You can’t always get what you want

It isn’t just a great song, it is a fundamental truth. 

You can’t always get what you want

It’s not your turn right now.

The restaurant is closed.

No vacancy

You can’t park here

Sorry, that flight just left

She doesn’t like you, she likes someone else.

He doesn’t like you, he likes some else.

The topic deserves more attention than it gets. Why? Because the second it comes up Mrs. Kubler-Ross rears her wise head and reminds us:

You don’t get what you want - denial

You don’t get what you want - anger

You don’t get what you want - bargining

You don’t get what you want - depression

You don’t get what you want - reluctant acceptance

It is important that we are honest about not just the emotional grief we experience with undesired events, but also the cognitive dissonance that is often associated with a reality not matching what we think reality should be. While the five stages of grief may or may not be a form of cognitive dissonance, I am lumping them together to highlight the fact that there is a large body of work dealing with our emotional response to events not unfolding the way we want. 

This may seem a little melodramatic of an approach, however I have witnessed a large number of people get hurt in training and I can tell you that the intersection of not paying attention, and not being mentally ready to accept what is actively occuring in training is where a large number of injuries occur. While the curriculum and how we approach training in general makes injuries much less likely, I know that the vast majority of the time students get injured in training is when they lose presence of mind and control of emotions. 

Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them to. Being able to maintain emotional composure when that happens is a skill itself. Jiu Jitsu is not an a la carte affair. You can’t string together a few attacking moves you saw online and suddenly have game. You need to study where leverage exists and where it does not.  To study the other half of a move means to study concession and giving up ground. All effective fighting arts and battle strategies have a systematic method for dealing with this.

If we were at war and were getting overrun by the enemy there would be a manner in which we would need to concede. First we would need to be aware that if we stood the ground we would lose. Failure to do this step correctly would mean defeat. Then, upon this realization, we would need to come up with a plan of retreat. If we just turned around and ran away we would be easy targets for the enemy. Then we would need to enact that plan and retreat skillfully while still returning fire, maintaining some sort of threat to the advancing troops, so that we could get away. 

That is studying the other half of the move. The terms offense and defense, while useful at times, are incomplete in describing the conflict and control of space/movement that occurs in Jiu Jitsu. I am going to spread the conversation out over a few articles. With this article I just want to make us aware of the conversation and leave you with a bad street corner philosophy or Jiu Jitsu koan so we can think about it a bit. 

It is trendy to say “why would you ignore half the body” when discussing leg locks. It is trendy because it sounds smug, smarter than you, and like an aggressive winner. Why don’t people say “why would you only study one half of a move”, when discussing technique? By this I mean moves, whether it be offense or defense, tend to only be shown as forward motion. When I wrote about “what’s a move”  I said that people like to learn moves because they like the idea of progress, of moving forward.

To discuss the other half of a move means how do you study how to safely accept things not going your way? That is different than studying defense. Studying defense still has a captain of my own ship feel to it - as though I study defense and then become undefeatable. Just as we need to learn how to get a sweep, we need to be just as studious when learning how to accept the sweep. In general, the less emotional attachement you have to successfully pulling off a move, the easier it will be to accept a technique. They more mentally relaxed yet attentive you are, the more opportunities and options you will see.

So until next time try to identify what you are focused on when you are training and how you respond when it doesn’t go the way you would like. How could you do that better? My aim isn’t for us to turn into little sheep that roll over at the first sign of difficulty. To the contrary, I know that the better we understand this concept, the more technical and precise our training is going to become. That I am very interested in.