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Open Source BJJ

Open Source Jiu-JItsu

How do humans get things done? How do we work to achieve and exceed our goals? Most people that begin to practice Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) are competitive people; both with themselves and with others. As a beginner in the gym, your first several months are spent being tapped by those who know more than you, and while there may be another white belt you are competitive, with a majority of your time is spent being controlled and submitted. This period of time is also when people are most likely to give up on their BJJ journey. As a beginner you are tapped so often that it almost seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There does come a time when a new jiu-jitsu starts to be able to catch people in submissions and it feels pretty good, all the hard work has paid off. In Jiu-jitsu one of the first goals you have is to submit people; to win.

One particularly popular view of the world is that biology is a war in which only the fiercest survive ­­­­and that business and nations survive only by dominating and destroying competition and winning at all costs. This is also a view that can be seen in the study of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. In order to be good you must submit people, you must dominate everybody you roll with, compete with, and spar with at all costs. Eventually if you train for a while you will be able to tap out a majority of the people at your gym. Of course you will have certain training partners who challenge you, but you will be able to tap a majority of your training partners almost at will.

At this point you have become the fiercest person in the gym. It is also at this time you will see your smallest gains and the least amount of improvement as a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner. You may be thinking to yourself, how can I see less improvement if I am tapping everybody? The answer is that you are no longer being challenged. You are no longer being forced to learn and adapt in order to survive. Throughout the lower belts in BJJ you are being controlled and submitted every class you attend, and these “negatives” force you to see what you are doing wrong, so what you have to fix is very apparent. However, once you begin to control and submit a majority of people in the gym it could be weeks, or even months between taps. So while you are still making mistakes, your training partners aren’t yet good enough to capitalize on them. So the mistakes you are making are not as apparent and you may continue to make them for years because you don’t even realize they are mistakes yet.  So the real goal of practicing Jiu-jitsu is not to submit people, but to realize your mistakes and get better at Jiu-jitsu  e; and while tapping people is part of that process, getting tapped shares and equal role in our own development. So how do we get good at Jiu-jitsu?

As Howard Rheingold points out in his TED talk, “The New Power of Collaboration” we can see the beginnings of a new thought process beginning to emerge across several disciplines, where interaction and cooperation play a more important roll and survival of the fittest shrinks a little bit to make room. This new process to is referred to as “collective action”.  Collective action is the way humans have been evolving for a long time, starting in small groups and eventually banding together into larger groups to hunt larger game. As this progression took place, human’s standard of wealth increased. This banding together is largely due to communication. As our ability to communicate has evolved from the alphabet to the printing press and eventually the internet new forms of collective actions, like literacy, begin to emerge and new possibilities open up.  The effect of open communication can be seen when family members train together. Family’s like the Gracies, the Machado’s, and the Mendes brothers are perfect examples how open communication and a willingness to share technique has elevated each member beyond what they were capable of achieving on their own.  This is because of a desire for you to succeed but also for your training partner/family member to succeed.

Collective action is spawned by a social dilemma referred to as the prisoner’s dilemma. The prisoner’s dilemma comes from a game where two players can’t trust each other. One person has goods, and another person has money but because they cannot trust each other nothing is exchanged and both parties lose.  An example of this in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is when training partners don’t share what they know with their less experienced training partners, in order to continue winning in the gym . In these scenarios both parties end up losing in the long run. The less experienced BJJ practitioner takes longer to develop his or her skill set, having to spend time reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, the more experienced training Jiu-jitsu practitioner is not challenged so it takes longer for him to realize and then fix the mistakes in his game.

We can escape this Jiu-jitsu prisoner’s dilemma by creating institutes for collective action.  Brazilian Jiu-jitsu gyms where communication is a daily aspect of practice and training partners teach other members of their gym the techniques they are performing, and the strategies they are using. Every member of the gym will grow at a rate beyond what they could do on their own. Just as technology creates new type of communication and new types of communication create new types of wealth in economics. Just as youtube has spread techniques that before could only be found in Brazil, peer to peer communication in the gym and a culture of open sharing will create new forms of “jiu-jitsu wealth” accelerating both your own and your training partners growth. It is only with “Open Source” jiu-jitsu that you will be able to reach your maximum potential.