Should we be slowing down the pace of both life and rolling for the most efficient path to submissions and success?
I wrote the following blog late last year, when the developed world was happily feeding its insatiable desire to burn, build, compete, consume, and eat exotic animals, blissfully unaware that just around the corner stood a deadly disease-shaped brick wall to put a halt to all that rampant 'progress'. Now, after months of various degrees of lockdown, forcing us to take a break from pretty much everything and giving us a rare opportunity to take stock of how we should really be spending our time, money and energy, this blog feels even more relevant than before. Since my old site has been replaced by this one, here's the original blog again...
In the relentless pace of everyday modern life, we rarely pause to take stock of our actions. Doing nothing, as it were, is often regarded as idle, unproductive or simply wasting one’s time. However, inactivity is not the same as doing nothing. Like the pause between the notes in a piece of music or a transition in a film, a pause in motion gives you time to breathe, reflect and recover; if only for a few seconds.
Without slipping into a lecture on the importance of meditation and mental wellbeing – not that I qualify at all to lecture on the subjects – I can attest to the value of every now and then taking a minute's pause from the daily grind to take stock of our environment and current situation. Are we thinking and acting efficiently, taking the most pragmatic path to completing a task or objective? Or are we creating extra work and bends in the road by impatiently flitting along and acting on impulse?
In a high pace, high pressure modern society built on consumerism and commodification, we've gradually had all of our rational thought and sensible decision making boiled out of us like a limp broccoli that's been overcooked. The mass media and advertising industry don't want us to decide how to spend our hard-earned money using prudent, logical thinking. They prefer to flood our eyeballs with relentless advertising so we don't have the time or self-control to stop and think rationally before reaching for the credit card. We stop and look both ways before we cross the road (or at least should), yet we increasingly don't stop and look around us at what we already have before spending money on things we don't need.
Anyway, enough about the evils of capitalism and more about martial arts. How does this relate to BJJ? Well, jiu jistu is unique in that we are actually encouraged to pause and wait rather than constantly move. In most other martial arts, pausing for too long could result in dire consequences. If a judoka stands still for more than a few seconds, they'll be swiftly thrown. If a boxer spends a minute covering up against the ropes, their defence will be steadily dismantled. But, when a BJJer needs to consider his or her next move or wait for their opponent's reaction, they often hold position, control their breathing, stabilise their balance, and simply wait. After all, it isn’t referred to as the game of human chess for nothing.
A jiu jitsu practitioner has a unique perspective on patience in combat; the higher level of grappler one becomes, the more calculated, calm and efficient they are. When you watch world class black belts in competition you rarely see frantic, wasteful movement – every move is strategic and deliberate, with often prolonged positional stalemates broken only by an explosive application of precise perfectly-timed technique. To win by submission also requires a gradual approach. Like a big cat stalking its prey or a submerged crocodile waiting to strike, the smart player works to steadily progress position, inch by inch, before risking a finish. Recovering your energy in top side control or full mount, is a prime example of this, as you squeeze the breath out of your opponent, patiently waiting for their inevitable, desperate bid for escape. The second they move, leaving their neck or limb unprotected, this is the moment to latch on a submission and finish the fight.
So, be it during the throes of a roll or the grind of your working day, when you feel flustered or overwhelmed by too many obstacles or choices ahead of you, try slowing down the action, catch your breath, read the situation and when the time is right, move efficiently and with purpose – tapping out your problems, one at a time.
Words by Si Tutton