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The DIOP Circle V.17

October 13th, 2019


Von Hoene

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're learning from Von Hoene. He's our 760th customer and if you see him wearing the Bebop top, he'll put you on. He's going to share how he martial arts helped him develop his sense of self.

I’ve been committed to the martial arts my entire life. As a kid, I struggled with vision problems and couldn’t play team sports. My glasses (and my skin color) made me a ripe target for bullies. To help my confidence, my pops enrolled me in karate classes.

From 4 until 18 years old, I took karate classes through BHAMS Karate in Avalon Park on the south side of Chicago. The instructors at BHAMS, especially Byron, helped me develop focus and discipline. They made it clear just how much a positive and loving environment could impact my life and the lives of others.

My instructors were father figures to all of their students; they molded our progress as students and instilled in us principles that still guide us. To this day, they are still some of my best friends.

I discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu in college after watching a few UFC fights. A friend suggested I try some classes, so I did. I tried gyms across Chicago until I found Vianna Brothers BJJ; an academy that reminded me of BHAMS and Avalon Park. It was small, warm, and full of good people.

I was nervous as hell during my first class. It became clear, though, that all martial arts can flow together and that jiu-jitsu really meshed with my karate. I spent the first six months of jiu-jitsu classes getting my ass beat in totally unexpected ways. The grind is super slow and can sometimes be demoralizing, like all things that require skill.

However, once you hit a breakthrough, everything becomes fun or a welcome challenge. After you get over that first hump, you start to secretly enjoy trying to choke your friends out.

My jiu-jitsu is very methodical, just the way my instructor, Pedro Vianna, taught me. He delivered everything step-by-step, focusing on the mechanics of every technique. I make fun of him all the time because he never varied on how he taught them.

To this day, I can teach the 70-ish techniques he required students to learn, in order to go from white to blue belt with the exact same language, steps, and cadence he used when he first taught me.

I really believe everyone should take at least one jiu-jitsu class; it’s the perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes you just cruise through and nothing can stop you. Other times, it feels like there’s a 300-pound, angry, starved gorilla in your face and all you can do is grit your teeth. Jiu-jitsu teaches you perseverance; it forces you, in a controlled environment, to process adversity, big and small. You also learn to be responsible for yourself and others.

Jiu-jitsu is dangerous – you can hurt yourself and your partners, but, over time, you learn to take care of each other. Through that learning process, you build trust and camaraderie. My best friends in life are the people that try to beat me up on a weekly basis.

One of the frustrating things about jiu-jitsu is how slow progress can be. There are five belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with additional marks of progress at each belt. It takes an average of ten years to get to black. There’s no set criteria for promotion, so its shrouded in mystery. A lot of jiu-jitsu instructors don’t like being asked questions about when and how someone will get promoted; they say jiu-jitsu is about the journey and not the belt.

I think that’s partially true – jiu-jitsu is about learning to fight and building relationships, but progress markers, and understanding how to achieve them, are important motivators. It’s essential in any practice – jiu-jitsu or otherwise – to ask questions and think critically about the challenges in front of you.

Sadly, in some circles, there’s a strong bent towards complete loyalty to your original instructor. And though it’s become less frequent, some instructors prohibit you from training with anyone else. To me, the pressure to stay in one place, if it exists, isn’t healthy; I believe everyone, from white belt to black belt, can teach you something.

The cool thing about martial arts, though, is how it brings people together despite language and cultural barriers. You can visit gyms all across the world that teach your art and be welcomed with open arms just because you have the art in common. As an example, I plan on going to Brazil for my jiu-jitsu pilgrimage. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I know that if I show up to any jiu-jitsu gym in Rio and drop my instructors’ names, I’ll be welcomed like family.

I’ve always wanted to teach and run a martial arts school. My karate and jiu-jitsu instructors required me and other students to teach as part of our development. I taught classes at Avalon Park and at Vianna Brothers. Sometimes, teaching opportunities just fall into your lap.

My love for teaching jiu-jitsu started when I was a blue belt. Pedro hit me with a simple, “Hey, Von, could you teach for me on Friday?” and I’ve been teaching ever since. Pedro’s brother, Daniel (who’s the head instructor at Vianna Brothers now) wanted to expand Vianna Brothers to the south side. I live on the south side. So, it worked out! Daniel, a business partner of his, and I got together and opened up a spot!

I currently run a small jiu-jitsu school out of Mettle Fitness in Bronzeville. Right now, it’s a small group of folks that come in to train three times a week. I’m putting in the work to make it what I know it can be. My goal is to take the relationships I’m building with my current students and use them to establish something like BHAMS – a safe space where people (young and old) can build.

I want my jiu-jitsu school to be a safe space for young and old people alike. I hope to build a place of peace, where one can learn discipline and empathy. I want every martial arts student of martial arts to have the opportunity to grow as I did, no matter where they come from.


The DIOP Circle V.17

October 13th, 2019


Von Hoene

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're honored to have Colin Lawton also known as Path P. Our 269th customer, he keeps Kind of Blue on deck. And he's going to share how his art helped him navigate loss.

I’ve been committed to the martial arts my entire life. As a kid, I struggled with vision problems and couldn’t play team sports. My glasses (and my skin color) made me a ripe target for bullies. To help my confidence, my pops enrolled me in karate classes.

From 4 until 18 years old, I took karate classes through BHAMS Karate in Avalon Park on the south side of Chicago. The instructors at BHAMS, especially Byron, helped me develop focus and discipline. They made it clear just how much a positive and loving environment could impact my life and the lives of others. My instructors were father figures to all of their students; they molded our progress as students and instilled in us principles that still guide us. To this day, they are still some of my best friends.

I discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu in college after watching a few UFC fights. A friend suggested I try some classes, so I did. I tried gyms across Chicago until I found Vianna Brothers BJJ; an academy that reminded me of BHAMS and Avalon Park. It was small, warm, and full of good people.

I was nervous as hell during my first class. It became clear, though, that all martial arts can flow together and that jiu-jitsu really meshed with my karate. I spent the first six months of jiu-jitsu classes getting my ass beat in totally unexpected ways. The grind is super slow and can sometimes be demoralizing, like all things that require skill. However, once you hit a breakthrough, everything becomes fun or a welcome challenge. After you get over that first hump, you start to secretly enjoy trying to choke your friends out.

I was nervous as hell during my first class. It became clear, though, that all martial arts can flow together and that jiu-jitsu really meshed with my karate. I spent the first six months of jiu-jitsu classes getting my ass beat in totally unexpected ways. The grind is super slow and can sometimes be demoralizing, like all things that require skill. However, once you hit a breakthrough, everything becomes fun or a welcome challenge. After you get over that first hump, you start to secretly enjoy trying to choke your friends out.

My jiu-jitsu is very methodical, just the way my instructor, Pedro Vianna, taught me. He delivered everything step-by-step, focusing on the mechanics of every technique. I make fun of him all the time because he never varied on how he taught them. To this day, I can teach the 70-ish techniques he required students to learn, in order to go from white to blue belt with the exact same language, steps, and cadence he used when he first taught me.

I really believe everyone should take at least one jiu-jitsu class; it’s the perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes you just cruise through and nothing can stop you. Other times, it feels like there’s a 300-pound, angry, starved gorilla in your face and all you can do is grit your teeth. Jiu-jitsu teaches you perseverance; it forces you, in a controlled environment, to process adversity, big and small. You also learn to be responsible for yourself and others.

Jiu-jitsu is dangerous – you can hurt yourself and your partners, but, over time, you learn to take care of each other. Through that learning process, you build trust and camaraderie. My best friends in life are the people that try to beat me up on a weekly basis.

One of the frustrating things about jiu-jitsu is how slow progress can be. There are five belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with additional marks of progress at each belt. It takes an average of ten years to get to black. There’s no set criteria for promotion, so its shrouded in mystery. A lot of jiu-jitsu instructors don’t like being asked questions about when and how someone will get promoted; they say jiu-jitsu is about the journey and not the belt. I think that’s partially true – jiu-jitsu is about learning to fight and building relationships, but progress markers, and understanding how to achieve them, are important motivators. It’s essential in any practice – jiu-jitsu or otherwise – to ask questions and think critically about the challenges in front of you.

Sadly, in some circles, there’s a strong bent towards complete loyalty to your original instructor. And though it’s become less frequent, some instructors prohibit you from training with anyone else. To me, the pressure to stay in one place, if it exists, isn’t healthy; I believe everyone, from white belt to black belt, can teach you something.

The cool thing about martial arts, though, is how it brings people together despite language and cultural barriers. You can visit gyms all across the world that teach your art and be welcomed with open arms just because you have the art in common. As an example, I plan on going to Brazil for my jiu-jitsu pilgrimage. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I know that if I show up to any jiu-jitsu gym in Rio and drop my instructors’ names, I’ll be welcomed like family.

I’ve always wanted to teach and run a martial arts school. My karate and jiu-jitsu instructors required me and other students to teach as part of our development. I taught classes at Avalon Park and at Vianna Brothers. Sometimes, teaching opportunities just fall into your lap. My love for teaching jiu-jitsu started when I was a blue belt. Pedro hit me with a simple, “Hey, Von, could you teach for me on Friday?” and I’ve been teaching ever since. Pedro’s brother, Daniel (who’s the head instructor at Vianna Brothers now) wanted to expand Vianna Brothers to the south side. I live on the south side. So, it worked out! Daniel, a business partner of his, and I got together and opened up a spot!

I currently run a small jiu-jitsu school out of Mettle Fitness in Bronzeville. Right now, it’s a small group of folks that come in to train three times a week. I’m putting in the work to make it what I know it can be. My goal is to take the relationships I’m building with my current students and use them to establish something like BHAMS – a safe space where people (young and old) can build. I want my jiu-jitsu school to be a safe space for young and old people alike. I hope to build a place of peace, where one can learn discipline and empathy. I want every martial arts student of martial arts to have the opportunity to grow as I did, no matter where they come from.

There are times after a hard workout when I sit on my mats and meditate. I think about how the sweat and exhaustion make me feel; they remind me that everything will be okay. When you love something, it lets you be yourself. Find the beauty in the things you love; let those things be your refuge.


By Von Hoene

Follow Von on Instagram @daddyvonlegs. And if you're in Chicago, check out his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at Mettle Fitness (5000 S. Indiana, Chicago, IL 60615). Classes are Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 7-8:30 PM. Call 773-519-2203 for more information.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


There are times after a hard workout when I sit on my mats and meditate. I think about how the sweat and exhaustion make me feel; they remind me that everything will be okay. When you love something, it lets you be yourself. Find the beauty in the things you love; let those things be your refuge.

- Von Hoene


Follow Von on Instagram @daddyvonlegs. And if you're in Chicago, check out his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at Mettle Fitness (5000 S. Indiana, Chicago, IL 60615). Classes are Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 7-8:30 PM. Call 773-519-2203 for more information.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.