I’m sure you’ve seen the 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. In this film, young chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin struggles to mature between two chess disciplines: rigid tactician under Master chess professor played by Ben Kingsley, or free-flowing playfulness and risk-taking under the mentorship of park-chess player played by Laurence Fishburne. Sure, there are other minor plot lines, but in the end, that’s what it is all about – young Josh Waitzkin learning HIS chess game.
Several weeks ago, on a sleepless night, I was going down the YouTube rabbit hole. You know the one – you search for “practical ways to fix a leaky faucet”, and you find yourself 20 minutes later watching videos of people falling off bicycles. Well, on this particular night, I found a video of Kron Gracie. As a long-time fan of mixed martial arts, of course I knew of legend Rickson Gracie, and how his son, Kron, has the potential for equal greatness as his father. Now for those who read my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida…I have his RVCA tshirt and everything! I’m constantly amazed at Buchecha’s athleticism, speed, and tenacity when on the mat.
But the more I watched, the more Kron’s philosophy resonated with me.
“Every day I put on the gi, I’m learning. Every day I put on the gi, I feel like there’s something I can do better.“
I’m not going to break down Kron Gracie in this post; I don’t know him personally…what I know comes from what I’ve read. Feel free to go down your own Kron Gracie YouTube rabbit hole. But I will talk about how learning about Kron helps improve MY game.
In the end, I’ve chosen two Kron Gracie philosophies to work on…just two humble goals…to focus my 2014 BJJ training.
Master the basics. One thing I’ve read over and over about Kron is that he does not have a complex BJJ game. Somewhere I read that he uses ‘white belt techniques with black belt mastery’. And from what I’ve seen, it’s true! He’s not beating guys with fancy tornado sweeps or flying armbars. No, he constantly improves his position using basic techniques, and then applies the right submission at the right time with blinding accuracy. What’s interesting about this philosophy is that I’m just now maturing to the point where I see how my most basic techniques can be improved. A better grip. A better position for my hips. A slight adjustment in my balance that is the difference between a struggled or smooth guard pass. Mastery is in the details, and I always hear Professor Rios in my head, “Ok, you guys got it…now let’s go over some of the details”.
Master your breathing. Just like Rickson, Kron has mastered the art of breathing. You definitely need to YouTube that. While I’ll likely never have that level of control over my breathing and diaphragm, I can certainly strive to improve my breathing when rolling. Kron mentioned this in one of the videos while talking to a guy who was very explosive (paraphrase), “Sure, you can do that for 3 minutes…then you need to step back and sip some water and catch your breath. But can you do that for an hour? No. You need to breath so you can roll for an hour…” Again, I’m just now getting to the point where I am super-aware of my breathing. Some training sessions I can feel the flow – my breathing is great and I feel like I can roll forever (which in reality, is like 15 minutes). But other sessions, when I bring ego and emotion and little focus onto the mats, I’m gassed within a few minutes. I’m using too much strength. My technique is sloppy. My mind is not present. I’m not breathing.
42 is just around the corner for me. I am comfortable with the realization that I will never have Kron Gracie’s BJJ skills. But as I go through this journey, I can certainly continue to improve my fitness and athleticism. I can work to master the very basics. I can work on my breathing so I can roll longer.
In BJJ, just like in life, I need to constantly improve on the basics. And I need to breathe.
As a closing note, interestingly enough, Josh Waitzkin is an avid BJJ player, and is a black belt under Marcelo Garcia. It seems that calling BJJ ‘chess with one’s body‘ is not that far off for Waitzkin.
Take care of each other. Cheers!