Critical Thinking in Jiu Jitsu: A word on CONTROL

It should be no surprise to you that I love Jiu Jitsu.

I think it’s the greatest art in the world and ultimately the most challenging.

Why is it the most challenging?  To my students I often summarize a Jiu Jitsu mindset in three words (those words being: SAFETY, POSITION, and FINISH), but if I wanted to I can summarize Jiu Jitsu in just one word:  CONTROL.

Ultimately, I am trying to get my opponent to do something that he does not want to do. (Eventually, I am looking for a surrender).

I am dealing with an opponent however, who is actively trying to do the same thing to me. 

Many have compared Jiu Jitsu to a mental and physical chess match, and I think that is a great analogy.  We both start with the same options available to us, gradually we attempt to remove those options until the Checkmate is the sole option left. 

In order to control someone else, it is is necessary to establish CONTROL of ourselves first.  If you can’t be in CONTROL of yourself, there is no possible way you can be in CONTROL of someone else or anything else; physically, mentally or spiritually. 

I could expound on that last thought, but I want that to sink in and give you an opportunity to reflect on what that means.

There are things that are out of your CONTROL.  This is the natural way of things.  The more self-CONTROL you can exhibit, the better your chances are of prevailing.

As Jiu Jitsu martial artists, we strive for that level of CONTROL, while simultaneously putting ourselves in situations that are out of our CONTROL in order to test ourselves.  We test ourselves in order to better ourselves.   

I’m not big on preaching, or using Jiu Jitsu too much as a metaphor for outside life, but I have found that an understanding of what i can control and what I can’t has made my life that much better.

And ultimately, we do the martial arts to make ourselves better people.



Yes, Critical Thinking in Jiu Jitsu is coming back.  One of the most talked about series of articles I’ve ever written, but I have some new insights because I’ve been (drum roll please) critically thinking about the articles.  Give me some positive feedback (it’s like crack to me) and I’ll try to get this series off in a more timely fashion.

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Gumby is the co-founder of back in 1997 with Scotty Nelson.