Basics Win Fights
Basics Win Fights. A statement I’ve been told by nearly every coach I’ve had the pleasure of training with. In watching the recent UFC matchup between Damien Maia and Ben Askeran I was reminded once again of this tried and true principle. It is precisely why a banner hangs in our jiu jitsu room that reads “Simple Is Powerful.”
The bout was an epic matchup of two grappling greats. One a master of Brazilian jiu jitsu. The other a master of folkstyle wrestling. On the line wasn’t just a coveted UFC victory but bragging rights as to who was the best ground guy in the division. In play too was the grappling world watching the litmus test of which grappling approach was superior.
The fight was a technical masterpiece by both opponents (aside from the eyesore of a standup game). Counter for counter, each nullifying the other’s attempt to gain advantage. Witnessing the fight unfold it became increasingly apparent I was watching a brilliant display of foundational movement. Everything was an execution in solid basic technique. Yes, the devil is in the details and knowing what to do and when is a result of their years of experience. Neither, though, was attempting anything flashy, high flying, or the en vogue move.
As a coach, this idea of basics wins fights, while painfully obvious, is something often difficult to impress upon students mainly due to what is required to perfect said basics; thousands of mindful repetitions. Nobody likes to do the same thing over and over at nauseum. Especially not with YouTube putting the newest and sexiest moves literally at our finger tips. Perfecting the basics requires an incredibly high degree of patience; an ability to maintain a bigger picture while enduring failure in the process thereof. It is resisting temptation to abandon the mundane when you think you have it figured out.
I recall a story told to me by Erik Paulson, a former World Shooto Champion and one of the best mma coaches on the planet; he is arguably one of the greatest grappling minds in the game. He talked about a training session with the legendary Rickson Gracie. In the session were many of Gracie’s highest-level students, people he personally promoted to black belt. As training began, he stated they were going to discuss and work on a particular technique called the scissor sweep. This is a basic technique taught at the white belt level and often one of the very first sweeps taught to a student. As one can imagine a group of such prowess initially balked at the practice of something they all had “mastered.” Gracie made a simple inquiry and asked something to the effect, “Can you execute the scissor sweep on everyone in here in a spar?” And with that they trained the scissor sweep.
A basic pattern exists for students. Focus is initially placed on foundational concepts and movements. Because everything is new it is met with eagerness and zest. The student is having fun and with a little dedication and persistence the initial learning curve is very steep over the first few years. This is sometimes referred to as the innocent climb. It’s a period of rapid growth, selflessness, and open mindedness. We love the activity for what it is.
Unfortunately, what sometimes transpires next stalls, even halts, that climb. As time passes a student begins to become aware of his/her improved ability. This is a dangerous time as the almighty Ego is ripe for growth. Comparisons against other students emerge. Practice becomes a contest. Success in the competitive arena adds fuel to an already smoldering ego. A perceived need for special training and distance from the mundane arises. Ego promotes self-segregation from the group.
This what is known as the Disease of Me; the perception we are special by our own determination. It’s not totally self-driven. External factors fuel as well. Success in competition. Attention by a coach. Ego draws us away from the willingness to selflessly learn and contribute. We no longer enjoy the process for the sake of the activity instead do so to fulfill individual wants; potentially blinding us to actual needs. We turn our back on what made the climb possible in the first place; the basics.
Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.Ryan Holiday, The Ego Is The Enemy
Let us not confuse the idea of basics as simple technique. The “basics” encompass ALL the things that drove the Innocent Climb. Practicing every day, twice a day. Training with anyone and understanding everyone has something to offer. Continuing to adhere to and rep foundational movements. Entering each session egoless and openminded. Happily practicing with people and not using them for personal wants. Those are the basics.
Damian Maia was able to win his fight via submission in a beautiful display of Brazilian jiu jitsu that involved none of the latest and flashiest moves. It was a showcase of pure basics, perfected to the Nth degree. It was a display of egoless humility and a testament that Basics Still Win Fights.
Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow