From Karate to Jiu Jitsu; A Lifelong Passion for Martial Arts - John Hassett (E26)Sep 19, 2021
John Hassett was the first person to introduce Eliot to Jiu Jitsu. Hassett began his martial arts training with Soo Bahk Do, a Korean style of karate. He transitioned to Jiu Jitsu in the late '90s, first as a student of Steve Maxwell, and now trains under Phil and Rick Migliarese of Team Balance/Balance Studios in Philadelphia. He discusses his martial arts journey and what running two of his own schools has taught him about the martial arts business.
Eliot Marshall: Guys, I am here with maybe one of the people that, it's between you and [Gary Gusso 00:00:07], that were like my biggest influences as a child in this martial arts realm, you and [John Hassett 00:00:17]. How are you?
John Hassett: I'm very good, thank you for having me.
Eliot Marshall: You're the story, you are the person that I tell the story about. Do you remember the story?
John Hassett: The story of the garage?
Eliot Marshall: The garage.
John Hassett: Yes.
Eliot Marshall: And how the garage started.
John Hassett: Exactly.
Eliot Marshall: Do you know how the garage started?
John Hassett: I tell the story, you tell the story, mine's more clear because I'm older.
Eliot Marshall: Go ahead. How do you tell the story?
John Hassett: I tell the story, we were out in Ohio-
Eliot Marshall: Mm-mm (negative).
John Hassett: Well, this is how it started.
Eliot Marshall: Never been to Ohio.
John Hassett: Yeah, for the karate nationals.
Eliot Marshall: It was in Cherry Hill.
John Hassett: Was it? I thought it was in Ohio.
Eliot Marshall: No, it was in Cherry Hill.
John Hassett: You were probably 18 or 17.
Eliot Marshall: 17 years old, yeah.
John Hassett: Then you got third, sorry to hear that, and I got first, and you said, "You won because you were in the old man's division."
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, I got second though.
John Hassett: I said, "Are you serious? All right, you come over to my garage, we do a little kind of UFC-type fighting ..."
Eliot Marshall: Sit up closer on your microphone.
John Hassett: A little bit of ... What was it?
Eliot Marshall: I don't even know. You just said, "You come over to my garage."
John Hassett: Yeah, "Come over to my garage," because I always said to your dad, "Do you want to be show or go?" We'd fly through the air and do all the Jet Li crap, and it was good, it was fun for when we were doing it. Then you came over to the garage with like [Hector Fortunado 00:01:26], me, and I think Mr. Meyers was there and a couple other karate people.
Eliot Marshall: The first time? No. The first time it was just me, you-
John Hassett: In my garage?
Eliot Marshall: Jimmy, and [Paul Garnt 00:01:34].
John Hassett: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eliot Marshall: That was the first time.
John Hassett: Then you came in, didn't you just get your braces off? I always tell the story like this.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, I was a kid.
John Hassett: I said, "Yeah, you got your braces off, and then when we got done, your tooth was chipped. Your dad calls me up, and I go, 'Oh crap. Hey Mr. Marshall, what's up?' 'My son was at your house tonight?'" I'm like [stammers].
Eliot Marshall: I was still a kid technically, right? I was like 17 years old.
John Hassett: Well, here's the story, here's my story. I said something, and he goes, "You know, he's been getting big for his britches," like your dad would say, "Take out the trash," and you'd be like, "Well, let's fight for it, dad," or something like that. I go, "Yeah, we got over, and ..." But I was already probably a blue belt, I think.
Eliot Marshall: You just got your blue belt.
John Hassett: You go, "What are you doing?" I'm just choking you in an arm bar, whatever I'm doing, and you're like, "What is that?" I go, "That's jiu jitsu." Then I think you said you were going to go to college in Colorado, and you were a snow skier, I think your family were a lot of skiers.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah.
John Hassett: Then I don't know how I knew them all, I just knew of them I think, he was a brown belt maybe.
Eliot Marshall: He was purple.
John Hassett: Was he a purple belt?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah.
John Hassett: Yeah, I was a blue belt, he was a purple belt, and you gut hurt right away. Didn't you hurt your knee skiing or something?
Eliot Marshall: I hurt my nose.
John Hassett: And you couldn't ski or something?
Eliot Marshall: No, so ... I don't know.
John Hassett: See, I thought you said you hurt your knee and, "I can't go skiing," I go, "Well, go over and see that guy, he does that stuff I do," and [crosstalk 00:02:54].
Eliot Marshall: No, so I found [Amal 00:02:55] in a mall, just walking through it.
John Hassett: Oh really?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, but-
John Hassett: This is messing up the stories I've told everybody for years.
Eliot Marshall: I'm sorry. Years, that's okay, who cares? Stories are supposed to be messed up. Yeah, I mean I was talking shit, basically, and then you beat my ass.
John Hassett: It was an eye opener, there you go. That's what happened to me in my first class, [Phil Miggle-Reese 00:03:17] gave me and Jimmy our first lesson. We went up to Philly, one of my old karate student's dad was a kung-fu guy, so we were into Bruce Lee and all that stuff, and we go up to Philly on Cherry Street, and there was an old kung-fu school we looked at, it was like 100 years old. We're like, "This is so cool," and then we drove around. Then we were leaving, we came down Chestnut, I think it was, and then we'd seen [Maxercise 00:03:42], and we're like, "What is that? That's jiu jitsu."
I parked in the street, Jimmy ran up, Fortunado ran up, "Yeah, some crazy guy, he's got a messed up ear, he's, 'Yeah, come in for a free lesson." I'm like, "Let's go up there and beat up some people." We got a free half-hour lesson, and Phil came down, he was 19 wearing a purple belt. I'm like, "Where's the instructor?" He goes-
Eliot Marshall: Where's the black belt?
