Efficiency and an Analogy for the Beginning Student

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

We ran a normal class schedule Halloween night. Since just opening in September, we have no established protocols with which to best navigate holidays. Attendance was small, with only one student in our second adult class. And this proved to be an incredibly rewarding lesson for both myself and one of our newest white belts.

The class was a unique opportunity to check in with his progress, one on one, and to speak openly about the difficulties he has encountered while embarking on such a new and meaningful experience. 

We made a great deal of technical progress in that one hour, but more so, we took a great leap forward in cultivating a conceptual framework through which to interpret Jiu Jitsu.


He made the comment, “When you train in randori, it looks like you are not even breathing. How is that possible?

And this is where the fruits of our labor began to bud.

I answered with my favorite analogy of playing Mortal Kombat, with each of us possessing an energy bar that tracks our health, the goal being to diminish your partner’s energy without consuming your own. One’s physical exhaustion and effort is the best metric for the efficiency of our actions, and it is only with efficiency  that we can hope to attain sustainable effectiveness.

The gentle art, when performed well, is gentle. Embodying the Taoist principle of Wu Wei, effortless action, we seek the most efficient path by using timing and leverage to achieve our intended result. To best conserve our limited resources, we must always seek to maintain functionally strong postures, in which we can handle the greatest load with the smallest amount of exertion, while forcing our training partner to do the opposite: to be in functionally weak positions, moving inefficiently with great effort.

There is a direct correlation between the efficiency of our movements and the maintenance of our energy.

The Guiding Principle

We seek to stay within functionally strong postures while keeping our partner in functionally weak postures. We only move at the proper time: when no to minimal resistance is present to minimize the energy expenditure required to facilitate the movement. And we seek to force our partners to move at the improper time, when they must do so with grave inefficiency.

Call to Action

The experienced students understand this. The uninitiated may find this too opaque.

When learning Jiu Jitsu, there is a much greater return on investment when we learn principles rather than techniques. Techniques exist on an island, only being applicable in that particular setting. Principles are universal, applicable across the various positions of grappling and transferable into the rest of our lives.

If we are to use Jiu Jitsu as a vehicle for personal development, we must be able to bring the lessons off the mat and into our lives. This requires a conceptual framework through which we can understand the underlying principles which make for good grappling and good living. Efficiency is at the top of this list.

We are all so limited, in both time and resources. We must seek to make the most of our finite opportunities if we are to achieve our highest selves.

We do this first on the mat. Then we live this way in the world.

If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

If you would like to be coached by Chris personally, click here.

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