The Inner Game of Jiu-Jitsu?

Friday, January 4, 2008

The holidays couldn't have come at a better time this year. Work, family, business, and my Jiu-Jitsu game all could use some much needed perspective.

Now, since this is a BJJ blog, let's focus on my game for a minute.

Just before the holidays I was feeling quite frustrated. Ever since October my game has felt like it was in a tail spin. First my favorite instructor moved on to travel the world. Yes he and his wife packed up their belongings and headed off to see the world, amazing opportunity, we were all sad to see them go but tremendously happy for them. Want to read about their travels? Check them out at

Now, after he moved on a new BJJ school opened less than a mile from my home. At first it was like Christmas in October! I couldn't believe my luck, with gas prices climbing and time away from the family a precious commodity it was great fortune to have a new school so close by. I used my free week of classes and was quite impressed with the instructors, students, and "their game", however.. they are a No Gi school and I had just spent the last year plus training in a Gi.

Little did I know I was in for a crash course in grips.

First I had to kiss my Spider Guard away, and if you've seen the grip training posts, Spider guard was one of my more favorite positions, I've always felt like it gave me time to think and survey the situation, ahh well, all but gone now. Next I had to re-learn a good bit of my grip game, where do I grab when there's no collar, no sleeve, no lapel?

Needless to say I became very frustrated, instead relaxing and enjoying the learning process I would get uptight, tense, and rigid trying to find the right handle. I felt like I'd been busted back to newbie all over again and I just couldn't get over that idea.

So, now back to the holidays, I was sitting down at Old Man Hazmat's house enjoying a tall cup of green tea and thinking about my game. Perhaps I should get some more instructionals? Maybe a bunch of private lessons? Maybe I should go back to Gi? What if I just worked harder?

Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of "The Inner Game of Tennis" on Old Man Haz's book shelf. He was a very avid and successful Tennis player in his day even won a couple of small collegiate tournaments, so I was intrigued to find this "self help" looking book on his shelf.

The Inner Game of Tennis - Cover

I took it down and started reading.. in short I was amazed at what I read. It was like this Tennis Pro had been sitting in the peanut gallery of my BJJ studio and was commenting on my every movement. Who knew Tennis players have so many of the same problems that BJJ players have?

I don't want to spoil the book for you, as it's very inexpensive and frankly your local library most likely has a copy you can read, but here's the gist of it.

You have two selfs, please think of these as Self 1 and Self 2 (or as I like to think of them.. Thing 1 and Thing 2).

Thing 1 & Thing 2

Thing 1 is your mind, it's the part of you that says "Good job, nice sub, great escape, man you suck today, you couldn't kneebar a grappling dummy, way to overthink it boy-o". Essentially Thing 1 is trying to "help" you by making all those great constructive(destructive?) comments while you train. "Grip better, get lower in your cross side control, keep moving your hips, shrimp!".

Sadly, Thing 1 is not really helping at all, you see, Thing 2, he's your body and is plenty capable all on his own. Here's poor Thing 2, he just wants to be left alone, he wants to flow, to put on that arm bar or spin into knee mount, however the whole time he's got Thing 1 breathing down his neck, before you know it he's living up to Thing 1's expectations. So, Thing 1 thinks we've got a bad arm bar, so I guess we do I'll just do it poorly.

So what do we do? We need to help out poor old Thing 2, but we can't talk to him, he really doesn't understand words, but he does understand pictures and more importantly VIDEO. In order to really help out Thing 2, we need to get him access to lots of "non-instructional" video.

Now after reading and absorbing this I quickly ran to my DVD case (yes I had it with me, don't ask) and pulled out a favorite..101 Submissions Vol 1. It's a very slick fast paced video of 100+ submissions, no instruction, no details, just movements in real time (and slowed down).

So I queued up the DVD and started watching.. however I noticed I was immediately looking at the details (see his arm is there, you need your legs more like that, wow his bridge is spectacular) yes, Thing 1 was back in the drivers seat telling Thing 2 what to do. Sigh. Let's try this again.

So I jumped ahead a few chapters and started again, this time I tried to get Thing 1 occupied with the visuals (who is the sponsor? Nice rash guard, what tournament is this from?) and I let Thing 2 just enjoy the video.

End result? Well it's hard to say, this sort of thing is difficult to measure.. as Yogi Berra would say "90% of the game is mental, the other half is Physical".

Do I feel different? Yes, I feel like I'm enjoying things again, I'm not trying desperately to capture all the details nor am I letting Thing 1 run the show when I roll or drill. I'd say regardless of my outward successes (or failures) I'm having more fun now, and isn't that really what it's all about?

Thanks Thing 2.
Thanks Thing2


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