Shave the layers of fancy gis, sublimated rash guards, tattoos and acai berries from Jiu jitsu and what we have left is a martial art which is all about submitting your opponent, and not getting submitted. This struggle of submitting and not being submitted, henceforth referred to as “the struggle”, drives both the technical evolution of Jiu jitsu and the athletic development of its practitioners. The struggle is a perpetual motion machine.
A perpetual motion machine, a machine that powers itself by its own action, like the one John Crowley wrote about in his 1981 novel, Little, Big, cannot exist. However, if we substitute system for machine, we can begin to see the practice of Jiu jitsu as a perpetual motion system.
Practically speaking, the struggle provides direction to each training session. On the one hand, submissions can be practiced: guillotines, Darces, armlocks, Americanas, Kimuras, straight ankle locks, knee bars, toe holds and the dreaded heel hook. Obviously the opposite can be trained; the survival from and escape of all the above.
The value of everything else practiced on the mat is based on its efficiency to facilitate either successfully submitting or surviving submissions. Should the Jiu jitsu-man lift weights? Yes, strength facilitates the struggle. Should the Jiu jitsu-man practice solo drills? Yes, solo drills add muscle memory which facilitates the struggle. Should the Jiu jitsu-man place crystals around the gym? Well, let me refer you to Erik Paulson.
If you are a Jiu jitsu-man taking your first steps as a coach, or if you are committing yourself to solo practice off the mat, you might ask yourself how what you are doing facilitates the struggle. Is your Jiu jitsu being powered by a perpetual motion system or are you blindly wandering down the martial way like conquistadores looking for El Dorado?