BJJ / Grappling and Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is something that makes my whole life richer. It, by default, drags you from wherever your chatterbox mind is trying to take you (usually 7 different directions at the same time) and drops you smack bang in the middle of the Here and Now. The more Jiu Jitsu has crept into my life, the more my life has crept into the way I see Jiu Jitsu and behave on the mat. Enter Zen Buddhism.

At the heart of all Buddhism are The Four Noble Truths. One way to interpret these is as 4 frameworks to help understand the world as the Buddha saw it. The Four Noble Truths are:

1. There is suffering in the world

2. The cause of this suffering is attachment

3. The cessation of suffering lies in freedom from attachments

4. The way to free yourself from attachments is thru the Noble 8-fold Path.

or in even simpler terms:

1. There is a problem

2. The cause to this problem is clinging

3. If we learn to stop clinging, the problem will cease to exist

4. Learn how to stop clinging in 8 easy(ish) steps!

How does that translate to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling? Let's have a look at them one by one.

1. Things don't go as we want them to go on the BJJ mat. Your partner is not there to fully cooperate with your attempts to control and submit them. One of the best explanations I've had for the word "suffering" in Buddhism (also called dukkha in Sanskrit) is "stress" and let's face it, when we step on the mat, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by stress. It's hardly a walk in the park. More like a swim in the ocean. With Sharks. And you're in a gi made of shark snacks! It's stressful, alright?!

2. The reason things don't go the way we want them to is usually due to a misunderstanding, or at least an attachment to old, ill-informed beliefs (relying on size / strength, hugging from the bottom, maintaining grips long after they'd served their purpose...etc.) or clinging to our imaginary version of what should or ought to happen (I shouldn't be tapping to him/her! I'm stronger / bigger / more experienced...etc.)

3. If we let go of this and open our minds (and bodies) to experiencing the dynamics of what's really happening in each position and transition the misunderstanding will be resolved and the stress will cease to be. We will, for example, no longer resist the guard pass past the point of no return and instead work towards guard recovery / side control escape. We will no longer hold side control for dear life because it's "safer" and "more stable" than mount or knee on belly, in fear of being reversed by someone of a lighter coloured belt. What will the neighbours say?!

4. The way to learn that process is thru direct, honest non-judgemental experience.

Now I know I took some poetic liberties on this, especially the last one, but to me that's how I interpret the Noble Eight Fold Path. More on that in a future post. The N8FP is all about our interaction with the world. Very exciting stuff!

How about you? How do you interpret the philosophy of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in your everyday life and vice versa?

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Megan said...

Very...very nice.

The Part Time Grappler said...

you are!

Argie said...

This is great!

Liam H Wandi said...

Many thanks Argie :)