April 20, 2017

White Belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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30 Years In BJJ, A Reflection.


by John B. Will


This is the year of my 60th lap around the sun we call sol …. it is also my 30th year in BJJ. For exactly half of my life, I have been frolicking on the BJJ playground – and have unearthed my share of both trinkets and treasures alike.


As someone who has foraged high and low, far and wide on this spinning marble, in an effort to carve out a meaningful and fulfilling life for myself, I find it very difficult to separate my approach to my martial arts practice time from the way in which I live my life. Like a long-lasting marriage of sorts, my understanding of BJJ and my understanding of life are intricately inter-woven.


Here are a couple of things I have learned from the mat, that I have brought to bear in my life off the mat – my hope being that some of which, may incite you to pause and ponder a little … Going Deep builds understanding – Going broad build adaptability:


This is a hat-tip to Miyamoto Musashi’s wonderful line “Rat’s Head – Ox’s neck”. When we drill deep on a particular subject (or go after a technique with intent) we do so at the cost of learning about or seeing other possibilities – but we get stuff done! When we Go broad; taking a generalist approach, we can flitter from here to there without achieving much – but we get the lay-of-the-land and build adaptability. The trick is to embody both.


Focus on process rather than Goals:


Maintaining focus and attention on a goal rarely achieves anything; instead, reverse engineer a series of steps, backtracking from that desired goal to wherever our position and circumstance in the now. Then, putting all of our intention on the step immediately before us (rather than on the goal) we move forward, little by little – but inexorably so. In remaining wedded to the process, we may also decide on a better goal than the one originally sought, on the way there.


Settling for the Good-Enough binds us to mediocrity:


The Good-enough-to-get-by attitude will bind us to mediocrity much more securely than will our circumstances. When we raise-the-bar with regard to the standards we apply to ourselves, we greatly improve our potential for improvement.


Ironically, we all have standards when it comes to occupation like Engineering, brain Surgery, etc … why not allies those same exacting standards to our own humble pursuits.


What’s the worst that can Happen? … A question worth asking:


This is about risk. Taking risks, provided they are not so great that the price of failure is death; opens us up to extraordinary learning opportunities. An extraordinary life is a result of taking extraordinary action; not by always making the ordinary (safe) choice. Risk-taking also helps build our emotional and physical immune system .. it is how we shift from the fragile-state to the robust-state.


Problem Solving is often done via a series incremental improvements:


Many problems that we face, evolved over time, ie. we gained 30 extra kilograms over two years of bad eating habits; we found ourselves in deep financial debt after a series of bad fiscal decisions, etc. In looking for a single, easy solution to such problems, even though our instinct clamors for such a thing, we deny ourselves of the real solution – which is this: improve our situation by 5% – rinse and repeat!


There is much, much more to everything than that which we initially perceive:


As soon as we think we know something, we close our mind to the possibility that there may be much, more more to that thing than what we could ever have imagined. it seems to be a part of human nature that we accept the broad-strokes as final draft. For our survival as a species, it has been necessary for us to make snap judgements and make quick decisions based on the judgments – but this is not how extraordinary things are accomplished. Mindful and deep exploration is how great things are discovered.


Leverage is about extracting maximum value from minimal effort:


Our time is precious; the most precious resource we have; not to maximize the value we extract from the things we pursue in that time, is to not understand how leverage works. Leverage is essentially about moving a lot with a little – to twist it a little, to reap the biggest result from the smallest effort. This concept is at play in every cranny of our lives; we ignore it to our peril.


Best wishes all … I can only hope you all enjoy your mat-time at least as much as I have done thus far. – John B. Will of Red Cat Academy




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