Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and the Mind Body Connection
In the early stages of learning any physical activity whether it be a martial art like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or a team sport such as football there is often a struggle to make our bodies perform the way our mind envisions. TV and other forms of media show us people who have mastered there craft performing at the highest levels, making every technique and skill look effortless. With the rising popularity of the UFC and MMA we can watch martial artists perform on the highest level on almost a daily basis making their display of technique look as easy as riding a bike. What we don’t see during these displays is the years and sometimes decades of daily training these tremendous athletes have but in to mastering their craft. From the time a student begins his or her studies in the martial arts or any other sport they begin to strengthen their own mind-body connection.
On a student’s first day at a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class he or she is paired with one or two students who have a been training BJJ for a few years in order to help them through the techniques, and to help put their arms and legs in the correct positions. At first just performing the technique on a non-resisting training partner can become frustrating, however this is a normal part of the learning process. Once the student has performed the technique a few times he or she will be able to make it happen. Performing technique on a non resisting training partner is one of the first steps in BJJ to strengthening the mind-body connection. The student is moving their body parts in ways that are unfamiliar and receiving feedback from both their peers and from the results of their efforts. If the technique fails, their training partners will help them make the necessary adjustments in order for it to work correctly the next time.
On the students first day of sparring 99% percent of everything they practiced on their non-resisting training partners will not work. The techniques and strategies of BJJ require learning how to move all over again. As humans we spend most of our time standing(or sitting) and this is where we get our frame of reference on how our body moves, The idea of having each of our four limbs perform a different task while we are lying on our back is not something that a majority of people do in their daily routine. For the first day grappler everybody has more experience, and therefore has a stronger mind-body connection. By the time the first day grappler recognizes what to do and has informed his or her brain to perform that task their training partner has already recognized what is happening and dealt with it in one way or another. The first few months of sparring people often will wonder if they are ever going to get better at Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu takes roughly 6 months to a 1 year of training for things to start to “click”, for a students mind body connection to become strong enough for them to recognize what is happening and react in time enough for it to actually matter. Once this click happens the techniques performed on a non-resisting training partner will start to be able work on training partners who are resisting(depending on the experience level of their training partner). When students make it to this point in their training it is extremely rewarding and they will start to notice a circular effect within the mind-body connection. Where in the beginning our brains are telling our bodies what to do, after a certain amount of practice it is our bodies that begin to communicate with our brains.
Feeling with our bodies lets us know what technique to apply, and which way to move. It is not uncommon to see two high level practitioners drilling or sparring with their eyes closed. The more accurately our bodies can communicate what is happening while sparring the better decisions our brains can make, the better decisions we make the more we will be able to listen to our bodies. In this way the mind-body connection continues to strengthen itself over the course of training.