Having a few forced weeks off the mat. I always use this time to explore other sides of jiu jitsu. I know some guys watch videos and other roll with imaginary partners, and these are all great ways to keep your mind in touch with your passion. For me though I explore the mindfulness of jiu jitsu. I like my other brothers in black have had so many situations in life both on and off the mat that have been so stressful that you have been almost frozen in fear. I personally can think of several of my own. What got me out of these on so many occasions was now I look back on it, my ability to focus and keep pushing forward. We all have this capacity. BJJ allows us to practice the parts of mindfulness that are so central to the theme of owning your mind and ultimately your actions.
1. The ability to view anxiety as your key to unlocking focus. Think how many times you roll and especially when you start, how afraid you are. Remember how you tapped to the pain back then! Just a forearm across your face was enough. You know it now when you roll with someone new and it amazes you. You are putting almost no pressure on them and they are tapping like mad. You now however, can sustain enormous amounts of pain. The pain hasn’t changed but your anxiety has opened your focus, your perception of pain has altered. You mind now allows you to set the pain off to one side while you have the presence to think of what to do next. You know the feeling of flow, when the pain is like a directional meter and you shift effortlessly away. Likewise when your mind is not free, the pain reminds you of this with a vengeance (personal experience!!)
2. Your ability to plan ahead becomes by feeling what has been, and sensing what is about to come. Your training allows you after time to feel something and predict whats coming next. Your freedom from conscious thought releases you onto the mat into this. You know this when the roll is effortless and your moves and mind link. You feel this with higher belts who move sometimes at will and seamlessly from one position to the next. As your anxiety builds and your thoughts wander you lose your planning ability. Exactly like playing tennis or squash. Once you’re on the run it is hard to plan a shot, and you’re happy to whack it to the centre!! Your mind thinks in the same way in BJJ, bringing you a very basic skill-set and not allowing you to feel the movement. You need to trust yourself in returning to these moments, get safe and control your breathing
So while I am off the mat I quietly think daily about BJJ and feel myself on the mat. But I don’t think of the moves, the pain or the outcome. I consider my mind and my consciousness. I hop into those easy rolls and those difficult rolls (lately more the latter!!). I de-construct my thoughts. I think of my partner and I try to remember their intensity and I consider their mindfulness at that a point.
Does this make me better? Well, I enjoy thinking of those rolls and those friends and I enjoy remembering both the discomfort and the satisfaction of getting out of a difficult, if not at the time seemingly impossible position. I enjoy more applying these thoughts to my every-day life when all around me is chaos and I feel like the island of calm. Hell I think, my 90 -130kg ‘friends’ haven’t killed me yet, bring it on!! So yes my mindfullness makes me feel better. Will it make you better? Work out what you mean by better and apply it. See how you go, and have a chat to your friendly brown or black about what makes them tick. Roll safe.