BJJ / Grappling Mentality: Keeping Your Composure

Composed: Free from agitation. Calm, cool and smooth.

Composure: A calm or tranquil state of mind; self-possession.

To compose: to make or form by combining things, parts, or elements, (ART) to organize the parts or elements of (a picture or the like).

How do great martial artists, in particular jiu jitsu fighters, maintain their composure when fighting? I no longer train martial arts for the purpose of self-defence. Sport? A little bit. I do compete in BJJ (gi) and submission wrestling (no-gi) every now and again but mainly because I feel it's part of my duty as a coach to know what competing feels like but I also realise that there will come a time when I no longer will compete and I'm fine with that. I will most likely continue to train past the end of my humble competition career.

I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because I fell in love with that composure-under-stress that great exponents of this art exude. Just look at Rickson Gracie in the clip above or indeed in any thing he features in.

While listening to the excellent Zen podcast of Gil Fronsdal something dawned on me, or shall I say re-dawned, as I remember reading in one of Matt Thornton's blogs that he feels that what we do (alive martial arts) is a powerful form of yoga. The original meaning of the word yoga is not "stretching", "meditation" or any of the other outwardly expressions we so often associate with it. The Sanskrit word yoga has the literal meaning of "yoke", from a root yuj meaning to join, to unite, or to attach.
And what is composure?

Think about "com/cum" meaning together or with.
Think about "pose" meaning to stand with reason or intent.

To compose oneself is really to pull together your all and focus it on one reason or intent. Composition is a huge part of every art, martial arts no less so. How brilliant your individual components (colours, brush strokes and martial arts techniques alike) are individually is only as important as your ability to pull them (and stay/keep) together.

Here is a simple exercise you can do before you step on the mat tonight:

1. Mentally: arrive at your BJJ academy a little early and take your time to change into your rash guard and gi. Take your time to tie your belt around your waist. Do it mindfully and remember why you are there and how lucky and privileged you are to have the time, the health and resources to do this (not to mention access to a facility, a team and a knowledgeable instructor!). Align your mind with your purpose of training. Com-pose yourself.

2. Physically: do your warm-up mindfully. Work on all aspects of your physical body (cardio, agility, eye-hand-&-foot coordination, spatial as part of your warm-up. If the warm-up is instructor lead, all the better; you should still aim to do it mindfully and use the opportunity to bring your physical body (and brain) into readiness. Com-pose yourself.

3. Spiritually: touchy area here! BJJ players love saying that they are not martial artists in the traditional sense, often rejecting/disliking bowing, meditation and compliant training) and defining and discussing that is a whole separate topic. In the meantime, I would like to propose that clearing your mind of any issues that do not relate to BJJ before stepping onto the mat will result in a better grappling session, irrespective of how you view yourself and your BJJ practice. I work full time, study, have a wife I love and a number of other matters that demand my attention. When I train BJJ, I don't think about bills, I don't think about what my managers need me to do and I don't think about all the preparation that needs to be done ahead of our upcoming holiday. When I ever catch myself drifting (if you've ever found yourself complaining silently that your failing performance is due to a missed lunch/scattered mind/dehydration/opponent weight...etc. you know what I mean) I smile (Buddhist thing) and remind myself that shit happens!: Com-pose yourself.

My enjoyment of the hard and physical art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skyrockets when I attend my sessions as a composed, together person. Maybe one day I will be able to take some of that into my daily life too.

Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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