Mindsets: Creativity & The Subconscious In Jiu-Jitsu

The most obvious source of creativity in my Jiu-Jitsu is positions my friends give me trouble with ranging from punked to less than elegant solutions that leave me tired or open to counter-offense.

So yeah, there’s always a two-pronged search going on for survival and elegance.

Next, artistically, I think you also have to pay attention to you’re bodies preferences and the resulting strengths and limitations of such preferences.

Finally, there are subconscious solutions arising where we give our bodies space to explore approaches outside our knowns, as taking in and implementing spoon-fed data is not art. Yes, we all have to be fed before we can feed ourselves through our understanding of Jiu-Jitsu at the level of principles, but at some point we have to leave home and pen our own novel.

Damn, thinking and reading this now, I don’t open up enough on the mat. I believe part of this is me thinking there’s a ‘Way’ when there is none beyond being, breathing, moving, pushing, pulling, probing, watching, feeling, and testing.

Just play. =)

Mindsets: The Utility Of Principles

It’s a little embarrassing to admit I didn’t start thinking in terms of principles until I’d been doing BJJ for 12 years!

What was I doing up until then?

Trying to copy moves from people whom I thought had ‘the’ answers.

This recently came full circle in wake of a VHS/DVD player combo purchase allowing viewage of my old VHS collection.  Watching Mario Sperry’s (a definitive ‘answer guy’) old Vale Tudo instructionals, it became obvious with my experience now coupled with the evolution of MMA since, they were indeed trying to figure things out.

This is part of the problem for a beginner, as the more skill some one has, the tougher it is to see the process involved.  For instance, a person may have a killer sweep series against standing passers, but if everyone at your academy passes on their knees such an approach is going to be tough to understand, let alone implement because your environment isn’t conducive to practicing the scenarios in which this game was developed.

But, what you CAN always do is take a piece of whatever you watch and/or feel by seeking to understand the principles involved.  Once you have some comprehension of that, you can steal, keep, borrow, try on, throw away, and dig up again as you see fit.

To close, questions to help harvest principle oriented thought:

Where are my points of contact, and how am I creating pressure?

How does this pressure create connection and allow me ‘feel’ my opponent, and how does said pressure feel from their perspective?  Is there ways I can increase this pressure and connection?  If so, how?

When is the ideal time(s) for a pass, counter, submission?  What specific momentum and energy has to be there (this is where drilling comes in).

Structurally, what are the inherent strengths and weaknesses of a given approach (no one position can be flow like water and be heavy like a rock at the same time)?

Mindsets: Honesty & Clarity

Another factor in clear mindedness is being honest with yourself.  If every moment on the mat was pure Black Belt bliss I wouldn’t write about chilling out an enjoying myself.

I get confused, prideful, butt-hurt, overly-aggressive and frustrated like everyone else, I just don’t make a big deal of it.  On the contrary, I try to admit it as soon as it happens and it’s usually funny.

Something that probably marked my progression as a writer was the fact that I used to go back and delete some old posts written in a less than positive frame of mind out of fear of how I came across (jeffwassom.wordpress.com).  That’s maybe good for a politician but sh*t for some trying to pass words off as writing.

Love shines it’s light on all, Good, Bad, and Ugly:

Study: Qualifiers & Open Vs. Closed Mind

A person with a relatively clear mind can usually dig something of value out from just about any situation.

The opposite of the above state of resourcefulness is creating all sorts of qualifiers around what we need to learn, how it’s being taught, by whom, what belt level, and so on and so forth.

On a side note, how fun and loose did the previous sentence feel?  When we’re carrying around that much mental baggage we can’t even see straight let alone relax.

Remember, we help the universe be generous to the degree we’re generous with our attention:

Guard: The Magic Contact Point

While playing around with Guard recovery ideas against standing passers the other day I realized how much I neglected going for the neck.

My training partner and I concluded a neck contact point changes everything the most dramatically through nullifying the top players ability to rotate (back-step), move backwards, as well as the sweetness of adding your bodyweight to the rest of the contact points.  To demonstrate, watch how everything shifts in this Pedro Sauer teaching clip when Sauer get a lapel grip @ 1:51:

Broadly, this principle applies EVERYWHERE.  When in doubt protect ya neck and assault theirs. ;o)


Domination (Cross-Sides Top): Getting Grips, Advancement, & Attacking

Side note: Going to start categorizing concepts and principles by position to make things more searchable and tangible.

