.

JD: It absolutely is and it's a martial beginning. Like, there's no way for someone to see the totality of what human combat is through the lens of a singular art, but we have to begin somewhere because we're people. So I think the biggest thing Taekwondo did for me in the beginning was, I was relatively poor when I grew up. And putting that gi on made me feel really special, it made me feel important, and it made me feel like I had peers and colleagues that I could share, you know, my life struggle with. And I was instantly hooked.

Janelle: Did you feel like you were an underdog growing up? Did you get bullied or was that not part of your youth?

JD: I was completely the underdog. I was very poor so obviously, unfortunately, you know, kids they don't necessarily think through what people's economic situations may be based on, you know, generational poverty or anything else that may exist out there, and so I was picked on. You know, I didn't get bullied long. I was a lot scrappier when I was younger, so it didn't take much. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.

Janelle: Yeah. Then as you got older, you continued with Taekwondo or what did you get into?

JD: Oh, I graduated into boxing, wrestling. Once you find that world, you'll always find other people that have dabbled in other styles, and then you just start asking questions. You know, somebody shows you a technique, and then... You know, the first time I saw somebody move a knife around, I was like, "Wow, that was awesome," you know? And so I just started asking questions, and that inevitably led me to Filipino kali, which is a pretty natural extension of boxing, actually. That's a history lesson for another day. But I find that people who are martial artists are almost addicted to more information. It's like we can't stop. So...

Janelle: About what age was it when you started to get into knife fighting?

JD: Oh, I was about a teenager. I think I was in my teens, early teens, by the time that I first actually discovered different knife systems that were out there. Again, very hard to find, but I lucked out training and bumped into a guy who was actually in a eskrimador. And we wound up doing quite a bit of training.

Janelle: How would you advise, like, youth today who are interested in that? Because, you know, how to get into it for the right reasons, how to use it for the right reasons, that kind of thing.

JD: Well, and again, that comes back to the context of, like, what are your reasons? You know, why did you show up in the martial arts? And, you know, if you're looking for self-defense, I tell everybody the same thing, it's boxing and Jiu-Jitsu, if you live in the Western world. They're so hard to get around, and I know, guys, I can just hear the fingers clicking in the comments section right now and the keys, that does not mean it's the only effective style. In the reality, if you're looking at a combative perspective, which most people are. If you're looking at it from a pure combat perspective, it's going to be simple, it's going to be aggressive, it's going to be violent, and in reality, there are style that can increase your success rate in a fight, that have a higher percentage chance, but in reality, that really comes down to the person. I've seen people that have never trained a day in their life that can lay everybody in the room out. And so, that comes down to mindset, and an interesting thing appears when they do that. And that people aren't prepared for how hard it is to adopt that mindset, and how hard it is to manage your day-to-day life when you have that combative mindset. And so, practices begin to appear to kind of mellow people out. I know a lot of guys who are phenomenal soldiers that practice yoga just to relax.

And so, again, you know, if somebody were starting, the simplest advice I can give them is that a good solid foundation to build from is always going to come from like boxing and wrestling, kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu, some derivation of that. Don't be intimidated, go to that seminar, you know? Go to the seminar, go to that class, walk through the door, don't be intimidated. Everybody was a day one guy, everybody remembers what it's like. Step on the mats, start the journey. No excuses.

Janelle: Yeah. And did you ever feel like this isn't your thing anymore, you wanted to try something new, or were you always into martial arts?

JD: Oh, I mean, you ever heard the old saying, "Some days, you're the full eye, some days you're the windshield"?

Janelle: Yeah.

JD: It's very much like that. Like in the beginning, the first thing that happens in the martial arts is, you discover you're not what you thought you were, and it's the most beautiful thing that happens. It's going to be very depressing in the beginning for our new guys, since we were, kind of, operating with that context. If you're a new guy, the first thing you're going to learn, and it's okay, is that you can't fight. You're not even remotely as effective as you thought you were. You have no idea how to fight. And now, again, I know you're clicking on those comments about how mean you were when you grew up and all those other stuff. That's great, I was too. But you can't fight. Unless you've been in a lot of them, or unless you have some real high body awareness or natural attributes, you don't know how to fight. So go there to learn, don't let your ego beat you up. Don't start beating yourself up inside because you're not as good as the expectation of what you wanted to be. So really, what I'm telling you to do is manage your expectations and understand it's a cumulative process of your consistent maintained training. And if you're consistent, and you're involved, and you're focused, you're going to get great. If you're not, going to take a little longer, if ever.

