Jiu-Jitsu Nirvana

Rickson Gracie

Jiu-jitsu family, read this passage from And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft, in which author Michael Sacks interviews George Meyer, a longtime writer for The Simpsons:

Sacks: You’ve mentioned in the past that some of your best writing is done when you go into sort of a trance. Do you consider writing almost a form of hypnosis, where you lose track of time?

Meyer: Losing track of time is a sure sign that you’re immersed in the joy of the experience. You’re in the state that [psychology author and author] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”. Actually, I had to be in that state now, just to get his name right. The work you do in this state has grace and ease and resonance. It’s the opposite of what Michael O’Donoghue used to call “sweaty” comedy, when you’ve laboriously squeezed out something tedious, and the effort shows. When you’re “in the zone”, a joke will just land on you like a butterfly, and only if you scrutinize it later do you see how it came together from disparate elements. Maybe it’s an amalgam of an old half-idea, or something you saw on your way to work, or a strange symbol on someone’s T-shirt. And it happens in an instant. Of course, this state is elusive; it has to be cultivated.

Sacks: How do you cultivate it?

Meyer: You have to be prepared. You need basic writing skills, of course, but you also want to have lots of raw ingredients rattling around in your skull: vivid words, strange song lyrics, irritating euphemisms, disastrous experiences that have been bothering you for years. To feed this stockpile, you need to expose yourself to the real world and all its hailstones.

The other essential is humility. You have to be willing to look stupid, to stumble down unproductive paths, and to endure bad afternoons when all your ideas are flat and sterile and derivative. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ve bounce back from these lulls and be ready for the next muse’s visit.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? As I was sitting on the beach on our honeymoon in Hawaii reading this section, my skin protesting the shock of trading too much time in front of the computer for too much time under the island sun, I immediately thought back to Rickson Gracie‘s quote from the 1999 movie Rickson Gracie: Choke:

The most interesting aspect of jiu-jitsu is – of course the techniques are great – but the sensibility of the the opponent, the sense of touch, the weight, the momentum, the transition from one move to another. That’s the amazing thing about it. You must allow yourself to go as an automatic pilot. You don’t know exactly where you’re going, until the movement happens. Because you cannot anticipate what’s going to happen. You must allow yourself to be in a zero point, a neutral point, and be relaxed, and connected with the variations. So you pretty much flow with the go. This is a point beyond knowledge. It is from years and years of playing around and sensibility.

Rickson’s use of the term “flow with the go”, instead of the traditional saying “go with the flow” is now famous. We will probably never know whether the switch was intentional or merely a side effect of English not being Rickson’s first language. Regardless, the phrase complemented Rickson’s mystique well and has become a mantra of grapplers looking to move beyond the short term focus on a particular move towards a state where one is relaxed, aware, and practicing really beautiful jiu-jitsu.

We all know how good BJJ is for one’s physical fitness. When you train and are able to flow with the go – and I don’t mean to train well, I mean to turn off your brain, roll fluidly for an hour or two without noticing any time has elapsed – this is probably where one gets the most psychological benefit from BJJ.

The passage from And Here’s the Kicker is reprinted with the permission of author Michael Sacks.

3 Replies to “Jiu-Jitsu Nirvana”

  1. A big hand should go to the film makers of Choke.
    What incredible foresight to document, what was then still a little known art.

    Choke and Legacy should be compulsorary viewing for all BJJers.

  2. I agree with all of the above and the funny thing is that reading the article I was starting to see how the Choke DVD cover applied because I was starting to flash back to that as well when I was reading it.

    I get a kick out of how sometimes I roll better against higher level competition when I let go of my predispositions and just move as opposed to that “HULK SMASH mentality that comes up now and then”

  3. I totally see the relevance to jiujitsu , that state of no mind ” mu ga ” in Japanese , is present in all art forms , it is the ultimate state, where time disappear . I am a graphic artist and musician as well , and personally I can tell that , Jiujitsu , music , and painting, feed each other.
    I think this what need to be taught in bjj school , even before teaching any submission , how to flow , because flowing is what glues positions, control ,and submission.
    It is taught by the way in Judo it is called “randori ”
    It is important to have a strong technical foundation of course, but then comes the time to forget about the technique , because your body already gets it , this called “procedural memory”.
    so this is what I am after doing jiujitsu , no taping a particular guy , buy do my best to embrace the meaning of jiujitsu.

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