A Position in Bjj is often a trigger for people. As we prepare to watch the customary Black Friday fights on our social media feeds, we will be studying the positions these totally uneducated street fighters will naturally find. Half Guard, Mount, various Clenches from standing will all be explored in extremely dramatic fashion. For many people, this is the only reference point they have for the positions of Jiu Jitsu. For those who have been in dramatic situations involving these puzzles, it can be difficult avoiding the memory of these exact situations when first put there during training. The problem we encounter is that the mindset of fighting for survival or… a big screen tv, is obviously the opposite mindset of learning anything at all. These are likely to be totally different parts of our brain being activated here. So, how do we learn how to technically understand a position without invoking a mindset of survival based only on what we experienced in the past? Ok, that’s about the line for me personally at this point in time. Beyond that, you should probably discuss with your therapist. My solution in the gym is to get right into the technical aspect of the position with no personal detail necessary. There is no need to add emotion to the study of weight distribution and framing. What we can get from this information is that anyone could be in a totally unique emotional state based on a lot of variables. Treat people with patience during training.
Curious is the word most conspicuously missing from this cool looking chart, at least in my opinion. We could guess that curious may spring from any of the root emotions presented here. Fear and Anger both stand out as difficult places for curiosity to manifest. This is why I don’t focus on self defense lessons. We openly discuss self defense applications when drilling, and the professionals will generally adjust their drilling appropriately. But I argue that it’s not good for anyone to constantly label a training partner a ‘bad guy’ while concocting situations where these things may occur. It does nothing to change the mechanical realities of the position, and can emotionally hijack people who actually have been in trouble in those positions.
Many people joke about calming white belts down, but it’s often true. New people usually do need to calm down. Bad positions like the bottom of Mount are especially scary for new people. We have all been there. If you want to get out, you need to calm down long enough to learn what the position is. Your breathing needs to be normal, and you will find precise points to begin your escape. This applies to all positions, but is increasingly difficult the more trouble you find yourself in. You don’t want to try too hard in the wrong direction, and you don’t want to freeze up and do nothing at all. The benefit of doing less is that you are at least mapping information for your next try.
Two things that make Bjj learnable is discussion while drilling and unlimited tries when rolling. If something doesn’t seem to be working while drilling, it’s obviously best to discuss what to change to get the movement down. Then you can look at timing, resistance, and correct responses as your understanding grows. When attempting the same thing in a live roll, having an unlimited number of tries will allow us to fix our previous mistakes. We naturally lean towards things that are repeatable without incurring damage.
Discomfort is naturally occurring in many positions. Knee on Belly, for example, is designed to take advantage of discomfort. We end up having to look long and hard at the line between discomfort and potential damage in these situations. This line is different for everyone in many positions based on several variables. We have to learn on our own what these limits are to avoid injury, beginning with ourselves. Our emotional state can cause us to miscalculate in many cases. Sometimes we underestimate ourselves, and sometimes we overestimate ourselves. This is why we don’t have coaches that don’t train. It’s too easy to guess wrong when estimating what someone can handle unless you have recent experience to draw from. Sometimes you will see people pushing each other’s limits and exploring levels of discomfort. I feel that it’s important that this is voluntary and practiced at the adult level. Children must have the supervision of an adult who trains to begin exploring these positions. Regardless of age, there is a process to go through. First, you learn how to stay calm and safe. Only after going through this for a long enough time are you ready to start employing a state of urgency behind your actions. This can take years for some people, and that’s ok. It takes as long as it takes. You can speed up the process by asking the right questions. Trying to do the wrong thing harder will eventually end in failure and possible injury.
At higher levels, it will be up to you to choose your emotional state in different positions. Some people like being intense, and others more relaxed. I dare say that very few good Black Belts are angry, but we need all types in the world as long as they aren’t hurting others. Learning about the positions over a long period of time allows us to properly discern our best emotional practices in addition to our technical preferences. From my experience, learning how to enjoy the learning process has been extremely helpful in this pursuit.