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Movements Versus Moves: Making the Invisible Visible

Movements Versus Moves: Making the Invisible Visible

 

The first emotion that most new practitioners feel when confronted with the long mat and the opening warm-ups is bewilderment. You want me to do what my body? Shrimping? Pummeling with my legs in what directions? Invert so that my feet and head are on the same side of the mat? Indeed, the foundational movements of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are not innate to the average human being. We seldom have an occasion to even lie on the ground unless is it to sleep on a picnic blanket in a nearby park. So, when the old adage about swimming in the ocean and jiu jitsu making you a predatory shark is undoubtedly truer than we like to admit. 


The other sad fact is that despite years of diligently shrimping in single file down the mats, forward rolling into stupors of dizziness and mimicking animals from across the globe, very few of us have any idea how to incorporate these warm-ups into our actual jiu jitsu. I have been shrimping for almost four years now, and it was only last week that its actual application became clear to me. Why did my eureka moment of epiphany occur? Had I discovered a truth within myself? Had I been visited by spirit of Rickson Gracie in my dreams who connected it with the Brazilian art of ginastica natural


No, I began watching Volume 1 of John Danaher’s Pin Escapes and Turtle Escapes. It was therein that Professor Danaher made a statement that drove home the unspoken challenge that most fledgling white belts face: “Until you can master certain movements of your own body, you will never master moving your opponent’s body.” 

 

Go Further, Faster: BJJ Fundamentals by John Danaher

 


Few students take the daunting step of entering a sweat-filled gym, donning a kimono or spandex, and face ego-crushing moments, however, only to learn how to move their body in new and exciting ways. No, we almost all entered that gym so that we could better defend ourselves and become competent martial artists on both the street and the competitive arena. We entered the gym so that we could impose our will upon opponent’s bodies and achieve victory when it would seem most unlikely. 


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How strange it is then to discover the paradigm that it is actually our own bodies upon which we need to bend to our wills; it is our own selves that we need to teach movements and not moves. Technique is critical to success, but the ability to perform those techniques only come when the body can be made to move in the manner unique to jiu jitsu. What this means to the art is that movements have been reduced to something akin to the kata often practiced in other martial art forms. Like a student punching into an imaginary opponent, we shrimp away from imaginary opponents who are not applying realistic pressure upon us.


While it may not seem like such a new idea to adherents to John Danaher’s video series, when I began to search back through the other volumes such as Triangles: Enter the System or Go Further, Faster: Guard Retention I found that Movement Skills was a constant motif throughout his work. Perhaps what rings most true to me is that we spend most of our class time learning to perform specific moves and very little attention is ever given to those movements we all perform with blind faith. Danaher exposes this shortcoming by addressing many of these movement skills in the context of the particular positions he is teaching to the viewer; it is a revelatory moment each time that he unlocks a hidden key that unlocks the position. 


Another component of how movement is critical to jiu jitsu practice is mobility, which is often confused with specific movement skills. In other words, mobility is how far you can move your shoulder whereas movement skills are how you use your entire body to enact a move/technique.  For anyone wanting to work on his or her mobility for jiu jitsu, one place to turn might be Movement for Grappling by Scott Georgaklis and Travis Stevens, which runs through a full set of exercises to open up a grappler’s joints and muscle structures. 

Movement for Grappling by Scott Georgaklis with Travis Stevens
Movement for Grappling by Scott Georgaklis with Travis Stevens is a 30-day program designed to increase your fluidity as a grappler. Whether you practice Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, or Judo this series has the techniques that will help you move like an ELITE grappler!

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