Tuesday, March 19, 2013
My Thoughts on "97%" v. "3%" in BJJ
Ever notice how the REALLY elite players in BJJ NEVER expound elitist philosophies? In our sport it seems that the better at BJJ someone REALLY is, the nicer they often are. However, lately an artificial distinction has been made within our sport--the "3%" versus the "97%". This distinction comes from the marketing hype of Lloyd Irvin, an American jiu-jitsu trainer who also engages in manipulative marketing practices. Lately said practices have come under scrutiny as a sub-topic of the greater topic of a history/pattern of sexual abuse related to him, his teachers, and his students (please see, for example, the forums at Sherdog for more information). I am going to leave aside the topic of the rape behavior, except to express my wish that ALL CONVICTED RAPE SHOULD RECEIVE A MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY, and instead move on to the topic of elitism in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
To begin with, let me clarify this notion of the "3%"; to quote Lloyd Irvin (who INSISTS on being called "Master" at all times, in all contexts by his students, the fact of which provides a mini-psychological profile in-itself) (that's my way of saying that I think he's mentally FUCKED):
" 97% of the population is losers and only 3% of the population is winners and you have to decide what percentage group you want to be in." This is later followed by the sociopathic creed that "When it’s all said and done the only thing that matters is the results."
I did a cursory internet search on this--the "3% Rule"--and I couldn't find any data on it, as it seems to be a concept solely used by people trying to SELL something, particularly in the scummy underground world of multi-level marketing. "Pay me, and I will sell you the TRUE SECRETS OF BEING AN ELITE COMPETITOR"...this is a FEAR-BASED MANIPULATION--the idea that one will be a "loser" if they don't possess some "inner knowledge" that will have them gut-stomping the competition immediately upon receipt.
Do YOU think that there are "secrets" in jiu-jitsu that can only be had by giving someone money for an "info-product"...???
I like to win, I like having medals and getting submissions, but often my best victories in jiu-jitsu are DEFENSIVE victories, victories that won't win me any medals in competition. I KNOW that Professor Lemos is going to tap me out when we roll--but often it is WHAT I CAN DO BEFORE I SUBMIT that matters...did I block other submission attempts? How was my positioning? How was my escaping and survivability? If I only see things in terms of "win-loss" then not only am I simple-minded, I am MISSING THE TRUTH OF THE ART OF JIU-JITSU. My BEST ROLLS and some of my MOST IMPORTANT VICTORIES come when I KNOW that I am going to get my ass kicked.
Here's a good counterexample to the fallacy of "only winning or losing": I have a mat room at my house. Besides my training at Gracie Barra Downers Grove I also train at home. During this home training I've had several excellent partners. Most of them have been individuals who were less experienced than me. This is an EXCELLENT opportunity for BOTH of us--I get the opportunity to work on my offense and control, and they get the opportunity to work on their escapes, survivability, and ability to deal with greater force.
If one were overly simplistic in their ability to see what is occurring, then in gauging our training, that person would assess that the less-experienced player was only losing...after all, I'm usually dominating position and getting submissions. BUT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Over time, the less-experienced player is learning how to move, learning what submissions are and how to avoid or survive them for longer, learning how to escape, in short, LEARNING WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IN LEARNING JIU-JITSU. To assess this performance as "losing" is, to be honest, really fukken stupid. IT IS NOT UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS OF LEARNING. Zero-sum games are, by nature, simplistic. Jiu-jitsu is COMPLEX.
Furthermore, if I gauge my progress in zero-sum terms, "winning" and "losing", then such negates ALL VALUE THAT JIU-JITSU HAS FOR ME AS A PATHWAY FOR INDIVIDUAL GROWTH. I see jiu-jitsu as an evolutionary tool. I think that it works EVERY aspect of a person's mind, as well as their athletic abilities. When it's done well I consider it one of the the most beautiful forms of human expression that there can be. If I focus only on "winning" then I can lose sight of WHO I BECOME IN THE PROCESS OF TRAINING--and THIS aspect of training is what the founders of the art prioritized most.
I think Masters Helio and Carlos Sr. would find some aspects of modern competition jiu-jitsu appalling. What is victory without respect? What is power without compassion and understanding? What is more dangerous than someone who will do ANYTHING to win? I think that some of us could do well by gaining a better understanding of traditional jiu-jitsu values--they might not make one win more matches, but they will CERTAINLY make one a BETTER PERSON, and that, to me, is how one actually WINS in jiu-jitsu.