Janelle: Yeah. Yeah, so it's getting that ego out of the way and just realizing that you have to stay consistent and be in it for the long haul to see progress happen.

JD: Well, and that's the trouble with the martial arts, is that in this society of instant gratification, the martial arts or anything, but. The martial arts, the milestone victories are slow in the coming. They're so slow, they're almost imperceptible. I've actually seen students that I have to remind them of what their day one was like, because they'll say, "Well, I've kind of always fought this way." And it's like, "No, you didn't. You know, the first day you stepped on my mats, you tripped over your own feet." But then they're effective fighters. So it's so slow, you don't even notice it. So don't focus on measuring yourself against other people. Seriously, just measure yourself against, "Who was I the last time I trained and am I better?" That's all that matters.

Janelle: Were there any people or incidents in your life that helped you not get discouraged when you were feeling that way?

JD: Oh, God, so many. I mean, they say, "No man is an island," martial arts is a definite tribe. You know, and I've been there for people when they didn't think they were getting any better, or when they were despondent, and they were downtrodden. Because it can exacerbate some trauma for you, I've seen that. I wrestled with a student via private lesson. And it's amazing because in certain positions, he would become incredibly uncomfortable. And finally, it dawned on me. So I looked over and I said... I'm not going to use his name, obviously, to protect his identity. But I asked him, I'm like, "When in your life where you sexually assaulted?" And he looked at me, he said, "I have never told anybody that." And so you wind up kind of uncovering some trauma in people's lives. Usually, if someone's there and they're trying to learn, something bad happened to them, and they're trying to prevent that from happening again.

So as a coach, if you're out there, or if you're a senior student, as you begin to teach people, you're going to start to see very revealing moments of their lives. And your character in class will be determined by how you manage that moment. Step one, compassion. But yes, many people have been there for me, Eli Knight, Jason Hawkins. If you guys are out there, man, you single-handedly saved my life, countless times, especially when returning home from the wars.

Janelle: Yeah. Was there some kind of like a mindset or mantra that you latched on to that helped you get over some tough times?

JD: Absolutely. I got the one. My father told me when I was a young man, he said... I actually told him before at a Taekwondo tournament, because I had to fight a really big guy, this is one of those big... I mean, this boy had a head like Barry Bonds, he was a big guy.

Janelle: Oh, my gosh.

JD: And I had actually told him, my dad, I didn't want to fight him because I was scared. And dad looked at me, he put his hands on my shoulders and he said, "Son, if not you, then who? And if not right now, then when?" I've lived my whole life by that. "If not you, then who? And if not right now, then when?"

Janelle: Wow. I can just imagine you repeating that to yourself during combat.

JD: That's correct.

Janelle: You know, fighting?

JD: Oh, yeah.

Janelle: Which we honor you for and are so grateful for your service.

JD: Well, thank you for your...

Janelle: Yeah, and for those who don't know, you joined the army infantry in 2000. And you served in the renowned 101st Airborne Division. You were in the first wave to the invasion in Afghanistan in 2002, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and again, in Iraq in 2005.

JD: Correct.

Janelle: What was your role in the unit that you served?

JD: Well, multiple. That changes hands quite a bit, but I predominantly served as an infantryman and later an infantry team leader.

Janelle: Okay. Man, what was it like when you reached your combat zone for, like, the first time? What do you recall seeing?

JD: It was an alien world. It was a Bronze Age. In fact, 9/11 happened, and I was walking in from a pistol range with a friend of mine. And this is pretty fresh for me as we're recently passed the terrible tragedy of 9/11 and the lives lost there. And it was an ordinary day for us. We were coming in off the range. We'd just come from the pistol range, and I was giving a friend of mine named Sergeant Bob Fradette, who is now tragically deceased. And we were laughing, and I was giving him a hard time. I said, "God, you couldn't have water if you fell out of a boat," because he could not shoot a pistol to save his life, and great rifle shot. And everyone started running, which I thought was highly irregular because we were all trading in the big common area there. And all of a sudden, everyone started running. And we got inside, and that was about the time... When I saw everyone running, I said, "What's going on?" And he said, "We're under attack." And I thought, "Under attack?" The first thing I thought was, "Who the hell is crazy enough to fight Fort Campbell." Like, the 101st Airborne Division is ready for that. And of course, then we saw the events of New York. And all I saw was a smoking tower, so I thought, "Was this conventional weapons? I mean, are there fast movers or is there a naval asset out there that fired on us? Like, what's going on?" And then I saw the plane hit the tower and I knew that I was in for a different experience. And our commanders walked in and they said... You know, the Captain and everybody comes in, and they said, "Well boys, it's Afghanistan." My first question was, "Where?" I'd never even heard of Afghanistan. I didn't know anything about Islam, I didn't know anything about terrorism, really.

