Jiu-Jitsu & Yoga - An Introduction to the System
Extracting the essence
I believe that in order to live a meaningful life, we need to find the balance between the analytical and the intuitive mind. This is the path of the middle, already described by the great masters. This path requires a conscious effort and brutal honesty towards ourselves. One cannot achieve inner peace and joy by staring at the light but by shedding light into our own darkness.
For many years, I tried different holistic disciplines: different styles of practices in Yoga, Tai Chi, Ai Ki Do, Judo, Zazen, etc. While I could extract the essence from them, I noticed that many things in the way they were taught were just too abstract for me, flying too high in metaphysical concepts and ending up in fantasy.
I believe that the mind has to be open for new ideas, but one shouldn’t lose the critical thinking, so important when there is a lot of misinformation around; hence I kept my engineering mind supporting my intuitive mind during the journey. I kept myself away from all the dogmatic, narrow-minded practices as I noticed that they wouldn’t lead me anywhere I wished to go. I felt that the teachers were misleading, confusing and dishonest. Along the way, some students, unfortunately, get brainwashed. I've learned from the places I’ve been that some people become too afraid to leave out of fear of being called a deserter. Others that, although, intuitively know that something is wrong, bias themselves into seeing it all as something right, even though they already know it is not for them. They shut down their intuition in favor of their image in the cult. This happens everywhere.
I’ve also found that the Westernization of yoga, either over-inflates the spiritual concepts and creates a myth around yoga or extracts them entirely, forming yoga into something purely physical. I see this compensation in modern society, where the east is trying to absorb the technocratic ways of the west and in exchange, the west is creating its own version of “spiritualism”, with Buddhism, yoga and other eastern teachings being on trend as consumer goods.
I use the name Yoga not only to describe one of the five systems of the Vedic philosophy but by going in depth about the meaning of the word. Yoga means a connection to the inner Self. Of course, it is essential to trace it back and read the historical texts and practice the traditional system, (I find my strong roots in texts like Bhagavad Gita and the yoga sutras still) but one should understand that Yoga, like BJJ, is continuously evolving and any kind of connection to the Self is the most natural path of any human being on this planet.
I believe that BJJ is hugely diverse, but Modern Jiu-Jitsu became too competition-oriented, and pragmatic, distracting the mind, instead of enlightening it and freeing it. Schools, coaches, and students are measuring their success based on the results of their teams in competition events. Although I really enjoy the path of competition and the game, I must recognize that it can form a completely closed mindset. This can cause people to constantly compare themselves and their achievements with others, and enforces and promotes a one-sided mentality that points our personal compasses the 'wrong' direction. People will sacrifice their bodies with injuries for years, and they will be proud of it. Many say that we should “leave the ego outside of the mat” but I believe that another “ego” takes its place upon stepping on the mat.
Improper guidance in any discipline like BJJ or Yoga is detrimental for the physical, psychic and mental health of the students, as they lose the reasons as to why and what for they are practicing. It evolves more into a means of a self-confirmation, and a source of attention seeking and becomes less fulfilling to the students as they will never actually achieve anything personal. In combination with social media, they lose their way. I’ve seen this happening all around, including in myself.
It is similar to drug addictions, we always try to recreate the 'first high' feeling.
I never intended to make a “Yoga for BJJ system” (there are a lot of people out there who offer these systems if you are looking for this), or meditation to improve performance at work or at sport, etc. So, Yoga is a complete discipline in itself, as well as BJJ. Like any other thing, ping-pong, origami, karaoke, tai chi, dance, they have used tools for the achievement of entering the flow state, to pass beyond the gatekeeper called mind. I don’t intend to create a system that will improve your competitive performance only, but I propose to return to the essence of what martial arts intend to promote, which is the well-being and balance of the individual for the improvement of society. I have nothing against competitors. I compete myself when it’s possible, and I love it. I have many idols in the Jiu-Jitsu sports scene that are competitors as well, and I deeply respect their efforts, as the ‘ones’ know why, how and what they’re doing it, but the “followers” don’t.
But I like to go on the essence of things. And for me, the principle is found fundamentally in the balance. That’s why I call my system just by Jiu-Jitsu & Yoga.
The basic structures for development in Jiu-Jitsu & Yoga
I see Yoga, BJJ and the basic dimensions of our personalities as structures that are connected, and support and help develop each other. Being aware of all these structures enables and promotes physical and mental health. For me, I have a set of ideas and concepts that describe the Framework of the framework, the base of the base, roots on which the systems can grow and expand to become Yoga and give us the grounds to develop a more complex system, which can be Jiu-Jitsu. However, this is all recursive, we never have an end or beginning.
We are only complete if we reach harmonic balance, for that, we need to integrate parts of our personality into our actions and vice versa. The study of Jiu-Jitsu in combination with Yoga will improve all these necessary skills for our self-growth.
