The Way I See Things: Reflections

Vince Blog, Goal Setting Tools, Off The Mats

At last evening’s Jiu Jitsu class I briefly touched on various related subjects and I’ll touch on a couple of these topics with the hope that some of these ideas will resonate with you;

  • What are your reasons for training or learning jiu jitsu?
  • For you, what is the best method(s) for attaining these skills and can you commit to the requirements?
  • Realising how difficult, challenging, and time-consuming this skill is, do you think it is worth your time, energy and effort?
  • There are currently 2 main emphasise or training directions in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world, sport and self defense. Which one resonates more with you, either or both?
  • Do you recognise the lessons learned beyond the techniques

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and any answer you come up with will only serve as stepping-stones to the the next. Your answers will change over time as you change and mature and this is perfectly fine but spend 30 minutes and write down your answers to these questions for yourself.

Things that I have learned over time:

Change is inevitable; Growth is optional
What is useful and required one day may no longer be the next. This is the constant in our lives. Failure to adapt and change to your environment and needs will turn you into a dinosaur relatively quickly. However, there are constants in this world; some things do not require rapid change and in those we can afford more time to invest more time and effort in learning them.

As the program head coach in Bangsar, I am responsible not only to guide and provide you with a safe training environment, effective and efficient techniques and partly a motivator, role-model, but to help you visualise and set goals for yourself. I have my own the role models whom I look up to and based the intangible standards of what it means to be a “good person” that I wish to maintain, improve or grow. I make the majority of training time with me to help you develop and grow as a person and reserve some time for my personal growth and jiu jitsu expression. It’s not only about how to fight because inherently physical fighting is destructive in nature and I am interested in the positive, growth aspects that can be gleaned from training. This means that it has to be a very personal and for me, some degree of spirituality, that intangible, inexplicable positive sensation that has also been described as energy, passion, drive, flow-state, etc. and whichever description resonates with you, that is your current muse.

Being a realist I know there is no one alive on this planet who is 100% perfect. We all have our external and internal fights going on. We all have our insecurities, our shortcomings and some outright failings. This grinding tug-of-war is the human condition and drives us to improve to be better than our predecessors and ancestors.

We are striving (or should be) kinder, more compassionate, smarter, more conscious of our presence in our communities, our circle of friends, our immediate and extended family unit. How and what we think will have a direct consequence on our actions and that starts the ripple of influence across the board. What messages are you sending via your verbal and non-verbal language? Who is listening to you and what will they get from that exchange? Are you a positive influence on yourself and those around you? There are people who change from one state to the next, but they never seem to get better. Do they adapt to the new conditions of their lives? Do they even bother?

What is the function of martial arts training to you? Is it to enable you with a set of skills for destruction or the lessons in acquiring these skills teach you about trying new things, about accepting failure as part of growth? Perhaps you learn to be determined, developing focus and grit, working on other aspects of your physicality to enable you to gain that set of techniques. You learn to breathe, patience, to embrace the discipline required to complete the goal that you’ve set for yourself. There are many positive elements that can be garnered from regular, consistent practice in learning how to learn. We all deal with the disappointments and frustrations of failure at some point and those can be small or big hurdles. Some are formidable enough to outright scare us off enough to completely quit. Life 1: You 0.  You can try again later, or at least you should but you shouldn’t quit. Life is not about quitting.

New school or old school?
When I was in primary school in Malaysia in my first year I did really well ending up in the top of my year. The second year, fuelled by over confidence and the distraction of play-time, I tanked. When I moved to the UK, I struggled in the first year but as I approached my C.E. year I aced several subjects and often recall the hours I spent reading and re-reading and memorising the history and geography books, and other favourite subjects, to the surprise of many teachers. The teachers had to do a post exam consult when the results were out and many expressed their admiration for my work ethic and the surprising (to them) results – they did not anticipate so many “A” marks next to my name.

I didn’t achieve these results miraculously via sparks of intelligence nor through sudden lightbulb moments. Many of the subjects were hard because they were totally unfamiliar and for me and in a second language. My academic career instantly started at a disadvantage by being a year later than my peers so my solution was to grind it out and study ad nauseam when the other kids were having fun playing, I kept to my books and repeated and repeated the material I needed to know until it got in-grained.

In watching interviews with high level athletes, visionaries and people who have achieved unimaginable success, they share the secrets to their success; it all boils down to a similar formula that propelled them there: hard work. No magic. Hard work through repetition and repetition, in those repetitions you find all kinds of variables. Things that are the same but different. Things that are different but become the same. Repeat and repeat. Drills. Practice drills. Working on timing, energy and motion. These three elements are the constant to working on and perfecting the drills until you know them inside out. You are so familiar with them until they feel totally alien like spelling the same word over and over until you no longer recognise the word. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. Some call it luck others; destiny but you get to live it out because you know what to do. You don’t have to second guess your next step. You have to find your grind.

Many athletic records have been set because athletes and their coaches work at achieving small, progressively challenging goals. They don’t spend all day racing to learn how to do it better but they drill and practice to improve their skills because when race day comes by they are ready and they deploy their skill set. It is common to see an athlete commit the majority of their training time to training and not competing.

Where are you now? In the 2 sessions of jiu jitsu a week that you invest in, roughly about 3 hours a week. Of those 3 hours if you used 2.5 hours sparring/rolling leaving only 30 minutes to learn a new technique or to improve one that you kind of know in comparison with using 2.5 hours a week working on improving your technique then spending 30 minutes sparring and rolling. What do you think the better outcome will be? Is this a proven and effective training model?

Go to any professional martial arts gym that works with full time fighters you won’t see the athletes competing or sparring all the time. They are practicing specific techniques, working on specific scenarios, drilling and practicing repeatedly. If not they are working on their fitness, recovery, mental game or other components to help them achieve their goals. They aren’t sparring 90% of the time and training 5% more like the other way around. They are training with longevity and sustainability in mind. Practicing techniques that are safe for their bodies and on techniques that minimises wear and tear on the joints and things that are safe to do repeatedly.

The brief Twitter-era answer to this age-old question about “becoming better” at jiu jitsu is just to show up and train. Don’t overthink things because of the “paralysis by over-analysis” condition. I prefer and enjoy fleshing out the hard-to-digest bits and see what they are made of. To share and compare with others over what makes us tick on the inside. It is part of the discipline of writing down training notes, forcing yourself to put words to movements and actions, to learn and relearn the steps, to put this step to join with that step, to try, to fail, to be disappointed, frustrated by injuries and life setbacks. To relish in the moment of success and try to relive and repeat past successes. This is all part of training involving any athletic pursuit.

At your service,

Vince