The Chinese term for Jiu Jitsu, 柔術, is often translated to "the gentle art,"
stressing technique and leverage over strength. Indeed, when Helio Gracie in the
1930s started to adapt what a Japanese Judoka taught the family, he was the
least athletic among the brothers. The style he eventually created was for the
weak to defend themselves against the strong, a tenet forever ringing true.
Some therefore think one should approach the art by mastering the techniques
first. "I knew if I need the strength, it'll be there." Kron Gracie said once.
My own experience, however, proved slightly different: to stay in the game, I
had to be strong first.
I joined a Jiu-Jitsu school early 2018. The gym put a great emphasis on
conditioning and I soon discovered what pitiful assets I had brought on the mat.
At the entry level, size and power trumped technique. A 145lb beginner with
average strength didn't pose much threat to anyone. I sparred about 20 times in
that school and every session was a survival test.
Three years and a lot of running and weight-lifting later, I came back on the
mat 10lbs heavier and feeling much more confident. After one month, my neck and
shoulders got used to the new activities. I enjoyed training more in August and
felt that I had been making progress. The highlights of the past two months
- I successfully executed the push-and-pull choke to tap people or just to get
out of their guards.
- I was able to defend the bow-and-arrow choke, or just the back-taken position,
from a few guys.
- I learned a few cross-side escapes and made a breakthrough in a mount escape.
- I learned to escape from the flattened belly-down position, the worst of all
- I was able to defend the ezekiel and cross-collar chokes a few times.
I still had a hard time against higher-belts and tried only to survive. I was
happy, however, to be able to dominate and submit a few guys who joined after
me. It was vain, I know, but sometimes these small victories could brighten my
day. They proved that I had improved from the me two months ago.
I learned most of the moves from Henry online. It was a secret weapon that kept
me going. Moves from the coaches were largely forgotten as I only drilled them
a few times in class. Lessons circle back down the road and that's the
traditional way of teaching. So far, I have found watching videos very effective.
Off the mat, I have switched to the Gracie diet, having two or three meals a day
and allowing four and a half hours before the next meal. My pasta, beans, and
jjigae do not conform to the food combining protocol and I plan to have smaller
portions before I find alternatives. Juicing has become a daily acitivity and
so far I have enjoyed watermelon, mango, and cantaloupe juices. My weight has
dropped back to 155 lbs. Since reading Rickson's book, I have tried, again, to
gave up coffee and have been caffeine-free for two weeks.