Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Change Your Mind

Don’t have silly rules. Consider how much of your life is run by rules and beliefs that you probably created several years ago, some as far back when you were a child. In such cases, you’re letting a kid make decisions for you.

I know someone who says she absolutely can’t enjoy a hamburger without fries.1 And I know someone who proudly says that he decided on a certain political party at 18 and has never considered voting another way.2

How much harder is life if you put so much of any belief into your identity? In a sense, it’s easier because you don’t have to think. But actually, life is harder if you’re forever in autopilot mode.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with the shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day.—“Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."—Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

You have to be willing to change your mind when you have new facts. It’s easy to be consistent; you just have to never learn anything.

Every time you learn something, you actually get a little bit dumber.

I like to pair Emerson’s Self Reliance with Miyamoto Musashi’s The Way of Walking Alone (or Self-Reliance). And one of Miyamoto’s rules was “Do not have preferences.”

How does this apply to your jiu-jitsu?

Besides technique? Because of course, the obvious path is to think, “Oh, I’m a top player, so I’ll just work on that.” And then you learn about a new guard that suits your body type and mental makeup. Then you change your preference.

But as important as technique is your view of the art, which informs your approach to training and overall goals. When you start out, your instructor and partners will have a huge influence on your game and philosophy, which becomes your identity. And it’s hard to change your identity. When every one in your schools believes one thing, you will want to fit in. It’s that way in school, church, internet forums, jobs, and so on.

Supposedly, jiu-jitsu, and martial arts in general, make you a better person. Beware that it can also make you more set in your ways, especially as you advance. You begin to think you have the answers, and your way is the only way.

  1. By the way, a hamburger with fries breaks one of the Gracie Diet’s food combination rules because you can’t have bread with potato in the same meal. I don’t follow the Gracie Diet, but there are a couple rules that I agree with because they help me avoid an upset stomach. ↩︎

  2. Never mind that both major parties have changed considerably over the last few decades. ↩︎

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