Balance comes in many forms. You can stand on one leg, do a hand stand, balance on a stability ball, ride a unicycle, surf, balance objects on your hands or get trapped in someone X-Guard or De La Riva Guard! Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a handstand. It's important to practice balance in as many forms as you can in order to develop a true sense of balance.
Did you know that one definition for balance is to be in a state of rest when two points are equally distributed over a point of leverage? When I first discovered the idea that Balance = Rest it helped my Jiu-Jitsu TREMENDOUSLY! It's not that you are NOT working. You are always working but eventually you learn to work in a manner that is more subtle, efficient and restful. Maximum results with Minimum effort. This is your goal in jiu-jitsu.
I use this example all the time in class when I am trying to explain core movement in jiu-jitsu so I figured I would go ahead and blog it. When you are grappling it is absolutely necessary that you keep active. You do not want to be over reactive and chaotic but you must always be working. When I use the term "working" I want to be clear that I don't mean burning alot of energy or using a lot of force. What I mean is to keep moving forward, keep pressing toward a goal. Your goal, however, is to do this with minimum exertion. As an example, I say it is like balancing a broom stick on your the palm of your hand. I am sure we have all done this as kids. You take a broom stick or any big stick and vertically place it on your palm. Try to balance the stick and keep it from falling off your palm. You can't use anything other than your palm to balance the stick. At first, you end up running all over the place trying to keep that stick from falling. The reason is that we wait to long to respond to the stick as it begins to lean. This causes us to over react in order to make up for the timing. As you get better at balancing the stick, you are eventually able to stand still and even keep your hand pretty still with out having the stick fall. This is because you are learning to feel the stick and your senses pick up on where and when to move your hand. You also learn not to over react but to be very subtle in your movements. The more subtly you can move your hand the easier it will be to keep the stick balanced. All though it looks like your not working, when you are good at balancing the stick, you are actually working a lot. You are just not over working and using more energy than needed.
This is jiu-jitsu. The gentle art. Always working but only as much as needed. Never over reacting. Never forcing. If you learn to use your hips like you use your hand when you balance a stick you will develop very dominant grappling ability. Your ability to stay active with your hips and use them to control your opponent (as your would control the stick) will allow you to use minimum effort to hold people down, to scramble or to attack.
It is important that we do exercises like balancing a stick that allow us to practice balance and sensitivity. Stability balls are great for learning core balance. Doing hand stands will really help you understand balance and the right type of work ethic. The truth is that when you are balanced you are not working in the sense of burning a lot of energy. When you learn to stick a hand stand it is almost as if some one is holding your feet. They feel locked into place and all though you have to work subtly to keep them there, your not burning a lot of energy. Balance is strength. When you have good balance you feel strong. Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a hand stand. Just because you can do a hand stand it does not mean you can balance a stick. Try it all! Learn to balance as many ways as possible. I GUARANTEE it will BOOST your jiu-jitsu game!