They are both labels by themselves, but if you could only pick one, which one would you choose?
Jiu-jitsu is one of those things that encompasses both artistry and innovation, but yet still remains to be an athletic endeavour. It isn’t to say jiu-jitsu is uniquely the only art that intertwines both of these things, but it is the art I am involved in and these are some of my thoughts and questions I would like to share and put out there.
Is creativity important to your practice?
For myself, it is a big part of why I fell in love with jiu-jitsu in the first place. Other traditional martial arts often have set forms or ‘katas’ that you are required to learn to progress in the sport. In jiu-jitsu, even though we may create systematic sequences to streamline our drilling or training, it is spontaneous and a huge piece of improvisation.
We are largely in the moment of things.
The ability to move in a vast array of different ways and interact with another body with what seems to be an infinite number of pathways is truly beautiful and precious.
It’s combative art - a live canvas if you will, but the paintbrush is the player and the canvas is the mat. There is so much freedom to what you can do and the feeling can’t really be described to the tee, but to me, it is blissful and liberating to roll with someone who especially connects to this same trail of thought - the seamless ability to flow from technique to technique and transition effortlessly as a unit - a work of collaboration on a certain level until you find your window of opportunity to submit.
But who said the only format to train jiu-jitsu is to submit your opponent? The possibilities and objectives are endless - be creative with it.
Not everybody who walks into a jiu-jitsu class will end up a competitor or want to train so hard that they can’t even get out of bed the next morning.
Why do you do jiu-jitsu? What is your purpose with it?
It could even be something as simple as having fun and staying active. Then surely a format change and creative ‘jiu-jitsu games’ could be a way to spread and share the art and keep it accessible to a wider audience.
One of my aims as a practitioner in the sport is to make it as widely accessible to people of all different walks of life. I think everybody can find something they love in jiu-jitsu without having to make sacrifices that they may not want or need to make.
Yes, it is a wildly competitive sport at the elite and now even amateur levels, and with more and more talented grapplers coming up on the scene and more federations listing competitions, it is easy to get caught up with just the competitive side of things.
As I digress back onto the topic of artist v athlete, I would like to put emphasis on the term ‘martial artist’.
Martial arts is a means of combat, a means of keeping yourself safe, a means of training your mind, self discipline and improving yourself. But I also believe in that improvement comes in creating art and adding to our playing field for the future generations in the practice.
At the end of the day it is an art, and art is open to everything and anything. There are no boundaries. There are no rules. It is a realm of infinite possibilities and about exploring into the unknown.
With innovators in the sport such as fellow Hyperfly teammate Keenan Cornelius and the Mendes Bros, they have shed light and new territory on what it means to be an artist in jiu-jitsu, and opened the eyes of many to a game of creative interaction. They have certainly been a big influence on my game, my way of thinking and approach to the gentle art.
For those who compete or feel obligated to compete, we often get caught up in how we perform in our rolls, whether we are progressing fast enough, whether we are ‘good’ enough for our belt or even for our next belt.
So I say when you think those things or feel that way, remember that the journey is so much more than that, and your purpose in the art should be more multifaceted than just winning and medals.
Medals collect dust, and when the glory fades all you will have left is your jiu-jitsu.
Be artistically athletic.