The Struggle of Combat demands our attention
All animals have a sense of purpose about them – humans are no exception. We are more alive – more true to our natures – when we are ‘fully engaged’. I believe that this is one of the reasons why people become ‘healthily’ addicted to the martial arts – and BJJ in particular. When we are engaged in struggle with our opponent, there is no doubt that we become more ‘fully engaged’ in what we are doing, than we are in the larger part of our daily life. There is no ‘engagement’ quite like, the engagement that results from a fight for your life.
Although we are not really fighting for our lives when we hit the mat for practice – we are nonetheless, fully focused in a similar kind of way. When we are grappling, musings about tomorrow and rememberances of yesterday rarely come into play. We remain (largely) in the moment … but how much so?
Now, one of the hallmarks of the truly good grappler, is that he or she becomes more fully and completely ‘engaged’ in the moment than others. Here’s an example: A beginner is engaged in the problem of passing the guard, it is likely that this beginner is ‘looking ahead’ to where he or she wants to be – and is perhaps not as fully ‘in the now’ as the more experienced grappler. The more experienced grappler is not so much concerned with what may or may not eventuate ten seconds from now, he or she is concerned with what is actually happening right NOW – in this very moment. The same thing can be said of ‘thinking about the past’. The beginner is likely to have thoughts like ‘how did that heppen’, or ‘oh, I just got swept – on no – how bad is that!’ – whereas the more experienced grappler, as they are being swept is thinking more ‘in the monent’ and is reacting appropriately and establishing his or her own guard or recovery. Thinking about the past, or thinking about the future is a result of having the extra hardware our brain has developed over the past millennia – this extra hardware has a name – the pre-frontal cortex. This is great as a survival mechanism when used to live, learn and survive in the world we live in – but not great for moment-by-moment calculation during the heat of action. Animals tend do better in those situations – lacking the marvellous abilities the pre-frontal cortex affords we humans.
A cat doesn’t winge and complain about you grabbing one of it’s legs – it just goes at you with the other three – and it’s teeth. Humans on the other hand, tend to complain and go through internal dialogue that says stuff like – you shouldn’t be able to control my leg – why did I make that mistake – oh, no, it looks like he will pass my guard ….. instead of just allowing us to react with those resources we have left to us. Being ‘in the moment’ is a much more primal way of thinking – and it is a way of ‘being’ that that keeps us focussed on the task and problems of the moment; a useful mode to be in when we are in a state of ‘action’.