“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion…All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner
I recently had some friends visiting from cold, grey London, and thought it might be nice to show them the bright summer constellations of the southern night sky. Trouble is, beyond the Southern Cross (officially ‘Crux’), I didn’t really know any of the others. So, I set out to learn them: Centaurus, Hydra, Orion, Canis Major, Corvus… Night after night I would go outside searching for them – and night after night I would lose my bearings and forget which constellation was which. Because the stars are dynamic: obviously they move across the sky, ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ as the night wears on, but each day they also rise and fall in slightly different parts of the sky.
Then I found Orion. Or I should say, he found me, because Orion is ‘the Hunter’ from Greek mythology, whom the goddess Artemis had killed by a giant scorpion (hence the constellation Scorpius). It’s a relatively large constellation, easily located by its distinctive geometric shape and several prominent stars: the red giant Betelgeuse that marks Orion’s right ‘shoulder’; the cool blue giant Rigel that denotes his left ‘foot’; the three stars which mark Orion’s ‘belt’. More than that, by tracing a line between any two stars and extending it we can locate several nearby constellations, and from them, find other constellations. We can use ‘the Hunter’ to hunt.
In trying to learn the constellations it reminded me of learning jiujitsu, with the constellations representing the unique positions of jiujitsu, and trying to discern how one relates to the other. Like a novice grappler, I was trying to learn every constellation/position at once (and becoming just as confused). By going deep with Orion and learning to locate it at any time, I had found an anchor point that I could always get back to if I lost my bearings. It was the astronomical equivalent of a closed guard. From Orion, I could find other constellations, much like knowing which other positions I could find from closed guard. Simple enough.
But there’s more to it: by learning the story of Orion (and each culture has their own story) my relationship with it was enhanced. Orion is accompanied by his ‘hunting dogs’, the constellations Canis major (containing the brightest star in the sky, Sirius – from the Greek ‘scorching’ – and also known as the ‘Dog Star’) and Canis minor, as they pursue a ‘hare’, the constellation Lepus, as well as fighting a ‘bull’, the nearby constellation Taurus. Some have Orion holding a shield in his left hand, or a lion’s skin. Some see him holding his club aloft in his right hand. It doesn’t matter: what’s important is attaching your own story to it. Then it becomes yours and you remember it (Eddie Bravo and the 10th Planet system, I’m looking at you).
What’s this got to do with jiujitsu? Well, recently I’ve been going deep on De La Riva guard: like with Orion, learning to ‘find’ it from whatever position I was in, learning the ‘story’ of it (why it was developed and hence when to use it), and learning where the other nearby positions relate to it (X guard, single-leg X, shin-on-shin…).
My point is, don’t think that you have to master every position at once. Pick one. Go deep. Learn the ‘stories’ around it. Eventually the other related positions will present themselves, like stars emerging from behind a cloud. And next time you’re outside at night, give a little nod to Orion.