How I Got So Good At Getting Beat Up

If you want to obtain the secrets of such wonderful techniques, drill yourself, harden yourself, undergo severe training, abandon body and mind; follow this course for years and you will naturally reach the profoundest levels. To know if water is hot or cold you must taste it yourself.
— Yamaoka Tesshu


Vajra Granelli is a lifelong student and teacher of martial arts and mindfulness training, currently based in Boulder, Colorado. He is the owner of 4 Rings Tactical and the co-founder of the 4 Rings Collective.

Over the past 30 years, he has worked as a fighter, trainer, coach, and corner man in the world of combat sports. He has traveled the world working with professional and amateur champion fighters. Granelli currently holds a fourth-degree black belt in Aikido, which he received at Suginami Aikikai in San Francisco, the US dojo founded by the late Kato Sensei, a student of O’Sensei. He also holds a  belt in Kendo. Granelli has also trained extensively in other martial arts ranging from boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai, to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and mixed martial arts (MMA).

For the past two decades Granelli has also applied his combat training, which includes the use of a wide range of weapons, to the fields of private security and risk management. He co-founded the private security firm Yojimbo in the Bay Area, where he was the Executive Protection Team Leader and Security Manager for ten years. Granelli brings that experience to Colorado where he is now the Training Manager at Trident Protection Group in Boulder, Colorado.

Alongside these years of training in martial arts, Granelli has been a devoted student of Buddhism and mindfulness training. He has been part of a  Buddhist community, for his entire life. Granelli was on the leadership committee of Sun Camp – a contemplative summer camp for 10 to 16-year-olds –  where he has been on staff almost every summer for a couple decades or so. He also worked as an instructor for the Mind Fitness Training Institute, a 501(c)3 research and training organization dedicated to teaching mindfulness and resilience skills that enhance performance and strengthen responses to stress, change and uncertainty. 

When he wasn’t too busy getting beat up or meditating, Vajra also works as an visual artist. He has studied at some of the top art schools in the world. He holds a B.A. in Art History from the San Francisco Art Institute, which he puts into practice through his endless explorations that bring together Eastern and Western traditions.

In 2014 Vajra met Robert Lee, an equally well-trained and dedicated martial artist, and together they founded the 4 Rings Collective as a way to explore warriorship and spirituality through martial arts. Recognizing that to be a genuine "warrior" in today's society requires much more than mindfulness and fighting skills, Robert and Vajra expanded their vision of 4 Rings to include other somatic practices including ancestral survival skills, wilderness awareness work, creative endeavors, social engagement and group process work.

The 4 Rings path of embodiment holds the view that martial arts can be a complete spiritual path, or a complement to any spiritual or secular tradition. With mutual kindness, mindfulness, and discipline, we work directly with others during our training, and thereby physically and mentally ground our innate compassion and fearlessness.

Despite all this training and spiritual practice, there are still two people who consistently bring Granelli to a state of total surrender: his kids, Enzo and Vienne. It turns out that no amount of training in combat, mindfulness (or anything else, really) is a match for parenting twins.

You can view and purchase Vaj's artwork in his Etsy shop.