I’m going to start this short article off by asking you a totally random question…
Does your handwriting influence the decisions you make in jiu jitsu?
Wait. Wait! Don’t go away, I promise you this question, no matter how stupid it may sound, may prove to be as thought-provoking to you as it was to me when I thought of it.
Over the next few paragraphs, it may feel as if I’m leading you on a wild goose chase with the idiotic events that make up my critical thinking process, but trust me…
… the idea I’m going to leave you with, in the end of this article, will pay off and could provide huge benefits to your game on the mats.
So, are you all in for this wild goose chase? Great. I knew you would be.
First things first…
I’m a nerd.
Now, you may think you’re a nerd because of how much you love jiu jitsu.
You may think you’re a nerd because you #nerd in Instagram posts wearing glasses and felt cute but might delete later.
You might think you’re a nerd because you’re 27 and have Spider-Man bedsheets.
… but I study chemistry — as a hobby (and have Spider-Man bedsheets and look #cuteAF in glasses by the way).
Yep. Most afternoons, I sit down with my trusty Casio calculator, my favorite pen, and a sh*t tonne of liquid paper and attack redox reactions and logarithms like the lonely, lonely man I am.
And I don’t do it because I need to for work… I do it because I LIKE IT.
Have you ever been on the brink of tears at 3 am, loaded up on caffeine, balancing redox equations? Now that’s a rush, my friend.
Whoooooooooooanyway, the reason I bring this up is, chemistry is much like jiu jitsu, in the sense that there are people out there who are light years better than me at it, and luckily, many of them have YouTube channels and online courses.
The other day, I had been watching a chemistry professor work through some equations where he had designated the letter X as the variable.
And he did something that really threw me off. It had nothing to do with the concept of the equation, the method he used or how he spoke…
… no, the thing he did that threw me off was the odd way that he wrote the letter X.
Let me show you what I mean. You see, this is how I would write the letter X.
And this is how he did it.
What a lunatic, am I right?
Now, If you find that his method is actually the same method you use to write the letter X, then you might be thinking, “I don’t get it, what’s the matter with that?”
To answer that, I need to tell you that besides being a nerd, I’m also a massive overthinker. I try to look at actions through a lens of efficiency.
In my opinion, I feel my method allows the writer to initiate the writing process starting from the left-hand side. As a speaker and writer of the English language, moving from left to right is only natural. Also, it allows me to initiate writing the letter x immediately after completing most of the letters in the alphabet that would precede it in any given sentence.
My first thought when seeing the professor write the x from right to left was of “inefficiency”.
He would have to almost stutter for a second after finishing the previous letter to move his hand to the right and initiate the X.
What a fool.
What a buffoon.
What an ignoramo…
But, then I thought about it for a little longer and I realized: while he may have been less efficient than me at initiating the X, he was way more efficient in his flow onto the next letter.
Starting from right to left ensured that his final stroke would place his pen in an ideal position to continue on to the next letter with efficiency: improving the flow of writing the sentence after the letter X.
I know this sounds kind of crazy, to see someone draw an X and to stray off on such a wild thread of causal and repercussive thought.
But this is the way I think.
And the way I think got me to thinking.
You see, both methods for writing the letter X are acceptable, neither is wrong and the efficiency of each method is subjective.
Actually, scratch that, it’s not subjective: the efficiency comes down to the saliency.
That is, it comes down to what’s more important to YOU, and whether you prefer to have an uninterrupted writing flow up until the X, or from the X moving forward.
What I’m saying is, how you prioritize areas of your life may also influence your subconscious choices in your actions on the mat.
The old saying “When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail”, (ah, now that header image makes sense, I knew I was going somewhere with that) tells us a lot about how we approach tasks and occurrences in day-to-day life, and can also tell us a lot about how we approach the moves we use and the decisions we make on the mat.
Let’s say there are two practitioners who both like to play guard.
One practitioner is hell-bent on ensuring they 100% tie their opponent up and can control them as much as humanly possible to make sweeping them more efficient.
However, this practitioner also finds that the methods they use to do this, say a lapel guard or maybe a lasso, often results in them having their own arm or leg stuck unfavorably to their opponent when they finish the sweep. They land on top, but sometimes they have to do more work to free their limbs and advance their position.
The other practitioner doesn’t always seek to gain 100% control of their opponent from the guard when initiating a sweep which makes sweeping, and even playing guard, harder than it should be because they now have to rely more on muscle rather than technique.
However, after being successful with the sweep, they find that not being locked to their opponent by a lapel or lasso means they have an opportunity to advance to side control or mount immediately after hitting the sweep.
Both hit their sweeps, yet one was efficiently leading in with a stuttered flow leading out; while the other was much less efficient leading in but was more efficient in their flow on the way out.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you can only be either one of two types of guard player – of course, there are grey areas.
What I am saying is, it’s worth comparing the way you do something on the mat with someone else’s method.
Look beyond the execution of the technique, and evaluate the way you do something to determine if it is helping or hindering your efficiency based on your goals.
And while the percentage increase of improvement you might gain in each position from doing this may be small, the aggregate of these increases will add up and improve the success rate of your game on the mat as a whole.
Think of it using the following analogy: Putting $10 in your savings account isn’t much of an improvement. But putting $10 in your savings account each week for an entire year will give you $520 in your account by the end of that year.
The small improvements may not look like much at first, but they add up.
Keep in mind, I don’t want you wasting your time trying to fix anything that isn’t broke.
I just want you to see your actions on the mat with a different perspective.
And who knows, it could be game-changing.
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