Dulling the sword: Don’t let the ‘Gentle Art’ grind you down!

We are taught from an early age to meet challenges head on.  To face our fears.  This makes us brave and bold.  One of the great dichotomy’s of Jiu-Jitsu, this bone breaking…neck choking martial art is that it means, “gentle art”.  How could something so savage be called gentle?  The Japanese translation ju (jiu) means, gentle or flexible.  While jutsu (jitsu) means, art or science.  So instead of the common, ‘gentle art”, we could also think of it as the pliable or flexible science.


There is a great teaching in zen called, be like the bamboo…bend don’t break.  Bamboo in the forest will move and sway to even the slightest breeze.  This movement represents humility as the stems move to the smallest and the most powerful wind, while the bamboo remains grounded. They do not fight the wind, but dance with it harmoniously with no effort.   Over time the wind will tire of this game…yet the bamboo remains firmly rooted in the ground.  To me this represents the flow of Jiu-Jitsu.  Every submission, sweep and counter in Jiu-Jitsu requires an angle.  This is usually represented by the 45/90 rule, which states that you can maximize leverage with a 45 or 90 degree angle.  The angle, or the curved line (which represents femininity in nature) symbolizes fluidity, creation.  Whereas the straight line (represented by the male ) denotes power.  Angles create power (leverage) with minimal effort.


But if you make every match a battle, a war of attrition then eventually there will be nothing left to fight with.  The word attrition means, “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of something through sustained attack or pressure.”  We learn in Jiu-Jitsu that if you meet resistance (linear motion) with more resistance the weaker person will tire.  But that’s exactly what most of us do when we roll.  Our partner grabs us with force and resistance so we come back even harder.  We meet their resistance with our own linear resistance and thus ensues a ‘war of attrition’. Every time you wage these wars where you dull your once sharpened sword, you begin to weaken it.  Yes, you’ll heal and recover after these battles…but each time you sharpen and dull your sword you have to remove a little metal to return it to it’s sharpened state.  This weakens the sword and diminishes it’s strength.  The power of the sword isn’t in brandishing it recklessly… but in others not realizing that you have a sword in the first place.  So when someone comes at you with head-on, full out resistance…step aside and create a new angle and watch what happens.


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