Committing Sincerely Without Overcommitting

One of the things that grappling teaches us is that people can sense a dishonest setup and, if we are to make actual progress toward our goal, our approach has to be sincere.

When setting up a throw, a pin, or a submission, we must be prepared that our initial attack may be countered and we must have a backup plan or two. However, this does not mean that our focus should be on our backup plan because that will make our primary attack less sincere and committed. There is no need, on our opponent’s part, to counter an insincere attack because it poses no real threat and, therefore, neither it, nor our secondary or tertiary attacks, will hold much weight in our favor.

Conversely, if our attack is sincere and true, and our opponent fails to counter it, for whatever reason, there is no need for us to follow up with successive attacks because we will have already been successful with our throw, pin, or submission. In other words, if our primary approach is honest and poses a real threat to our opponent and they do not counter it, they are thrown, pinned, or submitted, but if they do counter it, we move on to our secondary and then tertiary weapons without hesitation. We must always assume our opponent will counter our attack while also committing, but never overcommitting, to it.

The process of learning what approach works best for us against what counters is a lifetime’s worth of study in intention, motivation, and timing that goes well beyond the grappling mats. It requires having knowledgable, generous teachers, as well as sincere, skilled partners who work with, not against us for the longterm betterment of the group, instead of the short-term, selfish ‘win.’ It is easier to be sincere and forward thinking when we know that the people we are working with have the common goal of mutually beneficial improvement.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Street art photo taken by Robert Van Valkenburgh, artist unknown unless otherwise noted.

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