That wasn't my wheelhouse. I was an infantry soldier, I wasn't some CIA, Special Forces, super spook, I'm just a grunt. We were hand-selected by Department of the Army. And we landed in Afghanistan. And it was bizarre. The only way I can tell you is, get in a time machine and go back in time to around the Dark Ages. It's like the Dark Ages there. I mean, buildings are made from feces and mud. It's poppies, poppies. They grow that because that's pretty much all that grows. And they live a very hard life. And I think, oftentimes we vilify them. But I've been in the villages. There are bad people there, but by our standards because we've moved ahead. So like culturally, I mean, they had areas where there were public executions, stonings still happen. I mean, you don't want to believe that that happens, but it is the Dark Ages there. And not because they want it, I mean, it's inescapable for them due to their education, their technology, and the oppressive regimes that take over. So, you know, you wanted it to be black and white, and what I got was shades of grey.

Janelle: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good way to describe that war for sure. So how did the civilians treat you?

JD: Well, it depends. I mean, a lot of times, and it's pretty natural, you know, like, I started to kind of get it while I was there, like, when we were on foot patrol. Sometimes, they love you, and most of the time, they'll try to be nice to you, but you start to learn when you're fighting an insurgency or a terrorist force that, I mean, the guy talking to you can be the bad guy. So it becomes like trying to eat soup with a fork. Not my original line, by the way. That was a great book that was written a few years back.

But all in all, I went there with the best and brightest. And I think a lot of times in the news media, you know, people would give us these news opinions. And it was so bizarre because when I got home I was like, "Guys, that's not even what happened." And they're like, "Well, how do you know?" And I'm like, "Because I was standing there. That's not what happened. Like, that's completely false." I mean, I remember the news media reporting civilian casualties as being inflicted by Americans. And I'm like, "There was no firefight here, we just walked up and found these bodies on the ground." So it was a very convoluted war where there were many forces out there that wanted to paint things in a light that wasn't the reality of what happened. But very [crosstalk 00:21:52]

Janelle: What were your orders, exactly, when you were over there?

JD: At the time?

Janelle: I guess it depends which wave I'm talking about.

JD: Well, when I went through in 2002, and '03, the rules of engagement fit on a card that said, "Eliminate the threat." That's what we had, it was a card that said, "Eliminate the threat." On my third tour, oh my God, it was like nine pages of rules of engagement front and back. And I remember being very frustrated with chain of command and telling them, "How do you expect a brand new crop of kids...?" I mean, they're well trained, and they're wonderful young people from National Guardsmen all the way up to Special Forces. Some of the best human beings this nation has to offer. Sure, there's some bad apples in there, but 2.2 million soldiers rotated to that country. And most of them conducted their service honorably. And they should be proud. Boy, it's just such a difficult situation because like, when you ask a kid, because, I mean, 18, 19, 20 years old, we're kids, you know?

Janelle: Right.

JD: We're young man, yeah. We're babies. And we're entrusted with the safety and security of, at that time, like 285 million people. And now you want to add eight pages of rules front and back that you can demonize this kid with and throw him in jail?

Janelle: Oh, my gosh.

JD: And he has to try not to die. So he's trying to die, and he's also trying not to be thrown in jail by his own people. And I think the civilian population was well-meaning in that they did not want civilian casualties. But I like to tell people all the time, I'm like, "It's a tragedy, and we hate seeing it, but honest to God, guys, like, you know that it's a mess." And the mess is made even more complex by people's high moral value here. It's very easy to sit back and say, "Well, if I were there, I would have done this, and I would have resolved it peacefully." But here's the trick, you weren't there. You left that to other people. So the ROE changed quite a bit based on really what was the court of public opinion here in the United States. And while young men went to war, America went to the mall. I mean, that's just the reality of it. So...

Janelle: How did you feel like you adjusted to military life, like, physically, even the food, the social life or the lack thereof? I mean, what was it like for you?

JD: Well, it was actually pretty easy.

Janelle: Was it what you expected?