John Hassett: Exactly, because I'm a third-degree black belt at the time, and I'm 30, I'm like, "How old are you?" He goes, "I'm 19," I'm like, "Huh, what are you going to do?" The first lesson, I guess they all [inaudible 00:04:16], he mounted me, but he mounted Jimmy. Jimmy couldn't get away, and I'm like, "Oh, I wrestled, this guy ain't going to do nothing." I get on top, I push him off, belly-down arm bar. I was telling Pete last night this story, I was like, "Man, see, I got away." He goes, "No, you didn't get away, I almost broke your arm," and I'm like, "Eh, you didn't break my arm, let's do it again."
It's supposed to be like a half hour, we're there like an hour, and he's looking at me going, "This guy does not get what I'm doing to him." Man, I just couldn't believe how awesome it was, and then I think I went the next Monday, that was a Saturday, I went on Monday, paid the year in full and just said-
Eliot Marshall: "Let's go."
John Hassett: "I'm going to do it, yeah, let's do it." Then a girl beat me up, triangled me, a judo A with 69 threw me around like a ragdoll. Everybody beat me up, and I'm just going, "I'm embarrassed here." I got my own karate school, I had wrestled 15 years, I'm like, "Yeah, you know what? Jim, if we never went back, nobody would really know."
Eliot Marshall: "We can just pretend this is not true."
John Hassett: "This never happened."
Eliot Marshall: "We can just pretend that this does not exist."
John Hassett: Dude, but of course pride, you're going, "How can they learn? I've got to learn this," and then was it. I loved it.
Eliot Marshall: You're the one who did that for me, I was like, "I've got to learn this." I still had one more year in Jersey, but the closest school was Philly, and I was in high school so I couldn't do it. Everyone asks me now, all the kids ask me now, "Well, why don't you Uber, bro?" You're like, "Yeah, dude, getting from South Jersey to Philly?"
John Hassett: Franklinville, no less.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, Franklinville to Philadelphia in 1998, it was impossible, it couldn't happen.
John Hassett: It didn't exist, no cabs, no Ubers, no Lyfts.
Eliot Marshall: No, nothing.
John Hassett: That's funny.
Eliot Marshall: Like you just said, you started teaching at a karate school.
John Hassett: Yep.
Eliot Marshall: What was that experience like for you, opening a karate school? I can remember, one of the things was, I used to come down to May's Landing, and then you would drive me back and we would do the black belt class at [Sabenim's 00:06:04], right?
John Hassett: Right, yeah.
Eliot Marshall: Then my parents would pick me up from Sabenim's, so we did that. That was twice a week I used to go.
John Hassett: Wow. I was actually doing construction, then it fell through. I forget what year, it was like in the '90s, and then I was helping Sabenim, working, giving me a couple bucks, but I wasn't making money. I just had a house built, and then I just got fed up with construction and stuff, and I was just like, "You know what? I'm going to open up a school." Then that's what I did, so I just drove around May's Landing, because we had to be like, I think it was 25 miles from the nearest school, it was some kind of-
Eliot Marshall: [Suebuck 00:06:41], right.
John Hassett: Yeah, Suebuck federation thing. I found a little, above a bakery, it had no bathroom, one light. I go up there, me and Martin, remember Martin?
Eliot Marshall: McGrath, I remember.
John Hassett: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:06:54]-
Eliot Marshall: Where is he right now? Is he still around?
John Hassett: He's still in Washington Township, I don't talk to him too much, but he helped me out. He helped me hand out flyers, so we're doing this Halloween parade, and then I got four people called me up, two girls and the lady of the place I was renting, [Herner 00:07:12]. I'm just sitting there going, "Oh my God, I don't want to do this," because it was four girls, they were giggling, laughing, I'm trying to show them self-defense, like bear hugs from behind, they're like, "You're touching me, don't move. Oh, she's tickling me." I'm going, "Oh my God, this is not like Sabenim's school, what I'm used to," like, "Come on, let's line up, right?"
Eliot Marshall: The new people just joined in, they just join and they just-
John Hassett: And they acted like everybody else, but these are my first four people, and I'm just going, "Oh man." Then I put this, it was kind of like the tattoo we have, I put this sign up one of my friends made me on the building by myself, on a ladder and I'm struggling. I get it up, two days later, the zoning board says, "Take that down, a $100 a day fine." I'm going, "I'm out of work, have no money, back on my mortgage, credit cards are maxed."
Eliot Marshall: Are you married with kids at this point?
John Hassett: Oh yeah, and married, what year was it? No kids, 1991, and it was like November 9th, 1991, and I said, "Oh my God, I'm sinking rapidly here." Then Martin actually floated me some money, and goes, "Hey, look, here's a loan just to eat," and I'm like, "Oh man, I don't know if I can ever pay you back, I don't know when I'm going to pay you back." He had money, but it was still the thought, and I'm like, "Wow, man." I just hustled and hustled, they threw me out of that building in one month, so I had to find another building.
The first one I found, and the rent was like whatever it was, and I went back and they added $200 to it. I went, "I thought it was $800, now it's $1,000," they go, "Eh, should've took it when we offered it to you." I'm like, "Oh my God," so that was an experience. That was a nail biter.
Eliot Marshall: Now you don't teach karate at all.
John Hassett: Nope.
Eliot Marshall: Just jiu jitsu.
John Hassett: Yep. Actually, I work at a drug rehab once a week, and they don't have any mats, and they don't want to really touchy-touchy, so they're real sensitive and they've been abused, half of them, so I teach [Suebuck-do 00:08:58] actually to them. They never get up, I only promoted probably, I don't know, 300 people, one kid to his orange belt, but I taught them everything. All these people are from New York, they're from this one little neighborhood, they're all Jewish.
I go in there, and they're just all crazy people, they're like, "We look forward to your class. What do we call you?" I said, "The great one," or every week they call me something different, and they're like, "Do we have to call you master?" I go, "You do, you have to call me master."
