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The Art of Learning Jiu Jitsu And Bruce Lee - Part 2
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The Art of Learning Jiu Jitsu And Bruce Lee - Part 2

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Applications from the game of chess to human chess...

In the previous article we discussed Bruce Lee’s quote, ““I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”  We then examined a way to learn chess as described by chess master and Jiu Jitsu black belt Josh Waitzkin of taking all the pieces off the board  to explore the principles behind a piece. We explored a lesson from John Danaher on the value of learning the principles. We also looked at a quote from Ben Askren on positional drilling. These statements from Danaher and Askren seem to be the natural application of Josh’s chess approach to Jiu Jitsu. Even the quote from Bruce Lee seems to be a testament into taking the other pieces off the board and diving deep into one area.

A second component of Josh’s learning structure is what might be described as problem solving.  When he would find himself in a position that he either did not understand or had committed an error he would search endlessly to understand it. He states, “At first my mind was like a runner on a cold winter morning – stiff, unhappy about the coming jog, dreary. Then I began to move, recalling my attacking ideas in the struggle and how nothing had fully connected. I tried to pick apart my opponent’s position and discovered new layers of his defensive resources, all the while my mind thawing, integrating the evolving structural dynamics it had not quite understood before. Over time… I settled into the rhythm of analysis, soaked in countless patterns of evolving sophistication… Like a runner in stride, my thinking became unhindered, free-flowing, faster and faster as I lost myself in the position. Sometimes the study would take six hours… sometimes thirty… I felt like I was living, breathing, sleeping in that maze, and then, as if from nowhere, all the complications dissolved and I understood…I couldn’t explain this new knowledge with variations or words. It felt more elemental… My chess intuition had deepened. This was the study of numbers to leave numbers.” From the Jiu Jitsu perspective, it sounds like he provided himself feedback on a problem area, then researched and trained it to the point where he could mindlessly flow through the position in a state of no mind.

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John Danaher extolled this value as well. He states, “Hard working problem solvers: People come to me all the time asking what kind of attributes they need to need to develop in order to excel in jiu jitsu. Conversely, they will also claim that they can never beat a certain opponent because they are possessed of a certain attribute that they cannot overcome. Thus do I get endless numbers of inquiries asking how to build certain attributes such as strength, speed, Flexibility, mental toughness etc. etc. These attributes are all good and desirable and will definitely help your progress – BUT THEY ARE NOT THE ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES I LOOK FOR WHEN APPRAISING THE POTENTIAL OF A STUDENT. What I look for can be said in a single short sentence. I look for HARD WORKING PROBLEM SOLVERS. Nothing more, nothing less. When you look at a list of great world champions you will see tremendous variation in physical and mental attributes. BUT YOU WILL SEE TWO THINGS THEY ALL HAD IN COMMON – they worked harder and proved more adept at solving the problems in front of them in the time available than their opponents. How hard working you are is not some innate quality. I ACTUALLY DON’T BELIEVE ANYONE IS LAZY – JUST UNMOTIVATED. WHAT WE CALL LAZINESS IS SIMPLY A LACK OF PASSION IN THAT DOMAIN….”

The ability to find your problem areas and passionately look for solutions, then being able to implement the solutions until they become second nature, seem key to success in Jiu Jitsu and everything else in life. Too often in my own Jiu Jitsu journey when I encounter an issue I will ask a question or watch a video to find the solution. However, I do not apply any real rigor or passion to the solution.

These ideas 1) taking the pieces off the board to understand the principles behind the micro and then apply them to the macro 2) appling rigor to our problem solving are just two applications from the The Art of Learning. There are many other wonderful insights from both chess and Tai Chi that can be applied to Jiu Jitsu.

Grappling is often described as physical chess. In both chess and Jiu Jitsu, you beat your opponent through you mind. There are endless strategies that can be applied. Both games are evolving daily. It is a blessing to be able to apply lessons from a chess master and Jiu Jitsu black belt to our own process of learning this beautiful art.

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