JD: Yes and no. It was way tougher and more brutal than I thought it would be, in terms of training. But, eventually, the body toughens and strengthens just like it does in martial arts. I mean, our bodies are very much plants. You know, like, they condition towards the purposes. You know, if you ever watch a plant, it will grow towards the light. Or it will grow towards the direction it wants go. And the body is the same direction. If you sit on a couch all day long, whenever you shift on the couch, that's your body getting better, naturally, at sitting on a couch. But our bodies were beaten, and we were trained physically, to be physically strong, and powerful, and fast. And that made sense to me. The environment was easy, because most of those guys, they came from blue-collar families. You don't see a lot of white-collar families in the infantry. So it's very, you know, kind of, rough and tumble, guys smoking and punching each other. And it just seemed like an extension of being on the mats. and that made it really great when I left the military to rediscover the martial arts because I felt like I had camaraderie and I had a team again.

Janelle: And I want to get into that a little bit later. But let's just talk about getting into the army. So do you feel like martial arts did play a big role in you joining up with the army?

JD: I don't know that it necessarily played a huge role in my selection for service. Most of my selection on for service was based on patriotism. I had a lot of pride in my country. I'd seen, you know, the veterans would come talk to you in RTU, and I would talk to these people. And I thought to myself, like, "How can I stand here, well, these men have gone out and done this, and these women have gone out and done this?" Because I talked to women who'd render just tremendous service in different wars and in medical facilities. and their heroism is often not mentioned enough, and it should be. But I listened to these stories and I thought, "I have to do my part, " and I enlisted. so the martial arts, I don't think necessarily push people towards it. I can see how it would, but for me, it just enhanced my ability to interact with, you know, the combative environment that I was placed in.

Janelle: Right. What do you remember about, like, the time you first engaged with the enemy?

JD: Well, it's not really a thing I discuss very often, honestly. I think the simplest way that I can put things is that, you know, when you're shot at... If you're out there listening, do you ever play football? If you answered, yes, if you've played football or any other confusing sport like that. Off the snap, everybody hits somebody, there's a lot of violence, you don't really know what happened, and then it's over, all of a sudden. And over time, you watch enough of these football plays that you start to kind of see where people are moving and what's happening. And that's basically it. But I mean, 90% of those engagements are, you know, somebody cracks off a couple of rounds and then runs away. You know, there is no firefight to be had. Sometimes, there is. Sometimes there is a fight to be had. But I've never been one for the, you know, the bloody details.

Fear. If you think you're not afraid in a fight, man... Like, a lot of guys would be like, "Oh, you know, I'm afraid in a fight. I'm scared." I'm like, "Guys, everybody is scared in a fight. If you're not scared to fight your two things, you're either lying or you're crazy." Like, everybody is afraid to fight. I don't care what you have to say. That's okay, stop telling people it's not okay to be afraid in a fight because you are, you're supposed to be.

Janelle: Yeah, be real with your emotions.

JD: Yeah, be real with where you are, because here is the thing, you can't build a foundation for anything combatively if you're not willing to accept your own frailty. I've once, actually, told a group of soldiers that a warrior's greatest strength is a keen understanding of his own weakness because if you know where you're weak, you can build plans around your weaknesses.

Janelle: Yeah. Right.

JD: But that requires integrity.

Janelle: Right. Yeah, that's really good. How were you able to readjust, like, to civilian life when you returned?

JD: Well, when I got back I had a really tough time. I was dealing with survivor's guilt and I was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. And at the time, when I got out, they called it a post-concussive syndrome. The big, you know, sexy "TBI" phrase hadn't been thrown around very much at the time. Yeah, that's the new sexy term but they used to call it post-concussive syndrome. And please, I'm not trying to denigrate anybody with a TBI, I have one. And it's just that term newly emerged. And so as I was home, one-by-one, my friends started killing themselves, and I couldn't understand it. Like, I would wake up, and then, you know, it was one guy, and then I was sad, then it was two, then it was three. Then we hadn't been six months and it was five guys. And we just started dying at the rate of an epidemic. And it really exacerbated my survivor's guilt, my post-traumatic stress disorder, and just general, my unprocessed guilt for not being there for them. Because we're trained that no matter what happens, you take care of your battle buddy. And long after we take the uniforms off, I still love those men, they're my friends.

Janelle: Absolutely, yeah.

JD: That's my family. And so they're passing was incredibly hard for me. Like most veterans, I started drinking too much. I'd get very angry with people, I was very upset. Then I looked up one day, and I thought, "Huh." I remember it was about about 7:00 in the morning. I woke up sweating. I had a nightmare. And I ran into my kitchen, opened up a bottle of vodka, and I knocked the neck of it off. And I looked at that bottle and I thought, this is a very human moment, I thought to myself, "This is it. Like this is about to be how you die. This is your whole life, is going to be in this bottle. You're going to be a drunk." And it horrified me. And I guess, I think they call it a moment of clarity.

