A false equivilancy

Here you go: soaking in cold water is just like jiu jitsu!

Well, that’s not precisely what the term false equivalency indicates, but it has been tossed around in the media and Fbook so much recently I thought I would give one a try.

My experiences with these two forms of training do, however, hold similarities. Many of these similarities you can find in comparing almost any physical endeavor; they require dedication in order to improve, they can challenge you physically, emotionally, and mentally, blah blah blah. The factor these two activities share that I find interesting is a bit different.

Both use panic as a teaching tool.

As a teacher of children I would not suggest regularly inducing panic in students in order to help them master their multiplication facts. In the right circumstances it can be an incredible guide and a bit of a shortcut.

The intense cold creates a sense of physical panic which requires immediate, full, and clear focus. I have heard several stories of people who fall from a boat or through the ice, panic, and end up in the hospital or decreased. While acknowledging the difference between climbing down a ladder into 10C water and being thrown from a boat, it is still true that being able to maintain a sense of calm and mental focus helps in any threatening situation.

On the jiu just mat, having someone sprawl on top of your torso, restricting both your ability to move and draw a full breath, can also induce panic. When grappling with my friend Matt, who is a bit heavier, he would often deploy this technique to wear me down. It only takes a few moments to realize you are truly stuck, and that just pulling a full breath is difficult enough to make you sweat. It is like claustrophobia through chest compression. And until you have worked through the fear it pushes a big shiny red button of panic in the brain.

Not only have I felt that fear, I saw it in my son’s eyes last weekend. He was in his first tournament. He lost his first round to a girl who was clearly more experienced. He won his next round and had to fight her again for third place. He beat her the second time, getting a boost to his self esteem and truly making her mad. They then switched to no gi grappling. He faced her again, and you could tell the moment she saw him in the opposing line that she was planning to take him out. She was taller than Rowan, so she got the mount and a wicked double leg grapevine, essentially reducing him to attempts to buck her off by arching his back off the floor…over, and over again. It didn’t work. Her coach yelled to her to lay there, not to try anything, for a full minute, and I knew exactly what that meant. I watched Rowan’s face. Sure enough he went from focused, to frustrated, to mildly panicked over about 15-20 seconds. I saw him look at the coach, eyes wide, and all the coach could tell him was “get her off!” Because that’s all there was to do.

After a full minute of arching resulting in utter exhaustion, she rapidly switched to a side mount, threw a quick arm bar, and he tapped out. He ended up in third, she got first. Grins all around from the podium.

That kick in the gut when I recognized on my son’s face the same panic I have felt myself was intense. I couldn’t help him in that moment, and shouldn’t have even if I could. He would have missed the lessons. It feels like it lasts much longer than it actually does. If you can quiet your mind you can always think of a possible way out, or around, or through.

And when the panic goes away and your are left standing (or flat on your back as the case may be) you realize that that fear in your head? It is an asshole that gives up and gives in WAY before it needs to.


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