Eliot Marshall: Now you have two jiu jitsu schools, right?
John Hassett: Yes, one in Williamstown, one in [Seoul 00:09:32].
Eliot Marshall: In Seoul, so Seoul was the first one, right?
John Hassett: Yeah, Seoul was my first one.
Eliot Marshall: What was that transition like?
John Hassett: I went from May's Landing, and then that plaza was in the ... My landlord came in and said, "Your lease is up in January," it's a week before Thanksgiving, I said, "All right, yeah."
Eliot Marshall: How many students did you have at this point?
John Hassett: Probably not too many, like maybe 80, 100, mostly karate. They said, "We're not going to resign your lease." I go, "No, I'll resign for another couple years," or five years, whatever it was. They said, "No, we're not doing that, because the government bought the building, so you got to get out." I said, "Well, how long?" They go, "You've got a month." I'm like [stammers], so I went across the street, found this warehouse and spent all this time fixing it up, put 15 grand into it and bathrooms and all this other nonsense, and half my students would stop by and see me, and I'm working all through Christmas and Thanksgiving. Like 40 of them quit, while I said, "I'm doing this so you can have a school and so I can have a business," and I had a couple black belts teaching for me, but they weren't me.
They were like, "Well, you're not teaching as much anymore." I go, "I'm here because they're throwing us out of there," but nobody cares. I was there for a couple years, sold it to my student, then I went to Washington Township and said, "I want to be closer to my family," and that's that, I just did it.
Eliot Marshall: What was it like opening a jiu jitsu school? What year was this?
John Hassett: Well, I always taught jiu jitsu at my karate school. I'm telling you, the first week I got my first lessons in jiu jitsu by Steve and Phil-
Eliot Marshall: You can't not, right?
John Hassett: You can't not teach it.
Eliot Marshall: You can't not teach it.
John Hassett: As a matter of fact, I was actually doing good in business money-wise, and I was doing construction helping my father, doing bathrooms and kitchens. We had the old wooden floor, and I said, "Well, for safety we should get a mat, for safety, not for jiu jitsu, but for safety." Me and my dad took out the window, and I brought this [reso-light 00:11:33] mat, it was like five grand, one piece, I had it specially made, right through my window, right on the floor. Everybody's like, "Well, where's the emblem on the floor? We're going to do forms," I go, "Safety is first now."
Then after I started a black belt leadership club, and I said, "If you want to do it, I'm going to add in some jiu jitsu." By the time people started flowing in, I was a blue belt, a couple stripes, I was getting good, but I think [Chris Hulter 00:11:59] said back in the '90s, if you were a purple belt, you were a God, so nobody knows. My students were like, "Wow, you're great at everything," when I first showed them and stuff, they're like, "You're great at jiu jitsu, you're great at karate." I'm like, "Man, do not come in with ..." They wanted to go to Philly with me.
Eliot Marshall: "No, you stay right here."
John Hassett: "There's no reason for you to go to Philly and see me get beat up by some women or some 15-year-old," like Zach Maxwell, he was probably eight years old. He got on my back one time, this little kid, he's Jimmy's age, so he was eight or nine, I'm playing with him and he just jumps on my back. I'm a white belt, and he started strangling me, I'm like, "Are you kidding me? This nine-year-old, I can't get him off my back, he's got the hooks in," I'm a white belt having a meltdown. I think I slammed him against the wall or something and went, "Dammit, don't ..." He was a yellow belt, he wasn't a white belt, but all great memories. Then when people came in, a couple guys came in from these judo schools, and my nephew-
Eliot Marshall: To your karate school.
John Hassett: Yeah, they'd come into my karate school-
Eliot Marshall: In May's Landing still, right?
John Hassett: Now I'm probably a purple belt, and then people starting hearing about there was a karate guy doing jiu jitsu, so these judo guys were like, "Oh really?" They're all judo black belts, and most of them were state troopers. My nephew trained with me a little bit, this young kid, his friend's dad was a trooper and a black belt in judo, so when the friend came over to my nephew's house and seen a gi, he said, "What is that? You do judo too?" My nephew Jerry says, "No, that's my uncle's, I do jiu jitsu with him." He goes, "Oh, my dad's a black belt, he could beat up your uncle."
My nephew Jerry's a little nutty, he said, "Oh yeah? Well, tell him to come over to my uncle's place," so the guy shows up. He's like, "Is there a John Hassett here?" I go, "Yeah, that's me, what's up?" "Hey, you do judo?" "Nah, I do jiu jitsu." "Can I come in and do a [randori 00:13:47]?" I'm like, "I don't know what that is, what's that?" "Well, wrestle, or roll around," or what do we call it? We just say roll around.
Eliot Marshall: We call it open mat, right?
John Hassett: Yeah, open mat, roll around, never really used randori. He came in-
Eliot Marshall: We do now.
John Hassett: Yeah. We don't, I just say wrestle. Phil gets upset every time I say it, he goes, "It's rolling around," and I go, "You want to wrestle?" "No, I don't want to wrestle, I want to roll around."
Eliot Marshall: If you said wrestle to me, I'd say no, because that means we have to do takedowns, and I'm going to sit through the guard because I'm too old for that shit.
John Hassett: He came over-
Eliot Marshall: You say wrestle too.
John Hassett: Yeah, he's a wrestler. He's the same age right now where I started jiu jitsu. He's a third degree right now, I was no belt at his age right now.
Eliot Marshall: You're a third degree black belt?
John Hassett: Ain't that unfair? That's not fair, right?
Eliot Marshall: Fuck, and you're 30.
Speaker 3: 31.
Eliot Marshall: 31.
John Hassett: That's when I started, 31. Man, it's crazy, it just rips by. We have the same father, my dad is 23 years older than me, I'm 23 years older than him. It's like Brian Simmons, remember Brian?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah.
John Hassett: He would say, "Yo, your son's going to be really good and all," and my son Johnny, my oldest son, I'm like, "He's two, you don't even know him. What do you mean he's going to be good?" He goes, "No, I've seen him wrestle or roll around in our tournament," or he won something, I go, "That's my brother."
Eliot Marshall: "That's my brother."
John Hassett: "That's your brother? How old's your father?" I'm like, "He had him late in life, man." That's when the trooper came over and, "Hey, can we do randori?" I go, "What is that?" They go, "Like, can we train?" I go, "Yeah, let's train," and I just choked the crap out of him. He went and told all of his friends, "This guy beat me up," and then-
Eliot Marshall: This is how it was back in the day, this is like how you got students.
John Hassett: I love that.
Eliot Marshall: You had to beat people up, and now you don't do that anymore.
John Hassett: No, not now, they get all-
Eliot Marshall: I mean, but it's not even necessary.
John Hassett: Well, now it's already known.
Eliot Marshall: It's already known, but-
John Hassett: The cat's out of the bag.
Eliot Marshall: Those days were the best. I can remember when people would come into our school, and I'd just be sitting on the wall during interim classes, going like, "I hope he picks me, I hope he picks me, I'll fuck this person up."
John Hassett: I remember, and then he brought in this guy, Mark Rowe, and Mark Rowe still trains with me, he's a third degree black belt. He got his black belt with Jimmy, he's been with me probably 20 years. I have students, which I was telling Peter last night, you can tell you have a good school if you have students for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, because the door is like this. You'll get those people like Peter or you to Amal, or Amal to you, and just, man, they're there forever. That's what I like about it, good group.
Eliot Marshall: For us, that's how we built our school. We've never ... I can't say never, but we-
John Hassett: In the beginning.
Eliot Marshall: Not even in the beginning, but sometimes it happens, but none of our GMs do we hire out. Like everyone got their black belt from us.
John Hassett: Because then they're inside.
Eliot Marshall: They know how to do it, yeah.
John Hassett: They're in the inner circle.
Eliot Marshall: When you were making that transition and when you were thinking big for your school, what was that thought process like? Did you just wing it?
John Hassett: Mostly winged it. [Wunged 00:16:47] it?
Eliot Marshall: Because like Sabenim, like when we say Sabenim, if you guys want to reference back to the [Mike Araguso 00:16:52] podcast, that's how we refer to him, as our instructor.
John Hassett: See, that's funny when you say Mike, because we never call him that.
Eliot Marshall: I've never called him Mike in my-
John Hassett: Ever.
Eliot Marshall: Ever, only when explaining. Sabenim was very business oriented.
John Hassett: Very, yeah.
Eliot Marshall: He became very business oriented. Did you follow in his footsteps there?
John Hassett: When we were on ... You joined on the school on Main Street?
Eliot Marshall: Who, Sabenim's?
John Hassett: Yeah, did you join there?
Eliot Marshall: No, I joined when he was on the Pike.
John Hassett: All right, so back on the Pike, I was there probably a year after he opened up, and then he had 100 students but he was very good, yadda yadda, and-
Eliot Marshall: Very personable, very charismatic.
John Hassett: Yeah, but you could tell he loved what he did. Where he came from, I think where he trained from, his instructor-
Eliot Marshall: Jacoby.
John Hassett: Right, I didn't want to say anything, but he went out to Vegas to make movies and stuff like this, and like, "You think you're good? Well, then you run this school." This is what I heard, "You run this school, see how easy it is." When he came back and seen the attendance and everybody liked him, because he's so charismatic and fun and had great classes, there was 30 in the class, he's got 50, 60, and they're like, "Whoa." Jacoby gets a little jealous and goes, "You think it's so easy? Go open up your own school. Here, go over here in Williamstown," Crapville, because it's not the best of the towns.
He takes off and does pretty good, then he ends up with master [Ginyer 00:18:12], Bo Ginyer, they were close friends and it just worked. He was a hard worker, but he only had like 100, I don't know, not too many students, [Diventour 00:18:22], myself, you, Meyers.
Eliot Marshall: The Genovas.
John Hassett: [Barry Detaketty 00:18:27], the people that were there all the time, but he never went to that next level where, I don't know, you can get cable or something, I don't know. Then master [Southerton 00:18:35], when we joined the federation, he met him and he had like four schools, 4,000 students, and they're like, "What are you doing that I'm not doing?" "Come up and visit us in [Newberg 00:18:44], New York and I'll show you." We got up there, me, Hector ... Remember Kelly Busby?
Eliot Marshall: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Hassett: Her son actually used to train me a little bit. We all drove up there, it was like a four-hour drive, John [Garaguso 00:18:57] too, and we're like, "All right, what are we going to learn?" We already know karate, it has nothing to do with karate, how good you are. Southerton was actually awesome at karate, he was flexible, kicks. We go up there, and he ran it like a business in his uniform, we called it a [dobaka 00:19:12] gi, got in his car, that guy ran around, you couldn't keep up with him.
You ran the school, and bing bing bing bing bam, and man, by the time we got home, a four-hour drive home, we had all these notes, and he just revamped everything. I learned, I was just helping out as an instructor and helping the kid's classes. Remember [Mr. Alberti 00:19:31], remember that guy?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, Fred.
John Hassett: Yeah, Fred Alberti, I don't know whatever happened to him.
Eliot Marshall: Brain cancer.
John Hassett: Did he die? Did he pass away?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah.
John Hassett: I remember he had Agent Orange from Vietnam, he had those big legs and stuff, but he was the sweetest guy. We did a tots program, he said, "That's it, starting tomorrow, this is what we're doing." Then he did it, and then all of the sudden he got, I remember he was up to like probably 600 students, like 580 students or something. I'm like, "Man," in little Craptown Williamstown. I took a lot of things, I learned from hearing him talking, but it takes guts to stop everything you're doing and revamp it to make it better.
