Cannabis and routines of holistic medicine are important to the athlete community, for rejuvenation of muscles and recovery from over-exerting muscles and, in many cases, being bruised and battered in sports like football or martial arts.
PJ Montano, @medicine_bagz on instagram, is an honorable representative of the cannabis plant, a healthcare surgical assistant and a first-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, whose lineage stems from Mother Earth herself as a representative of the Apache Nation. I was curious to learn more about his beliefs about life and cannabis, after receiving a leather medicine bag in the mail from him with poetic explanations of its handmade origins. The inside is softened and conditioned deer buckskin, and the outside is deer leather that has been dried the natural way straight from the reservation. It has been dyed with canna plant-based dyes, stamped then grooved with our Cannabis Cactus logo and other beautiful symbols. I wanted to introduce PJ as an activist in our community, and most importantly thank him for this beautiful leather bag that I now carry with me. All of PJ’s work is by custom order only and all @Medicine_Bagz are one of a kind.
Materials used for this bag are from one singular white-tailed alpha buck of 10 points brought down from the White Mountain of Arizona. "Slightly north of my family's reservation; I hail from the White Mountain Pima Apache people of the bitter water and mud people clan. Every piece of material comes straight from the earth, to the reservation, to my front door as gifts from my family. The outer form of the bag and lash are made from the chest piece of the deer, so that you may have a strong and pure heart wherever you carry it. It is burnished with smoot with hand-rubbed hemp oils. It is painted with flower and plant-based paints, then sealed with a mixture of beeswax and hemp oil. The inside is coated with buckskin from the neck of the deer, so whenever you speak you will be listened to, not just heard, for nothing is more regal than the call of an alpha buck that owns the mountain range. It is clasped with a silver snake design silver from the apache people. The snake represents a creative life force - just like change in our lives, a snake sheds its skin to start over again. The sinew used to bind the bag is from the gut of this deer so you will always be hungry for new adventures and journeys. The sinew is bleached, then infused with beeswax and bioluminescent algae from the Gila River’s edge; in other words the stitching will glow in the dark or black light. Honestly, this was the hardest process undertaken; I had to actually have an elder teach me the process. This is truly a ONE AND ONLY bag. I can make others similar, but it will never be the same as this one. I poured in every bit of knowledge and skill I know how to perform, and I hope it carries you well through this life, as this bag will last forever. My hope and prayer before sending it is that you live your life for the “Journey, Not The Destination.”
PJ Montano serves as a veteran professional grappler and fighter, a coach, instructor, mentor, judge and referee to High Rollerz athletes. His instruction before the shows includes warnings that he will not stop the fight just because an athlete is in distress. In his words, "I will let you go to sleep, to leave with or on your shield". Learn what you can from this kind soul, as PJ embodies our mission of spreading love, peace and knowledge. We are proud to introduce this family man, coach, referee, athlete, healer and leather worker that is PJ Montano.
What messages do you share in the world through your art and daily living?
Life is about the “JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION”. I live by certain philosophies that I remind myself of every day, that perfection is an illusion and can never be obtained. We are always students and never masters because there is always something to learn.
We are what we habitually do, therefore excellence is not just an act but a habit, and when the mind is endowed the body will give tangible proof. I strive for excellence in every form of my life. I journey to be a true renaissance man, versed in every form of life: in fatherhood, as a husband, for my family, nature, science, music, healing, combat, philosophy, poetry, art and love, as love is truly the highest discipline.
This is why I work with leather; it's the love of an art passed by my ancestors into my hands and back into reality. Every bag is prayed on and meditated over every stitch, groove, print, press, stroke and dye; in these moments is when I am closest to my ancestors and in full universal synchronicity, where every design and movement is a “one stroke technique”. This means that I never go back to repair what I've done; each bag or item is truly a universal art because I flow with the design, to allow each stitch perfectly imperfect as the universe designed it to be since the beginning of time.
