Lose Your Mind and Go with the Flow!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lose Your Mind and Go with the Flow!

In Jiu-jitsu, we talk a lot about developing flow-the ability to perform our techniques seamlessly, almost automatically, with very little thought or pre-planning.  This state can exist in almost any athletic endeavor, where your mind's conscious recognition of performing a certain technique or movement is subsequent to your body actually performing this movement.  Sometimes, we refer to it as being "in the zone".  The Japanese have a term, "Mushin", which literally means "no mind", but which can be roughly true translated as flow.  It is one of the three states of mind described in the 7-5-3 Code™that we are constantly striving to perfect.  Everyone has probably had the experience of this flow state at one point or another, but it is something that is often fleeting, and seems to elude us the more we try to chase it.  So how do we develop "flow" in Jiu-jitsu?  The same as in any other endeavor, whether it's perfecting your golf swing, playing the guitar, or learning any other physical skill....repetition.

Basically, when we are talking about "flow", we are talking about developing reflex.  The ability to instinctively increase our reaction time to a  given stimulus by eliminating or significantly reducing conscious thought, thus "no-mind".  There is a principle referred to as "Hick's Law".  Basically, Hick's Law is a term named after American psychologist William Hick, which describes the relationship between stimulus & response.  It states that given a certain stimulus, the more possible response choices a subject has to that stimulus, the slower their response will be.  So, if we put this in terms of a self-defense situation, what that means is that if we learn only one option to respond to a certain stimulus, say a sucker punch for example, that our reaction to that technique will be inherently faster than if we have a variety of possible technique options to choose from.  But the problem is, a fight is dynamic.  There are so many possibilities and Jiu-jitsu has so many techniques.  So how do we overcome the limitations of Hick's Law?  Again the answer lies in repetition.

It is always fun and exciting to learn new techniques and positions.  But the real key to developing a high level of skill in Jiu-jitsu lies in constant repetition of the fundamentals.  That means constantly drilling them, to the point that you are tired of drilling them, and then drilling them some more!  There is a huge difference between memorizing movements and making them reflexive.  Reflex is the ability to perform a technique unconsciously, reactively, even under stress, without thinking.  In a fight, or even in a sport Jiu-jitsu match, things happen so quickly that by the time you consciously think about doing a particular movement, often the opportunity for such a technique has already passed.  So, while you might "know" how to do an armbar, if you haven't drilled that technique to the point that your body does it almost automatically, the chances that you will pull it off in a realistic situation are very slim.

It has been said that on average, it takes about 10,000 repetitions of a given movement to develop this type of reflexive response.  That's a lot! That, combined with the shear complexity of Jiu-jitsu, all of the positions, techniques, counter-techniques, etc. is why it takes years of training to develop a high level of skill in the "gentle art".  And, even if you have put in the time with a given technique, remember that, as with all physical endeavors, these are perishable skills.  If you aren't constantly practicing & refining them, you will lose them.  So, as Rickson Gracie famously has said, "Don't practice the move until you get it right; practice it until you can't get it wrong"!

So, remember that the next time you find yourself bored with repetitively practicing basic fundamentals over & over again.  Don't look for a shiny new toy every time that you come to Jiu-jitsu class.  Polish the ones that you already have.  Ask yourself if you really know this move well enough, understand the details deeply enough, and have drilled it enough times to develop the reflex to use it automatically, even under stress, against a larger, stronger, resisting opponent.  Just our fundamentals program alone, Fighting Foundations™, contains 108 of the most essential Jiu-jitsu techniques for a self-defense situation.  Multiply that number times 10, 000 reps, and you have a staggering 1,080,000 repetitions to master each of these fundamental techniques.  But, don't get overwhelmed.  Just get on the mat as often as you can, make the best of your training time, focus on the fundamentals, get your reps in a little each day, and before long, you will be well on your way to achieving your optimum flow state!

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