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Passing the Gambit


It's true, during conflict we often frame our current and future decisions based on the past and present actions of our antagonist.  In our first experiences in conflict we begin a sequential sensory process, taking a myriad of mental notations.  In competitive combat sports our actions are often described as feeling out an opponent, actively paying attention to opponents actions and reactions in response to our combat presentation.  We are slowly buying what they are selling, and basing future decisions on what is perceived. 

The most dangerous game was said to have been played with a man.  The ability to reason separates man from beast, as written by Richard Connell in "The Most Dangerous Game".  A man was invited to a mysterious island by a legendary hunter and was offered a chance to experience the hunt of  lifetime.  The famous hunter described what would be the ultimate quarry, one that could reason.  He described man as the most dangerous game (noun).  The  game animal, perfectly unpredictable; paired with an uncanny ability to reason.  Richard Connell described it best.

I will admit, it is advantageous to pay attention to reactions, to remember the past movements in the current time.  After so many minutes, over a given acceptable period of time it is hard to think we would see anything different from our opponent.  Are they building or working towards something, or is this the same show replaying over again?

Our combative logic suggests the longer we wait to accomplish a goal, the harder it becomes.  The anticipation is the distraction.  The build up is the incumbrance.  The tension is self induced.  Statistics for college drop outs  are often stated as reason to avoid dropping out in the first place.  A growing static methodology can be hard to break away.  Once someone accepts that they are out of school and have broken the commitment, it is easier to maintain the broken commitment and move on; a quasi relationship went awry.  My father told me that most will not go back.  I went back three times, and it wasn't easy.  I assume it was the Army's version of expanding an education, and challenging a flexible determination.    Because this characteristic behavioral theme of predictable behavior based on current behavior revolves around our opponent creating norms and shaping a predictable current reality, this lends itself to predictable odds and may be considered enough to be a high percentage focal point of both your attack and defense.  What they do changes how you act and react.  What if the reverse process was used to create the ultimate strategy?

My friend and training partner Kevin recently decided that watching past performances of his opponents may lead to false expectations and unpredictable performances.  If you plan for past presentations, a new presentation may deliver problems previously unaccounted for.  This is primarily a mental defeat, as being forced to change for a learning curve you didn't ask for is hard for anyone to accept.  A counterpoint to this statement is that we may misread what we are seeing, and making all the wrong assumptions.  Human error is a factor: we see what we think we see and often miss the rest.

The sport of Mixed Martial Arts is certainly full of strategies, and each theory comes at a price.  An elaborate strategy might be just the right medicine, or a jumbled mess that cannot be implemented in the game that is played.  Some more caveman like strategies are described with brutal simplicity; a fighter hoping to keep it standing or to take the fight to the ground.  I always thought it would be fun to only attempt takedowns, and act afraid and unsure of incoming strikes.  Later in the fight as the pace starts to slow, you would start using more dynamic footwork and setting up calculated striking combinations.  This is the opposite of the more common strategy of starting with striking, and then adding grappling if your opponent gets the better of you in the exchanges.  In this situation, your behavior is predictable.  One of the most effective strategies I've come across has been successfully implemented during my worst performances.  You delivered less, you showed all the wrong things, and finished with what you sold as a pawn.

A bad presentation sells what you don't have.  A good presentation delivers solid feedback.  In the same way you read an opponent, you give them something inaccurate to read; a rather thick book.  Now they have to sort through what is fiction and what is the future.  An exaggerated movement, a lack of follow through, overtly showcasing a lack of experience.  Faking weakness in your strongest areas.  This is the epitome of playing offensive possum.  The longer the act, the better the sell, however the ability to implement this game depends on the mental flexibility of the player.  I've successfully used it to win two recent competitions and almost five total divisions with zero contest preparation through a time of challenging life experiences.  This wouldn't be called success, but rather fool's mate.  It is however an example of how even at your lowest point, the correct strategy purposefully implemented can be used to get you through to the next stage.  How will you game when you play the most dangerous game?    

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GI or no GI? Redefining an old question

GI or no GI? Redefining an old question

 

I am often asked which is better, training Jiu Jitsu with or without the Gi or Kimono?  This is an excellent question, but I also hate the answers most present to this question.  People tried to answer it ten years ago, and then they revisit it again and again with perpetual black and white statements and emotionally charged opinions. We will explore the logic behind several popular answers, and then I will give you a simple interpretation of application. 

 

The Jiu Jitsu GI seems to be best used as a friction device.  This is obvious.  I’ve had access to successful people in Jiu Jitsu, lots of them, and have seen how they perform differently with or without it.  People often obsess about which was the core of their training, and then their other obsession is who is better at GI and no GI Jiu Jitsu.  Which has a higher vertical leap, Cows or Llamas?  Both are classified as Ungulates and often observed ruminating, meaning they have four separate stomach chambers, and by geographical climate have different shaped feet despite their shared classification.  Still not enough information to answer the question?  Don’t even mention world class competition.  Few will ever be able to relate to that level of understanding and performance.  Who is usually asking the question on GI or no GI training?  A world champion?  Not at all, often a beginner who is looking for a training path.  That was one of my first questions.  I wanted to choose the best one and stick with it.  If you don’t think the answer has changed in all of these years…  You just might be wrong. 

