Why be creative in BJJ and grappling? Well…the easy answer is because you CAN! I came up doing traditional striking martial arts as a kid. Primarily Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo Karate. In these traditional martial arts (which I think have value when taught properly) there is very little room for creativity. Stances, forms, etc. are all done a very specific way with no room for interpretation. Because there is so little creativity or adaptation these arts become (I hate to use this word) dead or at least stagnant martial arts. Now you could certainly make an argument that these arts are taught this way because the “masters” passed down what they found as the best, most effective ways to perform these techniques. That perhaps there should be no interpretation…nothing added and nothing taken away. In fact there are MANY Jiu-Jitsu instructors who teach this way. The “my way or the highway” mentality of teaching. I’m not saying this is bad either..bless those instructors. There’s room for every flavor in Jiu-Jitsu. If you don’t like one approach, you can find another teacher who may offer something that’s more in line with your philosophy. This again illustrates the adaptability of the gentle art. Instructors can range from the one size fits all, everyone does what I do… to the other end, which is the creative – open minded teacher. I prefer the latter because that has always been my experience.
I have never discriminated at the opportunity to learn something new. When I was a budding Jiu-Jitsuka in the mid-90’s it was challenging to learn BJJ while living on the East Coast. Schools and instructors were very difficult to find. My then BJJ instructor Allan Goes was in California while I lived on the East Coast. Because of the challenges of geography it was difficult to train regularly with a BJJ Black Belt. Therefore we would learn from any bit of information we could get our hands on. From books on wrestling, Judo to videos (yes actual VHS videos) from Brazil, Japan or any instructional we could find (there were very few back then too). You have to also remember there was no YouTube either. My point is that we never paused or second guessed an opportunity for learning. Nowadays we see a BJJ technique on Facebook and instead of trying to see how we can make that work, we try o figure out why we think it will never work. When I see a move or technique I look at it and say what can I take from this experience to add to my experience. It’s rarely the entire move but rather a piece..a concept…an angle that’s implanted into my consciousness that has the potential to blossom into something greater. But if I was completely closed minded then I get nothing from the experience. When I put out videos of “new” moves I never think of them as absolutes as even finished moves. It’s up to the viewer to take my interpretation and make it their own. That’s the power of Jiu-Jitsu that we don’t just get to look at the pretty vases..but we get to be the creator and the creation! (if we choose too)
I recently learned about the Greek word “meraki”. (pronounced may-rah-kee) It’s one of those words that we don’t have an English equivalent. Often referred to as untranslatable. But if we were going to translate it… it means to leave some of your soul or essence in whatever you do. This is my philosophy on Jiu-Jitsu to leave a little bit of me in everything I do. When I do this…I am being as honest as I can be. (check out the dope video below, of well….me being me)