Being under pressure is great

Reverse psychology? Perhaps.

Having to suddenly assess your predicament, trying to remain calm and being very honest to yourself in recognizing your failure to move when you still had the time and available space in the face of an impending position which resulted in you being placed under this situation. Metaphorically, psychologically and physically being put under pressure applies in all forms of daily living.

We encounter it everyday in almost every form. For some it’s mostly work-related. For others, it could be the lack of work. Yet for a small percentage it is sought out and we deliberately find ourselves crushed under a heavier, skilled practitioner because it serves as another opportunity to study and understand this uncomfortable situation so we can devise an escape plan or even better, a prevention plan and a counter.

The scenario reminds me of a past conversation I had with a surgeon discussing the challenges of working with my elbow joint. In a small, tight space, full of ligaments, tendons, nerves and cartilage, there isn’t much room to poke about. Precise, timely and microscopic movements and know-how of where to poke and cut and clean and clear will determine the success. In other words, have a game plan and strategy, know what to do (tactics) then deploy (performance!). Much like the unfortunate chap in the picture being smothered by the larger (!) man. It’s too late when you are stuck on the bottom and will have to accept your fate, unless…

Recently rolling with my coach, my takeaway experience was “pressure”. In conversations with my coach about his experience rolling with his coach, Master Rigan Machado, his lasting impression is “pressure”. Without that pressure, we would not improve. I won’t use any cliches about pressure and diamonds however it is very apparent that the use of pressure so ubiquitous in the realm of jiu jitsu, wrestling and similar grappling arts that is can be considered it’s main currency.

Pressure is a strange creature. It can be devastating yet highly educational and beneficial. Think about being on the receiving end of a massage session. With the correct amount of pressure on the right muscle group the receiver experiences great relief and enjoyment. For the masseuse they benefit from physical exercise and get paid. Hard work no doubt but it’s a winning proposition for all.

Pressure applied on a joint going the wrong way, well, we all know what can happen then. Funny thing is the most common pressure I see is often self-inflicted. An example could be reprimanding yourself for making a bad move or saying something which could turn into a self-limiting and negative self-talk habit. This is not good pressure.

When things don’t go your way, the mental pressures we put on ourselves are often unfair and blown out of proportions. We tend to overthink the situation and make it seem much worse than it really is. We put pressure on ourselves for no real reason, just our imagination of what could possibly happen and we waste too much energy and time on it.

Confronting and accepting our reaction to pressure is one of the best lessons that the martial arts has taught me. Remembering to breathe, to remain calm, assess the conditions and if there is enough time and space move a little, just enough to make a difference and be in a better position to either set up an escape or a counter if available. Don’t cry out in frustration when you get caught on the bottom and while being smothered call out in vain and deny you saw it coming. Everyone else did.

When I find myself stuck in such a quandary, do I blame the person crushing me or myself for my own poor observation and movement skills? Often I mess up as much as my partner has genuine skills to catch me there, more often the latter. To which there is no end and a young and wise friend recently reminded me, that as you improve greater skills become harder to come by.

Onward with the journey.

In servitude and openness,
Vince Choo