The broad way

    Do you ever wonder how life transpires in cycles? One moment to the next, and we are different.  There is no stop in life.  Everything around us is pulsating with life, we are IT.

A game of two
Sketch of an armbar

We don’t get to decide if we want to submerge in it, because we are already in it, we are happening in it. Each of us are just unique perspectives of life occurring in time and space.

     It is hard to describe what life is, because life is much more than a poetic, or romantic concept, simply, life cannot be explained, it can only be EXPERIENCE.

     It is like asking a fish to describe the essence of water. Even though it cannot explained what it is, how it looks like, or how it smells, the fish is intimately bond to the water in an experiential level, its very existence depends on it and its interrelated connectedness.

     The individuality of the fish exists within the confines of the sea, but in a similar manner, the sea responds to natural laws beyond the sea itself, so the fish instantaneously becomes part of something bigger. 

     The fish does not resist the many currents. But in the contrary, it uses its inertia and dynamic movements to swim in undulated flows to become one with its element, to experience the process of what it is to be a fish.

     Jiujitsu at its core principles teaches us how to ride the wave of life.  How to become one with the flow and yield to its movement and natural forces, like a fish in the water.

     Life just happens and the future is not ours to see or control.  The only thing we have control is over us. We are the masters of ourselves, although sometimes we tend to confuse the servant with the master, especially in theses modern times of wild appetites. 

     The battle is not against extraneous opponents, but against our lower habits, against the lower versions of ourselves, against stagnation, which leads to death, while life is movement, fluidity and transition. We are our greatest opponent and our lower nature monster of many heads. 

     Jiujitsu is an inclusive art. It is a fractal that reflects in proportion all the natural laws that exist in the material world and its many forms. If we want to absorb the intrinsic values of any worthy discipline, we must pay a price, a price that can’t be covered with money or gold, but with contemplative meditation.  Only then, and only then the secrets would unlock to us, like a flower opens to the warm rays of the sun.

     There is a hidden wisdom in the heart of jiujitsu, at the core of its technical principles. Musashi Miyamoto, Japan’s greatest Swordsman and samurai once said, “ Truth is not what you want it to be, it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie”.

     But how do we bend to the power of life? Life greatest lessons and blessings are most of the time disguised as stormy skies and invincible monsters. To be open to life it is necessary to cracked our protective shell when is of no longer use.

     The metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly represents the very process of life and transformation in a nutshell. The fuel of life is change, which it can be uncomfortable, a step out of our comfort zone into uncharted territories.

     Jiujitsu has the innate potential to become a tool for transformation, especially in these modern times of rapid change and fragile identity. It has the basis to become a solid rock in which to build a strong and honorable character.

     jiujitsu as the transformation of the butterfly, is a microcosm of life. It works from the inside out.  First we must become humble to learn, it is necessary to get rid of the old patterns of action and response. We must lose ourselves to find us anew. We learn by losing and making peace with it.

     If we want to absorb the essence of the art, it is essential to master the primal instinct of survival. It is necessary to merge the rational side of man with the primitive instinct of the animal, only then, when the two natures becomes one, a new man is born, one of elevated humanity.

     Jiujitsu can become a key to unlock our inner potential as individuals, a tool of balance and equilibrium.  It carries within the essence of oneness and equanimity. Its fundamentals are derived from the natural law of leverage and efficiency, the path of less resistance.

     Jiujitsu offers a way to calm the mind under peril. It overrides instinctual reactions for efficient calculated actions.  It forges the spirit to find comfort in the uncomfortable. It is a token of respect, courage, rectitude, compassion, honesty, honor and loyalty in a modern world of instant gratification and ephemeral pleasures.

     Jiujitsu if allowed, can be nourishment for the body, mind and soul in these times of character superficiality and expendable trends.  It can become a way of life. Like an ancient ronin once said “ If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything”

     

The Gentle Art: The importance of Perception

The Gentle Art: The importance of Perception

 

     Most of the time we experience life as a series of unrelated events, happening in space and time, and the only correlation we find between them is the associations of our likes, dislikes and past experiences.  We compartmentalize life into different sections: school, work, family, friends, etc. To a certain extent this is a practical and necessary social-adaptive tool, because in one way or another, we must make sense of our surroundings to become capable, efficient and functional individuals in society.  It provides a context for our personality to unfold. 

     You may be wondering what all this have to do with the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?   The answer is pretty simple.  EVERYTHING. Although the way we perceive life and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu may seem like two unrelated topics, they share a very subtle connection.  If we understand this connection we can become fertile soil for the seed of the gentle art to bloom.  The underlying factor underneath everything we do and experience is totally dependent in our PERCEPTION.  Our perception is the filter through which we filter all the experiences happening in our lives, from getting your first job, having a girlfriend or walking for the first time in the mats.

     How many times had you hear phrases such as “leave your ego at the door” or be “open minded” within the jiu-jitsu community? Probably many times.  But what does it really mean? What is this ego? Or what does it mean to have an open mind?

     To understand something we must know its origins, its basics.  The ego and the capability and willingness of our intellect (rational mind) to learn, are products of our perception.  Think of perception as the “software” and your brain as the “hardware” or computer.  A good software (perception) is more efficient processing (learning), storing (memory) and retrieving (using) information.  So, how are the ego and our state or mind a product of our perception? 

     First of all we should examine what it is and what it is not the ego.  The ego most of the time it’s seem as something fix and negative, or is associated with arrogance, which can be possible, but is a half-truth. The ego is nothing more that a psychological response, a persona or a “mask” we wear to fit certain scenarios.  As we can see is not something fix, but flexible like a wave that shapes to the contours of the objects it encounters.  The KEY is to be aware that the ego is not who we are, but it is a mere tool of navigation. 

