Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Making The Invisible Visible

Okay to a certain extent, all high level black belts, no matter their competition style, displays a certain degree of invisible jiu jitsu. What is invisible jiu jitsu? It's basically a mystical name for timing, rhythm, weight, balance, and most of all feel. So to get to a high level, you need to have all of those things for your signature moves.

So why isn't everyone known for it? Why is it only used for those moves called "basic" or simple? And why other moves called "fancy?" Is it because of time of origin? Meaning it wasn't during the basic era or because the move is too colorful?

I think it has to do with efficiency. Like in any sport, the move that's closest from point A to B is considered basic and the long road is considered fancy. In boxing, a quick jab is basic whereas a spinning backfist may be considered fancy because the distance both has to travel. Why do a move that takes a longer path, or as I like to call it a "bigger" move when you can do the same amount of damage with a smaller move. Or in football a complicated passing game as opposed to the straight forward. Why? Because to some that's easier. Why doesn't Wanderlei throw straight punches? It's easy for him to throw hooks.

So is being basic automatically better in BJJ? A lot of people will say yes, but those are the people good at the basics. I tend to disagree and the basics have been defeated in every sport. Some will then argue that they didn't know the basics enough. I think it has more to do with both having their strengths and weaknesses. If it truly was better, everyone would be trying to roll blindfolded and mastering the "feel."

So the basics are simpler smaller movements but they require a lot more of this "invisible jiu jitsu." Meaning they are simple to do, but you need a high level proficiency in timing, balance, and feel which is hard for most people to cultivate but when it's been done, it seems effortless.

On the other hand, even with fancy bigger moves, there needs to be a degree of invisible jiu jitsu, just not as much. The move is bigger, you to do A to B to C to D and you finally get E. Whether you are spot on with your timing or feel or not, you can almost incrementally get your opponent to where they need to be to pull off the move. Like a certain sweep, sometimes whether the feel is there or not, some guys can catch the move at will because he sets off a big chain of moves that seems unstoppable. People will look at a move with so many steps and say, why do that when you can just do this simple move from A to B? Because your opponent won't always let you. He won't let you go straight from set up to finish, but he may allow you to set up to other set ups to finally finish.

So a jab for instance is hard to master because everyone is expecting it, their hands are already in front of their face, you have to slide into range and pop it out before they can react or as they are doing something. Whereas something like the overhand right, whether they block or not can sometimes get through. Even if you throw it wrong. It's why in MMA people keep looking for the overhand, you don't need to be a great striker to land it and KO someone. It's been proven over and over again. But the few that mastered the jab like GSP and Michael Bisping do quite well with it.

In boxing, the traditional defense is with the hands to block. Head movement and footwork came much later. If you told an old time Marquess of Queensberry rules boxer that he should slip to avoid a punch, he may think how could anyone move fast enough? Even in Rocky, Apollo had to teach Rocky to be more athletic and not so clunky, how to move his feet and head. So a hallmark of these bigger moves is athleticism, which not everyone has. At the same time no one will say blocking punches with your hands is superior to slipping punches with superior speed. It's not the traditional style of Jack Dempsey but it is the style of Floyd Mayweather. Now the traditional style is called the puncher, and the flamboyant style is called the boxer, go figure.

And so how do you make the case one is better than the other? The simple BJJ moves are easy to teach and do, very hard to master all the timing and feel required. The bigger fancier moves are harder sometimes to teach and do, but require less soft skills of feel and a sense of your own body weight and positioning.

Like a scissor sweep is easy to teach and when done right the opponent feels effortless but in live competition super hard to pull off. Whereas a De la Riva sweep may be harder to learn, but it's caught far more often in live hard rolls. Even if you don't have their body weight perfectly you can tip them over. Sometimes you get it just right and they feel super light. 90% of the time this doesn't happen, and you can still do the sweep without their weight being in perfect positioning.

So a simple move is 30% technique (meaning technique doesn't always have to be spot on as long as you have the timing and the feel right.) and 70% feel. Whereas a bigger move is 70% technique (meaning whether you have the feel or not if you follow all the steps and don't miss any of them or mess it up there is a probability you can still catch the move) and 30% feel. Its like an employee, one has a great diploma but terrible people skills. Other doesn't have much schooling but great people skills, you can make a great argument that either one is better. But where one is lacking, the other is maximizing. Some may say hey, the degree may trump everything? But others say people with a ton of degrees make great analysts but not great CEOs.

