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Berimbolo for your brain
My father used to quote Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to me when I was young and I find myself going back to that text whenever I’m facing difficulty. Though BJJ is called “the gentle art,” more often than not BJJ feels like a war and I can’t think of a more apt text than “The Art of War.”
In particular, I turn towards the section where Sun Tzu summarizes with the saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” I’ve found meditation and visualization to be the best tools to apply this concept to BJJ.
Know yourself: Meditate
Meditation has a ton of benefits for BJJ players and non-BJJ players alike. One of the biggest benefits is being able to understand your self, your body, and your game. It’s a time where you can critically assess yourself, from your body’s capabilities, to how you’ve been employing techniques. A great place to start is by asking yourself these 10 questions from Inner BJJ.
During this assessment, it’s a great time to review techniques. While meditating, you can go over techniques with as much detail as you can, paying particular attention to how you can adapt the technique to your body. By focusing on details, it will also help you create goals based on improving technique, not just being able to submit someone.
Lastly, review previous rolls you have had with teammates or in competition and try to understand why there was success or failure. For me, I’ve become aware that there have been many times where it wasn’t my partner’s larger size that caused me to fail, but my own lack of technique and initiative.
Know your enemy: Visualize
Here’s where things get interesting. Though you can’t necessarily know your “enemy” completely, visualization can help you to understand patterns in people’s reactions and outcomes of certain movements.
It’s easiest to begin by first visualizing sparring against yourself. Start small: Visualize grabbing your mirror’s lapel. How do you usually react? In your mind, explore different actions and reactions (if you grab the lapel and pull, what happens?), then explore the possibilities of each new situation, like submissions or sweeps. It’s a great mental exercise to combine with technique review as well.
Then if you really want a mental workout, start with a successful submission and work backwards. We’re all told to master one technique, so starting from that technique, try to figure out how to get there, keeping in mind the psychology involved. For instance, if you want to go for an armbar, you have to bait something else first.
Add meditation and visualization to your toolbox and you’ll start to recognize patterns and moments of opportunity much quicker and make your BJJ game even more interesting!