I taught a private lesson today and I was asked what my secret was to being intuitive and quicker to respond than my training partners. The answer was simple:
A long time ago, when I first started training Jiu Jitsu, I was doing really well in sparring sessions. I had great athleticism from being a bike messenger and I was strong from Crossfit. I was so proud of my accomplishments in sparring and I remember my professor being unimpressed. I fished for a compliment but all I got was “You’re missing the point. You keep finishing people with guillotines, but you’ll never get good at Jiu Jitsu if all you do is guillotine choke everyone. You need to learn how to transition and move from position to position because the submissions you look for will not always be there.”
I learned early that Jiu Jitsu was not about submissions. It was about movement. It was about learning how to be fluid in your movements and create opportunities rather than force them –Jiu Jitsu is, after all, the gentle art. Four years later, I sit and talk with my client and he asks what my secret is. I had to tell him my “secret” is to practice transitions. Always give up the submissions and look for other opportunities. They are everywhere if you have your eyes and your mind open.
By practicing your transitions, you’re able to put all of these movement algorithms into your memory. Memory is what drives our behavior. If you try and force submissions all the time, you only have two outcomes: Your opponent defends well and escapes or doesn’t and you get the submission. If your memory only knows two outcomes, then you will only be able to behave with such. However, if you go for a choke, and play with an arm bar, you increase the amount of potential outcomes allowing more possibilities to be stored into your memory. The memory will guide your movements in the future to include more possibilities and by practicing these movements, you develop automaticity. Speed comes from movements that are seemingly automatic. This can only come from practice, and lot’s of it. It doesn’t come from just any kind of practice, however, it comes from specific practice. If you want to train to be fast, you must focus on quick, simple movements. If you want to train to be heavy, you must focus on becoming dead weight and methodological movement. If you are trying to train for intuition, you must train with an open mind, zoned in on your being. You must be willing to learn how to transition, transition, transition, without being focused on the forest for the trees.
At the end of the day, I explained to my client that the real secret was just to practice. Train a lot. Train smart and train specifically for what your goals are. Make decisions that are conducive to your goals and stick to them. Do not deviate. Plan your work and work your plan.