When rivers flow, they gather more oxygen, invite higher life forms, cover ground, and see major landscape. They’re constantly changing, carving, and evolving. Rivers are experts at navigating obstacles quickly and efficiently along their path. They LEARN as they flow.
When glaciers “hold their ground”, they invite little life, grind on, and have the same damn view for years. They grind slowly, hold on to the past, and take 1000s of years to cover any ground, experiencing so much less. They lay still, and OBSERVE life happening around and to them.
Grappling is the same. Resist the temptation for the instant gratification of “not making mistakes” as a glacier. Take the “risky” route into the unknown, and get as much experience out of each roll as possible. You can learn FROM and AS the glacier, for sure. But you’ll cover more ground and gain more experience, faster and more efficiently, as a river.
*Advice to rivers confronted with a glacier, KEEP MOVING!
Many grapplers meet static partners by joining them! If he’s not moving, then no need for me to. This works to slow the pace and take a break, and that’s great if that’s your goal. But if experience is your goal, try not to let them slow down YOUR learning. Inertia works both ways, either you join their static state, or you convince them to join your flow. Writhe and bridge, roll and shrimp. Sometimes the only way to get them to move is to give them increasingly tempting movements, offering a limb or neck can do the trick. Worst case: you get caught and continue your flow. And through flow is the learning.
Roll like river, not like glacier.
best when paired with: The river or the rock. or Don’t roll to “last” or showing up is NOT half the battle: mathematics of bjj skill acquisition
Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts
A challenge: don’t roll to last.
Give yourself permission to push it, to “fail” early, out of breath. Attempt to push the pace past your comfort level, repeatedly, instead of resting to make sure you don’t. Embrace and look forward to the feeling of desperation in your breathing, and the challenge of controlling it.
Don’t take breaks or slow the pace to avoid getting tired. Do the opposite, just move, get tired and put this priority above “winning” in your training.
You’ll find a much greater workout, more experienced gained, a faster technical mind with the muscle memory that follows, and a test of your grit that keeps you flying high well after the final buzzer buzzes.
Caveat: don’t make a mess on the mats. And know your body. This is a goal state, a challenge to build up to.
Best when paired with: showing up is NOT half the battle: mathematics of bjj skill acquisition
Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts
What Is A Stripe And How Do I Get One?
When you are newer to a hobby, I think it’s only natural to question if you’re getting any better as time goes on. With jiu-jitsu it’s very difficult to feel like you’re making progress. For those of you who are newer to the gentle art, you’ll notice that certain people have white pieces of tape on the tip of their belt. This is to signify almost like a mini-promotion. Think of a stripe like the series of stages where a baby starts to walk:
- A baby stands up on their own (stripe)
- Takes a step and falls (stripe)
- Takes multiple steps and falls (stripe)
- Walks a short distance (stripe)
- Walking becomes the new crawling (belt promotion)
As the title mentions, this was a conversation I had with myself. To help better organize the cascading inner-battle that will follow this sentence, I will use Aaron (A) for the part of me that is trying to remain positive and Insecurity (I) for the part of my brain trying to convince me that I will suck at jiu-jitsu forever. Strap in, it’s going to get weird.
Aaron: Oh wow, that person got a stripe, good for them.
Insecurity: You’ve been doing jiu-jitsu longer than them, why don’t you have a stripe?
A: Well my foot was broken and I couldn’t do jiu-jitsu for a few months, that had to set me back.
I: You’re probably just not that good. Every person you roll with submits you. Maybe you should stop going. Find a new hobby.
A: That’s a little drastic, but maybe I could pay for some private lessons and find out what I’m doing wrong.
I: That’s not going to help. You should have been promoted already, right? Think about it.
A: This is a little short-sighted. Jiu-jitsu is going to be a long journey, it would be like running a marathon and getting pissed that you’re not the first person to reach the one-mile mark. Just need to be patient and keep working at it.
In actuality, this was a much longer conversation over a period of days, but I want to be polite to any readers so I selected snippets from the inner monolog with myself.
Be Patient, Notice The Small Improvements
I’ve played a lot of golf in my life. One of the hardest things for people playing golf is that the sport doesn’t offer too many instant verifications that you are getting better. Jiu-jitsu is a lot like golf in that you can be really terrible at it, but you do one thing well and all of a sudden it leaves you wanting more.
For me, when I first started, I got arm-barred constantly. I stuck my arms out really far and when someone grabbed an arm, I would turn away from them and try to yank it out (which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do). While I don’t yet have my first stripe, I have started to realize when I’m getting in trouble and things I shouldn’t do to get out of said trouble. When you’re new to jiu-jitsu, you don’t always get immediate feedback (either from promotions or submitting partners) that you’re getting better, but trust me, you are.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, be patient.
One thing that’s overlooked in jiu-jitsu is just how rare an injury is. Yes, you will have aches and pains and yes, your body might need breaks. What I’m talking at specifically is just how rare you are a victim of someone else’s carelessness. I’ve been practicing jiu-jitsu for a little over four months now and last week was the first time somebody accidentally hit me in the nose.
