The Mouse And The Trap (A Jiu-Jitsu Lesson)

Do not chase your opponents into their game.

The longer we practice jiu-jitsu, the more we develop our own uniquely personal technical-style, strategies, and tactics. While this is happening, however, our training partners are also working on improving and developing their own personal styles as well, their own games, so to speak. Like us, they, too, are developing a mindset, philosophy, and a physical language all their own, based on their personal goals, their physical attributes, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Through this process of individual and mutual improvement, we have the constant benefit of increasingly complex and challenging problems to solve. We learn what works and what does not work in what circumstances, against what offenses and defenses, and what causes us repeated success or failure against whom. The better we get at our own personal style of jiu-jitsu, the more we tend to want to impose our game on others while they try to impose theirs on us in return.

One of the primary lessons in all of this is that, not only should we not try to beat others at their own game, but we should also not chase them into the positions they are best at and we are worst at with the hope of out-thinking and out-maneuvering them where they are comfortable and we are not. We learn not to attack others’ strengths with our weaknesses and, instead, to try to lead or guide them into the places we are strong and they are weak. As Pedro Sauer says, “The mouse trap does not chase the mouse.”


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.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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