Since I've been somewhat out of pocket the last 48 hours due to traveling, I've had the opportunity to catch up on some much desired reading and reflecting on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Too often, the pace of life shapes a routine that is more reactionary than reflectional. You need both, I think, to be healthy and make positive gains on and off the mat.
So, here are some of the things that have been stirring in my head. Sort of like a stream of consciousness, they're in no particular order of importance and are by no means universal truths. It's not a comprehensive list, either. They're simply a perspective on a couple of ideas from a beginner's mind. There'll be more to come on this. Feel free to expand on these initial thoughts.
Utilizing Leverage in Training
How can I armlock someone twice my size and twice as strong? How can I lift a man who outweighs me by 75 pounds? The answer is always leverage. One must always seek out positions that multiply your perceived strength while minimizing that of your opponent. These points of leverage are in every position. It's just a matter of identifying them at the appropriate time and reacting accordingly.
This is an excellent quote from Saulo Ribeiro: "If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die." One interpretation of its meaning is that all jiu-jitsu must be based on how you feel your opponent. The timing to make a decision is not based on what you think you should be doing. It is about your body recognizing the move and automatically doing it. When you react, you don't give your mind time to feel with emotions that can cloud rational thought.
Surviving Under Attack
I think this is something everyone has to learn...and learn well. Inevitably, you're going to face a more technical and experienced, or perhaps stronger and faster, opponent that will push you to a point of exhaustion. You're going to feel crushing weight, claustrophobia, and pressure from many angles. That's when mistakes can happen.
You must liberate yourself from insecurity, and replace fear and anxiety with peace and fortitude while "under the gun". Doing so will train your mind to relax and, as Rickson Gracie says, "flow with the go". Sure, you may still get "tapped" by a more experienced opponent, but that is part of the learning process. Don't get hung up in that.
The real lesson -- in terms of a street or tournament situation -- is to keep a cool head when the heat is turned up. Again, it's not about emotion. It's about clarity of decision that's rooted in a calm demeanor with selective explosiveness. Remember speed, timing and technique -- and the interconnectedness between them.
Lastly, survival isn't just a "white belt" concept. It is one of the major themes of jiu-jitsu as a whole.
Being an Escape Artist
You must learn how to transition out of an inferior position or an attack by your opponent. The basic positions of survival in jiu-jitsu are being inside someone's guard, being on the bottom of your opponent's cross-side, knee on the stomach, and mount, and working to escape someone who has taken your back.
These positions are ones you must learn to successfully escape from. Remaining in them will only lead to bigger issues for you. Drill your escapes habitually from these positions. Of course, you must not only learn positional techniques for escape, but also submission escapes. To clarify, you don't need to know 30 ways to escape someone's mount or armbar...you must understand the fundamentals of how escaping them work.
Again, don't be tardy on your escapes. This leads to the overuse of strength, which in turn will lead to exhaustion.