Eliot Marshall: Especially when you were surviving.
John Hassett: Yeah, and you're like, "Oh man, if I do this, what happens if it don't work out? What happens if people don't want to do this?" He was pretty brilliant.
Eliot Marshall: Do you run the jiu jitsu schools like that?
John Hassett: Yeah, I run it like a business, because if you don't treat it like a business, usually you'll be out of business, because people want to come in there and they won a tournament or something or they want it free. I go, "Listen, I've got to pay rent, I've got to pay employees." I give a free month, so if you see the value, good, if you don't, you get a tee shirt, have a nice day. I don't make a big deal out of it, because some people don't like it. Some people don't like me, some people don't like you, they go to another school, whatever. I go, "Well, as long as you're training jiu jitsu, it's cool," but what are you going to do?
Eliot Marshall: You opened a second location.
John Hassett: I opened the second in Williamstown, I was going to do it in Sabenim's old school, the old school we trained at.
Eliot Marshall: On Main Street.
John Hassett: On Main Street, Sabenim still owned it, moved over to his new location and had that vacant building for wrestling. He said, "Hey, why don't we put a jiu jitsu school in there?" Somebody got the mats, I said, "All right, I'll do it." Then as I was setting up, he changed his mind or something, I was just like ... Then that's when things started getting tight, I forget what year it was, it was like '10, and I was just like, "Why don't we do that? It ain't going to affect your karate business whatsoever." I think he had some health problems and this problems and that problems, you know, life, and so I just opened up a little school down the street, put one of my, he was purple ... Actually, one of the guys was working for me, I said, "I've got great news. You don't have to work here anymore, I got your own place, you can run it. Life is good, baby. Open it, you know how to run it." It was this guy Jeff Jones, I said, "You could run it, but we'll do it the same way."
Eliot Marshall: What was that like, having two locations, like going from one to two?
John Hassett: It was tricky, because before I even opened the second one, I already signed the lease for this guy Jeff, and I was going to surprise him and go, "All right, you're in." I just do things, and he goes, "Oh, can I talk to you, Mr. Hassett?" I said, "Well, let me tell you something," "Oh, go ahead," "No, you go ahead," one of those deals. I tell him, "I've got this school, you're going to run it, you don't have to be here, do whatever," great purple belt, basics, good with the kids and all-around good guy.
I go, "What were you going to tell me?" "Yeah, I'm giving you my two-weeks' notice. I'm moving to [Yorley 00:22:33], Pennsylvania, I'm getting married," and I'm going, "Good one. Anyhow, here's what you're going to do, you're going to go over here ..." He's like, "I'm serious," and I go, "Well, okay." We have a saying in my life, it's called getting Hassetted, so when something goes wrong, you go, "I just got Hassetted." I have people go, "I got Hassetted today." "What's that?" "Oh, I got four flat tires," or whatever.
I go, "All right, how am I going to fix this?" He's in school or doing what he's doing, I go, "Who do I know? I need one person that loves jiu jitsu. I don't care anything, if you're good, who loves jiu jitsu?" We both said at the same time this guy, his dad's a doctor, and he was one of my private guys, [JP Cavalieri 00:23:16], John Paul, and I said JP, he's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," because he loved jiu jitsu, did privates twice a week. Now he's still working for me, it's like 12 years later, still loves it.
Eliot Marshall: Still runs that school.
John Hassett: Still runs that school.
Eliot Marshall: Are you at the Seoul school?
John Hassett: I never go over there. Once and a while, I mean I go-
Eliot Marshall: You never go over to Williamstown?
John Hassett: Never, I let him do his own thing. My good friend Tom Marino, he helps him, he's a retired police officer, a black belt also. JP's like a second degree, Tom's a first degree, they run the whole program.
Eliot Marshall: Do you do joint promotions and things like-
John Hassett: Yeah, so I go over there and do, every three months we have promotions, we have the kids promotions in Williamstown. I was talking to Peter last night, you can switch schools.
Eliot Marshall: Or whatever, right.
John Hassett: It's the same, it's my school anyhow, so it always works out. People come Saturday, open mat, to our school, but it's weird, people like the way JP teaches and people like the way ... If you said, "Amal was teaching and you were teaching," you'd have guys go here and guys go here, just, "I like the way you explain it better."
Eliot Marshall: Do you still teach a lot?
John Hassett: I teach every class.
Eliot Marshall: Every class.
John Hassett: Except the kid's class. The kids, man.
Eliot Marshall: It's okay.
John Hassett: Oh man. I don't hate them, but I don't want to be a babysitter. I want to teach what I'm teaching, and you're over there [whines], I'm like, "All right, I'm done with this."
Eliot Marshall: The kid's has to be super structured.
John Hassett: Right, yeah.
Eliot Marshall: All of our stuff is structured, but I get a big say in what it-
John Hassett: Right, exactly.
Eliot Marshall: But the kids, it's like, "Okay, boom, games," different.
John Hassett: I had my son, my son Johnny's a brown belt, he's 23, he's real good, he teaches the kids. He's a smaller guy, he's like 140, and all the kids love him, and I'm like, "Thank God."
Eliot Marshall: When you think back over all the years, 19-whenever-that-was, '97, when you first opened your karate school-
John Hassett: '91 was karate.
Eliot Marshall: Okay, '91, what would you do differently?
John Hassett: Differently? Business, I'd be a little bit more organized, I think.
Eliot Marshall: Where were you unorganized?
John Hassett: Well, back then I didn't even have a credit card machine, everybody's paying cash.
Eliot Marshall: Paying cash.
John Hassett: Now today, nobody pays cash.
Eliot Marshall: Please don't give me cash, like that's just a pain in my ass, right?