I truly believe that we are all meant to cross paths for a reason, in these moments are the most precious of gifts, which is LIFE! Because time is life and life is time, so I appreciate the LIFE anyone is taking to read just a little bit about me and my passion. The three biggest lessons I could give to anyone asking or seeking how to live a balanced life with deeper universal connection would be these:
Never sit at a table with people that you wouldn't starve with, and trust people to be who they are because loyalty is royalty.
Never look down on anyone, unless you're helping them up to your level.
When you have more, always build a bigger table and never a bigger wall. Why have enemies when you can have friends?
Overall, I want to be a warrior in the garden of life, smell the flowers, watch the birds, feel the wind and sun on my skin, view beautiful things, smoke good weed, visit the spirit realms as often as possible or needed, and love the blessing that is my life.
How do you think cannabis and martial arts both benefit a daily wellness routine?
For the warrior, the body is just as important as the mind; the two are inseparable. When the mind is endowed, the body provides tangible proof. As I said before, martial arts have been a way of life for me since I was born, I never had an option - I was just born into it. Training daily for me since I was a child was a must, as it reminded me that “discipline is true freedom”... that putting worldly desires aside for a moment to take care of self and mind is the most important aspect of life, because health is true wealth! As a surgical assistant in my professional life, we see the best and worst of life and death. I've watched and seen death first-hand, and I have been that person who sat on the ground after with my head in my hands wondering “WHAT ELSE COULD I HAVE DONE TO SAVE THEM?!” I have been the only family member on a stranger's death bed. I've held the phone for the last goodbye for people during Covid who couldn't be with their family, and held their hands during their last breath at their family's request that they wouldn't die alone. I have been a vessel for the Lord through this medical vocation, and this is why I always carry and enjoy crafting leather medicine bags. The art reminds me of what I am here to do with my time on this earth: to heal, lead, coach, nurture, love and live life to the fullest with all the people around me and ones I'm blessed to meet only for a moment - because we never get a first meeting again.
"Cannabis allows me to meditate and connect with the spirit realm and tap into energies that can only be sought on that plane."
In the spirit realm: “I am more than my physical body, I am more than physical matter, I can perceive that which is greater than the physical world. Therefore, in these exercises, I deeply desire to expand, to experience, to know, to understand, to control, to use such greater energies and energy systems as may be beneficial and constructive to me and those who follow me. Also, during these exercises, I deeply desire the help and cooperation, the assistance, and the understanding of those individuals whose wisdom, development and experience is equal or greater than my own. I ask their guidance and protection from any influence or any source that might provide me with less than my stated desires. I now protect myself as may be needed from such influence and reject any source that may restrain me from my stated desires.”
We all have our own beliefs and religions, as a native we believe in one creator and we all just call him by a different name. My creator is Jesus Christ and I am a god fearing man. My mantra whenever I use cannabis is to just sit and listen; I have been taught since I was a child that praying is talking to the universe and its creator, meditation is listening to both of them. Some of my greatest designs, ideas and life situations have come to me during these moments, where cannabis truly relieves my mind and body from the daily grind of spiritual and physical warfare.
I follow the ways of my ancestors, smoking to commune knowledge and guidance, to celebrate life, to make memorable conversations, to intersect in others lives who are meant to intersect in ours. I believe that cannabis is truly the best medicine for my spirit, it grounds to the earth and my life, it lifts me to the heavens to speak with my ancestors, allows me to swim in the 'here and now' moments of life, acts as a mirror in times where I need to truly need to make a reflective life adjustment. Most of all, it re-centers my love for people and things in my life, because I feel others' energy and want to amplify all positivity that I am around.
Our energy is currency, so spend it wisely with the people who are willing to receive and replicate it back into creation.
What is your Native American inspiration and advice for health and wellness in life?
Trust the creator, honor your ancestors, never lose faith and trust the path you are on as it will lead you to where you MUST be and not where you WANT to be. Trust the earth because it has all of the medicine you need, if you are willing to look and learn. The wisdom is in the trees. The world will try to cut your leaves, but they can never kill your roots because while we are free, we plant the seed that rise with the new sun. The universe is speaking to you now, and I'm just the instrument its using at the present moment to relay these messages. Take care of your health, get your check ups, visit your therapist, use any poison in moderation, food, drug, medicine and love. Remember without physical health, you can not have mental health. I'm not saying that you all have to go join a gym or learn to fight; a simple walk in nature or around your neighborhood creates a sense of wellness and is also active mediation. Grounding yourself to creation by surrounding yourself with it, is the truest and realist way to come back to the center of mind, body and spirit. If that's what you seek, I challenge you to seek it and manifest it, because the only true limit in life: Is the one you set for YOURSELF. The choice is YOURS.
