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Sarasota attorney Rob McLain Jr. directs the frustrations of his civil litigation and criminal defense practice not at clients and adversaries, but in the ancient Japanese martial art of jiu jitsu, which he does five or six hours a week at the West Coast Martial Arts Academy.

“It’s rarely beneficial to be overly aggressive; you’ll never see me advertise myself as a pit bull or any other violent animal,” says McLain, who works with his father at the law firm of Metcalfe & McLain. “I believe in dealing with people calmly and courteously, which in my business can be hard. So to be able to go hit things three times a week is a tremendous outlet for everything you feel but can’t express.”

McLain enrolled in Muay Thai classes (essentially kickboxing, but with the use of knees and elbows) at the academy after watching his young son’s karate class from the sidelines—a class he now helps teach. “It’s intense; at the end of the first class I thought I was going to throw up,” he says.

Now he works at perfecting the art of Japanese jiu jitsu, a mix of judo throws, hitting, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and grappling. “It’s more fun than it sounds,” he says. “Nobody’s trying to kill each other. You learn very quickly you will win and lose on a regular basis.”

McLain says jiu jitsu is a great equalizer. “We have all kinds of people—at least one doctor, a tattoo artist, a general contractor, high school kids, people with blue-collar jobs. It’s a reminder not to judge people on their circumstances in life.”

And he appreciates, in his late 30s, the challenge of learning something completely new. “In law, I have to look at everything with a critical eye. In martial arts, on the other hand, for your own safety and the safety of the people you train with, there’s a time when you have to shut up and listen.”

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