Welcome to 2023! We are fired up to kick off this year with our next episode of the Grit.org podcast with Jason Watson. Jason runs Watson Martial Arts in Jacksonville, FL. Jason has coached over 100 national champions and has personally won 10 state championships, 10 national championships, and is a 2 time US cup champion. He joins in the studio to discuss all things martial arts, business, and the grit it requires to succeed.
On a personal level, each of my boys have taken Taekwondo with Jason for many years now with my oldest having achieved his black belt and my middle son over halfway there. Also, myself and the Grit University interns have worked out with Jason (through his Fight Fit program) for each of our Monday morning 6 am workouts over the past few summers so I appreciate what Jason does not only as a coach and trainer but also as an entrepreneur and friend. He is a fantastic example for young people in our community, and there is so much great information he shares during this episode. Be sure to watch on youtube or listen on any podcast platform and leave a comment about your favorite part of his interview.
Have a great first week of 2023!
Colby Harris: Welcome back to the “Grit.org” Podcast. My name is Colby Harris alongside me as always is mister Brian Harbin and we're here with today's guest Jason Watson. Jason, thank you so much for being here.
Jason Watson: Excited to be here.
Colby Harris: Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Jason has been training in the martial arts since he was 7 years old. Jason's parents launched Watson Martial Arts Studio in 1984. Teaching various martial arts and training students of all ages. Jason took over the facility in 1994 just a decade after opening their doors. In 2005, Jason combined his for martial arts with general fitness and create fight fit. A combination of punching back movements and muscle building exercises that is great for endurance and adding muscle mass. Jason is a 10-time state champion, 10-time national champion, 2-time US Cup champion, and even competed in the professional pro TKD League for a time. He has coached over 100 junior national champions with one of his athlete’s taking gold at the US National Championships. Outside of running his studio, Jason Joy spent time with his wife Allison their two sons counseling Reynolds.
So, Jason we're super excited to have you here today. I've tried the Fight Fit classes. I thoroughly enjoy them. I love what you do there. Super motivating too to have you there, keeping us on our toes. So, diving right in, can you share more of this about your upbringing here in Jacksonville and how you originally got into martial arts when you were just 7 years old?
Jason Watson: Yeah, so yeah born and raised here Jack's. My dad owned this car customizing business, and it was like kind of this big shop. There was a show on TV, you're too young for this but it's called Black Belt Theater. It was these Asian guys that were had these giant gray beards that of course they were in these costumes they're about 20 years old and they would jump from building to building and have these really cool fight scenes with all the audio didn't match the mouth and the sound effects. My brother and I loved it. We would always be fighting and so we go in my dad's shop and we would, he had these boxes of those paint stirs that you would get it like Lowe's or whatever. We'd hold them and we'd break them and all that. So, my aunt one day as a birthday gift to my brother bought us a month of lessons, and so I was 7. My brother's 10 months younger than me and that's where we started at least.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so and then tell us about at what point you kind of got into competing. I mean I guess obviously you kept you renewed after a month right, and you kept doing lessons. Tell us like I guess at what point you decided to start competing and how you got into that?
Jason Watson: Pretty early on. I would say by the end of the year we were in our first State and championships. We got our butts stomped a couple times at the beginning, but we had so much fun doing it. Speaking about me and my brother. So, once we kind of got in a couple tournaments we had the bug man and it seemed like every weekend we were traveling and fighting and competing and just it became something, a part of our lives.
Colby Harris: Yeah, as a surfer and competing. I love that some of my favorite parts about doing sports is just getting to spend those Saturdays or those Sundays all day at the venue. Hanging out with other competitors getting that fire under you a little bit too when it's your time to shine. So, coming in to when martial arts launched, tell us a little bit more about the genesis of that and when your parents and launched it in 1984. So, how did that really come about and what led them to opening up the studio?
Jason Watson: So, we had a little bit of an issue with our original place that we were training at. His rule was that if you won a trophy or medal, you got to take it home for 2 weeks. Like take it to school and do a show and tell but after that, you had to bring it back to his gym. He's like, I trained you. It's and he had his whole frontage had just rows and rows of these trophies and medals hanging off of them. I remember I won a gold medal at the State championships and my brother had won as well. I said, “I don't want to give him my medal to my parents”. And they're like, “Well, we agree with you”. Here's what's going to happen and they kind of told us like, “We're going to go tell them and you're going to go and you're going to tell him, hey, we don't give it, this is not fair and we're pretty sure going to ask us to leave”.
He did and so we won the State championships we went in and we said he said, well, that's against the rules and you have to leave. So, we left and so we had three months to train for Nationals and we did out of my dad's shop. At night, he would finish. He pulled the cars out. We'd roll mats out. We had one of these guys, that was a fantastic. He was one of the best fighters in the country that was one of the instructors. My parents were paying him and then the next thing, we had two or three other kids show up and then we had like a team of 7 or 8 of us that had trained to fight that year of my dad's garage that went to Nationals. Then after that they ended up opening the facility saying, hey, we need a place for y'all to train that's not an oil ridden floor in a garage.