Reconfigure your mind
Reconfigure your mind. As you give it a genuine goal, it will reconfigure the world to enable to maintain that aim but for this, you have to connect your thoughts and emotions, and you have to embody them, so you can act consistently. Be genuine about the goal and the world reconfigures itself around that goal, but be careful on what you aiming for.
Your goal determines the way the world manifests itself to you. If the world is manifesting itself in a very negative way, a few things can be asked, for example; are you aiming at the right thing? Is your personal compass leading you the right way? Are you resisting to what it is? Are you focused enough? How is your discipline going?
The mind has to be open to accept new things. Being honest with others is more comfortable than being honest with ourselves. We need to be open and honest with ourselves first and before we are to others. If we are not honest with ourselves, we are not able to improve our life situation, if we believe we don’t need to improve our lives, we are already dead.
We need to learn when to say no, finding a balance in agreeableness is a crucial element for not becoming like a football, pushed around, manipulated and ending up in a cult. And then your mind gets trapped. Learn to stand up for yourself and what you believe.
Yoga and BJJ are never-ending journeys, with ups and downs. You have to be able to keep focused, even during the hard times. Reaping the rewards can take years to achieve. Don’t stray, don’t let yourself be distracted, if you do something, do it with awareness and conviction. Your focus will develop as a healthy habit during the practice. We need to be able to pay attention and not go on auto-pilot.
To achieve a goal, we need to make a structure in our lives, we need to organize and clean our houses, we need a schedule and a plan. Especially if we have creative and spontaneous/messy personalities. We need discipline as a necessary balance.
Facing the challenges
The only way you’re going to grow is out of your comfort zone. Anytime you feel afraid of some fear which is unjustifiable, then prepare yourself for the challenge. Don’t be scared of failure. Learning to deal with your failures healthily opens the path towards self-growth. As I always say to my beginner students: No one here has lost more than me.
Take the hits and move on with the joy of walking the path. Accept things as they come, accepting the obstacles. This doesn’t mean taking the hits, without doing anything, but becoming an expert in problem-solving and patience, acquiring the wisdom of recognizing the right time to act, and being able to actualize this, by moving at the right moment.
This doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to look for failures, as they will inevitably find you. Accepting doesn’t mean giving up, not fighting against them with force, not going out of your way but embracing the challenge, studying it, learning how to overcome it by using your own strengths. Learn how to respond instead of how to react. This leads to another important topic.
Developing an empathetic communication, both verbal and non-verbal is another crucial point. Communication is critical in all areas of life, personal, professional, relationships and of course also for training. The way you communicate when put under pressure is quickly noticed, for example; while you are sparring in Jiu-Jitsu. We never developed this skill correctly, so it is normal to react instead of to respond to arguments or dilemmas. We usually get blinded by our feelings and emotions so that we don’t really pay attention to the other's needs and wants, and we tend to react and say things without really paying attention to whether the way we communicate is accurate to what we mean. Good verbal communication can enable you in becoming successful at deescalating dangerous situations, and an excellent body communication will accelerate success in learning Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga. Communication can also be found within our personality sub-selves.
Associations between ideas; how they connect is vital to our life, and it can also be trained in Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga. Symbolic relationships are the key to learning and developing uniqueness in style. We need to learn how to assemble things, how to take them apart and put them together in different ways. Jiu-Jitsu has many different techniques, one can’t memorize them all. Therefore, learning how to make associations is extremely important.
Critical thinking is the skill of filtering valid information. Assimilate only what makes sense, there are many pieces of information around that are biased and disorientate us. For example, even when reading this, don't accept it as it is, but analyze it for yourself, and take what is essential and makes sense for yourself.
I believe that the thirst for knowledge, search for more information and learning how to learn are an essential set of skills that determine the success in anything we decide to do in our lives. The self-learner, without a doubt, progresses.
Never stop learning. If you believe that you have learned everything you need, you have become old in your mind. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 81. Being old in mind is not being fluid and flexible to learn and experience new things. Our world is continuously changing, and we always need to be aware of the next step, if we stop, we become late and if we get behind we lose, as in jiu-jitsu.
Move step-by-step – the practice of patience
Never go too fast towards your goal otherwise you might pass over it, or get lost. If you want to improve something, start with small things. Making small changes every day will result in a significant difference in the future. Don't think that the secret of success is to exaggerate and extrapolate the borders of your body and mind. You will only collect injuries and traumas. And from wounds, we just learn how to be defensive, and not how to turn the odds to our favor. Knowing how to deal with traumas is fundamental.
The only one you can compare yourself to is yourself. You can compare in which step you are today, compared to which stage you were at yesterday. Comparing your progress to others, although inevitable, is mentally insane. Essential, is to be aware of it and to notice how you are losing your focus while comparing yourself to others.
Movements - The connection between Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga (and everything else)
How do BJJ and Yoga connect?