Janelle: Yeah.

JD: Is that it? So I poured it all out. I dumped every drop of booze I had down the drain outside, because I thought to myself, and most people who've had an addiction will understand, I actually wanted to get the alcohol out of the sink. And so I went through the DTs by myself. I sequestered myself, and it was awful, it lasted forever. I mean, it was just dry heaves, pain, dizziness. And I thought it would never end. And I got mad at one point, and I, like everybody else, I just lashed out and struck my doorframe, because I was in so much pain. But I thought, "Wow, that punch. Punching. Martial arts. That's what I'll do." So I just started shadowboxing, and I started feeling better, and then I started meditating, and then I started practicing. And so the martial arts or how I defeated alcoholism.

Janelle: That's incredible.

JD: But over time, I would discover that there were more benefits to the martial arts. I would go to the mats, I would start training again, I would actually fight the VA for almost a year and a half. And I got one of the first schools approved with the help of Eli Knight and Jason Hawkins at Three Rivers Martial Arts, Kentucky, where I could spend my Montgomery GI Bill fund to train in the martial arts. So my college money, I used to train 8 hours a day in martial arts.

Janelle: Ah, that's pretty cool.

JD: Yeah. But, so it had never been done before, and I got that done. And the healing that happened there was incredible. It was truly some magical times of transitioning myself into being a civilian and living a peaceful life.

Janelle: Yeah. That's amazing, what martial arts can do for people. I'm trying to pinpoint what is it about the martial arts forms that can do that for people? What do you think it is?

JD: The forms of martial arts that have health benefits?

Janelle: Yeah.

JD: All of them. I think that it depends, I mean, if you're looking for more of a meditative practice. Let's say that your particular type of trauma involves close proximity. You know, for the example that I gave earlier of a person who was sexually assaulted. I wouldn't recommend something right away like grappling. Yeah, it's going to be really uncomfortable for you to be in those kinds of close proximities with people, and that could exacerbate your trauma. Or, maybe you've been battered, you know, in your life. Maybe you were an abuse victim of some kind, going to an environment like boxing, it's not going to be good. So what I would do is I would say that the person who was sexually assaulted, you know, boxing, kali, kendo, something like that if you're looking to protect yourself into the person who had been battered, I would suggest grappling. You don't really want to exacerbate those traumas. I've never seen that go well, I just see people leave the mats, upset.

So no reason for that, meditative practices. If you're looking for something non-combative, I've enjoyed the iaido and kendo a lot, Japanese swordsmanship. It's a wonderful meditative practice, or kali. You know, kali is simple and repetitive, and it's fun. And it's enjoyable. But just take the time, and if you're feeling really bad on the mats, like you're really having trouble and nightmares, then maybe consider selecting a different art.

Janelle: So in martial arts, I would say that it's not just about fighting with somebody else, it's really like fighting with yourself. Like, it's about the fight within yourself in a lot of ways?

JD: Top to bottom, except in ways that people don't really expect. Because what you're really going to find out about yourself inside of the martial arts and the fight with yourself is, there are aspects of your personality that you don't like at all. And that monster is going to rear its head. Your ego is going to flare up, you're going to get mad, you're going to get frustrated, you know, you're going to become a lot of negative traits. But the beautiful part is that, you're working beyond those things. Look, growth always happens in discomfort. You don't want to be in pain. Pain is bad, but discomfort, you're usually on the right track, usually.

Janelle: Yeah. Yes. And it's what helps you discover things about yourself that you didn't know.

JD: Well, most people I find don't know themselves at all, they're running away from themselves. They find an ugly characteristic and they run away from it. But how do you control something you've never studied? You know, everyone tells young men, "Don't be angry." Nobody tells them how. Its chemical. They are biologically angry. Testosterone makes us angry. So how do you manage that anger? Well, you need to manage that anger by learning and studying violence. You can't control something you have never examined, because you don't know what it's going to do.

Janelle: That's interesting.

JD: So go inside of yourself because there is more inside of you to discover than you could do ever in a single lifetime. But the journey, it's worth the ride, trust me.

Janelle: Yeah. You mentioned, briefly, meditation. Do you do that every day or what else do you do as like a personal health regimen?