Brian Harbin: Wow, that's incredible. So, tell me what it was like, okay so training early on, your dad is basically running two businesses out of the shop at this point. I mean, I guess at what point did he decide to say, alright let's spend more time with the martial arts and then the fact that you're there but then you're also kind of helping run a family business. Tell us a little bit about what that was like too.
Jason Watson: Well, at the time, I guess I was like 9 when we originally open the main facility and they open this gym that was just for kids to go compete and it was funny for the first handful of years, our gym was just a place for people that wanted to go fight. Like, you weren't the kind of casual. Hey, I'd like to do some martial arts. No, it was like blood on the walls. You went in there. We used to joke like we cry when we were stretching because we knew we'd be crying soon. Anyway, as we were training, it was going to be that hard. So, might as well get it out of your system. So, it was later on in 1994 when I actually took the facility over and started running. I was a year out of high school. Graduated from Wilson in 93 and so 94, I started running it full time.
Colby Harris: Yeah, that was kind of leads me right into my next question. Like you say, you take over the studio in 1994 before I mean you were super young this time. Early 20s, if I'm right.
Jason Watson: Oh yeah.
Colby Harris: Yeah, so was there an alternative plan at that time? I mean again graduated Wolfson you were still in here in Jacksonville. Was there anything else you had your eyes set on or was that always the plan to just take over the studio?
Jason Watson: No, I was, I thought I would do, I remember a 16, I was driving around to YMCAs and La Petite Academies and I would teach little programs, which was great because of my friends were working for 5 bucks an hour and I was charging 20 to be able to go and teach a private or group small group classes which was cool. Then, I would teach for my instructor. My parents’ kind of had a guy that was coming in that they were paying to run the facility and we were all just there to really train and fight. But at the end of high school, kind of got out of it a bit out of the hard competition side of it. But I was still going and I would teach for him I would help out with belt testings and stuff like that. So, our instructor Philip had some family in California one of his parents got sick they owned a dental lab and they needed his help.
He basically came and said, “Guys, I can't run the school anymore”. So, my mom said, “Hey, I'm either going to close the school down or you can go run it”. And here I am. I'm going to college I really didn't have a plan of what I wanted to do yet and I was I'm like, “Okay”. It wasn't, oh my gosh, this is exactly what I would do. I kind of I hate to say fell into it but it was like I'll go do it and that's there's no really exciting story. I mean, it was like, sure and I'll go start.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's kind of the beauty of opportunity though. It seems like some of the best things in your life just fall into your lap at a perfect time completely unexpected just as that.
Jason Watson: Well, it ended up being the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I remember after kind of moving into that like it was amazing on how much I fell in love with it and then learning the business side of it and having to and we've gone through so many changes and different focuses. But yeah, it was really cool.
Brian Harbin: I mean and Jason, I mean, I'm looking at these stats. I mean, 10-time state champion, 10-time national champion, 2-time US National Cup champion. Competed in the pro TKD League and I've known you for a long time. I know you're super humble which I really admire and appreciate that about you. But tell us more about what it was like competing in these big tournaments. I mean, paint the picture for what some of those tournaments were like.
Jason Watson: So, Taekwondo which is now an Olympic sport. I mean, we were there at the beginning of this thing when it started becoming an Olympic sport. You would have Florida had one of the biggest numbers of competitors at state championships and so you would have 4000, 4000-to-6000 competitors at the national championship. So, it was it was a big competition. I mean, there would be sometimes there would be 60 kids in your division and it's not a hey, you go for one fight. I mean, you you've fought all day long like a bracket system until there was kind of one man standing. It was tough. I mean it was, and when we grew up it was you could kick to the head as hard as you wanted, that was full contact. They've since changed a lot of those rules.
We used to joke around that when you were at the adult Nationals, you'd hear doctor to ring 2 doctor to ring 4, doctor ring 6. I mean it was just like a part of the deal. But it was tough. I mean it's a fight.
Colby Harris: It's a little bit more Cobra Kai style.
Jason Watson: Yeah.
Colby Harris: Just I mean I've always thought that's what we see in the movies. I've never practiced martial arts as much as I've had Joe Rogan's who huge fan of jiujitsu. A lot of people I know really get into that particularly for rolling and just all these other things. It's great, a lot of great clubs around the area to do things like that. So back to competing of your many wins. I mean which stands out to you in your mind that was either like the most rewarding or earned or the most challenging victory you had and can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Jason Watson: Yeah. So, I was 13 and I've been doing pretty well. I'd won a bunch of junior national championships and I remember fighting at the state championship and you have to place in the top four to be able to make it to the Nationals. So, I went first in my division and this is I can't remember where I was at in Florida but it was a state championship. I went first and I'm over there taking my gear down, pulling my shin guards off and I remember my coach walking by. I see my coach and my dad, they're kind of about 15, 20 feet from me and they're kind of whispering there. Look, I could tell her talking about me, but my coach walks over and don't really make eye contact and said, “Hey, don't take your gear off yet”. So, I said, “Yes, sir when I sat there well then they kind of moves away”. So, here I am sitting in, some time goes by and then they start calling the adult divisions which is the 18 and older.
