Jiu Jitsu Tactics (Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown (part 2))

Bouncing back and making changes after a strategic or technical loss in Jiu Jitsu is logical.  Strategy and technique have a concrete feel to them with near-immediate feedback.  Attitude and mentality are the most frustrating ways that I have lost matches.  There is this hard to grasp quality about them.  It seems like I can “try” harder to get my mind in the right place but the results are all over the place.  There isn’t very much information out there on adapting this skill set and there is a lot of unproven conjecture being spread.

In this post, I have included two main mindset and attitude concepts that I have focused on in my journey.  These concepts apply to me, and they might help someone else, but there is a good chance that someone else’s mindset and focus will be different from mine.  This is an individual process.

1.) Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

After a number of losses in tournaments I realized that I was losing because I DIDN’T want to win.  When I would lose, there was no pressure for future results.  If I am habitually losing, then I eventually win, I am a hero.  If I win there is pressure for continuity, to stay at the top of the heap.  With winning there is inherent pressure to win again.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There is a burden when winning.

I looked into my soul to realize this lesson. I decided that I must not be the only one who felt the pressure of winning and that I could use this as leverage against my less introspective opponents.  How often have you been in a very back and forth competitive match with someone and your push and drive finally break them down so their defenses relax and it becomes almost easy to finish them?  I attribute this mental breaking to someone deciding that the crown is too heavy for their head.  Grapplers that get eliminated in tournaments like to say things like “I lost to the guy that got 1st place though.”  So if they think you are going to win it all, it sure is a relief to them to lose to you.  I embraced the weight of the pressure of winning now.  I take that mantel upon myself and pursue it, whether I get it or not.  Accepting this pressure has made me less likely to break in a match.  Recognizing this pressure exists for my opponent allows me to stress his system more.  Dan Gable talks about breaking someone in The Fighter’s Mind, a spectacular book by Sam Sheridan (page 18).

“If I was going to wrestle in the finals of the Olympics against a Russian, which I did, and if I knew he had been trained specifically to beat me, which he had- but then if I knew the guy was on steroids, that would HELP me.  Whereas some might think, ‘oh he’s cheating’ or he’s got an unfair advantage; for me you didn’t pay the price.  You’re not as committed as I am.  It’ll tear him apart.  He may be strong, but all I have to do during that nine minutes of wrestling is loosen one single wire in his brain.  Make him do something that isn’t perfect, and he’ll fall apart.  That’s what I feel.

“Breaking somebody is the goal. You get him to quit trying to win, he tries to survive.  It’s there a lot, but often people don’t see it.  You have to have done it quite a few times or you’ll miss the key point, because he can come back,” Dan warns me. “Once he shows signs of breaking, if you don’t take advantage, there’s a chance of him coming back.  She keep pressure on at all times.”

Then Dan laughs a little. “But there’s a catch-22.  It’s not as black and white as black and white.  Sometimes you shouldn’t attack to win, and its hard to have both instincts.”

Dan Gable’s story reminds me of a story my coach tells of advice he gave a competitor from my gym before a match.  The grappler from my gym was preparing to go against a tough looking muscle bound guy who intimidated my friend.  My coach told him loudly “You’ve got this.  While that guy has been at the gym lifting weights to look good, you have been working on your Jiu Jitsu.”  My friend won the match and his opponent had a lot of thinking to do.

2.) Lies only fool myself.  Everything I do, must be true to me.

I had a construct in my mind about what types of things I was supposed to do.  In a fight people mean mug each other.  The first person to look away loses.  Jiu Jitsu is kind of like a fight right?  I have to be intense and pumped up, and maybe some fast rap will get me fired up.

The truth is true, whether or not you believe it

Mean mugging, death stares, pumped up by music and slapping my chest didn’t improve my performances.  They actually made them significantly worse.  I get nervous during competitions and my state of anxiety is already high, so upbeat music and getting pumped up actually funnel my resources to depletion too quickly.  I find I need to slow things down a little and feel happy.  If I feel happy, I am prepared to pursue opportunities as I see them.  I am not timid and I don’t hesitate to over evaluate.  I feel confident in my choices.  Slow down too much though and it plays into my natural slow-start tendency and I have a flat performance.

Staring deep into my opponent’s soul doesn’t make me start a match any better.  As a matter of fact, it puts my focus on something that has little relation on my ability to execute jiu jitsu moves and if I lose or don’t feel confident in this stare-down game, my mentality can be wrecked before the first Jiu Jitsu grip has even been made.  Now I just look him in the eye to take a measure of what I see there, and look down to make contact for the handshake and stay focused on his hips and shoulders just like I do when rolling.

The Fighter's MindThis concept of truthfulness to self actually relates closely to existing in the moment.  Once we begin the process of lying to ourselves we begin to separate from the present.  (I will talk about in a later post. ) Lies are actually the easiest of the mentality concepts to resolve.

The key is to do what FEELS natural.  When we do something and it feels forced or unnatural or part of some construct set up by society we instantly know that deep in our heart.  If we do something that feels natural to our personality type and the person we are, we also feel that almost click into place.  Sometimes I have to try a number of things I hope will feel natural in a moment before I settle on what exactly to do.  My warming up ritual is one area where I tried different things for a number of tournaments before I finally felt the groove of truthfulness.

Frank Shamrock effectively used trash talk to make his opponent face these truths or get derailed.  Sam Sheridan in The Fighter’s Mind (pg 177) explains his conversation with Frank on the topic of using lies to derail.

“One of the things I was interested in was the psych-out games Frank played.  He would very famously talk shit.  He made it very clear that, at this level, anything was fair game.

“I listen to people,” he said. “They will inherently tell the truth about themselves- it always happens.  I amplify things they say about themselves, either right or wrong.  But the truth is stronger than anything.  If you know a guy has bad feet, then he’s got bad feet!  Just tell the truth.  Some people, when they hear something like that, they will fight it.  They’ll argue, ‘Oh, no, it’s not like that.’  Now the game is on- because you’ve got a guy defending something you both know is false. He should say, ‘You’re so right, and I’m grinding in the gym to make myself better,’ but ego jumps in. ‘Of course I’m good and my footwork is fantastic!’ He gives me his now familiar smile. “If someone says to me, ‘your hands suck‘ then I’ll be in the gym working on that extra hard for the next six months.”

“Everyone has stuff they get nervous about, their personal shit, and if you hang around long enough, they’ll volunteer it, or they’ll tell somebody else for you.  I go after that stuff “….

“Now he’s not in a peaceful mind, ready to fight.  Now he’s somewhere else, some other issue from when he was a kid.  He’s not focused on the task or the goal.”

These lies can come from inside just as easily as from an outside source.  Facing the truth either way is an important part of the mentality to realize potential.

Have you looked into the void and evaluated your truths recently?