There is No Spoon: Awareness in BJJ
Last month we talked about extension, which is the mechanism through which we can create distance from our opponents. Hopefully you’ve begun to be able to recognize at what place in the positions to create extension and when to use rotation. If you’ve been keeping up with the newsletters, then it’s likely that you’ve also started to notice your own, if not your training partners’ spinal alignment and where slack and fixed pointsshow up in different positions. If you haven’t quite started to notice these things yet, not to worry, because this month we are going to discuss awareness.
Awareness can be defined as the knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. Your first job when you start learning Jiu Jitsu is to create this awareness- that is, you may not necessarily know what to do in any given position, but just to become aware of the pieces that are moving. With complex movements and the ever-present possibility of being choked, staying present enough to gain this awareness may be easier said than done. Let’s talk a little bit about what to focus on to gain this awareness.
First, it is important to understand that position is always relative. What that means, is that Jiu Jitsu is a game in which positions matter in how they place your body in relation to the other person. For instance, being on your back with your legs in front of you ready to press (think open guard) may objectively seem like a strong position, however, if your opponent is in side control that open guard is no longer a strength. With this in mind, when you’re trying to become aware of positions it is important to think about your position relative to your opponent and what aspects of your body contributes to the position’s strength.
Next, you should think about the intention of each piece of the puzzle. That is, what is each part doing? Your hands and feet are really efficient at grabbing or hooking and rotating, whereas force will be generated through your hips and shoulders. In general, your arms things that your legs do, but your legs are typically better at it, especially when it comes to creating extension. Your arms will serve as a proxy for the legs until your legs can replace your arms, in which case you can use your arms for auxiliary support. As you gain experience in Jiu Jitsu, you’ll appreciate how nuances that can increase efficiency are vastly important.
Finally, it is important to begin to notice how to feel force. First it is enough of a task to understand that force is something to be felt; it is transferred from one object to another (or in our case, bodies). In Jiu Jitsu, we experience force as pressure in the same way music is experienced as sound rather than simply notes on a page. If you slow down next time you’re drilling try to feel where the pressure (i.e., force) is coming from and begin to recognize ways in which you can combat it. Remember though, combating force by applying a direct counter pressure is often a bad idea in jiu jitsu. Using other methods to direct the force in another direction, for instance rotation is often a great way to redirect force away from us. Try to focus on efficiency as you begin to hone our tactile reactions.
Improving our awareness allows us to understand what we are observing no only when we’re watching Jiu Jitsu, but also as we experience and with better understanding we will be able to bring new ideas into our games more rapidly.
-Coach Drew & Coach T