The Art of Fighting without Fighting

While on a boat on his way to Han's Tournament as an undercover agent, "The Dragon" Bruce Lee is gathered together with other men who also plan on competing in this tournament of elite fighters. One of the fighters on the boat happens to be a bully and is bullying some of the other fighters. At some point he looks at Bruce and says, "Do I scare you?". Bruce just stares. He then says,"What's your style?". Bruce replies, "I call it the art of fighting without fighting". The bully asks Bruce to show him some and Bruce said that there was not enough room. Bruce then suggests that they take the little safety boat that was attached to the big boat to an Island close by where they could practice. They bully agreed and Bruce began to help him down into the safety boat. Once the bully was in the boat, Bruce untied it and made sure the bully knew he had lost the battle. This was a classic scene from "Enter The Dragon".

I see Jiu-Jitsu as an art where this principle of fighting without fighting can be displayed very well. You can take the techniques of jiu-jitsu and use them in an very rough and aggressive manor or you can take them and use them in a very gentle, patient, methodical manor. To apply the art of fighting without fighting in your every day jiu-jitsu training you must learn to be gentle, patient and methodical.

The best way to practice this concept is to literally go into a rolling session with the mind set of not fighting. The idea is to NOT USE FORCE. That's right. Don't use the force Luke. You Simply let it happen. You are not going to create your own opportunities or situations to attack, you are going to focus only on what's given. Even when you do attack, you are not going to use much energy at all. You are just going to relax and go with the flow or as Rickson Gracie once said, flow with the go.

As spoken about in another blog post, in order to apply any of the techniques you learn in jiu-jitsu you have to have the opportunity first. What I mean is that you have to:

1. Be able to identify the right situation to use a move.

2. Be able to create the right situation to use a move.

An arm bar, for instance, can either be given by your opponent posting on your chest or you may have to work to set it up and trap the arm order to get that opportunity. The art of fighting without fighting relies on you learning to focus on identifying what is given. So often when we roll we are trying to force situations and end up wasting a lot of energy when in fact a different situation or opportunity is all ready given. Be aware and willing to go where your partner leads you.

One of the best ways that I have found to practice this is with your eyes closed. When you close your eyes you tend to FEEL more of what is given rather than trying to create. It is important to explain this to your training partners before you roll. Tell them that you want to practice rolling with your eyes closed and ask them to keep theirs open so they can keep you from bumping your head into anyone or anything. When you roll you will use some energy. You can't just play dead and expect to gain anything. You have to use some energy but the idea is to use as little as possible. Use a partner that is a little less skilled than you and try your best not to fight to keep a grip, hold a position, escape a position or submit your partner. Do not struggle to do anything. Be technical. Be aware, gentle, patient and be methodical. Then when people ask you what style you practice, you too can say, the art of fighting without fighting.


Principle vs. Technique

Jiu-Jitsu is probably one of the most technical martial arts on the planet. The more you pay attention to detail and master your technique the more efficient you will be on the mat. Although Jiu-Jitsu is so well known for it's technical effectiveness there are many other factors which come into play. While technique plays a huge role we can EXCEL our game TREMENDOUSLY if we enhance our overall fitness, muscle memory, mental health/stability, spirituality and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu principles. I would like to focus in on the understanding of Jiu-Jitsu principles in this article. Although the title and essence of this article is "Technique vs Principle" I will also explain why they go hand in hand. 

What is Technique?

To have technique is to have a certain skill or ability to perform a specific task. We can look at technique from two different perspectives.

1. One can have a lot of techniques.
2. One can have a lot of technique. 

In Jiu-Jitsu, the one who has a lot of "techniques" has numerous ways to take down, control, sweep and submit his opponent from each position. He is like a walking Jiu-Jitsu Encyclopedia.


The one who has a lot of "technique" in Jiu-Jitsu may or may not have a lot of "techniques" but in either case is very masterful in his performance. 

What is a Principle?

The word principle can take on different meanings. When I use the word in this article I am referring to the law and understanding of how things work. The concept of understanding how things work in Jiu-Jitsu could be broken into these 5 areas:

1. Balance
2. Leverage
3. Timing
4. Motion/Direction 
5. Flow/Resistance 

Ex: Basic Principle of Balance - The more points of balance a man has, the stronger his base will be. 

Unless your this guy at least!


This is a basic principle of balance but when you apply it to your take downs, positions and sweeps in Jiu-Jitsu you become much stronger. When I am on top controlling my opponent I want at least 2 points of balance at all times. If I can have 3 or 4 than it's even better. If I am on the bottom of the guard I want to focus on eliminating my opponents points of balance to sweep him. With a proper understanding of how these concepts work, good technique can manifest naturally.

So which is greater, technique or principle?

As stated in the beginning, one can have a lot of techniques and another can have a lot of technique. There are some grapplers who have an enormous amount technical knowledge. They can give you over 10 set techniques from any position at any given time. They have been taught techniques and have repeated them over and over again and have developed good muscle memory to execute those techniques swiftly without thought while on the mat. Yet when you ask them why they do something a particular way, they don't really have an answer. They may even get defensive about it. You might call this type of grappler, a "Book Smart Grappler". We all know plenty of kids who go to school and get straight A's because they are very book smart. They learned and memorized the answers but when you ask them a question that wasn't in the book they just stare at you with a blank look on their face.

There are also grapplers who don't have such a wide range of set techniques but have a real in depth understanding of the techniques they know. This grappler may not have learned and memorized all the answers in the book but if you ask him a question he doesn't know he could probably still come up with a really good answer. This is the "Common Sense Grappler". If you ask him a question concerning a situation that he has no specific technique for, he can give you and explain his answer in great detail because of his understanding of how things work. 