John Hassett: Right, they look at me and they go, "All right, a tee shirt, that's 10 bucks, all right," and they give me a debit card, and I'm like, "You don't have $10 on you?" Nobody does cash anymore, I mean literally zero cash. Now just lately, I started doing Zen Planner, because my school is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, so maybe not super big, not as big as you guys, but it's just me and my son at my school and then JP at the other school.
Eliot Marshall: Are they both on Zen Planner?
John Hassett: Yep, and they're both connected and both take attendance. I don't even want to be tech savvy, I use my phone, that's about it.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, I know. When I called you to do a podcast, you're like, "Actually, I'm coming out to Denver, and I don't know how to use Zoom." I was like, "Bro, it's post-COVID, how do you not know how to use Zoom?"
John Hassett: Actually, we did Zoom, but I have a real good guy, [Jason Kinner 00:26:15].
Eliot Marshall: But you didn't do it.
John Hassett: Well, he set it all up.
Eliot Marshall: Right, you just showed up.
John Hassett: I just showed up, and I went, "What do you want me to do?" They go, "Show a move," and then people would, it was-
Eliot Marshall: I was like, "How do you not know how? All you've got to do is hit a button your computer, man, what do you mean?"
John Hassett: Put it all together. You know what it is? I could do anything, I could be great at anything I want to do, but I just don't want to do it. I just go, "Meh, I don't care."
Eliot Marshall: My wife gets mad at me for this.
John Hassett: Why, you say the same thing?
Eliot Marshall: Because I have no interest in doing anything outside of what I want to do. Whatever it is that I want to do, I'm going to figure out how to be great at it.
John Hassett: That's right.
Eliot Marshall: She gets mad, and she's like, "All you do is sit up in that damn office and talk to yourself all morning," and then I go teach afterwards, I'll teach all day afterwards. She's like, "It doesn't make any money," and I'm like, "You just wait, I'm going to figure out how to make all of this make money."
John Hassett: Exactly.
Eliot Marshall: "Then the second I do, I'm going to pay someone else to do it so we get a little bit, and then I'm going to go figure something else out." I am uninterested in doing what I don't want to do.
John Hassett: That's the way I think, 100%. I go, "Why would you want to ..." Like somebody asked me, I go to ZFG, and I go, "I don't care." They go, "You don't know how to plug that in?" I go, "No, I don't care." They go, "Well, then you can't do the podcast," I go, "Then I won't do it, I don't care." I love jiu jistu, I study jiu jitsu all the time. I seen, I don't know if it was a video or a podcast or something, you were talking and you go, "Yeah, I only teach [John Denneher 00:27:41] stuff." I go, "Mm, interesting," you know what I mean? Because I do that too, but you must've sold 50 million videos, everybody bought them.
I was wrestling this one guy, I was up in Philly at a promotion, we were just doing open mat or whatever when the leg locks came out, so I was doing this back step leg lock thing. The guy goes, "Oh, you got the John Denneher leg lock system," and I go, "How do you know?" He goes, "Oh, because I have it too." I go, "Well, I just did the same move to you six times, do you watch the videos?" He's like, "Well, yeah, but not a lot." I go, "Well, there's the difference."
Eliot Marshall: That's the problem.
John Hassett: Yeah, "I study, you just watch." I study it.
Eliot Marshall: Study, I study.
John Hassett: Everything.
Eliot Marshall: There's a big difference.
John Hassett: I think John Denneher knows that, I think he knows, "Wow, why would we let this secret out?" Because he knows, like [Salo 00:28:27] said, "Everybody wants to be a champion, but not everybody wants to do what it takes to become a champion." I'll let you have my secrets, there you go, you're not going to do it. You're not going to do five million pushups a day and run 18 miles, like the [Dava Godwin 00:28:37] guy, you're not going to do that. I'll tell you everything I'm doing, you're not doing it because you ain't got it.
Eliot Marshall: You don't got it.
John Hassett: That's right.
Eliot Marshall: It's so interesting, because people still aren't, it's crazy.
John Hassett: Nope, and they buy the next one that comes out and the next one, and they go, "I got the whole collection." I go, "Well, show me something, teach me something."
Eliot Marshall: I could understand it a little bit, I don't understand it, it's not my style, but the leg locks was a totally different thing, but the back system is amazing, and it's still "traditional jiu jitsu". You watch the former DDS smash people with it, and you're like, "How did you not ..."
John Hassett: How did you not know that?
Eliot Marshall: It's right there, that's in the first 10 minutes.
John Hassett: It reminds me of Chris Hulter again, it's like it beat you up. The only reason you beat me up is I didn't know jiu jitsu. Now I do, now you're not beating me up. It's the same, and they go, "Wait a minute, I know everything on those DVDs, I know every move of the back," you know every move, but if you didn't put it together and understand how it really ... That's his genius, that's the way he ... Some people don't even like him, they go, "I can't watch him, I fall asleep," and I go, "You're an idiot, you don't see genius when you see it, you're not a genius."
Eliot Marshall: He is difficult to listen to, he's difficult to be around, but it doesn't fucking matter. It works, and that's it.
John Hassett: I'm not married to him.
Eliot Marshall: I don't care, yeah.
John Hassett: I bought the DVDs, I'm not dating him. Like somebody goes, "Hey, would you like to meet John Denneher?" I said, "Yeah, but ..."
Eliot Marshall: No, you wouldn't.
John Hassett: I might be disappointed with it.
Eliot Marshall: You're going to be very disappointed.
John Hassett: I go, "Yo, hey! I got your DVD."
Eliot Marshall: He doesn't care.
John Hassett: He doesn't care.
Eliot Marshall: He does not care.
John Hassett: Yeah, which is good though, I like that.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, it's fine.
John Hassett: Because he's him, he wears a rash guard, he don't care what you think.
Eliot Marshall: He does not care.
John Hassett: He's got his fanny pack, he's ready to go.
