Friday, July 26, 2013

Keeping it playful vs. keeping it real

Flip Ryron Gracie's coin before your next roll, and you get 1 of 2 outcomes:

1. Keep it playful
KeepItPlayful Coin  

"When the coin lands on the KeepItPlayful side," Ryron writes in his blog KeepItPlayful,  "we play jiu-jitsu, we allow movement at all costs because that is how we learn. We take submissions and we give submissions. We acknowledge that the need to be in control and be victorious is important but just as important is learning to relax and building comfort in all positions."

The other option is:

2. Keep it real

"When the Coin lands on the KeepItReal side, we allow that which is real to surface. Although safety for our training partner is #1 we must still do them a service and control positions to the best of your ability and when we see an opportunity we take the submission and do not leave any space for escape."

And it got me thinking - What do I do most? And  what do I prefer? And most importantly, which is most beneficial - keeping it playful or keeping it real?

Out of  my regular training partners, I think I am able to keep it on the playful side about 75% of the time. I'm not flowy the way that Ryron describes, but there is room for joking, encouragement, and playfulness with most of my rolls. This is especially true if my partner is significantly more or less skilled than I am -  that takes part of the ego out of it. When rolling with someone better than me, whom I suspect is not going at 100%, I am able to focus on movement and techniques. I defend submissions with 70%-80% effort, but tap quickly when needed and do not risk going to sleep or straining a joint. After all, I know my partner could tap me again pretty quickly if desired. I try to survive and escape, but if I can't it's no big deal. On the other hand, if I am more skilled than my partner, it is also easy to keep it playful (unless they are much bigger or stronger and are trying to beast me). I look for submissions and attack them with moderate effort. If my partner defends, I benefit more from moving on and chaining my attacks then by doing mean and nasty things to break through their defenses.

I would describe most of my rolling as hard but playful - the best of both worlds. I prefer to roll this way, most of the time. But there are some folks with whom I keep it real on the regular. Truth be told, I can like these rolls just as much. During evenly matched rolls, we may start out flowy  but the intensity can escalate quickly. It is not that we are trying to kill each other - I don't roll with people who make me feel unsafe - but we are so closely matched that our intensity picks up naturally.

I also keep it real with brand new folks who, often through no fault of their own, do actually try to kill me. If someone spazzes at me with full throttle, I'm not going to relax and flow with them. Or if they brag about passing my guard, obtaining a dominant position, or even not getting tapped by me,  I am going to up the ante during our next roll.

In my opinion there is an important place for both types of rolling. Keeping it playful  helps me practice what I am working on, defend and execute chains of attacks, and keeps rolling fun. Keeping it real tests the effectiveness of my jiu jitsu and shows me what I need to work on.

Which do you prefer? Do you like to keep it real while you roll or do you prefer to keep it playful?

1 comment:

  1. Kim,
    I used to, and on rare occasion still do, consciously separate mentality of the match on a per training basis. However as I have evolved, most often I roll the same way most of the time,relaxed and loose. In 2008 I was attending a seminar with Carlson Gracie jr and was lucky enough to have him get on the ground with me. What I learned was that I moved and shifted like a dump truck and he felt like a Ferrari. (upon discussing with my instructor he stated, " is not the strong aggressive guy I worry about, it is the one that is completely relaxed that I am concerned with.") Ever since, I have attempted to concentrate on the proper use of speed/strength/leverage. This is a little hard to explain but what I am saying is that very rarely do I go "real" but rather I stay very loose and flowy, allowing my opponent to do whatever they want while I take advantage of them at every point I can. Sometimes I get stuck, it happens. I often intentionally allow opponents to take positions of "advantage" on me. But after many hours on the mat more often than not, I am able to school opponents from almost every position. This does not mean that if we are striking I am going to allow my opponent to take a beat down position; that would be folly. Every now and again I perceive disrespect (because of the way I roll) from more naive players and have even been "called out" by those who don't know any better. I use these moments as opportunities to train "real" and the matches are short, last time it was 23 seconds from the handshake. Being flowy and not using strength have allowed me to feel and understand timing, leverage, and see more clearly what is going on in the match. Further, as a 40yo with many significant injuries, it preserves my body and allows me to stay on the mat. This is what the "Gentle Art" means to me.

    It is my experience that few players or instructors will understand or respect this style of learning. Last October I was travelling and had the opportunity to train at a legitimate gym in Minneapolis. Rolling very loose and gentle, I had 9 matches and respectfully submitted 7 very frustrated opponents and held my own and frustrated the other 2. At the end of the class I asked the instructor if he had any advice for me (every time I looked up while rolling he and the asst instructor were looking at me and commenting to each other). He said in Brazilian accented English, "John, you are too passive. You can not let people take your back like that. You can not let people take mount on you. You must be more aggressive, strongerrr."

    Loose and gentle seem to work for me!