The Utility of Visiting Open Mats

This past weekend I went and visited an open mat at a new school that recently opened in my area. The new school’s owner was a friend and old training partner of one of the guys I regularly train with, and we thought it would be fun to check it out and to show some support for a new local school. Since this was the first week that this school was open we didn’t expect to see too many people, but luckily some guys from other gyms also decided to show up to see the new place. This turned out to be a friendly open mat with a variety of jiu jitsu practitioners from various schools in the area.

I don’t often hit open mats at other schools, so I don’t get a lot of chances to roll with people outside of the circle of athletes that I train with. But at this open mat there were people from at least 3 different schools, and when I rolled with some of these practitioners I got to experience different styles of rolling than I’m used to. The first thing I noticed was how contrasting most of the guys I rolled with were in terms of aggression, which was a little lighter than where I normally train. Our school is a highly competition oriented school, and though we have a tight knit group, all willing to help each other grow, the rolling style tends to be aggressive, with a lot of speed and smashing. At this open mat, however, most of the guys I rolled with had a smooth and fluid style that seemed to be more centered on waiting for you to make a mistake rather than trying to force you into making a mistake. Rolling against this more fluid style was a strange transition, in that I wasn’t sure how to counter some of their moves (or even effectively pass their guard) since the level of resistance I’m used  to wasn’t there. I had new puzzles to solve, and that made things challenging and a lot of fun.

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Ego is the Enemy of Progress

Jiu Jitsu is hard. This is what our instructor told us during belt promotion last night. It’s why we train so often. As he stated, “the hardest part of my day is training, after training everything else is easy”.  That’s the truth.  On days that I have class I will typically try to get to bed early the night before, consume the right amount of calories, at the correct times, take the right supplements, and generally psyche myself up before class to prepare for the grueling workout. And ego makes all of this harder.

I generally think of myself as someone who doesn’t let his ego get in the way of things. But I had a revelation this past week… I was getting more stressed about class than I needed to be, simply because I was concerned about losing matches to lower belts.

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Jiu-Jitsu as Meditation

One of the main skills I’m trying to acquire in my life is the ability to disengage from the endless internal chatter that my mind perpetually generates. This chatter tends to be a non-stop feedback loop of repeated ideas which at best revolve around mundane day to day tasks that need to be completed and at worst focus on any negative thoughts I may have about myself, others or situations. That inner critic can be crippling, and the more I can dissociate with it, the more clear minded and emotionally centered I tend to get.

I do practice meditation, though I haven’t been practicing it for long, and certainly not as consistently as I probably should be. It helps, quite a bit, but I often find myself slipping into “auto-mode”, where hours can go by without me really being in control of my own thoughts. Gurdjieff talked about waking up from this robotic existence by continuously focusing your attention on a small body part (such as your right hand pinky). Doing so forced your brain into the moment, and practicing doing this was supposed to cultivate the same mind-state that meditation does.

What I’ve discovered is that Jiu-Jitsu has the same affect on me.

In Jiu-Jitsu our class is typically divided into 3 sections: warm-up, instruction, and sparring. After a long day at work I’m usually wanting to go home and lay down. The last thing I want to do is get entangled in a difficult workout. But I always force myself to go. At first during the warm-up the thoughts that usually come up in my mind are along the lines of: “I’m tired, too tired to be doing something so difficult”, “I had a really rough day at work, I should be home trying to enjoy myself”, or “I should really be spending my evenings trying pursue the new career that I want”.

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The 7-5-3 Code

753CodeThe 7-5-3 Code is a philosophy developed by the Valente Brothers in the tradition of providing warriors with values by which to live their lives. It is largely inspired by the samurai principles of Bushido, the code of moral principles observed by ancient Japanese warriors. Bushido (literally: “the way of the warrior”) was originated to  temper the everyday violence of the samurai’s training and vocation with a moral code of conduct by which they could conduct themselves. The samurai developed this code to keep themselves from straying too far from a righteous path.

As practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we face humility every time we step on the mats, and this tends to help ground us in our daily lives. Still, studying a code of conduct can further cement within us the principles of right living.

The 7-5-3 Code is broken into 3 sections: The 7 Virtues of a Warrior, The 5 Keys to Health, and The 3 States of Mind.

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