Speaking of Spazzes.....

11:04 AM Moo 0 Comments

I read a really awesome post this morning from a blogger named Lex, called "Don’t Be a Spaz: Relax and Move Smoothly to Develop Precision. He offers some great tips for developing precision in your game and transitioning out of that awkward spastic phase. When I started Jiu Jitsu my greatest fear was having my arm ripped out of the socket. To compensate, I wildly thrashed about, threw my weight around and generally was probably quite a nightmare to roll with. The more I trained, my worst fear was being known as a spaz that nobody wanted to roll with. Sure, I still have my moments and I can be pretty clumsy. But as I became more comfortable defending myself as well as putting trust in my training partners, I have stopped feeling like everything is a fight to the death. In fact, I will actively allow myself to try positions where I am not my best.

Lex defines Spaz as "someone whose movement is explosive but lacks precision." This is not to say that being explosive is a bad thing, in fact I think it is one of my greatest strengths. As a beginner being a bit of a spaz is common and expected. You (we) are still learning to control your body and limbs as well as your opponent or partner. It can be quite daunting to realize that you have to take so many different aspects into account. I went through two distinct phases of spaziness. The first included having no idea where to put my hands or legs and passively waiting only to spend my final seconds panting heavily, making frames and spastically trying to defend the submission I should have prevented from happening in the first place. My second phase came once I had a bit more knowledge about techniques and positions. I was so eager to try certain moves that I couldn't focus on anything else. I was so keen to achieve the submission that I wanted it by any means necessary. The upper belts were quite good at counseling me (or choking me) until I chilled out. When I rolled with white belts my nervous energy typically triggered their own and we became two terrors on the mat. Lex offers some great tips and here are a few things that have really helped me.

1.Although I still have my moments, breathing has helped me immensely to calm down my rolls and to slow the pace of my movement no matter what my opponent is doing. 
2.Simply putting in mat time has been the most valuable in helping me develop my game. If you don't train you don't learn and if you're not learning you will never be comfortable effectively executing moves or defending yourself.
3.Reggae, as silly as it sounds, has been pretty invaluable. Reggae is something I have used in the past to calm me down, particularly before rugby tournaments, competitions and even plays when I was college. I have a permanent sound track in my head. Sometimes I put on music or catch myself singing a little Bob Marley or  J Boog while I  roll and it is hard to feel high strung, nervous or uptight.
4. Having boundaries. If there is someone who I know is spastic and refuses to reconsider their behavior, I wont roll with them. I learned this the hard way after being concussed by a former training partner (keep an eye out for my injury post). Someday, I imagine I will be in a place where I can effectively control people who spaz on the mat and not resort to playing their game. Until then, I am fine not rolling with them.

This is not to say that every white belt is a spaz or that you immediately stop being a spaz when you become an upper belt. In fact, I know many people who are close to achieving a new belt status who are so eager to get promoted (as well as recently promoted folks) that they go back to their first few weeks of training, cranking too hard, attempting to impress their professor and occasionally jeopardizing the safety of their partners. The goal for me is to always remind myself that I don't need to be the best, but I do need to progress in a safe environment and attempt to calm my rolls so I am never the reason someone else is uncomfortable or unable to progress. Realizing I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself took the pressure off and is helping me to develop into the Jiu Jitsu  practitioner I know I can be.