Victory on the mat is all about state of mind. But BJJ is about a good deal more than victory – it is about learning. For those who actually engage in BJJ, it is very easy to get sucked into “fight or flight” response, that is to say to respond to your training partner aggressively. This is foolish, especially in practice on the mats, when one is not in competition.
Allowing the “fight or flight” response to predominate means that you respond aggressively and by instinct to your attacker rather than calmly and while using your mind.
There is also a concept in the martial arts called “the flow”.
What this means is that when one doesn’t allow one’s aggressive instincts to predominate, one action smoothly flows into another, allowing you to draw upon all the knowledge that you have acquired in the course of your training and allowing you to put your knowledge to the best possible use.
If you allow your actions to flow on the mat, you will actually enjoy your BJJ training rather than it becoming an extremely stressful and difficult confrontation every time.
Which all sounds very good, but how does one achieve flow?
For one thing, many eastern martial artists advise that one should focus upon mindfulness, experiencing each present moment to the full. Instead of striving too hard, or training to reach certain goals (such as submitting your opponent), focus upon the process of executing each hold or passing your opponent’s guard.
Immerse yourself in the present moment and be mindful of the entire experience, and you will find that this massively enriches your BJJ experience.
Another system of achieving flow is to empty the mind.
This is, in essence, sort of meditation in action. While you execute all the different movements, instead of straining, or striving, or even thinking, internally maintain an empty mind and focus upon the ‘one point’ (or ‘tai ten’, as it is known as in Japanese) two inches above the navel.
As an adjunct to it, you can also focus upon your breathing.
Focus your mind not upon your efforts to submit your opponent, but instead upon your own breathing and hold your mind empty while you flow into your techniques.
Do not think about what technique you will use next or what your opponent is likely to do. Instead hold your mind empty, immerse yourself in the present moment and allow your techniques to flow without conscious thought.
For those who don’t have the mental control to do so, there is another way to achieve flow, and that is by occupying the mind.
Allow your mind to dwell upon some pleasant moment and completely immerse your mind in that moment while still maintaining your connection to the present.
This means to say that your senses must be in the present, but your mind can be focused upon another place and time. When you do this, you will find that your subconscious takes over, because your conscious is completely occupied. When your subconscious takes over, all the techniques that you ever learned can be applied within the present moment, and this causes your techniques to flow.
It is good to experiment with flow as there is a vast repertoire of techniques in BJJ, and conscious efforts to apply them will always tend to be inferior to subconscious efforts.
Achieving flow allows your subconscious to go through the catalogue of techniques that you know and apply the best technique for a particular situation in the best possible way. This is excellent for both beginners at BJJ, and for advanced belts.
For beginners, ‘flow’ helps them to not be confused by the multiplicity of techniques they are learning. For an advanced belt, ‘flow’ allows him or her to continue to learn, while making the time spent on the mat a fulfilling and enlightening experience.