the gym never made sense to me before it was given a purpose. to me, that purpose was initially as a laboratory, and later as a crucible. i realized that i needed to better understand my material, to understand myself. my behavior. how it changed when i was tired. when i was hungry. weak. scared. when i was cocky. when i was preforming. when i was alone.
i needed first to see myself. honestly and without judgement. material is not good or bad, but degrees of usefulness in reference to an objective. the gym allowed me to explore so many scenarios, to better understand my potential, and where i was lacking. it also provided a structure to add and subtract – to develop skills to cope with my worst failings. it became a framework to exert some control, to start to unravel 25 years of short sightedness and quick fixes. like the crafting of a bow, the gym helped me remove the dead weight. to understand the interplay of flexibility, strength, and potential. of minute changes, leverage, and their effects.
purpose. self-knowledge. what we are really building here is ownership. i am this way because i decided it is the best way for me to be. for now.
without the space to really explore who and why you, how can you ever claim that ownership? and without it taking responsibility, how do you plan to be in control?
one of the first thing i had to do when starting jiujitsu was reexamining my idea of control. in the gym, if i can control myself, i can control the weight. in jiujitsu, if i can control myself, my greatest hope is to influence my opponent. it became shockingly clear that even in combat, control is an illusion. until that last moment, our greatest hope is to understand. to use the knowledge of our own body and our opponents to exert influence, to steer events in a direction where the last choice of the enemy is an obvious one, and one where we are comfortable with either outcome. the part that really struck me from this realization is that the only way we demonstrate absolute control is by destroying something. anything less than destruction is not control but influence. attempts to control carry an implied threat, and the cost associated with that.
knowledge of my opponent, of what they value, allows me to manipulate them more effectively – but thinking i have control over them blinds me to the directions they still have to go. to engage in this challenge requires me to try and see my actions through the eyes of my foe, to be willing to accept that the plan is not the goal, the goal is the goal. the plan is one vehicle that may or may not get there. changing the plan is respecting that the goal is the important part. exerting “control” by executing a plan in spite of the facts on the ground is not control but vanity.
don’t mistake the map for the territory. we identify what we think is important and focus on it at the expense of the rest of the information. worse yet, we pick up someone else’s map and do not ask when they drew it, or what they were looking for when they did. we don’t question their experience or their motives in giving it to us. when we exit the simplicity of the gym we must accept that the things we can control are actually almost infinitely small. but it is all we have. the tools which we have to work. so we must learn. we must learn to be sensitive and dynamic. to listen and to understand. being honest with the limits of your toolkit will allow you to spend your energies more effectively.
this is not control, this is commerce. this is about knowing yourself, about knowing your audience, and about your ability to communicate. this is about understanding. the gym is easy, it is practice. it is where we start. as we invite other variables, other players, other agendas – the idea of control swells and recedes. the acceptance that what we possess is a degree of self control and information. and that’s it. the relationship between those attributes is our leverage. the better we understand our sphere of control, the larger we can cast our sphere of influence. and the better we understand ourselves, the better chance we have to recognize which end of the lever we are holding.