As a philosopher, there are not a lot of things that I feel as genuinely optimistic about as I do with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At its core, the art empowers all of its practitioners with the ability to learn, defend themselves and (arguably the most important factor) promotes critical thinking. In a lot of ways, I see learning BJJ as an action that is not only empowering, but also very closely aligned with some crucial Anarchistic Philosophical principals.
Anarchist Philosophy is not the same as the punk rock, mohawk wearing, flag burning imagery that you probably have in mind when you hear the word “Anarchy”. Anarchist Philosophy subscribes to the ideas of decentralization removal of central authorities in exchange for self regulation and individual governance. It is through this context that I will explain why BJJ is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself as an individual.
Firstly, no one has a premium on Jiu Jitsu knowledge. There is no monopoly on BJJ that prevents people from accessing the art. Of course, senior belts are figures that we often look to for information, but that information is also readily available to anyone as time progresses and experiences are collected by the individual practitioner.
Of course, there are and will be those within the BJJ community who will try to promote “Real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”, but from experience, none of these people have been able to present any valid proof that what they are teaching is any different to what can already be found.
Secondly, BJJ promotes a culture of critical thinking. As aware, thinking practitioners, we are constantly looking for ways to improve in our practice. When we are presented with a new technique or concept, we go through the critical thinking process to discern whether this will work for us. For individuals, Anarchism expounds Critical thinking, as without it we become helpless wrote learners who only recite what we have been told by central figures of authority. To create your own ‘style’ in BJJ means that you have thought critically about what works for you and you have put into place a specific strategy that liberates you from physical limitations or external expectation.
BJJ also teaches us a lot about how to treat others. Anarchistic Philosophy relies on a very simple ethical view: “Do to others as you would have done to yourself”. Sounds simple right? It’s actually infallibly simple and applies extremely well in a Jiu Jitsu context too. Should you go and completely smash the new guy? Would you like that if someone did that to you? Probably not, so don’t go and smash the new guy. Are you justified ‘going hard’ against the person who brings down half the nuclear arsenal of Russia down on you when you’re sparring? Yes, they probably expect you to reciprocate, and if they don’t then they still deserve it as a rule of thumb for being the mat goon.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this whole topic recently is because I have had a lot of training partners ask “Can we go light?”. I discussed this in my last post too. I am totally up for the idea of a light roll, especially when my partner is injured, is of a lower skill level or outside of a realistic weight range. Reciprocation of force is a moral question that i thin Amarchist Philosophy answers well; if you make a payment you get a receipt. So, I have a simple, Anarchist Style response to the question: “I will only give you back what I get from you.”.