Chess and Collar Chokes

“If we are playing chess and I do two moves, but you only do one move, who is going to win? Jiu-jitsu is like chess. I do one move and you do one move, but if I do one move and then you let me do another move, game over.” – Relson Gracie

Relson Gracie black belt Patrick Gaul Jr. practicing a side control collar choke at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

In life, like in jiu-jitsu, when problems arise, if they are not addressed immediately, they can compound and become overwhelming. Imagine you are doing jiu-jitsu and your opponent passes your guard to side control. That is a problem. If you do not address it and re-guard, he or she gets to mount. Now, you have two problems. Then, he or she puts a hand in your collar and you do nothing. You now have three problems and his or her next move is going to be to finish the choke with the other hand.

If you wait until the second hand comes in to grab your other collar, before you begin strategizing your defense, you are not only behind, but you are positioned to lose. Now, your only move is going to be reactionary and reactive counters are slow because they lack initiative. A lot of things happened between the guard pass and the collar choke that should have been addressed as they came up, but due to lack of awareness, initiative, or skill, now you are fighting to survive. It is very difficult to think about winning when you are fighting to survive.

The goal is to get ahead, to address issues before they become problems. In Japanese martial arts, this principle, which I have written about in Enter First With Your Mind, is known as irimi. Irimi is the act of taking space, being where your opponent wanted to be before he or she gets there and owning that position. In BJJ, this means capitalizing on the guard pass attempt and either submitting or sweeping the passer at exactly the moment he or she is most confident. Irimi is seizing the challenge, owning it, and using it to your advantage.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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