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10. Question not what you know, but your reason for questioning. November 19, 2007

Posted by Adam Adshead in BJJ, Chess, Conceptual BJJ, Existentialism, Inspiration, Martial Arts, Thoughts.
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I was watching the Simpsons in Spanish the other day (yes, I do that kind of thing sometimes) and it got me thinking that even though my Spanish is weak that I could still understand what was going on because of the context of the situation.

Even without any knowledge of the Simpsons or of Spanish, because of the brain’s ability to adapt, second guess, assume and fill in the gaps you could watch a whole episode and be able to tell someone what had gone on.

To a degree the foundations of animation and the structure of children’s TV aid that ability massively. For instance, you can watch any kids TV show and there will be an edit/cut every second or so to keep the kids attention focused.

In terms of training I think that people worry way too much about trying to answer every physical question (i.e. a successful sweep) with an opposing answer. (i.e. retaining position/guard)

Obviously you want to do well but if you get swept, passed or submitted a lot of people think that it’s because you haven’t got the right answers, when actually it might just be that the other person had an unanswerable question with their positioning, foresight, ability and/or experience.

So in terms of el Simpsons and the correlation of that to training, you don’t need the right answers/language all the time. If you can figure out a problem, notice something different or learn something then that is always more useful than trading questions and answers all night.

The very nature and complexity of BJJ means that any one ‘question’ could literally have dozens of possible answers. Sometimes one answer might work the next night it might not. This is where your conscious ability to adapt your game will help develop and cope in the same situation.

It’s almost like every question cancels out an answer anyway. If you get passed and then you re-guard, it won’t even be an issue. You’ve dealt with an obstacle with prior knowledge and understanding of that certain pass.

If on the other hand, someone passes your guard with something you’ve never seen before then you’ll have to learn how to handle the unfamiliarity of it, so improving your guard game.

In the second case you’ve been unable to answer the physical question of the unfamiliar guard pass and many beat themselves up for it. If we now substitute the pass for a submission and the negative impact made is magnified exponentially, when actually you’ve just improved your grappling vocabulary.

It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, this is something we’ve all done. I just think that if we reframe the question to be rhetorical rather than a something we’re compelled to answer, we’ll all sleep a little easier and train with less expectations.

Even though I often compare BJJ to chess in this case it’s anything but. In chess you trade moves one at a time; white moves then black then white again and on it goes. This trading is stipulated in the rules but if you try and emulate the same thing in BJJ (or boxing for that matter) then generally you will be drafted into a war of attrition.

So stay pensive and ponder those now rhetorical physical questions with existential musings; Question not what you know, but your reason for questioning in the first place.

If you do you’ll see guaranteed improvements in your game and ultimately the way you roll will change for the better.

Adam Adshead

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