Old made new again


Before I found out about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I spent about four years being immersed in Aikido.  Unfortunately during those years I had the wrong view of what Aikido was and embarrassingly, I thought that the stuff from Steven Seagal’s movies was real.  With Aikido you were ready to kick ass in the streets!

Needless to say, I was absolved of those beliefs after watching UFC and Pride.  Even high level Aikidoka will admit that Aikido isn’t for that sort of thing, and that’s why you don’t see any top level or even low level fighters who actively use Aikido techniques in professional bouts.

So for years I paid out on Aikido, lamenting the time I spent doing it and generally just being bitter.  However the past few months I’ve come to realise that a lot of the concepts from Aikido are transferable to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and even provide an apt framework for improving your Jiu Jitsu game.

Firstly, there’s the concept of ‘ki’.  Basically in Aikido it is the word for energy, and the idea would be to harmonise with the energy of your training partner.  Mastering your ki and knowing how to control it is the key to mastering Aikido.  However, the concept of ki takes on a spiritual meaning, and often in Aikido the concept of ki was taken to extreme levels.  You can even find Aikido practitioners doing Dragonball Z style spirit bomb attacks, minus the destruction of the planet part.

Yet lately I’ve come to believe that the concept of ki is a convenient if not masterful framework to explain complex Jiu Jitsu concepts.   For example, in my own Jiu Jitsu game is that I’m able to apply incredible pressure on my opponents by balancing my entire bodyweight onto my knee, and pivoting that knee on my opponent’s belly.  Yet that explanation is lacking, it doesn’t come close to explaining the fact that I’m maximising the pressure I’m applying by contorting the hundreds of different muscles in my body to focus the force on a small surface area.  And while I’m doing that, I’m constantly readjusting my position and predicting the movements of my opponent.

However explaining this through the framework of ki implies all of those things.  By stating that I’m transferring my ki onto my opponent, it conceptually summarises every little action I’ve taken in applying pressure on my opponent.  Rather than spending ten minutes noting each and every thing I’ve done, I’m able to succinctly and accurately describe what I’m doing at a high level.  Rickson Gracie, the greatest Jiu Jitsu player in history, calls this ‘Invisible Jiu Jitsu’.

And so I’ve come to re-appreciate the old, and for me these ancient martial arts principles have come new again.  Being a strong believer in science, I’ve always had absolute distain for anything non-logical.  But from this perspective, I’ve come to believe that the concept of ki makes a lot of sense and so I’ve come to integrate it into my Jiu Jitsu game, lately to great benefit.

With that said, you won’t see me doing any Street Fighter hadukens, but I will be working this concept of energy and referring to it often.

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