I absolutely love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as a practitioner and as a teacher. It is a powerful martial art which can help us come to grips with who we are, both on the mat and off. As Joe Hyams so eloquently wrote in Zen in the Martial Arts,
“A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves – our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside.”
Part of the beauty of BJJ is randori, free-sparring, or what we normally refer to as simply “rolling.” The nature of the art allows us to go all-out with our partners every class, and with minimal risk of injury. This assures that our technique is effective, while also honing the psychological requirements of combat. This is when we get to let loose our inner-child and just play.
Naturally, competition demands an emotional investment on the part of the participants. Thus, we’re jubilant when successfully executing a new technique, coming to a higher level of understanding, or “getting the tap,” but on the flip-side, can find ourselves greatly frustrated, or even angry, with our apparent lack of progress, when we find ourselves continually tapping on the receiving end.
Tap early, tap often, and train longer! We all want to win, but it’s vital that we learn to check our ego. Realize that even when we tap, we are still working toward whatever goal we’ve set. In fact, not tapping can be counterproductive – if we’re sidelined with an injury because we didn’t want to lose, we’re not making any progress on any level.
“I never lose. I either win or learn.”– Nelson Mandela
Often our competitive nature leads us to hold out too long when defending against an arm-bar or choke. If our partner has the submission sunk in, and we’ve exhausted our counters/escapes, we’re better off tapping and moving on rather than trying to just power through. While strength and sheer will are both powerful attributes, unless we’re training for an upcoming competition, relying solely on them means we’re not developing the technical side of our game.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. We all have our reasons for training: fitness, self-defense, sport, camaraderie, martial art, etc.. Our purpose and goals for training must align with our changing lifestyles, and our obligations to family and profession. As we get older, we must also adapt to our body’s shifting needs and capacity. Just as we refine our jiujitsu “game,” so too must we learn to modify our expectations and find a healthy balance between family, work, and BJJ.
Brazilian jiu jitsu reminds us to celebrate victory with a bit of humility, while accepting defeat with dignity. Our wins come not only from our own efforts, but from the help of our teammates and guidance of our coaches. Tapping from our “mistakes,” gives us the opportunity to learn, and to continue pursuing our goals with intensity.
See you all on the mat!