JD: Well, I would like to say every day, and I know there's a lot of people out there that do but that's just not true, that's not real life. I meditate a few times a week, when I have the time. And sometimes I sit down, and I try to meditate, and I just don't have it that day, so I don't force it. I'm one of those people that if I try to force something that hard, I can become quite frustrated, and that's the polar opposite of what we're looking for in meditation. So sometimes, I switch over to, you know, training and kali, shadowboxing, you know, iaido, something, just to keep my body moving and focusing on my breathing. That's the most important parts of meditation, right? Like, focus on breath. It's really what you're getting, you're focusing on your... And so, anything that causes you to really focus on your breath, and your body, and your emotions, in my opinion is a meditative practice. And, in case you're wondering out there, martial artists, it also makes you more dangerous. Like, your ability to be very aware of your body, most of martial arts and most of fighting, honestly, is body awareness. And it's your understanding of timing, precision and range. You can perfect that in many, many ways. And being able to control those functions, and understand those functions, and build a deeper relationship with those attributes inside of you is what will make you formidable.

Janelle: Yeah. That's really interesting. So now when you talk about recovery. And you mentioned at the beginning that you've used Dit Da Jow, a Plum Dragon Flagship product. How do you use that for recovery and for preemptive injuries [crosstalk 00:39:20]?

JD: Usually, I like to apply that on my body to areas that I know have been bruised, or battered, or smashed on. I like to apply it afterwards. And, you know, a lot of people have argued the effectiveness of products like that, but an interesting studies states that an overall sense or feeling of wellness, is wellness. So like, the nervous system, and the lymphatic system, and all those things go further into the brain than we actually thought they did originally. So it almost kind of proves the placebo effect in that, if you believe it's making you well, it's actually making well, in most cases. So a lot of new research coming out about that. I think it's going to be really exciting to see. But for me, I believe that everything that we use medicine-wise... I mean, you're not eating a space rock. It came from this plant, you know? That Tylenol came from something that exists on Earth, right?

Janelle: Yeah.

JD: So I think it's really easy. There are clearly herbs that have therapeutic benefit. And for me, it increases my sense of wellness, and so, if I feel well mentally... Again, mindset is everything if we go back and look at this. If you're aware and focused in your training, you're going to do better. If you are in your training holding your ribs because they're bruised, feeling bad about it, you're less likely to be able to give that class your full attention. So those are the little things about how simple products like that can enhance your overall sense of wellness, and keep you in the fight, and keep you in the game.

Janelle: Yeah. What other ways do you, like, treat an injury?

JD: It depends upon the severity of it. I mean, typically, for a long time as a young man, I had that infantry mindset of, you know, "Oh, well, this is broken, ah, doesn't matter." That changes. So if you're a young guy out there right now, and you're feeling invincible, let me tell you, buddy, there's an expiration date on that. Like, don't worry, everybody is like, "Yeah, I don't know. I eat it three Big Macs a day, and run 10 miles, and drink beer all night, and I can train in the morning." Well, if you do that at 37, you're going to die. So...

Janelle: Yeah, you can't do that forever.

JD: So recovery has been a serious thing because I used to be able to roll hard and fight hard all day long. If I do that, you know, more than three times in a week now, that weekend is going to involve a lot of sleeping. So products, you know, that are offered from Plum Dragon that increase that sense of wellness and health... Wellness and health should go right along with your martial arts practice every time, if it's not, I can promise you, your career is going to be very short-lived as a martial artist, very short-lived. So using products like that, supplementation, obviously healthy diet, meditation. We have to keep ourselves mentally and physically strong enough to be the kind of martial artist we want to be. And so if you're not spending money on those avenues to increase that sense of health and wellness and you're relying on your youth and skill, I promise you, everybody gets here eventually. So start incorporating those healthy practices and products now.

Janelle: Well, that's really good advice. And I'm just wondering, I think the people that you train are very lucky to have you training them. What is some of the feedback that they've given to you that's been meaningful about how you've helped them?

JD: You know, what's funny is that I get the stories about like, "Hey, I got into a fight, and I used some things you taught me, and it kept me safe." A lot of martial artists have those. You know, coaches that have been coaching a while. They're rare, but they make you feel great, like, because you know that at some point or another, that you are a part of their journey. I mean, consider that the martial arts or some of these traditions are thousands of years old. I mean, Jiu-Jitsu itself... I heard a guy say the other day, "So well, Jiu-Jitsu came from Brazil." And I'm like, "No, it came from Japan. And then it went to Brazil and it morphed into something amazing. But that's incredible, because that is the continuity of the martial arts and its evolution ever forward." And so it's because we're so ingrained in the lives of the people we teach because it's an oral tradition spoken in person in most cases when we educate. And so, like, you develop intimacy and again, as I mentioned, a lot of those negative characteristics begin appearing almost uncontrollably, people can't hide them anymore when they're fighting. You know, you do not know yourself until you fight. And so, a lot of it is watching them overcome things like social anxiety. I remember a young kid that he trained forever, and he showed up with a young lady on the mats one day. And he said, "Coach, I just wanted to thank you." He said, "I finally worked up the courage to ask this girl out."

