On the Gentle Art #2


If there is one thing that I enjoy, it’s learning. I’ve never been a good studentnot in the classical sense at leastjust ask my Sunday School teachers. What I mean is that I have always despised sitting in a classroom, in stasis, while a teacher drones on. This may be due to some undiagnosed A.D.D., but I chalk it up to the ease with which I find boredom. I think that I got lucky to have gone through K-12 when I did because I wasn’t much for standardized nor standard tests either. I was the kid who broke 80 on everything just to keep my parental overlords happyexcept of course in science.

I was drawn to science because I was, and at times still am, a smug little brat. You all know the kid that asked why a million times? That was me. Though at the time, I didn’t know that I was being smug. (The omission is intentional.) Yes, science placated my entitled sense of wanting to know everything, though I thought I already had that covered. It allowed me to ask the question without being smacked down for asking it because of some hidden insecurity in its poweragain ask my Sunday School teachers. But science did do one more thing; it let me test my questions, and that made me realize that I didn’t know anything.

And here I was on the mat some twenty-three years later, having watched plenty of UFC videos, my mind full of preconceived notions of what Royce Gracie had done, and thinking okay I have a basic understanding of what is going on. Boy was I wrong! Here is where I pull the veil away from Jiu Jitsu for those of you that don’t already know; there is nothing gentle about the gentle art! What doesn’t come through in the Jiu Jitsu videos and the instructional books is its inherent difficulty. Jiu Jitsu doesn’t care about your preconceived notions of it, just as science doesn’t care what you think, and both dish out quick and real, some would say cruel, lessons to the uninitiated. Why the similarities between the two? The answer is simple. Jiu Jitsu is science; Physics to be precise.

Walk into any Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school and you will undoubtedly see a group of people partnered up and rolling around on the ground literally trying to rip each others limbs off or choke each other unconsciousin a friendly way of course. The key phrase being each other. They are competing against one another and no one is standing there being the willing dummy. Let’s give quarter here for the time in class when the professor is teaching the technique, but after that, it is up to the individual students to put the technique into action against live opponents who are also trying to put the technique into practice against them. Let’s just say that the result is often a furball of movement that results in stalemate, and therein lies the scienceNewton’s Third Law of Motionfor every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Stalemate is the median state of most Jiu Jitsu, boring to some spectators, but infinitely tiring, frustrating, and difficult to those who practice it. (Science much?)

In this toil, frustration, and adversity is where truth is discovered. This is where hypotheses come to be tested and buried, and where Theory is ultimately revealed. The mat is the laboratory, and your body and that of your opponent, are parts of the experiment. When the buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the round, the experiment is over. You lie on the mats reflecting on your victory or defeat (I, mostly on defeat) hoping that some small truth was revealed, hoping that maybe you are one experiment closer to unlocking the Physics of Jiu Jitsu. You are yet again painfully aware that there is no magic to it, and no magic to save you, just the hard science that you have yet to understand. But I find comfort in this because I still have many unanswered questions.

© J. Manuel Writes

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