I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about Jiu-Jitsu. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about effective players and what makes them so effective. I’ve come to a few conclusions.
Have you ever wondered why some people just never get any better at things while others seem to be natural practitioners? I have and I guess it’s just one of those things in life. Let’s look at B.J. Penn, for example. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
“At the age of seventeen, Penn began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu…at the age of 20, Penn finished 3rd in the brown belt division…earned the fastest black belt of all active Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.”
What’s the deal with B.J. Penn? I know he’s considered a phenom in Jiu-Jitsu, but seriously? A black belt in three years? So while the rest of us are sitting here, watching online videos of silly techniques that don’t work, there are people out there who are blowing past us, winning tournaments on the world stage?
I know, I know, we need to understand our own goals, but I think there comes a time when one needs to decide what the barriers to their training are. Personally, where I get stuck is trying to apply other people’s moves to my own game.
I can only guess that I am annoying on the mat. Every class, Jeff demonstrates a technique and we drill it to semi-perfection. Then, we incorporate the technique into some more creative drilling, light rolling or full out sparring. The moves we go over are, for the most part, quite realistic and have helped immensely. Where I become annoying is when I tweak what we’re going over to fit my size and style. Sometimes, what Jeff teaches needs to be modified. I’m not sure if my partner suffers from this or not, so I generally try to work with people who are similar to my own build, so they may benefit from my genius. I’ve pretty much been doing this since day one and it works.
Jiu-Jitsu can, if you allow it, become a sea of techniques. If you aren’t careful, all those techniques can really bog you down – mentally. Each and every day, hundreds of people around the world are trying to put their name on something and get a video out there that has them expertly explaining that something. Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t come up with new things, I’m just saying that for the majority of BJJ players, focusing on the basics would do them well. Crazy technique after crazy technique is just going to confuse them.
What I’ve learned over the years is that, when it comes to BJJ, mat sense is where it’s at. Mat sense is something that allows a guy fresh off the street to walk into a Jiu-Jitsu academy and tap out a purple belt. Mat sense is knowing pressure, timing, leverage and how to be scrappy. I think people are born with it and I think others aren’t. Sometimes the guys with the most mat sense never really learn the essence of Jiu-Jitsu, but become quite effective at winning tournaments. Obviously, they aren’t the academic type, they’re more practical.
I’ve been to schools where students are rough. They roll around with brute force and enjoy every minute of it. I’ve also been to schools where students bring notebooks and enjoy thinking about the finer points of what they are doing. Both are fine, and all the students I’ve come across practice what they are doing very well. I just think there needs to be a mix.
Last night, after failing at the technique I tried with John, I decided that I’m going to start a small series of my own best, tried and true techniques. I haven’t found these anywhere online, so I’ll have to put them there. I’ll do video and pictures and I’ll explain what exactly works for me and why it does. I’ll explain the barriers to the traditional technique and what I’ve done to modify it, where applicable. I’m doing this in attempt to bring some reality to what we’re trying to do here. I don’t think I would like it very much if some guy walked in from off the street and tapped me out. And all I could say to him is that he was doing it wrong.
I guess my point is that I’m ready to start tossing away the stuff that doesn’t work and refining what does. I don’t need to be confused by what someone thinks is cool looking, but has indeed no way of working in the real world. There’s too much coolness out there anyway.