I've heard a Rickson black belt say over and over, what Rickson cared about was the concepts. Once you understand those things, you can make up your own moves or get it in various positions that you normally can't get it from. Meaning once you have the feel down, you can base most of your move off of that. What did he do? How did he do that? It doesn't matter how he did it, he just felt his opponent make a mistake and just shifted him towards the direction of his mistake. Rickson once said, when you fight your opponent, he will inevitably always make a mistake, you need to capitalize on it. To be invincible, you cannot make any mistakes. Well that's Rickson. There's people who've made money doing random things, doesn't mean they can necessarily teach it to you, it's just what worked for them. Do you follow the exception or the rule?

So the big thing about the basic moves is that anyone can learn it, its easy to do. You don't have to be super strong or flexible. Sure, okay. But what if the average person can never learn the feel for the move? Then what? It's just as worthless as a fancy move that confuses the average person and they can't do it anyway.

BJJ moves exist on a sliding scale, I don't know if there is a way to say one style is better than the other. Meaning once you make the move so simple on the sliding scale, it requires a lot more hard to master invisible jiu jitsu. Whereas if the move becomes heavy with the number of steps involved and is a bigger move, it moves the other way and becomes very hard to teach and needs a lot of drilling time, but requires less invisible jiu jitsu. Actually invisible jiu jitsu or the feel has to be cultivated too, but probably more from rolls. It's why the modern BJJ scene is known for all the drilling, and the old school BJJ guys were known for being tough and just rolling all the time.

You can never eliminate either though, invisible BJJ will always exist in the fancy moves and there will always be a certain amount of technique required for the simple moves. How far do you want to slide on the sliding scale? That's more personal preference.

I'm more of a closed guard and collar choke guy. A lot of that has to do with me being limited with my time and I can't make it into the gym as much as others to drill. So a lot of moves confuse me. Whereas with this game, I can come back from a long lay off and still remember my game because it's not that hard to remember. It may just take several weeks to get my timing back. Now if I trained more, my game might be completely different but my current game doesn't demand countless hours of drilling. But I get dominated by "fancy" style BJJ guys every time I go in. I've been training for so long, I might be like the old era MMA fighters who stuck to their old bread and butters and never evolved, just tried to make their bread and butter more effective. Whereas guys like GSP come into MMA and get better at everything all the time. BJJ is a young man's sport just like all sports, I don't know if there is a physical sport that doesn't belong to the young. Sure guys who trained longer and who are older may have more feel, or know more invisible jiu jitsu, but the young guys don't need as much of it as we do, we need it just to try to hang in there with them and not get totally demolished. It's so invisible to some of them, they don't even notice we are doing it and just tap us out in spite of it. Wrestlers don't know BJJ or let alone invisible BJJ and they do quite well in grappling without it.

BJJ is not based on chi, it's not supposed to be like other martial arts with all their mysticism. That's why we got into it and call other arts McDojos. It's a game of leverage and base. You are supposed to be able to see everything that's going on, there is no exploding palm technique or secret move. There is no invisible. It's a marketing term. It's either technique or timing that you are talking about. Sometimes timing overcomes technique, sometimes technique overcomes timing, but with timing you always have to wait for the right moment so its limited. With bigger moves you can keep going for it over and over whether timing is there or not. More window of opportunity. What's better assault rifles or sniper rifle? If sniper rifles were much better, that would be the military standard issue. But it wouldn't make any sense based on the demands of warfare. But now if you have great technique AND timing, now you are talking.

Ultimately though the masters of timing who have done well with simple moves are the outliers and not the rule. It must be THAT hard to master that the greatest masters of it had to be born into it and practice from birth. What about the people who learn it in their 20s or 30s? Can they master all that sensitivity? That has yet to happen at a high level. So then is the "basics" that much easier to teach? Seems just as hard as the fancy moves.

Its a question of are you a fighter based on method, or are you a fighter based on imagination? More of that concept to come later.

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