“It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way.”  – Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings

Jiu-jitsu is so vast that sometimes it feels like you’re doing a 100 000 piece puzzle. You’ve got pieces, lots of them, but you’re not sure where they’re supposed to go. Or if those two actually go together. Or what the picture is even supposed to look like. So I’ve decided to go back to the beginning, out of Brazil and back to the battlefields of feudal Japan where the roots of jiu-jitsu (or it’s more traditional spelling jujutsu) are to be found.

A Book Of Five Rings is a classic book of samurai strategy written by master swordsman Miyamot0 Musashi.  Miyamoto was a badass of note, fighting over 60 duels, winning them all, eventually deciding to use sticks instead of swords because he was tired of killing people. Yeah that kind of badass. So here are a few quotes from A Book Of Five Rings unpacked:

“A thousand days of training to develop, ten thousand days of training to polish. You must examine all this well.” 

I hear you Miyamoto, I hear you. Even though jiu-jitsu seems like it has so many pieces there has been a constant, something that holds everything together, a corner piece: conditioning.

Physical Conditioning. There’s really no getting around it. Your body needs to get strong and in order to do that it needs to hurt. But if you embrace that, if you embrace the fact that jiu-jitsu demands a really weird combination of flexibility, strength, power and resilience then you can actively work to improve that.

Here’s a video I like from Jason Scully showing the kinds of moves that’ll help your body achieve the kind of fitness you need for jiu-jitsu:

“The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy’s useful actions but allow his useless actions” 

That quote from the legendary swordsman neatly sums up the approach to mental conditioning. Jiu-jitsu as an art requires a tricky blend of fighting your own reflexes and using them. If you allow your natural flinch/tense response to kick in you often end up worsening your position with useless actions. But you also need to learn to allow your natural useful actions to come into play: using the force of gravity and the weight of your body, scrambling to get out of danger and using your instinctive drive to survive to try and escape from tricky situations.

“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world” 

There’s the natural tendency to view every sparring session as a life-or-death contest and let your ego get battered by the many submissions that you’ll get subjected to. Switching your mindset to the point where you’re just enjoying learning and doing something physical is the healthiest, most productive attitude to have. It sounds a little new-agey but, in this case, it’s entirely applicable.

 “Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.” 

It’ll probably be with painful elbows and injured ribs, but the only way to forward is to continue practicing.