I remember them calling, alright, Fin weight come to this division, unbeknownst to me they registered me to fight adult fin weight. So, they come grab me and they're like hey, go, go, go, and like I don't have time to think about. Like okay, I grab my gear. I go over and they bring me this ring and they're taking all our paperwork for fight. I'm looking around at these guys that I've watched fight a bunch of times, because they were like these are the deal, right. These are the guys I want to be like. Well, I ended up fighting in that division and pretty much out of pure fear. I placed in the top four and a similar thing happens at Nationals. Like they had me continue train I did have an older sparring partner who was competing in Nationals and they had me stay on a little bit longer and train with him. And at the whole time nobody really told me, hey, by the way we've got you signed up to fight at the Adult Nationals.
So, get there and we are in Columbus Ohio. I'm 13 years old and I still really, it's like almost I was just naive I guess like hey, I didn't know I'm about to sign up and fight against the best guys in the country. So, then here we go I find out, yeah, you're going to be fighting today and I go look at the brackets and matter of fact one of our sparring partners, we run into this his cousin. His cousin's 28 years old and he says, “Hey, it's my cousin”. And cool, we meet each other we hang out and we walk off and my sparring partners like dude my cousin's awesome and he starts talking about how good he is of a fighter and yada, yada, yada. Well, I go look at the brackets and out of the 80 guys in the division guess who my first draw is. I'm going to fight his cousin. Here I am 13, he's 28 and I'm signed up to fight this guy. So, I remember setting up and the whole time I'm just scared out of my mind.
I mean this is you, its full contact, right. Like you try to knock the guy out if you want and I'll never forget that they line us up and this guy can tell. Like he's like blood in the water. I got this kid in front of me or he runs at me and I just literally kick him and knock him completely on his back. So, I'm like scared to death. I look around to my coach and my coach is super excited. Now there's all these people crowding our ring, because you got this little kid out there. And a matter of fact I think I weighed in in my jeans that year, because I didn't have to everybody else is cutting weight and I was, like I'm in the lightest division. anyway, he gets up and he's pissed and so he runs at me, I knock him down again. So, I knock him down twice in a row I end up winning the fight win several more. I get ranked like 6 in the country and I'm 13 years old.
So, that one stands out. It was really crazy. Matter of fact, after I'm getting, I'd lost my last match and the guy that comes over that's getting ready to fight for the gold medal in my division shakes my hand. He's like, “Dude, that was an awesome fight. Nice job”. Passing back and as he walks off, I realize that was the guy who'd just won the silver at the Olympics the year prior. So, if I won my last match, he'd have been my next match. So yeah, it was really cool.
Brian Harbin: Wow, and do you feel like you used, I mean tell us what it feels like to be a champion top of the podium time after time. I mean what's that feeling you felt. Like because I'm sure that stuck with you through the when things get really hard you kind of remember that feeling. So, tell us a little bit about what it feels like or what do you feel like motivated you from those moments?
Jason Watson: My dad used to have a saying which is, they're not going to eat you. That I've had to use that a lot and everybody goes through tough times, right. But if you realize they're not going to eat you it's not going to be fun while you're in it. You got to get back up and if you do that, you just, I think you can be successful on the backside of that. Just get through the tough stuff and then you realize on the backside of that. Yeah, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be when I was in it.
Brian Harbin: Yeah. Success is definitely on the other side of failure, right.
Jason Watson: That's right.
Brian Harbin: And kind of the flip side of that with as much success as you saw through the sport. Obviously, there were some challenges, some setbacks. So, share with us maybe if there was a time or two where you were injured during the fight and you had to keep going, or if there was this one competitor that when you saw his name you were like oh man, I'm up against guy.
Jason Watson: Yeah. So, I have two stories there. The first one was one of my early tournaments and maybe it might have been my first tournament in the black belt division. There was this guy, his name was Reuben. Reuben was the big dog, like he was the guy that just mopped everybody. I mean, he just made it look easy. I was now in his division and I was going to have to fight him. And sometimes watching the person you got to fight is like it just set you, it can set you up for failure, because you're already like you beat yourself out of the match before you get there if you were at all. I'm never going to beat this guy or this guy's too good. So, I was close to being in that position. I thought, man, Ruben's awesome.
So, I remember I'm on the side, I'm putting my gear on and my dad walks over and that's when he first I heard him first say that line. He put Santa Michelle and he says, he's not going to eat you. Just go out there and do the work, and I went out there and won the fight. That was a really cool moment for me. It was really cool. For the other injury part, I was fighting at the National Championships and back then this was kind of pre-mats. Now every gym has mats in it, but back in the day we used to fight on, our gym had carpet flooring or when you got to a tournament it would be just on a basketball court, right. No padding at all, but remember we were training on carpet flooring and then barefoot. So, you're just moving around and like a week prior to the tournament to the Nationals, I had these giant blisters on one on both of my heels, from my heel rubbing on the carpet.
