I overheard a blue belt student, instructing a white belt telling them that the “best” way to finish was...then he rattled off a few of the parroted things that he knew. The Blue belt wasn’t telling the white belt anything “wrong” however was it the “best” for that student at that time? This seemingly every day occurrence sparked a thought. Is there a “best” way to do something in Jiu Jitsu? Moreover, is there a best way to do anything in life?
Having hosted, gone to, or taught at many camps and seminars I often hear coaches instruct with the “this is how you have to do it” tone. Signifying, the way that they do something is the best, and anything else is the rest. This to me is doing a disservice to principles and outliers in Jiu Jitsu.
In Jiu Jitsu, there is an infinite amount of possibilities that go into each roll. Physical stature, speed, knowledge, mat space, cardiovascular health, point of the match and so on. Each second of each roll your body is relying on habits formed and created from previous experiences. When you know a move as “this is the best way” and because of the various circumstances that way doesn’t work, what do you do then?
If you learned that move’s principles you can start to adapt to live rolling. If you only know something in an “if this then that” way, you will get lost as soon as there is a glitch in what your opponent is giving you in relation to what you “should” be doing. By this logic we should always only teach principles of something right? Well, not so fast, as it is good to have programmed moves that work 95% of the time. Those moves that we have programmed we can do in our sleep. We don’t have to take the time to think about anything, we just react.
Let’s add even some more compilation. Can you even learn any principle with a method of its application? As I visit the idea of principles, it seems like it would be impossible to understand anything without some sort of method to enter into it. For example, how can you teach Defensive BJJ principles to a person who has no understanding of the possibility of offense? Think of teaching arm bar defense to a person before teaching them what an arm bar is?
Next let's visit the fact that the “best” practice that works for most will never work for all. The “best” way to finish a triangle may be by securing your legs first. But that isn’t the best way to finish for a practitioner who has only one leg. For that practitioner, he may want to secure his arm and get his hips at the correct angle first. This is just an extreme example that what is “best” is subjective. As a coach, I pride myself on taking the subjective nature of every question into account. This, as my students know, normally equates to me answering questions with the preface of “well it depends.''
It should also be taken into consideration that you may not know what is “best.” Lets take into consideration this example. A white belt that is 100lbs heavier than their opponent rips an arm bar with terrible technique and get a tap. They could look at the tap as positive reinforcement while their coach may be shaking their head. Was using brute strength the “best” action at the time? Those types of scenarios bring us to the inevitable question, what is the “best” anything? To me, the best thing can only be looked at through the lens of the past. Did you get the desired result from the action and have a realistic understanding of what the best outcome should be? If yes to both, then in that particular situation the action taken was the best. Does that mean that it couldn’t get better? Of course not. The future will provide more wisdom which will change variables in what your definition of “the best” will be.
From the Gentle Art Lifestyle perspective, I will always show you what works for me, but I will teach it from your vantage point, knowing that my reality on the mats is not the same as yours. Additionally, no matter how much positive reinforcement I get from my past, I know that there is more to learn and better ways to communicate it. ~Joshua Check out newest Gentle Art Lifestyle happenings: https://www.gentleartlifestyle.com/milwaukeebjjcamp