One of the (unconscious) attractions to jiu-jitsu is that it offers anyone the opportunity to experience flow. I say it is ‘unconscious’ for two reasons. Firstly I don’t think people intentionally go to jiu-jitsu to find flow. Most people go to jiu-jitsu to learn a martial skill, as a vehicle to help them get in shape, an opportunity to breakout from the mundane of life, to be personally challenged, and because it looks like a load of fun (which it is). In the process of doing all of this they accidentally (but not always) stumble upon the flow experience.
I have been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for over two decades. Like many from the 90’s, what inspired me to start was watching Royce Gracie in those first UFC’s beating all comers, especially opponent who were much larger and stronger than him. I’ll be honest too, while I was impressed, I wasn’t totally convinced either.
In Monkey-Jits, my BJJ program, our tag line is, Flow as the Way! What does that mean, and why should you even care?
What I have noticed over the years coaching BJJ — is that when a student has an amazing experience rolling, and they have their best performance — what they unknowingly describe about that experience, is the Flow State. The flow state, is an embodied state that you enter, in moments of peak performance. People typically describe how time seems to slow down in the role. The self vanishes, past/future disappear, and only the present moment exists. A persons actions and awareness merge, making them feel fully connected to every move.
For a long time, I had a love hate relationship with jiu-jitsu. I initially began training it, because it was clear that to be a complete fighter, having a ground game was imperative (I still self-defence ground skills are imperative). This was only three years after the first UFC, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was all the buzz. It made perfect sense to then follow that path to ground proficiency. When I started, I never expected to become a black belt, let alone a 3rd degree. The attainment of the black belt seemed so distant, and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure how you would get there!