Take your foot off the pedal!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Take your foot off the pedal!

I was having a discussion with a student today that prompted me to write this article.  I feel that it is an important concept to remember, both in training, and in life, that sometimes we need to just slow down!

I have always found it interesting that generally, the students who are the newest to Jiu-jitsu & the least familiar with the techniques tend to go the fastest.  It doesn't make sense.  This would be like taking a 15 year old who just got their learners permit & taking them out to do time trials on a race track.  How do you think that would end up?  The new driver only has a rudimentary understanding of the basic control mechanisms of the vehicle, and certainly hasn't had the experience to develop a feel for driving smoothly & keeping the car under control at normal speeds.  Why should they immediately push beyond their limits & see how fast they can go?  Instead, they should go out to an empty parking lot where they have plenty of room for error, and slowly practice maneuvering the car & learning to avoid obstacles & drive smoothly.  There is plenty of time to learn to drive fast later.

This same concept holds true for Jiu-jitsu.  If you go too fast, especially in the beginning, you can't read the signs that might be warning of danger ahead and you are likely to run yourself right into a wall!  Slow down.  Take the time to understand & analyze the position & think your way through it.  It is human nature, in the beginning, to move too quickly & too forcefully.  This is often because of a feeling of wanting to test out the technique to see if it really works.  Don't worry, all of the techniques have been tested....and they work.  If they didn't, they wouldn't be around anymore.  If you go too fast, you may miss details, or worse, injure yourself or your training partner.  Of course one of the things that makes Jiu-jitsu such an effective fighting art is the fact that we do train live with a resisting opponent.  But you have to first learn the techniques in a slow manner with a cooperative partner.  Don't jump into the deep end before you know how to swim!

I was sparring with a fairly new white belt recently.  As soon as we shook hands, they took off at a feverish pace not unlike a Tazmanian devil with a caffeine overdose!  Within a couple minutes, they were barely able to breathe & wondering why they got so tired so quickly.  The answer is obvious.  They were going too hard.  I was going at their pace, just flowing with them.  But their own mental anticipation & lack of confidence caused them to tense every muscle in their body, hold their breath, and move way too much & too quickly.  And they didn't even realize it.  They weren't exhausted because of anything I did.  They were their own worst enemy.  Even when you are participating in live sparring, pay attention to your pace.  Back to the car analogy, it is a good idea to always leave something in the tank.  If you've ever been completely gassed out in a fight, it is a terrible feeling.  So don't set a pace that you can't maintain.  Sometimes, the other person starts to get a little ahead & you have to step up your pace for a short time to keep up.  But, be able to control the throttle.  Remember, Jiu-jitsu is about efficiency, not speed or power.  Don't use any more energy than you need to get the job done.

Slowing down doesn't just apply to how you apply techniques or controlling your pace in sparring.  It also applies to your overall Jiu-jitsu journey.  There is no finish line....so don't be in a hurry to get there.  Too often, there is a tendency to focus on the next technique, the next belt, etc.  Make the most of where you are at & enjoy the process.  I can't tell you how often I have heard people, upon getting promoted, comment that they wish they had more time at their previous belt.  Take your time.  We are all always looking to improve.  Don't be content, always seek to be better; but be patient.  Getting to a high level of skill in Jiu-jitsu takes time and there is no way to cheat that.  The only way is to get on the mat consistently over a period of many years.  The process is what's important.  Because once you reach your next goal, you will realize that that "destination" was just another step.

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