The Book Smart Grappler is a very effective grappler in that he has technique after technique to fall back on when his opponent does this or that. He has answers for almost every situation and his body uses the techniques he has trained automatically. The Common Sense Grappler may or may not have this vast knowledge of techniques but truly understands and focuses on the principles of Jiu-Jitsu and is also a very effective grappler because the techniques he does use are almost unstoppable. He has such a great understanding of how to use his body to manipulate yours that you feel like your wrestling with an immovable force. The Common Sense Grappler understands how to shut down your game and pursue theirs. This grappler also has the ability to adapt and create techniques on the fly. 

So which one is better? This question is to general to really have a decisive answer. I can not simply say one is greater than the other. Good technique must include principle and an understanding of principle must lead to good technique. The difference is that you can have someone who has good technique which must include good principle but they may not necessarily focus on understanding the various principles of Jiu-Jitsu. They have been taught techniques and have repeated them over and over again. They have learned the techniques very well but may not ever have studied the principles of those techniques. 

In the end you can have good technique without a detailed understanding of how things work but you can't have a detailed understanding of how things work and not in time have good technique. Applied principle always leads to effective technique. This is the difference between learning technique and studying it. It is not that one is greater than the other because in a sense you can't have one without the other. However, if you focus on understanding the principles of Jiu-Jitsu, the technique's you do know will be very pure and effective. Not only that but you will have the ability to create and express techniques in a way that is inspiring to others. To me, that is true art. My hope is to have a lot of technical techniques. To be a common sense grappler with book smarts!

How to Gain the Most with your Training Partners

If you have read my home page or e-mails you will have gotten a general idea of what I am about to explain. In this blog I am going to go a little deeper into the concept of how to EXCEL QUICKLY in your jiu-jitsu game NO MATTER what LEVEL training partners you have. Generally in Jiu-Jitsu, there are 3 basic levels in comparison to yours.

1. Lesser Skilled
2. Equal Skilled
3. Greater Skilled

When a lesser skilled partner is rolling with a greater skilled partner, realistically, the lesser skilled partner is always practicing defense while the greater skilled partner is working offense. Of course the greater skilled partner can allow the lesser skilled partner to work offense but an allowed offense and an allowed defense will never be the same as that which has to be forced.For instance, I can allow a lesser skilled opponent to be offensive on me and I can learn and gain from that experience but it will never be the same as when my opponent is forcing me to defend. On the same note an offense that is allowed will be the same as an offense that is created and established by enforcing your will on another. 

When two equal skilled partners roll or drill, the offense and defense goes back and forth and the end of the match is unpredictable. This is great for the emotional or mental part of the game. The roller coaster of action often causes a lot of thoughts to cross through your mind as you roll and it helps to mimic how you will feel in competition. This trains you to stay focused no matter what the situation. If you roll with a higher belt it is not as emotional when you get tapped or put in bad situations because it is expected. So in short, 

- Rolling with a greater skilled partner builds your defense
- Rolling with a lesser skilled partner allows you to practice your offense
- Rolling with an equal skilled partner allows you to work both and often creates more of an emotional roller coaster.

Some people say that you should roll with higher levels all the time if you want to get better but I think all three are equally important.

Because this is the natural flow when rolling it is important create drills that can break this natural flow when paired up with unequal leveled partners. Here are some different situations that may occur when training.

Situation # 1
You are lesser skilled and paired with a higher skilled partner.

When it is your turn to pick a drill it would be silly to practice something like mount escapes against a partner who can hold you there all day. They have two options. One is to hold you down all day and the other is to make you work and eventually let you out. Neither one of those options really benefit you. It would be much smarter for you to put the greater skilled opponent in a more vulnerable situation so that you can make them work a littler harder and so that you can engage a little more. A good option might be to start in a submission and try to finish it. You should at least start in a solid offensive position.

Situation # 2 
You are greater skilled and paired with a lesser skilled partner.

As a greater skilled partner you can look at this in two different ways.

1.  Create a scenario with the lesser skilled partner that allows you to work on that specific technique in a live drill. This will give you the ability to relax while focusing on the technique you wish to improve on. If your trying to improve on a new technique it may be very difficult to stay within the parameters of that technique against some who is equal or greater skilled. With a lesser skilled partner you can really take the time to study and enhance your technique even in a live drill. 

2. Limit your options so that you are forced to work harder.
A good example of this might be a guard drill where your lesser skilled partner is trying to pass your guard and you are unable to use your arms. Grab your lapels and tuck your elbows and try to sweep or submit your partner without using your arms while they try to pass using all they have. This will benefit both partners because you will have to work harder to defend and your limitations will allow for you partner to be more active in passing your guard. You can create many drills like this. You could simply roll and only allow for yourself to do one submission. Preferably a complicated one. 

Situation # 3 
You and your partner are equally skilled.

In this situation you can do just about anything because there is always the possibility that you can escape or that you can finish your partner given any situation. One thing that I think is always a good option with equal skilled partners is positional drills. When two opponents are really close in skill it is often hard to establish and maintain really solid positions. So in this situation it is always a good time to practice drills that focus on establishing and maintaining positions.

These are just some brief ideas to get you thinking about how to get the most out of your training partners. These ideas are meant for mainly mixed group sessions such as open mats that allow for some freedom in your training. They are made to help counter what happens naturally when you are paired up with a different level opponent. If you are purposeful in your training you can always gain from ANY training partner and they from YOU.