Back to topic, the following ‘Principle’ as it were could be called the principle of Attack:

Listening to Rickson Gracie’s thoughts on competition and effectiveness recently has caused me to think about holding Mount, Cross-Sides, etcetera versus finishing. To put this into practice, I’ve been concentrating on getting grips to set up finish, or going for finish directly as soon as possible after I get position.

I think before I saw holding positions as an opportunity to rest, partially because I used too much energy passing guard and needed recovery time. I also think there was a bit of fear of an opponent recovering guard, especially if I worked really hard to pass. In retrospect, technically this fear is largely unfounded as during the heat of a roll, if there’s an opening in some one’s Guard once it will likely be there again. Emotionally, giving into fear ruins our fun in the moment and leads us to a stiff game based on ego and winning as opposed to exploration and awareness.

To make this idea tangible geographically let’s look at Cross-Sides Top:

My general indicator (there are exceptions for everything) for control good enough to attack is getting the opponent flat. Once flat, based on arm postion after landing I’m looking for a kimura or deeper cross-face. The cross-face is going to lead to a forearm blade across the bottom players neck or mount/knee-ride to open further attacks, while the kimura will set up a north-south choke or mount. Again, the attacks though aren’t relevant so much as the idea of ‘holding/controlling’ as little as you need to. This doesn’t mean you have to go berserk and waste energy, to the contrary it’s skillfully and constantly moving toward a finish.

Another way to consider this concept is to attack from Top with same the urgency we attack from Guard. This is a little counter-intuitive because when we have mount top it’s easier to get lulled into the idea we’re winning while essentially doing nothing. What you want is that same urgency from every position coupled with a present mind. In other words it’s a technical sense of urgency, not freak out mode.

Mindsets: Enjoying Crawling Before Walking

Guard Passing went slightly better yesterday in light of Distance and Contact Point insights below, but still made a fair share of mistakes out of habit. As important as fixing these technical errors are, is learning not to have too big of expectations in the wake of insights as well as not bringing unnecessary stress to the corrective process.

To conclude, one thing at a time, enjoying all, as peaks and valleys rest within the same beautiful landscape when understood as perception. =)

Study: Right Thing, Wrong Time

Could have lumped this topic in with the previous post, but wanted to point out how common it is even for me as a black belt to employ a good strategy in the wrong context!

Experience doesn’t necessarily help either because I can STILL make less than optimum strategies work against 95% of the people I grapple.

To close, I talk about beginner’s mind all the time, but you really have to be awake, think in terms of principles, and assume you don’t know jack. Just because something works today doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow, or that’s it’s even very fundamentally sound.

Guard Passing: Distance

Thinking more about post below I realized just like everything else in Jiu-Jitsu, fundamentally sound Guard Passing strategies are based on distance:

Elbows to hips is a great strategy to employ when an opponent opens their closed guard because their hips are still tight to our body, but they haven’t got their feet to our hips yet to create distance. Here the bottom player is ripe for under/over passing combinations.

Along these lines, watch and feel where the bottom player’s hips are, and defend and attack accordingly. Here Henrique from Marcelo Garcia’s academy employs the above principle of under/over passing from a granby guard recovery (hips in tight to body, but no connection):

If hips are further away I’m going to fill that space with my legs or go around depending on the bottom players energy and pressure. In fact, thinking about this more it’s pretty much a longer distance version of previously discussed tight under/over passing.

Guard Passing: Defending Contact Points

In the past I’ve defended contact points on hips with my elbows and hooks on thighs/knees with hands. The problem with this strategy is it concedes neck contact points.

So, currently thinking of ways to cover and defend my hips and legs with leg and hip movement in order to leave my arms and hands free to hand defend neck grips and establish grips of their own. As to not leave you guys in the dark, one obvious solution is using Combat Base…

Going further with Combat Base, I used to play it exclusively with right leg up, and STILL do but if the guard player plays Butterfly guard with left leg up with intent of sweeping and ankle picking me to my right I defend with the left leg up.

Also, I constantly drive forward with Combat Base threatening a knee cut pass, otherwise I’m just asking to be De La Riva hooked, ankle picked and figured out in general.

Chris Haueter on defending and attacking Combat Base: