Friend of Datsusara Bill Watts returns on this guest blog post "Simple, Not Easy" which gets into an interesting concept I think we should all keep in mind. Note this post is done in the framework of a Jiu Jitsu perspective but I think most will enjoy a read.
Bill studied kinesiology at the University of Texas, has published poems, short stories, and sport journalism, currently competes in BJJ as a purple belt, and is working on his debut novel.
“Okay now does anyone have questions?” Nobody raised their hands. “No one? Okay then get with a partner and work back and forth. Drill the technique. I’ll come around to answer any questions.”
I looked around the caged-in mat room. Thousand yard stares fresh out of the office begged to continue moving. Anything to avoid the post work day crash.
Eager students clung to the words like gospel with wide eyes receiving everything. More than excited to test the efficacy of the teachings.
Novice practitioners looked neurotic. Afraid to fail in their training by asking an illegitimate question.
Go on. Ask your question, my head screamed. Someone else could use the advice you want. Someone else probably wants to ask your question.
“Remember, it’s simple, not easy.”
For the two years I trained at Victory MMA and Fitness, Dean Lister said that every practice I can remember. “It’s simple, not easy.” Seriously every practice I can remember. I don’t stress that with any ill will. On the contrary I love that phrase, “simple, not easy”. It’s insightful but still so….simple.
For those who don’t know, Dean Lister is one of the best heavyweight grapplers of all time. “The Boogeyman” has won the most prestigious submission grappling tournament in the world, Abu Dhabi Combat Club championship, twice, pioneered using leg submissions in jiujitsu competition, and is known for his hulking cartoonish frame and personality. When I was training with him I was a dumb kid with little to no experience in high level martial arts competition, or anything really.
Today I’m a slightly older and (hopefully) less dumb thanks to the wonderful sport of grappling, and art of Brazilian jiujitsu.
In what other sports do random practitioners and annoying fanboys have access to literal world class competitors? For the price of a health club membership, novice trainees can learn from, and occasionally spar with, the elite athletes they try to emulate. Real quick, imagine offering Steph Curry less than one hundred dollars per month for him to teach you how to shoot for an hour everyday. Do you think he’d call security, or just shame you away with laughter?
My point is that when I caught on to Dean Lister stressing the importance of seeking simplicity through possibly difficult situations I got a good handle on his mind frame. I got a valuable lesson about what Dean was looking for in his grappling techniques. He wasn’t looking for a leg lock, not even a finish. Dean was looking for efficient movements with a clear goal that could be segmented and pursued step by step. That is great advice for all walks of life.
Don’t focus on the perceived difficulty of the task ahead, focus on the small, relatively simple, steps one must take to achieve anything. Don’t think about getting the submission, focus on your foot placement, your head position, get your guard pass, and then attack the limb. Then you’ll have the submission. Simple.
Forget your existential woes or career path woes. Focus on one task at your job, one small improvement you can make to your life, and work that into your daily routine. You don’t look at the end product and the distance between you and it, you look at the next step you need to take.
Simple, not always easy.
Martial arts are complex physical practices that often draw the analogy of “human chess”. Single movements can have dire consequences, and can result in the loss of a match. The individual nature of the sports push practitioners to solve problems with their style through introspection and reflection. If you’re getting dominated the memory will haunt you. If you care about your development, your inadequacies will gnaw at your psyche, and you will be forced to examine your game to hole up your flaws and maximize your strengths. High level martial artists have dealt with the physical pain and mental anguish for years on end, and have come out with interesting views on techniques, tactics, and strategy. Their competitive philosophies are literally battle tested, and they often go beyond their sport, being oddly applicable to everyday life.
To everyone out there on a physical practice journey, consult your predecessors. Get their views on why they do what they do. You’ll be surprised at how informative and transcendent their words can be. Sports and competition are microcosms of life. To be successful in one avenue lends itself to success in all others if you can figure out common principles.