It’s unfortunate that the reputation of philosophy today in the minds of the general public is that of a series of incomprehensible and irrelevant thought experiments spiralling into an increasingly dense black hole from which no sense escapes. But for over 2000 years before this, philosophy was a practical art: practical in the sense that it was to be practiced. Actually, the term ‘craft’ is more apt than ‘art’, because, like one’s craft, whether professional or amateur, philosophy was a skill that was practiced and forged over time and under many different scenarios. It was intended as a guide for living.
We at Author are all about improvement: physical, mental and spiritual. We want to reclaim the craft of philosophy and show how it can be applied to jiujitsu, and also how you may apply the lessons of jiujitsu to the art of your life. With this in mind we present snippets of wisdom from some of the coral belts of philosophy.
“He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper, but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to his circumstance.”
― David Hume (Scottish philosopher, 1711-1776)
It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone, our “happy place”. This is especially true of jiujitsu, where stepping out of our comfort zone usually involves physical pain. Yet if we don’t step outside that zone, we won’t improve our craft. Better instead to adapt your attitude to the new situation. You – and only you – can control your response. It’s the classic mantra of Stoicism. But it’s also the same as the classic mantra of Brazilian jiujitsu: “Flow with the go”.
“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”
- Francis Bacon (English philosopher, 1561-1626)
Funny name, intellectual giant. We’ve all seen that confident first-timer who thinks he’s going to smash everyone. He begins with certainties. And we’ve all seen (with great delight!) what happens next. Needless to say, his first session ends in doubt. Much better is the beginner who starts with doubts – too old/unfit/inflexible/weak/overweight – and over time on the mat begins to develop certainties. Especially against that over-confident first-timer.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
― Epicurus (Greek philosopher, 341 – 270 BC)
It’s normal in our jiujitsu journey to want to get to the next level as quickly as possible. But that would be to deny the allowances afforded at each belt level. White belt? You’re expected to get subbed. Blue belt? Expected to attempt crazy stuff (if you actually stick around). Purple belt? Go down rabbit holes of techniques. But remember also your first few months on the mat, when you looked at even a two-stripe white belt with envy? And then you find yourself there, in confident possession of what you once only dreamed of. Never envious, confident of improvement: that’s the jiujitsu journey.
“Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.”
― John Locke (English philosopher, 1632-1704)
Learning a particular jiujitsu technique once is not the end of it. We must study it more deeply: what does it look like in various situations? We must seek the guidance and feedback of our club mates: when and how the technique does/doesn’t work. Finally, we must reflect upon our application: is my execution of it improving? Only then can we can say we understand a technique. Study, collaborate, reflect. Become a jiujitsu gentleman (or woman).