So what’s the deal with Jiu-Jitsu? Part 2
So in part 1, I mentioned some points I wanted to elaborate on further, the specifics of the reasons I got so much out of Jiu-Jitsu training;
1. Hidden Weaknesses
So one of the first things I noticed when I first started my Jiu-Jitsu training was that my hip flexors, adductors, and ankle flexors were super-weak, this becomes very apparent when you try to hold someone in a closed guard position (see below)
These 3 muscle groups are the exact opposite of the primary muscles that you use for squatting and jumping, so while I was relatively strong in my hip extensors/ABductors and ankle extensors, I had never really trained the opposing muscle groups because quite frankly, not many exercises in the gym target them.
Jiu-Jitsu gave me an opportunity to bring those lagging muscle groups up, and restore more balance to my lower body in a fun and challenging way.
2. Physical strength
Jiu-Jitsu teaches you that strength is best saved for an instantaneous action or reaction, and then conserved until the next opportunity, this allows you to:
Display high levels of strength and power throughout the session, and
Not wipe yourself out with heaps of unnecessary maximal bursts, allowing you to stay focused and alert.
Physical strength (if developed in balance) can be a very helpful injury protection mechanism. In nearly 2 years I don’t think I’ve ever sustained a Jiu-jitsu injury that lasted more than a week (except maybe my ears!)
Also if you are strong, it requires you to operate at a much lower percentage of your maximum strength to compete with less-strong opponents, which allows you to stay a lot more relaxed while others are working hard to keep up.
All other things being equal, a stronger opponent will likely cause problems for a weaker one, but a lot of the time you are spending getting jacked in the gym could probably be better spent fine-tuning your skills on the mat.
That being said, because Jiu-Jitsu is such a technical sport, physical strength can often be more of a hindrance than a help, especially if you begin to rely on it.
Your physical strength should only be a complement to your technical skills and never a substitute for them.
3. Slowing Down
Jiu-Jitsu is sometimes referred to as human chess, one reason for this is that the best players are always thinking multiple moves ahead.
So if you play chess like I do, just moving whatever piece strikes you at that particular moment, you know how it feels to get caught in an experienced player’s trap, you also know that the faster you move, the more likely you are to miss important clues that the trap is coming.
So one thing you learn very quickly in Jiu-Jitsu is to slow down. When you are on the defensive, (pretty much the whole time if you are a white-belt) every piece of information you can gather is valuable. If you are too preoccupied thinking about the future, you may be missing something important in the present, which is actually also a good analogy for life.
4. Calm under duress
If there’s one thing that is almost universal amongst newcomers to Jiu-Jitsu, its that they freak out when they first start sparring. Not in a ‘screaming, running off the mats’ kind of way, more in a ‘wide eyes, heavy mouth breathing’ kind of way.
And so they should, this is the definition of sympathetic overdrive (fight or flight reflex). You are in a survival situation, someone is trying to make you take a nap and you don’t wanna go to bed yet.
What I noticed very quickly when I started rolling with more experienced players is the amount of calm they maintained while still working hard physically. They were still in the same physical contest, they were just way more relaxed whilst doing so.
I noticed after about a year or so that I also was able to maintain a much more calm mindset when sparring, even against higher-level opponents. You eventually adapt and desensitize to the stress, which actually allows you to make much better decisions and therefore perform better. This is a valuable lesson for many other endeavours that involve an intellectual process in combination with the physical, we don’t make very good decisions in a stressed frame of mind.