Jiu-Jitsu: The Folly of Attributes

Photo by: Grapple TV

Ever since I first started training I have heard people say “don’t rely on/use your strength.” I’ve only heard one instructor ever mention flexibility, and speed? No one ever tells anyone not to use their speed. Because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed by Carlos and Helio Gracie and because both men were of smaller than average stature, we have a culture in our sport that tends to decry reliance upon brute force, but not one that even acknowledges the inherent drawbacks of flexibility and speed.

I once had an instructor tell me that he’d rather be inflexible than flexible because the truth is that people will bend up until the point that they break. That is to say, a flexibility-reliant move will only go as far as it can and then there’s that moment where you hear a little popping noise and your back/neck/knee/etc is in real pain and you might be injured.

I am guilty of relying on physical attributes when I roll. I think most people are. If you are physically small and boney you can create awkward angles that bigger guys can’t even dream of creating. If you’re big and strong, you use that. If you’re super flexible, you play funky guards and attack from very strange places. The point is the sport/art is rife with people using their physical attributes.

The next time you roll, pretend you are many years older than you actually are and simple can’t muster up physical strength, flexibility or speed, try to time your movements and move sparingly. Try to avoid relying on your gas tank. Are you sweating? You already messed up because you are working too hard, and using some sort of physical attribute.

I competed last month and was coming off of a bad cold. Very often when I compete I use my substantial cardio gas tank to wear people down and then at certain brief moments use explosive movements to gain the upper hand, I left these two weapons at home when I went to that tournament, and suffered as a result. What I did find was that when I was able to rely on my A-Game I was successful, but if I lapsed even momentarily I lost the match. I was even able to beat two much larger, stronger and fresher opponents in the absolute division.

I’m not saying not to use your physical attributes but rather understand when you are and are not using them. Try to roll without breaking a sweat or breathing hard, it’s not as easy as you think. Try to roll without bringing your knees past your hips and without much spinal contortion. Try to make every movement slow and deliberate. You’ll fail. But you’ll also learn from it.


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