Chayanne (Khy.Actual) and Jorge (J. Manuel) talk about their work in the cave. New beats from Khy.Actual and J. Manuel is back to writing full-time in a mad dash to meet a one month deadline. The boys also talk about mercenaries, private military contractors, and marines. Also don’t start arguments with cops on the side of the road; J. Manuel drops a little lawyer learning on you; your 4th, 5th, & 6th Amendment rights; Miranda warnings; throw in a little fight & jiu-jitsu talk; and round it out with a Science-Drop about consciousness and the newly discovered neurons that envelope the entire circumference of the brain.
Monkey see, monkey do, white belts look a lot like blue. Now before all of my fellow blue belts take offense, the blue belt that I speak of in this case is me. Last Saturday marked my two year anniversary of practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Marcio Cruz BJJ Academy. It’s been a long, fun, hard, and at times painful experience. Today I am feeling the aftereffects of one of those painful experiences that occurred on the mats during last Saturday morning’s class. Lesson learned from that experience; don’t use your neck as the lever or your head as the fulcrum, because your neck is bound to go “pop”, which mine of course did, again painful. But of course being sucker for BJJ, I showed up to class today regardless. This time however, I kept my promise to myself, and to my adoring, supportive wife that I was going to abstain from drilling, specific training, and sparring. (Well 2 out of 3 isn’t bad!) And so, after drilling the technique a combination x-guard sweep that we’ve been working on for the past two weeks, I sat and observed.
At first, I sat in the corner of the mats like someone had just pee’d in my Cheerios. (A term used by philistines that I picked up in the Marine Corps.) I was tempted to roll, but I resisted to the benefit of my neck, and my own jiu jitsu. Do you recall the aforementioned monkey? Well like I said before, I am that monkey. And guess what? So are you! At least you probably are if you don’t happen to be autistic. The reason is that me, you, and most everyone learns in this way thanks to the help of our friend the mirror neuron. “Mirror neurons are brain cells that are located in your premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex, and the inferior parietal cortex” (citation omitted), basically the part of your brain that processes movement, and motor skills. The cool thing about these tiny brain cells is that they activate, and respond in the same way as motor neurons, (the brain cells that work when you are actually doing an activity), except in this case the mirror neurons are working when you are just watching. To your brain, you watching the activity is almost no different than you doing the activity.
Do you have an uncle who watches boxing and throws combinations from his Lazy Boy? Well it’s his mirror neurons forcing his motor neurons into action. He’s just so rev’ed up that he can’t help but let his hands fly, especially if he used to box, too. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he’s reliving those boxing days. This appears to be supported by a recent Penn State Medical School Study that found that the correlation between mirror neuron activity and observation of a specific task was higher in people that were familiar with that specific task. Simply stated, a person who plays a sport learns more out of watching others participate in that specific sport, than someone who doesn’t know the sport at all. Similarly the more a person uses their motor neurons while they participate in jiu jitsu, the more that person’s mirror neurons activate when they watch it. That’s why fans of a sport usually enjoy the sport more when they participate in it. At least physiologically there is more activity there.
So as I sat there and observed, I kept saying to myself “damn”, over and over again. I would watch the white belts leave their arms behind when trying to pass guard, only to get caught in an armbar (this monkey still does that). The white belts would often try to compensate for technique by using their speed or power (this monkey still does that). Then I observed the other belts for fixes to those mistakes, and though they weren’t flawless, there were fewer mistakes. The funny thing is that these are mistakes that I am either acutely aware that I make, and others that I must still make because of where I end up repeatedly. I am that white belt, and I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m going to be that white belt for life, no matter what belt I am promoted to. Oh and there’s also a bit of bad news that you may or may not have caught. The inference that these neurological studies make is that the better that you are at doing something, the better you get just by watching others do it, but this relies on the fact that you have to actually be good at it first to improve. So needless to say there’s no way around it. I’m going to have to nurse this neck quickly and get back to rolling because I won’t ever be able to monkey see my way out of a rear-naked choke.
© J. Manuel Writes
My first day on a Jiu Jitsu mat nearly two years ago reminded me of my fifth week of Marine Corps boot camp on Parris Island, the week that I had been dreading since my mom signed my enlistment papers (I was 17 when I signed the contract). The fifth week back then was Swim Qual week, and I was what my Drill Instructors referred to as a “swim rock” or “iron duck”. Yup, I was that genius who thought that it would be a good idea to go to the Marines (a maritime warfare branch) not knowing how to swim, but like I said I was 17 years old so I just hoped that I’d figure it out when the time came. I’m not much of a planner, but I do have this uncanny ability to hope for the best, but what happened to me that week was a nightmare. Needless to say I came as close as humanly possible to drowning countless times without having to need mouth to mouth resuscitation from the Combat Swimming Instructors. The instructors were ever helpful with their reassuring words of encouragement such as, “Go ahead give up and drown! It’s the easy way out!”; “Don’t waste our time Recruit, just drown already!”; or the tried and true, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, Recruit!” I clearly recall the words of that instructor (my Guardian Angel who guided me through the qualification on that final day). I had just accomplished the platform jump performing the abandon ship technique for the umpteenth time, and the instructor greeted me at the other end of the pool with a wry smile. He grabbed me by the shoulders and spoke these memorable words, “Outstanding, Recruit! Now you’re gonna make it across this pool with all your goddamned gear, and get the fuck out of the pool on the other side, do some side-straddle hops, sing the goddamned Marine Corps Hymn, stop lolly-gagging around, and get back to your platoon, OR I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL DROWN YOU MYSELF!” To which I replied, “Aye, Sir!”
