If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. If you tire, you die.” – Saulo Ribeiro
My LBJJC teammate Bhuvana recently mentioned the concept of mushin (no mind), and I thought about a post I wrote on the subject four years ago. When I went back re-read it, I realized that while I’m still far from being a mushin master, I’ve definitely made progress in freeing my mind when I’m rolling.
Back when I wrote that post, I had a bad habit of over-thinking every single thing I did, which would sometimes cause me to freeze, but now I understand that at the time, I probably wasn’t quite ready for “no mind”. Until you develop enough muscle memory to be able to react correctly to most situations, then I believe it could actually be detrimental to not think about what you’re doing, because you’re likely to rely on primal instinct, which doesn’t usually mesh with Jiu-Jitsu.
Much of what we learn in BJJ is counter-intuitive. Most people’s natural reaction to being pushed is to push back, to meet force with force, but that goes against the concept of “the gentle art”. It’s also typical for untrained people to want to turn away from an attacker, but that’s one of the worst things you could do in BJJ. Until you’ve trained enough that your Jiu-Jitsu training is instinctive, sometimes it’s good to actually think about what you’re doing, because you can’t always rely on your mind and body to come up with the correct answers on their own, there may be times when you have to search for them. Otherwise, you might just spaz (which is what I used to do!).
These days, I rarely over-think anymore, and I would say that I’m now in a mushin state at least half the time when I’m rolling. Yet, there are still instances when I get stuck, and I have to think my way out of it. I’ll usually ask myself “What is the most important thing I should be doing right now?”, then I try to move forward from there.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to never have to think, to be able to just act and react properly at all times, but I believe it takes a lot of training to get to that point. When I am able to make things work without thinking about them, it’s like magic! “OMG, I just submitted someone, how the hell did that happen?”. This past year, I performed best in competition when my mind was totally free, and I relied solely on instinct, which I guess goes to show that I actually have been learning, and Jiu-Jitsu can really get under your skin, all the way down to your subconscious!
“Free your mind, and the rest will follow.” -En Vogue