Keep it playful

It’s a great philosophy to have. But hard to implement in high-pressure situations. If you’re in sports, forget about it. “It ain’t happening,” that’s what everyone will have you believe.

As a jiu-jitsu practitioner, it’s hard to imagine being clam under pressure. Now, I study both the traditional (aka “old school” jiu-jitsu that focuses on self-defence) and contemporary (sporting) forms of the martial art. The academy I train at focuses on the latter. So, you can imagine I have quite an interesting time blending the two aspects while sparring with my training partners.

Here’s why — the traditional schools emphasise on being patient and waiting for the right opportunity to escape the pins and wedges your opponent may have on you. The contemporary schools focus on escaping the opponents pins and wedges within 3 seconds, else they score a point against you. I’m not sure if you noticed, that’s a lot of pressure!

We don’t have traditional jiu-jitsu schools in India but that’s alright. I have a tendency to mix things up anyway! The key is to understand how best can I use the skills and practices from the two schools in what I do in competitions and life. And that’s where the “keep it playful” philosophy comes in. It helps you see things from a fundamentals’ (and might I say “first principles”) perspective, which for all martial artists is — defend.

Yes, purists will argue that you can’t defend your way to victory and they will be correct. Ryron Gracie has a great framework for street fights that I believe is applicable for sporting competitions as well (if you’re bold enough to ignore the points system aside). It’s simply — Defend, Escape, Control, and Submit. Here’s his explanation:

The 4 Elements of Jiu-Jitsu

If you think the above is merely theory, you will be mistaken. Check out Ryron implementing what he teaches in one of the best submission-only matches of all time:

Metamoris: Ryron Gracie vs Andre Galvao

Note that Ryron’s opponent Andre Galvao is a 5x world champion who was considered invincible at the time of this match. Near about everyone, except the Gracies, thought Ryron had a chance. The match ended in a draw but not without proving a point (no pun intended) — if you know your stuff, keeping it playful works.

I’m sold on it but I do know getting to a level of playfulness will take some getting used to. For now, it’s a work-in-progress.


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