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12. Chess is in its essence a game, in its form an art and in its execution a science. December 11, 2007

Posted by Adam Adshead in Art, BJJ, Chess, Conceptual BJJ.
Tags: , , ,


Chess art

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Chess is in its essence a game, in its form an art and in its execution a science.

If you realise that BJJ is also in comparison a similar organism, ergo different things in different forms, you can logically see the benefits that such a paradigm shift will bring.

This reordering and reframing of how you treat BJJ can help you maximise your potential and push you in new ways. It might seem quite ostentatious to think such a thing, but I’ve seen it too many times where certain mindsets have stunted people’s development and I’m sure you have too. People may be technically proficient but over time are surpassed by those who don’t have certain hang-ups or stumbling blocks that literally cease development beyond a certain point.

For instance, lots of people take training too seriously; they roll too hard, snatch at submissions and generally fight more with their ego than anything else. If they only remembered that training is in its essence a game, surely that shift in mindset will break down some negative barriers.

There is a time to be serious at training but most, if not all of us enjoy the social side of being part of a club. Therefore its very hypocritical to be one minute trying to tear someone’s arm off on the mat, then the next sharing a garlic bread with them on a night out.

So try to remember to play at developing your game and enjoy training for what it really is and that is training. The biggest cause of new athletes leaving your gym in the first few weeks/months is that they have a negative experience. This is usually at the hands of more senior members that for one reason or another maybe give a bit too much physically or try and prove something.

Training is meant to be enjoyable, if you enjoy it try and help others enjoy it too, I think remembering that quintessentially it’s only a game will aid this no end.

In terms of BJJ and its connection to art, how can you not see a connection!? The French artist Marcel Duchamp once said that:

While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.

I have to agree that setting up beautiful submissions, sweeps, escapes or transitioning from position to position in its form is an art. For some this may resemble a renaissance masterpiece, for others it may be crayons and colouring book standard. Regardless, a fusion of thought, analysis and application meet in a decision which can make or break the roll. This physical mixture of the different colours of BJJ is how artists paint. If you paint it a little thick or make an over estimation in perspective, then your painting might be ruined. It’s this surfing the edge of chaos which makes the link with art such an apparent connection.

For the more structured (and also for those who aren’t) the science of BJJ is something we all have a different view on.

BJJ is in its execution a science. In its basic form the specific core battles like passing vs. guard, bottom game vs. top game etc are heavily defined. The set roles and responsibilities for each person within these positions means that a systematic, almost scientific, veneer can be applied to this and similar opposing mini-battles.

Even on a biological level the way that submissions or sweeps are executed are fundamentally scientific. Biology dictates the ways that joints bend; blood flows and bones break thus creating a need to submit. For sweeps gravity plays a huge role in success, we act as allies and collaborate to turn people over and take a superior position.

So however you look at it, science does play a role in the way you train.

In relation to the way that these different perspectives alter our behaviours and ethos I think its important to look at external examples.

For example in terms of food, if I eat an apple I might feel somewhat negative if that’s my only food of the day. If on the other hand it’s only a snack then I look favourably on what the apple is and what role it plays in that day’s intake. (Well, actually I don’t think or analyse my food that deeply, but you catch my drift.)

Commensurately if I look at my training sessions solely in terms of its connections with art, then the whole experience becomes slightly too mystical and whimsically pretentious. Consequently if I look at my training as purely a game, then over time there is a possibility that I might not take training as serious as sometimes I might need to.

The diametrical opposing foundations of art and science mean that an artist and a scientist can look at the same thing with very different eyes.

An arm bar to one may be a build up of strategic foresight and the precise application and timing of a move. To the other it may just be a way of placing the arm in hyperextension and so causing pain.

Whichever way you look at things there is no right or wrong answer.

This reframing is easier said than done but I think this idea is all about balance. I believe that if you look at things in a positive and seemingly appropriate light and with the right intentions, then you can vastly improve your training and the experiences you have.

The change may be as little or as big as it needs to be. For instance, if I see getting tapped just like a point in basketball or a goal in football (Soccer) then the insignificance that I now attach to it is has changed dramatically. I’ll roll with a lot less expectation as I’m treating sparring much more like a game and my development can only increase with the obvious exploited areas in my game being highlighted.

So look at the way you train and also the way that others in your gym train and view things. You might not even realise that actually by changing things slightly you can massively transform the way you do things, this will not only have positive implications for you but your training partners as well.

Adam Adshead

Chess is in its essence a game, in its form an art and in its execution a science.

Quote by: Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa




1. Pawn2Rook - December 15, 2007

Hey. Found this blog thinking it was to do with chess and its not. Well it kinda is but its about how chess works with other things, which is actually really cool.

I don’t train or ever intend to but your insight into chess and its relation to the sport you do is well, massively insightful.

Look forward to future blog entries,


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