Eliot Marshall: He's been wearing the fanny pack since fanny packs were cool, went out of style, and then came back into style. He does not give a fuck.
John Hassett: Yeah, I like that.
Eliot Marshall: I think your story, John, and how you've gone through martial arts is an obsession, like you've just been obsessed.
John Hassett: I love it.
Eliot Marshall: You were obsessed with karate, and then you got obsessed with jiu jitsu, it's just a love affair of obsession.
John Hassett: One of my guys, Jason Kinner helps me teach every class, he's like my IT guy, we go hiking, he's a hiker with me, we do the Appalachian Trail and stuff. I mess it up all the time, so I have to look at him and go, "What's that saying?" "Obsessed is a word used by the lazy to describe the dedicated." I don't know who really said that. "That's so true, because you're just obsessed," I go, "No Eliot, you train twice a month. You want to be as good as me and you train twice a month, so you call me obsessed," even though I may be obsessed. Name somebody great-
Eliot Marshall: That's not obsessed.
John Hassett: Michael Jordan, Martin Luther ... Anybody, and you go, "They don't dabble, they don't go twice a week," they're obsessed, and that's how they lose 100 pounds. David Goggins, he's obsessed, that's why he's 100 pounds lighter and whatever he is.
Eliot Marshall: It takes an obsession. If you really want it, it takes an obsession.
John Hassett: Yeah.
Eliot Marshall: What was your biggest obstacle through this whole time of running martial arts schools? Like what was the most difficult part?
John Hassett: It was always a grind, like it was a hustle and grind. I was saying to Peter last night, I think, I said, "You've got this girl, there's a young girl, purple belt."
Eliot Marshall: Emma.
John Hassett: Yeah, she wins all the medals, she's really good. Not to jink you, but I go, "That girl there quits," and he goes, "Are you kidding me?" I always told JP this, the guy that teaches for me, I go, "The biggest pet peeve I have is begging people to train." I don't care if you stink at jiu jitsu, but you go, "Well, Billy keeps beating me up," I go, "Well, train a little bit more." "I can't, because ..." Begging people to train or calling them up, how many times I've got to call you, "Where you been?" "Oh, I'm going through a rough time." "What's the rough time?" "My dog died," "That was three months ago, dude. I mean, I love dogs too, but let's move on, come on. Nobody cares, just train more." I have a shirt, did I give you a shirt?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah.
John Hassett: What color was it?
Eliot Marshall: Black.
John Hassett: Black? All right, I've got a gray one for you, you'll like it, it says, "Shut up, nobody cares, train more," like nobody cares. You're crying that you didn't win the belt or the medal or whatever, but you're the crybaby. Look at all the fighters, everybody goes through something. If you listen to every fighter, like when you were in the house and you hear all those little interviews, even if they're half-true, every one of them is living in a car, somebody broke up with them, somebody died, so there's always hardship. There's two people, the ones that give up on it, or the ones that go, "I'm going to make it."
Eliot Marshall: You guys might make fun of me here.
John Hassett: Not really.
Eliot Marshall: I love the Peloton.
John Hassett: Do you? My daughter has one.
Eliot Marshall: I love it, bro. My favorite rider is Jess King, and everyone thinks she's my favorite rider because she's got big boobs and she puts them out. It's not why she's my favorite instructor, that's why I chose her the first time for sure, because I'm trying to be, "Eh, all right, you." Literally, it's what she says, and I can remember the first time I was riding, and it's fucking hard, like I'm not good.
John Hassett: My daughter and her boyfriend has one, and I never rode on it, and he teaches fitness, he goes, "Dude, that thing is tough."
Eliot Marshall: Anyway, again, I'm not a bike rider, I'm a big dude, so I'm on it the first time I'm doing it, and I'm getting ready to turn that resistance down. I'm just about ready to, I'm like, "Okay, I can't do this anymore," and she stops on her bike and she looks at the screen-
John Hassett: Is she live, or is she-
Eliot Marshall: No, it could be, but this wasn't live, it was on demand. She looks at her screen and she goes, "But what if you fucking had to?" I was like, "Oh God!" I'm like, "Okay."
John Hassett: A zombie's chasing you.
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, so that's why I love her. I was riding the other day, and she goes, "Look, everyone has a [shituation 00:34:26], everyone has one."
John Hassett: I have them all the time.
Eliot Marshall: We have them all the time. "So what are you going to do about it? What the fuck are you going to do about it?"
John Hassett: Turn it down a little bit, I turn it up.
Eliot Marshall: Turn it up, yeah.
John Hassett: My wife would say, "Why do you take more on or do that?' I go, "Because I can." I say this all the time, no matter what, I always go like this, "I'm a black belt." I say two things, and it means-
Eliot Marshall: Oh my God, I'm going to make my kids listen to this. Go.
John Hassett: If I'm doing something, and I'm hiking with this guy Kinner, so it's a 100-mile wilderness and we're going to do it in 10 days, no big deal. We hike 60, 20, 30 miles, and I'm a hiker, I could do it. We get there, we start hiking, we're at like 10 miles in and I'm like, "Wow, I've got a 40-pound pack on my back," it starts raining, and I'm like, "All right, before you went up there, you know don't be a wuss, you're going to grind through it. You're a freaking black belt." Jiu jitsu has nothing to do with walking this trail, but I say in my mind, "Really? You don't have a 300-pound guy mounting you with an Ezekiel choke on your windpipe right now, shut up."
Man, you get into the thick of it, now you're 50 miles in, there's no return. I sat down like I'm faking I'm crying, I'm like, "That's it, I quit, I'm done!" He's one of my black belts, he walks by, he goes, "Okay," and just left me there. I'm going, "I got to get up, I've got to go," like shut up, just grind it out. Everything I think in my whole life, it's like I do it the hardest way you could possibly do it, I outwork stupid. I just go, "Just grind it, just grind it, just grind it," and I always think of that too, what that lady said. "What happens if I just wrestled all night and I'm dying, my leg hurts, I twist my knee, my back hurts, I've got 47 things, somebody breaks into your house? There's the wife and kid, kill them first, kill me last, what are you going to do?
