Grappling With Purpose

It is all a matter of context.

Two equally skilled grapplers, competing for submissions, can roll for long periods of time, ten, fifteen, even thirty plus minutes before one gets tired and makes a mistake, resulting in him or her getting submitted. Add to this equation some MMA gloves and punches, and a clear winner is usually decided in only a few minutes, with both grapplers being significantly more tired during the altercation. Put a knife in the mix and thirty seconds feels like an eternity and not only are both grapplers likely winded, but one is (symbolically) dead.

The higher the stakes, the more intense the altercation, the more quickly and one-sidedly it ends. With more on the line, even in training, our focus concentres on the more immediate and dangerous threat. Every movement, every potential mistake or opening, means the difference between life and death. This level of intensity, like the difference between sprinting and long distance running, is not sustainable for long periods of time. It is not meant to be. That’s not how we are wired.

Different types of training with varying focuses are important in a well-rounded martial art curriculum, but it is also good to specialize. It is difficult to be an expert generalist. Still, it is important to go outside of one’s normal training routine and parameters to know what limitations one is working within in a given system. Limitations are a good thing, after all, because they add definition and clarity of focus to what one is doing and trying to achieve.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is a practitioner of Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo

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