Oddly enough, the scariest rolls I’ve had are with individuals who are trying jiu-jitsu for the first time. So, I’d like to offer some tips based on my first time rolling and things I wish I’d known.
Don’t Be Scared
My first time walking into Neutral Ground, I was incredibly nervous. I’m a pretty fat, out of shape guy with no grappling experience. My first thought is that everyone would be super annoyed by my presence. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Jon was incredibly nice and welcoming as was everyone I encountered that day. You might have butterflies in your stomach when you walk in, but you’re going to meet a lot of great people who are very willing to teach and help as you begin your journey.
You’re Going to Look and Feel Dumb
If you’ve never grappled or wrestled before, make friends with feeling out of place or silly. I’ve played basketball and football most of my life, I felt like that gave me a good sense of balance and center of gravity. Nope. Turns out that while I know what momentum is, I have no idea how to use mine, or make sure it isn’t used against me. If you have an older brother (at least 3 to 5 years older) picture being 6 and wrestling with him. It’s a lot like that.
Rolling is super fun. However, if it’s your first time taking a class, and you’re trying to recreate the top 5 UFC submissions it’s not going to go well. Most likely what will happen is you’ll hurt your partner. Take it slow, everyone is really bad for at least 8 months. Just learn and have fun.
As children, we learn to play. Through play we learn to trust, share, communicate and show empathy. We allow ourselves to get exhausted, forgetting sometimes to eat or sleep. A cartwheel for no reason is encouraged.
As adults, new skills are added. We now have the responsibility of paying rent and discipline of showing up to work or school early. We protect and provide for the youth, pay taxes and vote.
Somewhere along the way, adults forget the much more important lessons of youth. These new skills of adulthood REPLACE instead of AMPLIFY those of the youth. It’s as if there is room for only one set of skills. But without the lessons of youth, those of adulthood are pointless. We forget how to play in exchange for car payment timeliness. You CAN have both.
White belts are encouraged to soak up all they can, from whoever and whenever they can, like children. Build trust and humility through the tap, our powerful form of communication. Share the mats and show empathy. More importantly, enjoy the play, carefree and fun. If someone isn’t fun to play with at the moment, no need to play with them today. Try them again later. Everyone grows at different rates, with different skill sets. If you catch yourself flowing through the round timer in an awesome technical exchange with your partner, keep after it! There’s no curfew on flow! These lessons are critical to progress and longevity, and not to be forgotten along the way.
Black belts have responsibilities; usually running a school, training or mentoring others, whether they know it or want it or not. They must look after the others, ensure their safety, and keep them having fun and progressing! But they also must never lose the wide eyed curiosity of the white belt, the vulnerabilities, or forget the fears that they have. And don’t forget the lessons of the white belt and the belts that follow. Don’t forget to play. You CAN have both.
Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts
If you’ve read any of my prior pieces, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of analogies, similes, and parables. Before ever signing up for jiu-jitsu, I remember my friend had a Bruce Lee poster with his famous “Be water, my friend,” quote on it. It didn’t make a lot of sense and I loved making fun of him for it. Obviously there isn’t a whole lot to it. Just keep an open-mind and don’t take a myopic approach to martial arts. Such an obvious idea, why does everyone love it so much?
A few years later I started to roll. I felt like the only thing really separating more advanced students than me was that they obviously knew more than I did. If an opponent took their arm, they know how to get their arm back. If their opponent goes to choke them, they know how to get out of harm’s way. In my mind, all I needed was more experience and more knowledge and more YouTube tutorials and I could start closing the gap.
Oh, Bruce Lee Knows What He’s Talking About
When I got injured, all I could do was watch. Jiu-jitsu was by far the most fun I’ve ever had and to sit and watch for three months was brutal. However, the more I watched the advanced students, the more I realized how stupid I was. It wasn’t that the more advanced students knew more than me (I mean it was) but it’s also that they flowed better.
I know, a few paragraphs ago I said it was kind of a dumb concept, but I get it now. Go figure the guy who many consider the greatest martial artist of all time knew what he was talking about, eh?
When I roll, and an opponent grabs a hold of my arm, my initial thought is “f*ck you, I’m going to get my arm back,” it’s all I focus on. When someone is, as Bruce Lee said, “being water” they take notice when an opponent takes their arm, but it isn’t all they focus on. A more proper mindset for me to have when an opponent grabs my arm is “Ok, so they have my arm, what are they leaving open that I can exploit?”
You’re rarely going to always know what to do when you’re just starting out and often when an opponent grabs hold of your arm or puts you in a choke there won’t be much you can do. However, forcing your brain to stop focusing on the thing you just lost and instead focus on what your opponent is giving you is a great first step. If you’re interested in what a more experienced grappler has to say on this topic, Jon has some great posts about Effective defense and weathering the storm.