So yeah that’s how the first day on the mats at Marcio Cruz BJJ felt, not that anyone was threatening to drown me, but the fact that Jiu Jitsu, for the uninitiated, is very similar to drowning. You’d think that as an adult who has lived 30 plus years in the same body that I would have had a general understanding of how to move, but I found myself like the earlier me in that pool on Parris Island, flailing my limbs desperately trying to get away from the slowly enveloping, yielding, yet overwhelming absorption of force being used by my training partner. It made no sense to me. As in the water, I was at once pushing against an amorphous force, yet finding no arm or foothold to climb out of the suffocating depths. The more I struggled, the more tired I became, the more tired I became, the more I struggled, and so on until panic set in, and I began to go under.
After a brief thirty second or so exchange I couldn’t breathe mostly due to my exhaustion, and partly due to my training partner calmly applying a cross-collar choke. Regardless, I was happy for the momentary break that my submission offered me. There were still about 5 1/2 minutes left in the round. My training partner smiled and said something akin to, and I paraphrase, “Fun huh? Just remember to relax and breathe!” All I could think about was that’s what everyone says about swimming. The last two years of Jiu Jitsu has been a swimming lesson, and I think that I’ve gotten to the point where I can tread water, that is just as long as I stay in the shallow end and away from the sharks that come in all shapes, sizes, and belt colors.
© J. Manuel Writes
Other than the regulation “high and tight” there is nothing about Marines that sets us apart from anyone, and even that “high and tight” isn’t so special. No there is nothing about Marines that makes us different, except of course the things that do. If you were so unfortunate as to meet the typical Marine “Boot private”, one who had just marched off of the parade ground of Parris Island, or a Hollywood Marine of Marine Corp Recruit Depot San Diego, you would typically be gazing at an eighteen year old, unimpressive kid who looked like he or she had been starved, tortured, forced into hard labor in an internment camp, emotionally abused, psychologically broken, and is possibly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. In fact, your prejudice would be accurate.
You would observe with concern, the kid’s awkward gate, as he or she drove glassy Corfram heels menacingly through the pavement as if momentum itself relied on the violence. If you approached and asked if the kid was okay, concerned that this kid may have Asperger’s, your concern would be validated by a series of staccato, louder than necessary responses, that would be limited to: “yes”, “no”, “Sir”, or “Ma’am”. The kid would stand uncomfortably, ramrod straight with arms pinned at the trouser seams. You would be polite, and walk away, not knowing what to think until someone later informs you that what you saw was a newly-minted Marine. You would say okay, scratch your head, and most likely share your incredulity. You had expected that a Marine would be more impressive, majestic, menacing even, but that…that was just weird.
Fast-forward a few months to a second encounter and you would witness a transformation of sorts, not that it still wouldn’t be weird, just less Asperger’sy and more Turrets. The short and polite remarks would almost entirely be replaced by cursing, more cursing, and when not cursing, inappropriately sexual language, that would make Beelzebub himself wash his mouth with soap.
The humility sensed during your first encounter would have been discarded long ago, replaced by an unbelievably, irrational braggadocio, which would border on the insane. (The only other place where this behavioral dysfunction is notable is among New England Patriots fans. Go Pats!) Your eyes would still gaze upon the same unimpressive looking kid, who now displays a grotesquely large wad of tobacco protruding from the bottom lip. What could have caused this metamorphosis? Is he even really a Marine? Marines are supposed to be lionhearted warriors of lore, apex predators whose power is obvious, whose respect is immediately earned, like a pack of wolves or a pride of lions, but there is no awe or menace here. This is where you would finally be wrong.
The Marine totem is not a lion, a wolf, or even, (please forgive me Archibald Henderson, Smedley Butler, and Chesty Puller, for I am about to blaspheme), the bulldog. No, the Marine totem is a creature of lower station than all of those and one which would hardly strike fear in anyone. I speak of the grasshopper, the locust to be more precise. The grasshopper, by itself, is well, unimpressive, annoying to listen to, but mostly harmless. However, when the right conditions arise (the Marine Corps ensures that they arise regularly) and the grasshoppers find themselves to be in high enough concentrations, and there is a scarcity of water and food, be prepared, for something wicked this way comes.
The grasshoppers begin a serotonin induced transformation into a swarm of locusts whose voracious appetite for destruction lays waste to anything in its path. It is a power so abhorrent that it is mythologized, as Plague, in the Torah, Bible, Quran, and further in antiquity. It is a fate so morbid that it is only unleashed on the most recalcitrant evil. And it is there, in the aftermath, when awe, fear, and respect, is earned for these loathsome, little creatures.
© J. Manuel Writes