Janelle: Aw, that's cute.

JD: You know, I've had a young man who came out to me as being, you know, homosexual, and was afraid to tell anybody because he had been battered in the past. And so he felt the confidence to express, you know, however he's feeling about his life. People going to social settings like bars where they would avoid or, or any place, you know, a restaurant. A lot of people are very...they're just uncomfortable being around an aggressive male environment. And so giving someone the ability to live their life to the fullest and having them tell me that that's what it did means more to me than, "Hey, I beat the hell out of this guy."

Janelle: Oh, for sure. Yeah. Yeah, that's really amazing. It's just really cool how it can help heal people inside and out, and...

JD: One of the best stories I have is actually comes from a martial arts environment where, and again, not to name the name. I was teaching and I saw a kid fogging up my window one day. He was looking through the glass, and he came inside, and he started training. And turns out, you know, he's a veteran also. And over time, he sat his bag down and just jumped out to the mats and picked up a stick. And he's gone on to do all kinds of great stuff martially, but at the time, I was mopping my mats at the end of day. And everyone had left and it was just me and him in there. And he said, "I really want to thank you for, you know, calling me out that day and telling me to come into class because I had attempted suicide once and I was actually headed home to do it again." What was in the bag was, like, a thicker belt that he could hang himself with.

Janelle: Oh, gosh.

JD: And so he says, "But I've got purpose now and I just wanted to thank you for that." And he heads off the mats and I think I stood there for 15 minutes with that mop just making a puddle of water on the mats because I was floored.

Janelle: Wow.

JD: I mean, I'm just a simple idiot that memorized some martial arts, and I do my best to help people. And here is this guy that hands me one of the most profound moments of his life and I'm like, "Man, I'm..." I didn't know what to do with that, I'm just trying to help.

Janelle: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, well, it must be so gratifying to help people in that way. And like you said, you're taking what you've been given from other people and just passing it forward, basically.

JD: Well, and there's a tricky part that shows up with coaches. And that's something that I really want to talk to, especially, if you're a coach out there right now and you're listening to this podcast, you know, this part is for you. It's going to hurt, man. Like, coaching is hard. I mean, people will put you on a pedestal and they'll expect you to be perfect all the time. You know, they expect your emotions to be perfect, you can't make a single mistake. You can't get things wrong, you can't... You know, people have a very unrealistic view of the martial art. So if you're a student out there, your coach is just a person doing the best he can to help you, right? And if you're a coach out there, you can't do it all, man. Like there's a time where you've got to look at people and say, "Listen, I'm not qualified to help you. I want to, and I'll support you, man. But like, you know, let's, you know, maybe get an appointment with a therapist? Or you know, talk to your pastor or whoever it is that you feel like is going to help you. But I'm only one piece and I'm just a martial artist, I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm not any of those things, I just want to help."

And so don't become dragged down. And students will always take out, you know, their pain and their frustration at you like it's going to get hard. So these rewarding moments are precious. Hold on to them because the rest of the time... If you feel good, let me say this to you if you're out there coaches. If you're feeling good, and you're feeling real strong in front of your class. And you're like, "Yeah, all these guys know that I'm this and that." If you're using the terms, Me, my, and I, a lot, you're doing it wrong. You're doing it wrong. Because it's all about them. You're a servant from top to bottom, serving your people. Always maintain that servant mindset and understand that things are going to get tough. But keep going because you're more necessary to the betterment of society than just about any other force that I can think of. The world needs more coaches.

Janelle: Mm-hmm. Right, that lack of pride is... You know, kind of going back to, you know, recognizing that we have to get rid of that ego, and recognize that we have weaknesses, and accept them for what they are. We don't have to apologize, and, you know, that we have some limitations. But, yeah...

JD: And, again, that comes back to expectation. You know, the best thing you can do when you step on the mats, is just obliterate all expectation. Just obliterate your expectations. You have expectations of yourself right now going into that martial arts class that are totally unrealistic. A lot of guys think they're going to show up on to the mats and they're just magically going to be able to compete with guys that have been there for three years. You're not. There's no way, so don't even ask that of yourself. Don't ask that of your coach, to be able to give you those powers. Like, you've got to step in there and you've got to earn that an inch at a time, you know? You go on an inch at a time trying to get to the mile marker. That's what you need to think. It's a marathon, ladies and gentlemen. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Condition yourself for that marathon, both coaches and students.

