Style in Jiu Jitsu is one of the strongest intangible pathways to improvement. I consider style to be how body type, personality, movement style and training environment all come together to create a series of effective techniques that someone implements as often as possible because of a proficiency. Just because someone has my body type doesn’t neccesarily mean that I should play the same style as them.
The more that I train Jiu Jitsu the more it seems that we are awed most by the styles that are polar opposites to our own. Our style comes somewhat natural to us and so it doesn’t seem validated because we don’t pay a high cost of effort.
Watching a highlight video of the Mendes brothers effortlessly dancing around other black belts’ guards makes me jealous of their passing ability. A small part of me even recognizes that the gap between my passing and theirs might as well be infinite. This type of “hero worship” can be extremely discouraging.
Constantly playing against our natural style is essentially running uphill instead of down and leads to frustration and plateauing. And when we see how far we have to run up this hill to even see the trail of dust a guy like Marcelo Garcia left behind, we can become impossibly discouraged.
I am by nature a slow mover and so I take for granted how easy and simple that type of game is and how great it would be to be speedy slick player. Then I talk to a speedy slick student and he wishes he could apply more pressure and control the situation more. Then I talk to the pressure and control student and he wishes he were a tricky guard player and on and on…
Connecting with the Jiu Jitsu style I have instead of feeling insufficient has created a huge mental shift in how I approach learning. It was freeing to stop being a clone and to use elements of others styles to build my own. Now I was more focused on how a style like Keenan’s may integrate into my own, or how a little more “Lo-like” agility in my passing would improve my game as opposed to trying to be a copy cat. Be an original.
I wish my Jiu Jitsu was more agile like Leandro Lo. I wish my Jiu Jitsu was more technical like Caio Terra. I wish I were better in scrambles like Gary Tonon. I wish I were more invertible like Cyborg. But instead, I’m me, and nobody can be me better than I. And every day I work on being a better version of myself.
P.S. – Check out this video of Darren Branch (some explicit language) and the broken idea that “there’s always somewhere out there better.”