“Be formless, shapeless like water. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
When Bruce Lee said the above quote, he was talking about the martial arts as a metaphor for life. To be successful in life, like in the martial arts, you cannot be rigid or dogmatic. You have to be flexible, adapt to change, and be open to learning. The rock in the river is steadfast, but the water detects its presence and flows smoothly around it – over time, the water grinds the rock to sand.
As it pertains to the martial arts, no style embraces this philosophy quite like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Unlike “striking styles,” like karate or kickboxing, BJJ does not use kicking or punching. Instead, BJJ is a “grappling” martial art, and a player uses an opponent’s weight and momentum to his or her advantage. Practically, BJJ’s premise is that most fights eventually end up on the ground and to properly defend yourself, you have to know how to submit an opponent on the ground using a variety of techniques, including choke holds and joint manipulation. BJJ also recognizes that a smaller person can defeat a larger opponent, and that by employing the basic physics of leverage, a smaller person can eliminate, what might otherwise be, a larger opponent’s natural advantage.
A friend of mine who studies BJJ says that it’s hard to get it out of his head. It constantly invades his thoughts and he can’t help but think about how he can improve. I have read articles about BJJ players who similarly testify that with jiu jitsu, there is always room to grow. BJJ does not offer a static set of techniques – it evolves, and even the best practitioners are always learning.
If you have never seen BJJ, please go to www.jitsplayer.com, and check out some of their photos and videos. Or as Sam Sheridan, the author of The Fighter’s Mind, suggests, go to YouTube and type in “Marcelo Garcia.” The speed and ease at which Marcelo Garcia submits his opponents is mind blowing. You may not like fight sports, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the skills of top BJJ players.
I haven’t studied karate in over seven years, but I still love the martial arts. After talking to my friend about his passion for BJJ, and after watching some of the videos I reference above, I thought it would be a fun challenge to sketch BJJ players in action. The sketches in this post are for practice, and the images I used are from www.jitsplayer.com. But once I capture some of my own images, I look forward to completing a series of BJJ sketches and paintings.
I once read that rolling on the mats with a BJJ black belt is like jumping into deep waters and not knowing how to swim. I am told that as you progress in BJJ, you learn that the waters are much deeper than you originally thought. To study BJJ, you have to be physically fit and mentally committed. But what impresses me is not that BJJ players are great fighters – it’s that they chose to swim in deep waters. We all learn more about ourselves in the deep, than we do in the shallows, and it is the lessons learned in deep waters that are most useful on and off the mats.