An Obstacle Course

A couple of students that I work with individually have a habit of using too much strength and power during their practice. I remind them that  it is important to maintain technique despite the rigors of sparring. Much like a surgeon, precision in movement can only be attained with a cool head. Using strength can tense the muscles and make movements too rigid and imprecise. We need to keep in mind that the essence of Brazilian Jiu-itsu as a martial art is for a weaker, smaller individual to be able to overcome larger, more physically gifted opponents.

An analogy I’ve used ad nauseum over the last week is that of sprinting. Sprinters must use strength, speed and power in order to run as fast as possible in a short distance –and as it turns out, in a straight line. With this particular sport in mind, raw athleticism is absolutely necessary. Jiu-Jitsu, however, is not a sprint to the finish. It is more like an obstacle course where the artist or practitioner must maneuver a vast gamut of attacks, transitions and escapes in order to get to the finish.

Because Jiu Jitsu requires automatic as well complex and strategic cognitive processing, it is of utmost importance that we, as practitioners never shut our minds out. We must always keep our minds engaged and never rely on our physical acumen. While I am not denying that athleticism is at times important, I am suggesting that relying on athleticism obstructs the learning process. Much like a surgeon, the Jiu Jitsu practitioner needs precision and dexterity of movements in order to accomplish a goal. Too much strength and you only run the risk of gassing out, hurting yourself or your opponent, and losing sight of what’s really important: the art itself.

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