Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Simple Game

It's a popular topic in Jiu Jitsu, the simple/basic game vs. the more modern sport game. Which is better. It really came to the forefront mainly because of Roger Gracie, and the return of Rickson Gracie in the seminar circuit. As well as his son Kron competing and winning.

I've talked previously about this topic and I thought it was worth discussing again. The good thing about a simple game is its simplicity. It's easy to learn because you focus on a few moves early on, the first ones you learn, typically the easiest. And you just refine it...forever.

It's a much easier way of learning than trying to learn a lot of moves and different strategies and becoming familiar with them all. It's a very accessible way of learning. It's like learning a few key words that you can use anywhere at any time and you can basically get your point across in almost all situations.

Here is the bad part...

It's simple. Meaning everything you do will always be something someone has seen before. You become good at it because you do it so often, but no one will ever be taken by surprise. So it becomes predictable. And in war the element of surprise and unpredictability are paramount, according to Sun Tzu. Your ability to predict your enemies moves and their inability to predict yours can win a war before it begins. Even in strength and conditioning, you have to surprise your system every once in a while to force positive adaptations.

Here is the other aspect. In all of BJJ, maybe only Roger is seen as someone with truly a basic game. Even Kron is criticized for being too scrambly. I think this may be due to his weight division. No matter how much weight and pressure he puts on someone and uses invisible Jiu Jitsu to pin someone down, they will always have to obey the laws of gravity and it will always be his body weight ultimately holding you down and in his division, people can move that weight around even if its with just sheer brute strength. Whereas Roger has size and length, I don't think he would be nearly as effective if he was in the same division but much shorter. Or as a light weight. But guys are his size in his division right? But the bigger you get, gravity becomes different. It's why small things can jump high, and no matter how strong an elephant is, it just won't be able to jump very high if at all. The forces of gravity are greater the bigger you are. With his length he can also distribute his weight out in a greater surface area. Now to the Rickson purists though, even he isn't basic enough.

Even when I see instructors talking about this method, and you see them pass, mount, and submit someone, it is often seen being done on a student maybe a bit or a lot smaller. Then with that little advantage mixed with economy of motion of the simple game, it looks unstoppable because it takes such little effort. Why? The simple game relies on weight, using your weight on your opponent instead of your strength, so if you weigh a bit more, it is exponentially more effective and conserves more energy. What happens when you weigh far less using a game that depends on your body weight? Often times it is a bit more strategic and scrambly match until the student tires, now the instructor can impose that simple game again. What happens when the student is bigger, doesn't tire out, and is very good? The instructor will probably still beat that student, but his strategy will change. He will rely more on opportunity. But in self defense, isn't the assumption, that your opponent could always be bigger, stronger, and in better shape? How are you going to dominate that? What if you were one of the strongest guys in your school, one of the bigger guys, who used your simple game to smash people. What happens when you fight someone your size or bigger, who you can't dominate and you now need a game based on scrambles and opportunity? What happens then? That wrestler who never tires, who is always on top of you, who is scrambly, just as strong if not stronger? When you wish you had some magic trick or move he doesn't know so that you could beat him. But you don't know any, and he knows your every move now, he can predict and anticipate. Then what? Do you tell yourself over time you will surpass him because you are training a more pure simple game? Is there evidence of this or is BJJ becoming mystical like every other traditional martial art?

With all that said, even Roger has been seen rolling, and doing x-guard or berimbolo and he is often training with  Braulio Estima and discussing and practicing all the new moves (or creating their own).

So what really is basic? Does it even exist or is it a figment of our imagination? And if there are a few guys who do it well. Statistically speaking, would you do better mimicking the exceptions to the rules or following what works more often? If like two people have won with this method, should you follow this method or do what every other champion is doing? Are you being different just to be different or are you chasing effectiveness? Are you going against the best interest of your Jiu Jitsu just because it worked for one guy?

Meaning should you try to be rich by following that one guy who was able to do it differently from everyone else? Or should you follow the tried and true method?

It's the same with weight loss. People often try to follow and spend lots of money to learn the weight loss strategy that only worked for one person, the founder. Or do you do what everyone else is doing, dieting and working out? Even though everyone else is doing it.

Wrestling has been around longer than BJJ and even in wrestling its hard to win in the style of generations ago. Same with football. Same in business. Same with everything. Yet BJJ still has that mysticism left in it, like other martial arts. The ancient old forgotten ways are the best ways. Maybe it is. But if those ancient ways become forgotten, who are you really going to learn it from? And if how do you know it was really even effective back then? It was a different era to beat a bunch of people who were untrained.

I think it's not always simple vs. fancy. Maybe what we see as complex or sporty, is just called adaptation. Human beings adapt to situations to find a way to win, be effective, efficient. Different situations will arise and have risen since BJJ was created, should you not adapt your moves? Roger uses a simple game but it works for his frame, secondly he also adapts and learns everything else. Does it work for your frame? Are you adapting or being stubborn and forcing your game down people's throats to beat them? Instead of flowing with the go as Rickson said. What is the heart of BJJ? A strict adherence to the simple game? Or the ability of its players to self correct and adapt?

They say, the basics are really all about the concepts. If you know the concepts you can create your own moves. Who's to say that's not what these "fancy" players are doing? Who's to say only a handful of BJJ players from generations past were allowed to add anything new to the art?

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