Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Training Breakthrough

I have always admired the way a good practitioner can get on the mat and, sans partner, mime the motions to a move. Air-grab–air-grab–hip-escape–bump–turn. That’s how you do it. “How do they do that?” I would think. “I can barely get it right with a compliant partner, let alone the thin air.”
Well, last night, there I was, trying to explain a move to a partner. Words failed. It was easier to show it. And—ta-da!—I mimed the move. Applause, everyone, and no, bouquets are not overkill. After sixteen months, I have actually internalized some moves so completely that it is easier for me to mime them than to try to explain them.
If you are throwing flowers, I prefer a nosegay like this one. It's simple, yet chic, and "nosegay" is such a cool word.

It reminds me of my journey studying Latin. I spent three years doing hard grammar and reading mechanical prose. I could tell you all about the “ablative of degree of difference” and then turn around and parse the hell out of that verb.
Then they threw poetry at me. I learned to just read, because rules in poetry are meant to be broken. So, I forgot about the rules and just read Latin. Conversations with classmates would sound like this, “How do you know to translate that like ‘he plunged his sword in all the way to the hilt’?” And I would reply, “I don’t know. That’s just what it says.”
            Then one day I walked into a prose composition class. All those rules? Guess what? They were important to know again. Although I could read Latin very well, I realized I had internalized the rules and could not explain many of them anymore.

I am happy that I have committed some jiu jitsu to muscle memory. It is the first step toward seeing the underpinnings of the art and building an organic and dynamic game. I also see that the next step is to to do both—to feel the move without thinking, and then to be able to express the move to someone else. But sheesh! I’m just happy with this for now!


  1. Love jiu jitsu/language analogies.

    Congrats!! It takes so much faith to just let jiu jitsu happen in you.

    1. I like how you said "happen in you." Doesn't it feel great on those days when it does? Then there are other days when my brain can't get out of its own way.

  2. Congrats! I'm still waiting for a moment like that. I've mimed moves before but I'm not confident that I did them exactly right and I know that my technique could be tighter on, like, everything. It's a work in progress, so I can see how it's an important stepping stone for you. Keep it up!

  3. That's awesome :) I was thinking this morning, while showering after an hour-long roll, that jiu jitsu is really all about pattern recognition. As long as you recognize patterns (in 3D of course-- jiu jitsu in zero gravity) you can find something to do in any position. Which is why, I realize, that it's so like chess. It's all pattern recognition :)

    1. Yes, it is. But I stink at chess and get really frustrated with it, while I'm decent at jiu jitsu. Hmmm... I think it has to do with knowing the way your own body moves. And (I'm will hide behind a computer screen now, because all the rabid chess fanatics are going to come at me for this) I think it's more complex than chess. In chess you are either dark or light and everyone can make the same moves. In jiu jitsu, not everyone can make the same moves and sometimes people have shorter or longer legs, stronger or weaker arms . . . you get the picture.
      With all that said, I'm taking 9-YEar old to a chess tourney on Saturday.


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