They were at least the size of like a half dollar. Man, they were huge. Well, I had 6 matches that day, during my second match I somehow slid back anyway both of them just like the skin tore completely off. So, here I am, I got four matches to go because I just keep, had to keep winning and both my feet I couldn't walk on my heels. I think it was a picture of me somewhere later I'd won the medal and or gold medal and I'm on the podium and like I'm on the balls of my feet because my heels are like bleeding and I take them up. But yeah, I mean it's and the old karate kid story kind of thing.
Colby Harris: Yeah, and there's definitely nothing worse than that raw skin after a blister. I mean you can't wear your shoes. It’s when no matter where it is and doing pull ups, I mean you don't want to touch a bar.
Jason Watson: That's right.
Colby Harris: So, I can only imagine the fire that you were feeling under your feet. I mean…
Jason Watson: It was big.
Colby Harris: It was definitely my entire event. So, that kind of segues right into my next question. Obviously, you had a lot of great people around you. A lot of people that were training you. A lot of people that you were sparring with and working alongside. You were coaching obviously like you said, but you eventually start signaling into more competition preparation and coaching other athletes directly to go compete at the same competitions you're at. So, you've actually now coached 100 National Champions.
Jason Watson: Yep.
Colby Harris: Tell us a little bit more about that and kind of making that decision to go more into personal coaching and development for competition purposes with other athletes.
Jason Watson: Well, when I took the facility over again, I was right out of high school so and we were a competitive facility. We kind of shifted into where when I was growing up, we've everybody competed. Like that's why you came to the gym. You were going to go be a fighter. We had people come in from other states that wanted to come and train with us. We had such a great team and we're a really great coach. I think one of my coaches Philip was one of the best coaches in the country. It was fantastic. So, when I took the facility over and then had to move into that role. I realized it was fun than fighting like getting to see these kids win. I coach some adults too and that was a lot of fun. But it was really cool seeing kids do more than they thought they could. And some of my best moments as a coach weren't necessarily from somebody winning or getting on the podium. It was from like a kid doing better than they thought they could or just really going, man, you did something to day that was just awesome. It was over and beyond and it was just because you stuck it out. Those have been really cool moments.
Colby Harris: Pretty addicting.
Jason Watson: Yeah.
Brian Harbin: And with as many of these top athletes that you've coached, I mean, I'm looking at one of them. One of them won gold at the US National Championships was ranked third in the world at one point. A ton of junior national champions have worked with you. What would you say really separates those athletes from everybody else? I mean, what are some of those key attributes or qualities that you found that they have that really stand out?
Jason Watson: Their work ethic. They would hate to be cliché, but they'd be the first in the gym in the last leave kind of thing. The one, Lauren was her name that ended up going on and being one of the best, definitely one of the best female taekwondo athletes that we've had in the country. She went on, I could say, “Lauren, I want you to today. I want you to close your eyes, run across the street. Don't worry about traffic, just run touch ethics come back”. She go, “Yes, sir and take off”. I mean there was times, I'm like I need you to rest today I'm locking you out of the gym. But she, it was just built in her man she was going to do what it took no matter what. Coaching somebody likes that is easy. It's I can't take any credit for that. She was just phenomenal at her work ethic and putting in the work.
Colby Harris: I think it's definitely funny when we talk about the cliche factor behind that when it's just comes back around to. It's just the facts. When you show up and I think it's awesome to hear to the relationship you guys had for you to sit here and say, you can't take the credit for it but just as much I'm sure she would say without you she never could have made it. Because she that bought into your experience, your insight, and the things that you were teaching. So, I think that's really amazing.
One thing that I think is really interesting to think about with a lot of these people that are kind of like that where they just put their head down and they work. They're a little bit typically more introverted, right. So, that's really helpful when you are training and when you're preparing and when you're just putting your head down and just grinding as hard as you can but for some people that makes it a little bit harder once it's time to actually step onto the map, step on the court, step on the field, and it's time to perform in front of all these people and you got all this weight on your shoulders. So, as someone who stepped in the battle hundreds of times not thousands of times and also train so many athletes to do that. What insight would you have for someone that needs to be confident stepping into a setting to perform?