Janelle: Hey, JD, how can people get in touch with you after they hear this show if they have more questions about coaching, or martial arts, or anything?

JD: Absolutely. Yeah, you can get me at JD Caputo. That's, again, J-D and then C-A-P-U-T-O on Facebook. Check me out. I'm also over at Funker Gaming, that's F-U-N-K-E-R gaming. So we do some veteran organized programs there with vets that are doing some gaming, and we've raised a lot of money for, like, the Call of Duty Endowment Fund which helps take troops and put them into the workforce, and make things easier. We also do a lot of work with stackup.org, which is another organization out there helping veterans. So you can find me, Funker Gaming, JD Caputo on Facebook, and JD_Caputo in Instagram. Beyond that, man, guys, social media mystifies me. Technology is half sorcery to me, so send me a message, I'd love to help you.

I'm busy as they come. But listen to me, if you're out there, and I want to say something very clearly. If you're out there, and you're a veteran, and you're suffering, and you need somebody to talk to, message me on that page, and we'll get you sorted out, okay? I'd rather you talk to me and talk to somebody. If you don't think anybody cares, I do. I care. I care because you're suffering and we share that uniform, and the most precious resource we lose at war is people, and I'm here to help in any way that I can. I can't do it all, but I'll listen to you. All I want to express out there is, if you're out there and you're suffering, whether you're military or not, and you're having suicidal thoughts, tendencies, things like that, or you're upset, just stop. Stop what you're doing, take a deep breathe. It's not as bad as you think it is. I need you to win this moment. Just win this moment. And if you win this moment, we might be able to win the day together. We win a day, we win a week. We win a week, we win a month. We win a month, we might just win a life, okay? Don't make a permanent decision based on a temporary set of circumstances. You're worth it, and we need you here, okay? Just step back from that ledge. It's going to be okay, I promise.

Janelle: That's beautifully said, JD. And that's an incredible offer to share that with people and with veterans. So...

JD: Well, I want to make it clear guys, I don't make a whole lot of money doing this. Like, there's a great piece of advice. If you're getting into the martial arts world because you think you're gonna make a ton of money, man. We're not here for the money, we're here for the experience.

Janelle: Something you're passionate about, for sure.

JD: We're here to make the world a better place, so we need more of that, trust me.

Janelle: Well, you've definitely made the world a better place, and we thank you for your service and for your time today. And I will definitely post links to the sites that you mentioned and ways to get in touch with you on our show notes page. We'll have a transcript of this show as well.

JD: Yeah, absolutely. That'd be great. So listen, guys if you're out there, man, Plum Dragon, wonderful people. Check out the products, buy those whether you're into traditional Chinese martial arts or just a martial artist in general, even boxers. I just saw a boxer the other day rubbing Tiger Balm on himself, and I'm like, "I know the folks, man. I know the people that you can get better stuff."

Janelle: Thank you.

JD: So if you're out there guys, buy it up. The shirts are great, t-shirts are awesome. I wear one pretty regularly when I go train, and the products are fantastic. They're good people who believe in doing the right thing. So if you're out there, buy it up, support this group, support this page, and yeah guys get at me. Videos coming out soon, so let's get in the comments section, ask your questions. Let's train together.

Janelle: Thank you so much. Wait, now you just mentioned a video. Do you have a video that's coming out soon?

JD: Yeah. Actually me and Eli Knight just did a series on... Where I realized that I am hilariously bald. I don't see the top of my head often. But I was like, "Wow, that hair is gone. Eli stole it." But Eli Knight and I, Professor and Royce Gracie, underneath Royce Gracie in Brazilian in Jiu Jitsu. Phenomenal practitioner of the martial arts, wonderful guy. Eli Knight out there. We got together in Canada and we did like a boxing segment, and how boxing and Jiu-Jitsu can intertwine together. So I referenced it earlier. If you're looking for that information, five-part series coming out Budo Brothers. Check it out.

Janelle: Oh, fantastic. Thanks so much for joining me today. JD I really appreciate it.

JD: Well, thank you for having me. It was wonderful to talk with you.

Janelle: And thanks to all of our listeners as well. For more great tips from JD Caputo, be sure to visit us at plumdragonherbs.com. We will post show notes, a transcript, and ways to connect with JD. You'll also find links to all the resources we mentioned in this program. And if you like what you're hearing on this show, be sure to leave us comments and follow us. We're excited to grow our audience and have many more great guests lined up. Until next time.