 

Your average no GI school follows the typical Jiu Jitsu format, with a variable level of instruction.  Depending on how many hours it has been since they last showered, will affect how much oil is on their skin.  When it combines with sweat, it is even more slippery.  There may or may not be air conditioning.  Some schools are well air conditioned, and students dry off quickly.  It is sometimes very slippery, and sometimes not at all.  They are used to fewer moves compared to a GI Jiu Jitsu practitioner because the GI allows there to be finishes when there aren’t any true openings for chokes or arm locks.  You could argue that training methods, degree of technical knowledge or instruction, cognitive potential and reserve, and realm of submissions are all factors.  If we were to be critical of only no GI practitioners and say that they are less technical because they use less moves, then maybe they would consider replacing what would have been GI submissions and sweeps with leg lock mastery, additional repetitions of naked arm chokes, wrestling techniques, and judo techniques.  Maybe at this point they will have enough moves to be technical.  Will the GI make their escapes better?  Sure.  But do they know how to defend against judo and wrestling techniques?  Or do they know how to escape and reverse all versions of leg locks, or defend against someone who has more naked arm choke finishes than they have escaped?    

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An Arid walk to the Oasis

An Arid walk to the Oasis

 

 April marks another philosophical year in my quest for Jiu Jitsu Zen.  I first experienced Jiu Jitsu around June 1st 2002 in the Army, started a Jiu Jitsu club at a college in late September, and entered my first competition as an Intermediate in late May of 2003.  This has been the journey of a lifetime, and the most significant characterization of my adult experience.  I truly believe that I would be dead or crippled if it wasn’t for this hard and technical training; it was a lifesaver beyond an identity.  There are certain things you cannot prevent, because injury and aging does happen at a variable pace.  If I could change one thing, I would have been more careful in training and competition in order to prevent some of the horrific injuries.  That also would have meant saying no or changing training partners.   At the time it would have been rude and there were less training options; it would have been impossible to know which situation was truly better. 

 

There were certain things that I needed to learn, but looking back all the information was surrounded and obscured by fluff techniques.  Fluff techniques were someone else’s good ideas, fun little things to do that sometimes helped.  However, they were dependent on certain variables or details in order to be successful.  Remove or change a small aspect of the position and you were finished.  I recognized early on after trying many of the moves that were in books or on youtube that nobody was releasing moves that they hadn’t already mastered.  Using similar thinking such as the Gracie gift pass, (a guard pass that allows people in the know to easily choke you) book and video instructors were giving out moves AFTER they had discovered the counters.  They understood something so well, that they released something they knew they could defeat.  They used fancy or creative moves as selling points, but long after they had discovered simple counters for these moves or positions.  The fluff techniques were still used as selling points, which led to technical commonality at many gyms and in competitions around the country.  Jiu Jitsu practitioners became known for certain moves, but as the years went by the creators of the moves often stopped using them. 

 

I was able to replicate many of these moves, and realized how limited they were.  The moves I learned in the Army needed to be discarded.  They were remnants of the Gracie Combatives program.  We learned the Gracie gift pass for example.  The people I competed against at this time used very boring Jiu Jitsu strait out of the books.  The really good competitors used dangerous leg locks that few knew how to counter, or maybe they won positionally with wrestling.  Around this time I discovered that there is no counter for the unknown, as long as you can pull it off.  The limiting factor was going to be me. 

 

I decided to draw pictures of people in Jiu Jitsu positions, and would bring several Jiu Jitsu books for inspiration to a coffee shop.  These conceptual jam sessions would last for 4-5 hours.  I would attempt to think about what the positions in the books felt like, and would play out the action sequence in my head.  I would think about changes in my body position that would frustrate and complicate the opponent’s goal.  I would look over the body positions I had drawn, and conceptualize various shapes and movement to include lowering or raising body position.  The drawing and notes would take up several pages on lined paper.  Most were tested in my mind, and of course later they were tested on a mat.  Unfortunately, my Jiu Jitsu club only had a concrete floor.  Despite the lack of equipment or training partners, the frequent brainstorming led to the development of my entire Jiu Jitsu game; there was naturally a graveyard of discarded techniques along the way. 

 

We didn't have access to much back then.  Whatever move you made up was the move you were hoping to use in the next competition.  The best in the Tri-state area were working hard, hoping to defeat you in the next tournament.  This made things very interesting.  When I started visiting other gyms, it became apparent that most instructors and practitioners were on the same page.  Nobody had come in and handed them Jiu Jitsu, they were simply trying to figure it out with the information that was available.  They weren't quite innovating that much, so many of their movements were predictable.  Remember, the limited game was already released.  90% of people only practiced what had already been released, and much of it had characteristic holes.  The wrestlers were still winning.  The cultures of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida were adding a distinct flavor to the gyms and competitions I experienced.  Pancration and traditional Sombo added leg lock inspiration.  Royce Gracie had people going for arm bars.  Everything was complete, except for the game.  The best was yet to come.    

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