     Remember when I mentioned in the beginning that we compartmentalize life into sections? So the ego is just a set of behaviors and expectations we select as appropriate for a giving context. How do we know what is appropriate and what is not? Here is where perception comes at play.  For example, if you are going to the beach to surf, you would take swimming shorts and not your gi and your belt, it does not mean the gi is bad, is just not appropriate for the purpose and occasion. 

     Remember I compared perception as mental software and the brain as the computer? so when your perception perceives the beach, it access the memories from your past experiences stored in your brain regarding the beach, and selects what it was functional and valuable back then to aid your present decision. For that reason, gives priority to your surfboard and swimming shorts and not your gi.  It is important to mention, that I used a clothing example for simplicity, but it works in the same manner regarding attitudes and behaviors.

     To be honest, walking into the mats for the first time can be very intimidating, even frightful. You see a bunch of sweaty guys rolling on the mat in various unorthodox ways, trying to choke the lights out of each other.  It can be quite an impression, especially if it’s your first encounter with the world of grappling.  

     So it is possible to become overwhelmed with all the stimulation, adding the nervousness of starting a martial art and meeting new people, plus our insecurities of not been good enough to learn something as complex and demanding as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  We tend to experience mix emotions, an inner battle between excitement and fear.

     The balance between the two depends in our state of mind.  There are two existent possibilities: the stimulation can be turn into potential energy, or it can become a hindrance in our ability to learn and perform.

     The majority of the time, we tend to shift towards fear, since fear is our most primal survival mechanism and it’s been there since our ancestors first walk the earth.  It is kind of our default or automatic reaction to the unknown. If we experience reality through fear, our perception fires up our neurons and access the memories, and past experiences where we felt in a similar way, and pulls up an ego or a set of attitudes and behaviors (persona) that made you feel safe in the past.

     Most of the cases, when we experience fear, or we feel intimidated, we tend to go back to our primal defense mechanisms and voila! We impersonate the macho alpha ego to hide our own insecurities. Unconsciously, we become the infamous ego that is not welcome in the mats, a hindrance to our own and partners learning process.

     I am not saying this is deliberately done, but it is an ingrained condition reaction. Similar to the reason why we stop when we see a red light or a stop sign.  The key is to recognize our behavioral patterns when we are becoming defensive and reinforce a positive one.  

     For example, if you feel intimidated and you begin to isolate yourself from your partners, recognize it, and instead, go and talk to them.  You will be surprise how a little bit of awareness can shift your perception of a situation.  So next time you walk into the mats don’t leave your ego at the door, but choose the appropriate one.

     Choose the personality of a student, of a pupil, choose an “open mind” rather than a close one, always be open to new concepts and ideas.  Let you persona embrace the qualities of a sponge, be always ready to absorb and retain what it is compatible to you.  Like a great martial artist once said, “Be like water my friend”.

 

JiujitsuWithin: Into Context.

JiujitsuWithin: Into Context.
          A sage once said, “What is above is below”.  You may wonder the meaning of such a phrase, but if we seat for a  moment and contemplate on it, we may be able to understand the wisdom behind it.  If we penetrate deep enough into this truth, we can become aware of our inner drive, our relation to others and our role in the great scheme of things.
The purpose of this article is not to talk about abstract concepts but practical ones, concepts that may inspire and facilitate us, as individuals to discover a state of mind that is suitable for  learning and expansion.  A state of mind that is necessary if we want to fully absorb and transpire the inner and outer benefits of any discipline, including Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
There is a blueprint, a master-key that opens a door of endless possibilities to our potential, and is operating 24/7 in everything we do, and in everything that is happening in our surroundings.  You may ask, if this blueprint is everywhere, why we don’t see it? We don’t see it because we are to busy within our own minds.  We are not conscious enough of our environment and the people around it.
We don’t take the time to analyze, to observe and really understand the context in which our life is unfolding, and the relation we have to other people.  If we don’t have an idea of the big picture (and it doesn’t need to be a detail one, if not what surprises would it be left?), or a road map per se, we are just like blind men hoping to go north, while stumbling in darkness.  So what is all this business of “What is above is below”?
The way I perceived this phrase, and the practical usefulness I can absorb from it, although it may imply more profound truths, is that everything in nature operates within a context. We can visualize this context, as a spinal cord that connects the movements of the limbs and harmonize them into a single purpose.
From “above” we can see how this context, or spinal cord can be represented by the function of gravity and its role harmonizing the rotation of the planets and its interaction with each other, synchronizing rotations and stellar movements into calculated FLOWS.
From “below” we can see this principle in operation literally in our own spinal cord and its central influence in the different limbs of our body to synchronize the mechanisms of MOVEMENT.
This principle of context not only operates in physical bodies, but also can be found in the core of any discipline.  If we learn how to identify the spinal cord or base of any discipline, we have learned how to learn.
If we don’t understand the base of whatever might be, jiu-jitsu, music or dancing. We will miss the vital point of the discipline, and would end up absorbing hollow concepts.
To fully submerge in any discipline, it is essential to get intimate with the basics. We must become ONE with the essence, with the spinal cord of the discipline.
It is not without a reason that all the masters in the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu emphasize the importance of BASICS.  it is very easy to get lost in the hypnotic beauty of fancy submissions and movements, which eventually will come!
But first we must solidify the spinal cord of the art (basics), before we efficiently use its limbs (submission, leverage and movement).  And it takes time, effort, work and dedication.
The gentle art is a tree of abundant fruit, but to be fruitful it is essential to be cultivated under proper conditions.
Remember to protect the seed of the art with the soil of your patience, to nurture it with the rays of your dedication and water it with the sweat of hard work. A wise man once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.