How did you get into martial arts and specifically Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I was born into MARTIAL ARTS life. My grandfather is a WWII veteran who learned boxing and judo for the war and came home and taught my dad. My dad was a police officer for 38 years and took up boxing, judo, wrestling and karate, so naturally I was born into the lineage. I have learned and earned multiple black belts and levels in various martial arts stemming from boxing, kenpo karate, wrestling, judo, catch wrestling, sambo and Jiu-Jitsu. I fell in love with grappling Jiu-Jitsu for the last 19 years. After I came home from wrestling for Cal State Bakersfield Road Runners, in the Pac 10 Division 1 program, I had nowhere to go and train. My good friend said, “why don't you come and check out this wrestling spot under Erik Paulson?” I was like “who the hell is Erik Paulson?” I soon learned he was a legend amongst instructors, known as the american pioneer, the man of 1000 locks, the only American to win the SHOOTO championship in Japan, that the JKD (Jeet Kune Do) I learned from him directly stems from Bruce Lee himself (Bruce Lee < Dan Insanto < Erik Paulson < PJ Montano). Needless to say, I bought into the vision and have trained with him ever since. Our Jiu-Jitsu stems from Rigan Machado and the Machado System. I then began to compete professionally from blue belt to black belt and still continue to compete. I have had over 250 bouts in my Jiu-Jitsu career, hold world medals, state titles, national medals and all-American status. But the greatest achievement I have ever accomplished is being a father, because now it's my time to pass this art to my children.
"Always walk a mile to avoid a fight, but if one starts never back an inch. I strive to be a warrior in a garden not a gardener in a war and I owe this to martial arts; my aim is to be a true Warrior Poet."
How do cannabis & exercise complement each other?
It's the purest form of active meditation through the poetry of movement. I live the creed of our High Rollerz group, which is “SMOKE, TRAIN, REPEAT.” Smoking cannabis before I train in combat, or any form of exercise, in the best way I could describe it would be: it's my power up or my super saiyan moment, no past or present, only the here and now, there is no fear, only movement. You become hyper-focused, paying attention to the feeling and flow of the techniques and pressures. Every time I enter this universal flow, I actually close my eyes and fight blindly. At this moment l, I am truly one with the flow of life, with the essence of my art, the freedom to express physical poetry with my body in the smallest and most abstract form. Cannabis takes away all inhibition of restraint, limit or fear of the fray in combat, because we are just doing what we love to do in the most honest of forms. Jiu-Jitsu truly reveals the person within, because it forces that warrior spirit to appear. The biggest lesson is the exertion of energy; never hold back!
Train hard, as the harder you train, the more energy you push into the void of existence and the duality to that is the energy will return just as strong as you pushed. It's a universal and spiritual law, but the key is what we do with that energy when it returns. There's nothing like a killer training session, with a revitalizing shower, a beautiful drive home, walking into my happy place and going straight to my garden in the backyard, packing a bowl of epic proportions, sparking the flame with my Lonn wick, taking a deep breath of kush, gathering all the negative energy within, and releasing what training couldn't. I get back into the universe with a THC-infused breath of life. That is what cannabis is to me, as bushido states “a life in every breath.” Cannabis is my breath of life.
In closing, thank you Cannabis Cactus for this platform to share my passions of art and Jiu-Jitsu. You truly are one of the most honorable people I've ever met and I’m even more blessed to call you a friend. All of you are a part of my circle now, for sharing a small piece of my life with me. Please don't hesitate to reach out any time to chat, collab, catch up or just to share life in the moment. Thank you, may the creator bless you… seek the journey over the destination and be excellent to each other.