My motivation is to bring people back into their bodies. The mind is a part of the body! We are not the mind controlling the body, its all one, and connected. As we are connected within, we are connected without, it means that by improving ourselves, we will have directly an impact on the world around us.
I connect Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga through movements. When I talk about movements, I am not only relating to physical movements, but also the movements and changes of the mind. Thought patterns changing, mindset changing, breathing patterns help us connecting with ourselves and understanding the body, and its abilities, both mental and physical. It’s even simpler than that.
Yoga calms the waves of the mind, makes us enter the flow state. Where body and mind are synchronized. Focused on one activity. The more aware of your body you are, the more aware and focused you become in your mind. The fewer shadows will be cast over your unconscious.
Jiu-Jitsu is the most elegant tool for entering the flow state. Through BJJ, we learn how to develop the dimensions of personality, become the missing piece of closing the gap that enables the fight with intuition and reason – The opponent (the problem) always changes – in form, size, gravity, - BJJ enables you to adapt and change with the problem, becoming one with it, and solving it in the best way.
My Teaching and Training Method
A few years after I dropped the career as an engineer, I realized that it was somehow still crucial for the development of my analytical mind. The one that plans, organizes, thinks critically and makes decisions. It also influences my teaching and learning skills.
I break everything down in an analytical, pragmatic way, BUT I always Insert the holistic view. I extract the ESSENCE of each step in all mental, physical and spiritual aspects of each piece, and I show the bigger picture. Neuroscience and bio-mechanics continuously add to yoga as well as to BJJ. But the laws of physics never change. They are the foundation upon which the whole universe is built (not only the Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga one).
I see technical solutions as the old way of teaching. I have witnessed the constant changing in ways of performing techniques, and I am very convinced on learning just movements and concept (physics, biomechanics). I use techniques just to give an example of how to apply a combination of movements and ideas, but I don’t like to constrain the creativity by pointing to the right thing to do. Each concept will also recall a philosophical correspondent. Everything is connected, and there is no beginning and no end. I also give a more significant overview of emotional reactions to physical actions. It all adds up to a unique style for each student.
I train Jiu-Jitsu mostly using a structured approach. I build up a game based on a problem I have, and I quickly find the flaws in it again. I research for solutions. After studying the principles involved in the situation, I create and drill a set of techniques and do the first test in sparring and ultimately in competition. Then I find ways of beating myself and my structure again.
I practice Postural Yoga using the Vinyasa style. And I combine with different movements. I pay careful attention to transitions, as well as settling in a pose (allowing the pose to come into us). I use my own sequences that I intuitively developed based on my experience. They are used for necessary maintenance of the body, opening joints, muscles, and the mind. My Yoga practice is holistic, what I mean by that is that I consider the body, mind, and spirit as a whole.
Sometimes I do work-outs with equipment or weights if I feel that it becomes necessary for any reason.
I organize my circadian rhythm; Going to bed daily around the same time and standing up daily with sunlight as much as I can.
My eating habits have to support the whole system. Our eating habits have a considerable influence on us, from our state of mind, our physical performance, our emotional stability, etc., this is why I believe that everything should start and end up with eating. I don’t call it a diet because the word “diet” reflects something temporary. Since this a vast topic in itself, I can talk more about it in the future.
The way I train directly reflects on the way I teach.
Using Jiu-Jitsu & Yoga as Movement Tools
Yoga gives a solid routine which helps us to regulate our sleeping patterns, diet, social life. It opens the mind for new insights, promotes mental and physical health and emotional stability. Yoga helps create a balance between the logical, pragmatic, analytical side and the emotional, creative side.
Yoga helps differentiate between the voice of the devil, and the voice of God (the true Self). It returns to us the true self, which learns to understand, accept ourselves for who we are and to love ourselves as we are. This leads to the ability of accepting and appreciating others more.
Jiu-Jitsu is the highest form of body and mind communication, and problem-solving. It represents a series of chaotic and complex moves, and therefore, it is an efficient tool for keeping focus, self-control, precise decision making and maintaining the balance in/of the body and mind.
Meditation is the ultimate workout for the soul. It belongs intrinsically to the experience of the flow state achieved in Jiu-Jitsu & Yoga.
By digging into the depths and essences of these practices, and expanding people’s awareness, the students are able to discover their own motivations and reasons for their actions. This enables them to create their own personal way of life and lets them carry on evolving, developing themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and becoming more and more complete with themselves, and with their surroundings. By contributing to the personal development of others, we contribute to our own.
For me, Jiu-Jitsu and Yoga are tools and instruments to grasp the essence of life. The whole purpose of my framework is to connect body, mind, and spirit through thinking, moving and breathing, so people can become more conscious, understand why and for what purpose they are doing the things they are doing. By aligning our body, mind, and spirit, we know ourselves and our motivations behind the actions we take and decisions we make.