"You're going to get up and go kill somebody, or you're going to get killed, one or the other." I have that mentality too, I like that, that's the way I am.
Eliot Marshall: Whenever my kids say, "Dad, how'd you know how to do that?" I was like, "Look, I'm a black belt." It's so much more than jiu jitsu, I'm a fucking black belt.
John Hassett: Or my second one is, "You're a Hassett, start acting like one." They never even ask me what that means, and it means nothing, because you just say, "I'm a Marshall. You're a Marshall, go act like one." "What's that?" "Marshalls don't give up," like whatever, they don't even know. If you brainwash them when they're younger, and then they're like, "Why'd you make the Olympic team?" "I'm a Marshall," and the guy's like, "What's that mean?" "I don't know."
Eliot Marshall: "I don't know."
John Hassett: "I never asked."
Eliot Marshall: "That's what my dad said."
John Hassett: "That's what my dad said, 'Shut up, you're a Marshall, act like it,'" like you see on Game of Thrones or something, you're like, "You're a Lannister," or whatever the heck they are. You're like, "That's right," I don't know what that means.
Eliot Marshall: Don't know what that means. It doesn't matter.
John Hassett: I try to think of that when we're doing three-man positions, and the guy's on your back and your windpipe is getting crushed, and they're like, "Stop your whining, just get out, you know how to get up." Like [Sherney Carter 00:37:12], I watched him when he was on the show one time, and I'm not a big fan, I don't know who he is. Then I'd seen him coaching when they were live fighting, and I'm like, "That guy's a good coach." He goes, "You've been here before," that was the saying, "You've been here before, man. You know what to do. Somebody's on your back, you've been here before," you go, "Ah." I like that, I use that one a lot too.
Eliot Marshall: Man, thanks for coming.
John Hassett: Thanks for having me.
Eliot Marshall: Like we were saying, I don't know, when's the last time we saw each other in person? At least a decade.
John Hassett: I can't remember. The last time I remember is that tournament we did, I was a brown belt.
Eliot Marshall: The Pans [crosstalk 00:37:48].
John Hassett: No, we were just saying, who'd he wrestle?
Eliot Marshall: Oh, [Ricky McCauley 00:37:51].
John Hassett: No, that wasn't Pan Ams.
Eliot Marshall: That was Pans at purple.
John Hassett: Oh, was it?
Eliot Marshall: No, Pans at brown that I wrestled that ... That was '06 when McCauley and I went.
John Hassett: No, Glover, was it? Who'd he wrestle?
Speaker 3: [Joe Zankitas 00:38:02] was the absolute.
Eliot Marshall: That was purple belt. [crosstalk 00:38:05]
John Hassett: No, but Glover-
Speaker 3: Glover's the chair, yeah.
John Hassett: Yeah, so they-
Eliot Marshall: That was ... Yep.
John Hassett: Wasn't it? [crosstalk 00:38:12] I've wrestled ... What's his name? Shawn Williams beat me up. He got lucky.
Eliot Marshall: But man-
John Hassett: Thanks for having me.
Eliot Marshall: Thanks for ... Like I said, you and Gary Gusso, you were like the two people that kept me in it throughout my childhood, and the men that introduced me to this.
John Hassett: Last quick story, I remember we had that door, and you were like, "I don't want to," whatever, throwing a fit, but you were six, right?
Eliot Marshall: Yeah, I was six or seven.
John Hassett: Your dad literally threw you on the floor, closed the door, and I go, "I like that guy, I like that."
Eliot Marshall: You were there for that class.
John Hassett: I was there, he threw you in. I don't know if it was a tots class or a kids class.
Eliot Marshall: No, there was no tots class. Dude, that was when Gary Gusso was at, in my opinion, one of his heydays, because he'd have all belts, all kids in the class.
John Hassett: Right, and just a free-for-all.
Eliot Marshall: He crushed it. That was my dad, he just threw me in and he walked out.
John Hassett: Good man, that Mr. Marshall.
Eliot Marshall: My parents got a couple things right, they got a couple things right with me.
John Hassett: That's awesome, and you turned out pretty good.
Eliot Marshall: You know, I had great parents, I had great people in my life at very important times. Like that day, I can remember your garage, that was an important time.
John Hassett: That's good, that little thing.
Eliot Marshall: I remember that night.
John Hassett: That's awesome.
Eliot Marshall: I had great people in my life at very important times in those moments, when you could be going here or going there, like because I could've come to college, and then who knows what would've happened? But I came to college, and I had this thing, more than college that I was pointing at, so it nudged me.
John Hassett: Yeah, but I see you pay it forward too, so hopefully you pay it forward and give it to the next guy, and then your kids, your students, your GMs.
Eliot Marshall: That's the goal.
John Hassett: Give it to the next group coming up.
Eliot Marshall: That's the goal, right? Martial arts changed my life.
John Hassett: Yes, 100%, awesome. Thanks for having me.
Eliot Marshall: John, thanks man, appreciate it.
John Hassett: All right, buddy.
Eliot Marshall: All right guys, that's it with Easton Online. This is John Hassett, go check him out on Hassett Jiu Jitsu, it's all over the internet. You say your son does the Facebook and the Instagram, so don't even try to talk to him.
John Hassett: Yeah, don't, I won't get back to you.
Eliot Marshall: Guys, go to our website, easton.online, where we have a ton of information for you. We have all of our webinars that we put out, on sales, appointment setting, closing sales, a whole host of things, culture and core values, and then you can just follow our journey. If you want some help, we are always doing free consults with me. Easton.online, you can get all of that information there, so that is it for this episode, and we'll see you soon.
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