Examining BJJ – Why Socrates would’ve loved the Gentle Art
An SBG Ironman – The Ultimate BJJ Examination
“An unexamined (BJJ) life is not worth living” – Socrates
Socrates said the above words about life. It is a bold and unflinching statement that dismisses those who choose not to examine and reflect on the life they are experiencing as nothing short of worthless. But, when considered, there can be no other conclusion than he is, indeed, correct. In fact one could argue that it is almost impossible to live life without some kind of examination, no matter how shallow that exam may be. After all, we reflect on the fact that we touched a hot stove, feel pain, and make a note not to do so again. But to reach our full potential as humans we should be making an effort to fully examine the way we live our lives and experience the world around us all the time, and through doing so, achieve personal growth.
So why is it that I refer to this quote as part of a blog about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Well, like a couple of other articles I’ve written recently, this is yet another example of the way in which a quote about life in general can be turned towards the way we approach our training. It can also be used to explain the rise in BJJ’s popularity.
BJJ has risen to prominence in recent years alongside the growth of MMA. A decade or two ago, asking people in the street what BJJ stood for would have earned little more than blank stares. Today, however, you cannot walk more than a few miles in a major city without passing some variation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and/or MMA academy. It’s popularity, and acceptance into the arsenal of almost all modern MMA practitioners, is solely down to the fact that it is highly effective. The reason BJJ stands up to scrutiny when so many other traditional martial arts fall embarrassingly short under pressure is because it has been examined, tested and constantly improved upon. At the same time, other martial arts rely upon nothing more than ancient traditions, and hold fast to baseless assumptions that go untested at any point. A person who completely neglects to examine his life is a person who acts almost for no apparent reason, walking repeatedly into a wall because they failed to recognize that their idea of being able to pass through it was wrong last time. It is no exaggeration to say the same is true of an unexamined approach to developing a martial art. The same person stands in one spot throwing punches and kicks at thin air, despite the fact that such practices have been resoundingly disproved when tested in real situations.
We can use the above quote for guidance when approaching the daily training of BJJ as well, to ensure that it remains consistently effective and so that we notice errors we might be making. An unexamined approach to training is what breeds complacency, and leads to the repetition of the same old motions without thought or any real understanding of what and why you perform a movement. An examined approach to training, as is fully demonstrated at SBG and developed thoroughly by SBG founder Matt Thornton with his idea of ‘Aliveness’ (http://aliveness101.blogspot.com/), would involve a concerted effort to test the techniques being learnt at every possible juncture. It allows the skills taught to be used in a way that tests them under resistance, and allows them to be developed alongside the ability to recognize the necessary timing and movement to make them fully effective. An unexamined approach to BJJ training creates the very same issues we try to avoid by choosing an art that has been proven so effective in the first place. Running through basic, introductory drills against lifeless opponents does not test what is being learnt. Constantly examining techniques against resistance and a moving opponent consistently confirms effectiveness and identifies mistakes. Taken further, a conscious effort to examine how we train, what we have learnt, and ask the pertinent questions when reaching potential roadblocks, will ensure a BJJ life that it rich and fully realized. An unexamined BJJ life, going through the motions for no reason, with disregard to their usefulness, is indeed, not worth living.