Jason Watson: I think it can be sports specific on some things, but confidence is a deal that you get before the fight. Like it gets in the gym, it's on the days when you don't want to be there. That's how you build confidence and resilience. Those guys they show up, they work. When they're tired or sick or their buddies are out playing, they're still there, they're still working. For elite athletes, I give you an example. I just heard a buddy of mine talking last night, they had a he was a teacher bulls. He said, he had a one of the guys who ended up swimming, I think against Michael Phelps in the Olympics but we were talking about calories that they were eating and stuff like that. He said, he would go in sometimes at lunch and just talked about the amount of food this guy was eating and he said, but he would say, hey, can I go sit over there by myself. He said, this kid would go sit, eat. He said, it was like a machine. He wasn't talking to anybody. He would go and then he would go and he'd swim and then he'd be in bed by 9 o'clock. This is a high school athlete and he said and he did that day in and day out. Like he was determined. That's one of the things that I mean it's almost I want to say not coachable. Give me somebody with heart, give me somebody with drive, any day of the week over somebody with talent.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, it's like that relentless pursuit just the blinders on. So, wanted to kind of pivot over to tell us about FightFit in terms of, so this is in addition martial arts studio you run for kids and adults. But tell us how that came about and really what is FightFit 4 and then I can share personally. So, during the summer every Monday, me and the Grit University interns were there the 6 AM workout. So, we've experienced this and really enjoy. But tell us about where it all stem from?
Jason Watson: Yeah, so 2005 a buddy of mine were working out, matter of fact somebody turned me on to CrossFit. It was early on there; I think CrossFit only had a few affiliates but we were pulling the workouts and doing them online and it was fun. But I liked the kind of high intensity, let's go get as much done. That's the way we train for fights right, fast twitch muscle kind of stuff. But I missed hitting stuff, so I'm like, alright, well I need to as a martial artist I need to be kind of limber and move well. So, I don't want to pack on a ton of muscle but I want to stay light and lean and plus I want to punch a bag.
So, me and a buddy started pulling gear in my gym and I started programming some workouts and then that ended up to somebody else saying, hey, I saw so and so and he said, he was working out can I come, and then I end up saying sure and the next thing I was like 8 or 9 people. I thought, well man, let me start a class and just started programming more workouts and it grew from there. But yeah, FightFit's a combination of striking with high intensity interval training. We cycled through about 120 different workouts of different modalities from Amraps to Bottas, Circuits, different variable circuits, all kinds of fun stuff. Because monotony is a killer, so we want to make sure that you have no idea what you're getting to get there, kind of thing.
Brian Harbin: It's so smart too you guys turn into a competition so the bags have like this hit count, but it also shows pressure. So, during the workouts you can see who's putting in the most work and if you turn your bag on, it's like alright you have the scoreboard up to show how you're competing. So, I like that extra element you guys add.
Colby Harris: I'd say attention for sure. I definitely pay attention.
Jason Watson: Yeah.
Colby Harris: I mean it's fun too because we kind of ease into it. We like go ahead and get a couple warm up rounds to just loosen up the body and then when it's time to just start wailing on the bag. Everyone's numbers just start going up and I'm like alright I got to hit it harder. Hit it harder. But I was just that was making me think about when you moved into that space. I mean obviously you had to take a huge leap of faith to launch FightFit. As all these people were kind of had a desire for it you still had to have a studio space and now you needed this FightFit space. So, led you to taking on a new location in 2014, where you're currently at on Emerson Street.
Jason Watson: Yup.
Colby Harris: So, obviously that's a huge risk to take. It was a lot of property, a lot of new equipment, a lot of stuff going on. So, tell us a little bit more about that experience of not only betting on yourself and why that's important for other entrepreneurs out there and people who want to be of service to others, but just the benefits you've seen by moving into that new facility.
Jason Watson: Sure. Ownership number one, but it was scary and it's taking on something that big is crazy. But it's awesome being able to go in and know that I have control over that building right, like and being able to design it the way I wanted. I mean it always been a dream of mine. I did for years and years and years, I kept I would look and think oh this would be really awesome, I could do this and I could do that. But we're able to kind of plan out how do we have a space where when I first started doing FightFit and we were doing it on my mat. I'd have to wait till classes where I'd roll bags out and then I have to roll them back for the next morning. Now we've got a space where people can work out. Their kids can be in doing a class. They can be working out and it makes it fun.
Brian Harbin: And so, and then talking about the studio you do for kids in terms of helping them progress through taekwondo. I want to kind of ask your opinion but first I wanted to kind of share my thoughts. I've got three boys. All 3 of them go to your studio for taekwondo. My oldest son has his black belt through your studio and then Max and Charles are both working through theirs. So, it's one of those things too as a parent and some people may not agree with this but I'll never force a sport onto my kids. Any sport like whatever they want to do is fine. But I have told each of one of them. I said, “Whatever sport you decide to play, I don't care but you will get your black belt through Jason”.
Jason Watson: Awesome.
Brian Harbin: And Taekwondo, because I believe for me especially with boys like to develop the discipline especially learning through you and your studio. All the things that go along with it, you're setting a good example for the younger kids, the fact that it takes 6 years. The fact that they're going to Quanta quit dozens of times over the time period. But The fact that they push through and they have that and of course the self-defense aspect of it. so, that's my personal opinion, but in your opinion in terms of all the hundreds of kids that you've come through your program. The fact that you have two boys yourself that go to the program. In your opinion, what are the advantages for parents to put their kids in martial arts at a young age?
Jason Watson: It just piggybacks everything you say, right. Like I think the kicking and punching part is just a vehicle for teaching kids goal setting. Like we do a black belt meeting before as you know once the kids reach that high red belt and we're setting them up for black belt. One of the things we talk about is for a 10, 11-year-old a week is a long time to wait. If you say, oh yeah, we're going to go somewhere we're taking you to Disney World next week, they're going to ask you every day, is it is today of the day, it's the day of the day, are we there yet kind of thing. Just tell some is this going to be a 5, 6-year process that's really hard for them to fathom. So, on the backside of that, when a kid gets that makes it, man, they've set themselves up for success, right? When they get into high school and they've got a tough four years or college or whatever. They have a place building them already that they kind of have this baseline where they know, okay, I have done something that took me a long time to do and it was tough but I stuck it out, right. They have kind of this area where they know, I've done this before, I can do it again which in most other sports that doesn't happen. I think besides like getting an Eagle Scout, right. Like which is amazing.
That's the deal and then talking to them all the time about respect and being polite. We have all these little sayings; we work to them on focus. Being focused is a skill that kids need to learn it and then we don't say practice makes perfect, we say perfect practice makes perfect, right. Like the way you practice is important. You don't want to do something thousand times bad and you just get really good at throwing a bad punch. So, we try to walk through those skills at the end of the day. That's more important to me than how good a kid is competing or fighting or you know being able to throw a cool kick or punch, goal setting.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, and I I'll say too I'll never forget that meeting sitting with Stone before he goes to Tess versus Black Belt with you. Because you had me sit in that meeting with him and you explain this story talking about how each belt and the color represents something different. I don't know if that's, if you can share it publicly or for it's for that private meeting. But for it was super impactful and we've been going to practices for years at that point but the way you summarize and made it all tie together.
Jason Watson: Right
Brian Harbin: Really made a lot of sense. I don't know if you can kind of share that same in terms of.
Jason Watson: Yeah. And we don't do this with our kids at White Yellow Belt because it doesn't mean anything to it.
Brian Harbin: Right.
Jason Watson: Right. But and now, this is for our system because there's tons of different belt systems and different colors belts but for ours, we believe it's like based on the system of like a tree or a plant, right. That white belt that seed in the ground and if you think of tree for instance that tree could grow to be a bonsai tree that's going to be a foot tall or could grow into a redwood tree that's big enough to drive a bus through, right. Those depend on the other factors, what kind of tree, how much water sun and all that stuff. So, that's the parents, the coaches or teachers, but when that seed pops up to the dirt you got that little sprig, that's a yellow belt. Then starts getting leaves on it, well that's the green belt, right. Now it's continuing to grow and get bigger, and then blue belts when it gets these kinds of bulbs like flowers on there. Red belt, it's those bulbs are opened up. So, now you get to kind of see the life of that that tree or plant. Then black belt is it spreads its own seeds.
So, what we tell the kids are, if somebody doesn't know anything about martial arts and they come into the facility, they're going to know what a black belt is, right. They've seen it on TV, so they don't know if a yellow belt's higher or lower than green belt or where does a purple or brown belt fall into place. But black belt supposed to be good at what they do and this like we need you to be a leader, right. We want you to set a good example because if I send you over to help out little Johnny do a kick and you're an 11 or 12-year-old black belt and that you're positive and you're a good role model and you're high-fiving them and you're remembering, man, I remember this was tough when I was there. When they go home, they're not going to talk about me. They're going to talk about you and they're going to remember that impact. I remember the first guy that helped me. It wasn't the main instructor but a guy that kind of took me and my brother and was a lot over 40 years ago so.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I love that last part too because something we talk a lot about with Grit Camp is the trickle-down system you try to set up. I mean the odds of this 10-year-old looking at Brian and taking everything, he says in wholeheartedly is a lot less likely than if it was Stone someone who's a little bit more closer to his age or even myself, someone that's just kind of more around that experience and age that they're currently going through So, tell us a little bit. I've got a question here just kind of about the future of martial arts. Watson Martial Arts, but before we get there, I live across the street from you at Grit Headquarters. At least I spend a lot of time over there and there's always people of all ages at the facility and things like that. So, tell us some insight into maybe the age groups you currently have training there or how many people you currently have trained there and just kind of tell us a little about the group that you have at Watson Martial Arts.
Jason Watson: Sure. We've got a big spread. I say our biggest martial arts group that 6 to 12-year-old range, right. Those are the kids. We got a ton in there. Teenagers start getting pulled in a lot of different directions especially if you've got an athletic teen, man. Once you get in the high school sports, you can be working for 4 or 5 days a week, 2 or 3 hours at a time. It makes it tough. But we do have a teen and adult class and we have they do a good mix of taekwondo and some basic street self-defense stuff. Then our fight fit side, you're looking at most 35- to 55-year-olds. Is that big? I mean we have exceptions yes.
Colby Harris: Me. That's right. We took my first FightFit 17. Yeah.
Jason Watson: And then we've got a class we offer three days a week that's just for people with Parkinson's disease and they're in their 70s which is a really fun really cool class. So, we're able to kind of market wise we got a pretty big spread.
Brian Harbin: So, let me ask you this. In terms of we talked about testing for them. Every time that you have a test for the kids to move up their belt obviously you make sure that they're fully prepared. But they're at a testing there's always black belts that are there like you mentioned kind of that leadership and then the kids that are testing for black belt have to read off what it means to them to have their black belt, which I feel like is super impactful. But one of the things I don't think we've talked about is kind of what's beyond the black belt, right. I'd I know that there's like a 2nd, a 3rd and a 4th and a 5th and a 6th, I believe. Do you mind if ask which one, I think you're?
Jason Watson: Yeah, so I'm I've got a 6th degree in taekwondo and a 5th degree in Hop Keto. I've got enough years to be over a 7th Don. I just my testing has kind of moved lower on this since I'm trying to grow business and it seems like I'm always busy and then trying to support my two boys.
Colby Harris: Do podcast.
Jason Watson: Yeah. So, it seems like there's always something on my list. But yeah, there's so in our system it takes that number of years to get to the next level. So, it once you reach Black Belt which is anywhere from 4 to 6 years to get a second-degree black belt in additional 2 years and then after that it's 3 for 3rd, 4th for 4th and there's some age requirements. A 4th degree is considered a master. I've gotten two guys that I've coached tested mastered level through again the problem is we got a bunch of really smart cool kids. So, they end up going away to school and hopefully circling back one of the guy’s Evan who helps run some classes has circled back and then he's about to go to chiro school next year, so.
Brian Harbin: And then talked about 5th, 6th, and then 7th. You said that there's even more requirements that you have to meet in order to get that.
Jason Watson: I think you have to be 54 to before you can test for grand master. 10 years ago, that seemed like an old man now it's like I'm knocking on the door I feel like so.
Colby Harris: So, who comes in to assess those tests? Is it like a committee at that point?
Jason Watson: They've changed rules a couple times. We have a really cool well we're very lucky. One of my instructors, instructors is still around and he's just a very well-known martial artist who's just an amazing guy and he's in South Florida. So, when I test, I would either bring him in or go see him. At one point, if you were testing at fifth or 6th Don, you'd have to go to Korea to actually test under our system. So, yeah, I'm not quite sure they change the rules up at one point. They're trying to do that to keep people from having to make that trip.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I was going to say it's sounds pretty extensive but I guess if you're going to work for something for 2 decades, 3 Decades. I mean, it seems almost only right to keep the traditions. They've almost been there for so long and I love that. You still have that insight from people that were doing it for your instructors and their instructors before them. I think that's one of my favorite parts about everything we've talked about today. It's just the way that it's passed on generation, generation. I feel like there's so many changes in sports but sounds like this is one that's remained somewhat same over many, I mean, centuries at this point. I mean, it's probably one of the oldest sports out there. So, just one of my last few questions. Oh, sorry. Are you going to see them?
Brian Harbin: I've got one more question.
Colby Harris: I've got one too.
Brian Harbin: Okay, good, good, good.
Colby Harris: Yeah. So, tell us a little bit about, martial arts or not one, Watson Martial Arts moving forward. I mean, do you have any visions of bringing it to more people or is there anything in particular that you're looking to launch through 2022 or in 2023? I mean, we know you're really busy already, but do you have your eyes set on something to further your mission and further the business in the future?
Jason Watson: Yeah, we started a trainer certification program for FightFit which is really cool. So, guys can go on and get their FightFit certification and actually get our workouts and do those in their facility. We've got some people in I think Germany and Switzerland that have already done it and it's really cool. It's a totally online component. So, a lot of these guys get their certification and the downside is I've never really had contact with them and I'd love to like set some up meet them. But I think we've got 20 people now, a little over two dozen that have done our certification. That's fun.
I think COVID kind of changed a lot of stuff. We were having to do online training for a little while when we shut down. And I thought about trying to build a system that kids could do that with some really high-quality videos, really get some training. And parents could pop it in at home. I say pop it in. I guess be like just log in right now. Not pop in a DVD.
Colby Harris: VHS.
Jason Watson: Yeah. But they log in they could get some high-quality videos and then shoot some video themselves where we kind of would edit and look at it and say, okay, cool you're ready after so many classes. Parents are signing off that they could move up in ranks which would be really cool.
Colby Harris: Technology is a beautiful thing.
Jason Watson: It's amazing.
Brian Harbin: So, one of the things I really wanted to ask you because I think for parents that do have their kids in taekwondo being that it takes up to 6 years to get that black belt. It's one of those things you have to be really careful. I know we talked about this even earlier about you have two boys of your own that are in martial arts, but you don't want to force it. You kind of want to do it on time. What's some advice you have for parents in terms of being patient with their kids at the same time encouraging? How do you kind of balance those two anything that you have seen effective?
Jason Watson: Yeah, great question and I've seen this a lot as a coach, right. Where parents want the best for their kids. They want them to be whether it's out of competition, they wanted to win first. You get them in the facility and they wanted to earn their black belt. You want your kid to be the best in the gym. The fact that's the things you want. And what I tell parents are let the coach do his job or her job and you be a cheerleader. Like we're going to have a hard time coaching on the backside of this. I remember saying Allison early on like when my boy started soccer. I said, the one thing I'm not going to do is coach them. I want them and I find myself doing it, right? I'm on the sideline. I'm yelling stuff and I'm like, okay. Because it's hard. It's build-in, but I want to be just dad, right? I want to just be the cheerleader on, and when they come over and say, man, you're doing awesome or I'm so proud of you or we'll get him next time kind of thing.
There's a great, it was a commercial years ago and it's this little kid. He's probably five years old. He's playing soccer and he's falling down. He's getting kicked. He's missing the ball. You just see his dad over on the side. Every time he's grimacing. He's making all these faces and he's like, oh man, and the kid comes around from the dad is kind of leans down. He's setting up for this like to console him and the kids goes, “Dad, did you see me?” And he's like, yeah buddy, I did. He goes, “I was awesome”. And it's just his picture is totally different what his dad's picture was, right. So, I think being a cheerleader is really important as a parent. Man, just got to love on him and be there. We want to push our kids. We want to make sure they can realize you can do more, but if you find a place that's got a good coach let them do the thing.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I love that so much, because I've definitely been very blessed with my mother and that's something that I think it's my favorite part about it is. Whether in business, fitness, sports, relationships. I could kind of say anything and she might not necessarily understand and she would just, that's amazing Colby. I'm so glad you're doing this. I'm so proud of this. I'm so happy that you feel this way. Just exactly as you said being a cheerleader. So, just again I just kind of thought some again I want to reference back to earlier in the episode you discussed that you took over Watson Martial Arts when you were early 20s.
Jason Watson: I was younger than that man. I was a year out of high school so I was like 18, 19.
Colby Harris: And here we are now almost three decades later if not more, I think.
Jason Watson: It's 47 now.
Colby Harris: Yes. So, once we get to 20, 24.
Jason Watson: Yeah.
Colby Harris: You'll be there but what would be your biggest piece of advice is someone who kind of fell in to entrepreneurship and fell into business. What would you say is the most valuable thing you've learned from being 19 and running your own business to now almost being 47 and still doing it?
Jason Watson: Finding people who are smarter than you and mentors. Man, I have a handful of guys that just loved on me in the hard times and then I would just you need people that aren't always going to patch on the back and say, oh yeah, it's a great decision or you're doing awesome. You need somebody to say alright you need to look at this a different way or I don't know that I would do that and be able to trust enough that they're going to walk you through the tough times and give you advice that's going to mean something not just pump you up, right. And I've had some really, really good people.
Colby Harris: I love that too, because I just saw recently someone was talking about hiring. He's a very high-level CEO billionaire status and he says, I can't stand yes man. I don't want a guy in here that's just going to say, yes to me to try to pat me on the back and try to build rapport by telling me that I'm right. That's not the people I look to hire. I look to have the problem solver that's going to call me out or say, hey, I don't like this and tell me that hey, we should make a change. Good.
Yeah. So, I have really enjoyed this today, Jason. It's been one of my personal favorite episodes we've been able to sit down and talk about because I don't have an immense understanding of but I have been able to do the FightFit classes which for me, like you said, it's a great mix up. Doing it one day a week for me while lifting weights and running and playing sports has easily been one of the best additions, I've made to my fitness regimen. So, really glad we're able to have you here to share more about what it is, what you've done in the past, business, relationships, and coaching especially too. It's incredible to think that you've coached 100 National Champions now and even some gold medalist along the way. So, as you know, both your boys have come to our camp. Something that “Grit.org”, our podcast, our camp our internship is all built on is our Grit Creed. So, I know you've got it right in front of you. What is your favorite part of the Grit Creed and why?
Jason Watson: I'm mentally physically and emotionally resilient. To me, that's everything leads from that right because if you're not going to be you're not going to accomplish anything. If you give up at day one, you're not going to make it a day two. I just think back to what my dad said, they're not going to eat you, just go out there do the work. I mean that to me is just it's the seed that gets planted.
Colby Harris: I love that. Well, thank you again for being here today, Jason. It's really been a pleasure. That's a wrap for us here today at The “Grit.org” Podcast. If you're in Jacksonville, go check out Watson Martial Arts. The website is?
Jason Watson: “WatsonMartialArts.com”.
Colby Harris: “WatsonMartialArts.com”. You can find him there. Go give FightFit a try. Check out the CrossFit Studio right there as well. Maybe get your kids involved in some classes as well. Jason clearly has something for everyone. So, as for us, check out our other episodes. Leave us a comment. Tell us something you enjoyed about Jason's story. Share it with someone you think it would resonate with or impact as always, we appreciate you tuning in for another episode of The “Grit.org” Podcast.