There are thousands of academies to train at. There is millions of hours of video footage online. And none of them will teach you anything without this.
It’s simple, and very powerful.
It’s not a technique, or a submission, or a diet or a program.
Instead, it’s the skill of paying attention.
What are you doing while you are there?
What are you thinking throughout the class?
What’s going on around you when you are rolling?
If you’re like most people, you’re not completely sure.
You might be thinking of the tasks you left undone in the office that day. You may be wondering what’s waiting for you when the class is over. You may be anticipating the rolls without much thought to the technique at hand.
None of this is uncommon.
Your brain makes thousands of small decisions every day. Most of them are unconscious and automatic.
The good side is you can can repeat patterns like breathing in air, setting up your favourite submissions, and timing your favourite sweeps.
The downside is that you can repeat patterns like training too hard, using less than effective mechanics, and being prone to injury.
After a few lessons of jiu jitsu you start to get used to the rhythm of class, and acting on instinct. He tries to pass, you switch your hips. She postures up in your guard and you look to get a cross collar grip.
Right now you’re building habits, and the efficacy of these are what either keep you safe, or get you into constant trouble.
You need to set good habits right from the beginning.
You don’t constantly get tapped from the same position because you’re dumb, or lazy.
You can’t see improvement not because jiu jitsu isn’t for you, but because you’re focusing on the wrong areas.
When you are training jiu jitsu, and learning the skills of grappling, it’s your body’s cues and signals that tell you if you are doing it well.
Focus on yourself.
Tune your brain into the different parts of your body and feel what is happening in each different place.
Stop and listen to what is happening within you, and around you.
When you are struggling for a sweep, and your shoulder feels like it’s going to tear off, stop, tend to it, change what you are doing, and try again.
How Does this Help?
Muscular strength is a limited resource. You squeeze and push yourself to an extent, and then you stop. Physically you can’t handle any more.
Leverage, on the other hand, is available in every situation. You just need to find it. In order to find it, you need to feel where and how you can move, and use your bones in a way that helps you get there.
Paying attention to the signals of your own body will guide you to the millimeters of space you can wriggle out of. Spreading your awareness to the different parts of your body lets you see how you turn the tides in your favour.
Example: You’re stuck under side control, but your far foot is free. So you sneak it out and it becomes your anchor foot. Suddenly, you can change the angle of your hips. You move a little, find a hip escape, and there’s your way out.
This is how you can move yourself in order to find space against your opponent.
You’re only in control of your own actions, not those of your opponent.
You’re never playing your opponent’s game. You stay safe while you pick, choose, and set up your own opportunities.
You may start to panic, and freak out, and try to force through technique, but you notice it, you call yourself out on it, and you go back to your basics.
Breath, ground, bones.
In this way of training, there is no opponent.
When your nervous system is connected with another human’s nervous system, your job is to let the jiu jitsu happen.
When your attention is focused in on you, you get to be in control of your own joints. If you feel something compromised, you listen, and you adapt it.
In this way not only are you more safe, and your training more sustainable, but it’s also more fun, and of a higher quality.
Try It For Yourself
In your next class, do a little noticing, and naming.
What do you always find yourself doing? What are you thinking? What’s stopping you from where you want to go?
When you’re there learning techniques, and rolling with your partners, pay attention to what is happening within you.
Feel the ground, check in with your bones, and relax your muscles.
Letting the jiu jitsu happen is a different way of doing jiu jitsu. And better.
Most importantly, it’s how you build quality of life with Gracie Jiu Jitsu. And that’s where we’re going.