Learning Brazilian jiu jitsu has been the greatest challenge of my life. It took me 14 years to earn my black belt and I’ve devoted the last six years to teaching others this wonderful martial art.
Yet, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Few other martial arts present the complexity required for mastery like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Students must be proficient while standing and on the ground, attacking and defending, with submissions and escapes, on top and on bottom. Each new position has dozens of technical possibilities.
So it’s no wonder learning and improvement in this martial art can be difficult, slow and frustrating.
Long before I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I used to compete in every sport I could at school. I played basketball, football, baseball, soccer, tennis and track. I loved athletics and had tons of great coaches. Of all the instructions I got over years of activity, the only one that stands out to this day came from my father. "Relax," he would say to me during my track races.
One of the greatest discoveries of my life has been the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, the judo master with a busted knee who learned a new way to train the body and movement. His teachings have changed the way that I approach everything that I do, especially how I teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at my school in Baltimore. His ideas are such a radical departure from what I have known and considered to be true that they make me question all I thought I knew.
Once I started studying the Feldenkrais method and using it within my jiu jitsu training, everything that I did changed. The first thing that I learned, and then applied to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was how we do something is much more important than what we do.
"To understand movement we must feel, not strain.To learn we need time, attention and discrimination; to discriminate we must sense. This means that in order to learn we must sharpen our powers of sensing, and if we try to do most thing by sheer force we shall achieve precisely the opposite of what we need." Moshe Feldenkrias, Awareness Through Movement. I use these words daily to lead my teachings in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore.
John David Emmett is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with an interest in movement and the Feldenkrais method. He teaches at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore.