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Training Body to Train Mind

“If you are late. If you are use strength. If you use strength... you tire. And if you tire... you die.” – Saulo Ribeiro (

It is 3:17am as you pull up to the ramshackle house. Your third coffee seems to be doing the opposite of what it's supposed to. You're thinking of the fight you had with your pregnant wife before shift. You picture her face and sigh. Suddenly, a man bursts out of the door leaving a wake of screaming and dimly lit chaos in his wake. His bleeding palms are the last thing you see before he slams into you...

So you stop, breathe, giving yourself time to think. Right? No wait you do the square breathing that everyone talks about. Right? Or do you think back to the seventy-fifth powerpoint slide where the tired instructor talked about the lizard brain six Tuesday afternoons ago?

Are we serious?

If you have to stop and think... it's already too late. When sudden threats and unexpected chaos erupt around us, our bodies are our only chance. Hours on the mat spent struggling with trusted brother's and sisters teach our bodies the physics and timing needed in these moments. How to land, how to roll, how to grapple, how to to disarm.

If you are too late... all you can do is use your limited strength. If every fiber beneath your flesh doesn't already know what to do when you are attacked, knocked down, choking, then you will explode into action, head-on with all your panicky adrenaline-fueled strength. In the best of times, it doesn't last long. Or you permanently injure a person when in hindsight, it was clearly excessive force. Or, if the opposition is bigger, stronger, more athletic, or substance addled? It might not matter how long your strength lasts, it may just simply not be enough.

If you use strength, you tire... and if you tire, you die. No one really believes that they would give up, quit, accept defeat... especially if it means their death. Until they try Jiu Jitsu. There is a point of exhaustion and cognitive submission you reach, almost every time, that is humbling in the most primal sort of way. You realize your limitations, the pathetic extent of misdirected strength. You realize how easily you can be defeated, not just by a crowd or by some genetic freak, but by a single smaller individual who happens to know a bit more than you do.

The Gun. Let's be honest though, there is a short-cut, a cheat code that let's untrained individuals by-pass this slide toward grim conclusion. And who can blame them? Whether it be an armed civilian, or a police officer, who can blame a person for drawing a weapon when their limited strength is fading, or when they see an unknowable form charging from the shadows and whatever clarity they had short-circuits and they freeze, or they fire.

Jiu Jitsu Trains the Body. Jiu Jitsu trains the body to act proactively, automatically, when provoked. Since your body knows what to do, the limbic system doesn't over react. This is one of the many paradoxes of BJJ training: Only when the mind relinquishes control to the trained body, can the mind stay in control the whole time. This is the power and the promise of Jiu Jitsu training.

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