“Be prepared that you might tap and that defeat is nothing compared to what you have coming if you do not embrace the KeepItPlayful movement.”
The term KeepItPlayful has taken on a life of its own, with people asking me what it means, what it has to do with Jiu Jitsu and how or if they can use it in their Jiu Jitsu game? You name it I’ve been asked and the truth is KeepItPlayful is not just a phrase it is a movement. I decided the best way to breakdown what it means would be to conduct an interview with this ‘movement’ and let it speak for itself.
Ryron: So, KeepItPlayful, how are you going to revolutionize my jiu-jitsu game?
KeepItPlayful: Have you ever felt like your jiu-jitsu lacks the flow of movement that is necessary to build proper reflexes and understanding?
Ryron: Yes, what does this have to do with the KeepItPlayful movement?
KeepItPlayful: It is the movement dedicated to movement.
Ryron: Huh? What do you mean?
KeepItPlayful: Movement through all the positions and situations that happen in jiu-jitsu sparring. Once the flow starts not only do you learn more but you Jiu-jitsu heads are able to escape everyday life, this is what keeps you coming back to the mat.
Ryron: Don’t people already move through all the positions?
KeepItPlayful: Yes and no, Most people don’t want to move unless it is moving into a position of attack and safe from the attack of others.
Ryron: Okay, so why move into any positions other than a position of attack?
KeepItPlayful: To build familiarity with all positions, of course!
Ryron: Understood. So tell me more about the movement.
KeepItPlayful: The first thing necessary for movement to happen is you have to embrace the KeepItPlayful attitude. Starting with the belief that winning is not the most important thing and losing is not the worst. More important than both is doing everything possible to keep you on the mat for as long as possible. This sounds easier than it is…
Ryron: Isn’t the reason for sparring to battle your partner and see who can win, to see who is better? Isn’t that what makes winning more desirable than losing?
KeepItPlayful: Yes, you do want to fight to win. What you do not want is for winning to be so important that you defeat yourself. One of the ways I see one defeating them self is that your mind makes winning out to be the most important thing and this causes you to advance and attack blindly leading to your own defeat. This small defeat is part of the most serious defeat, which depends on your ability to KeepItPlayful in another way. What I am talking about has to do with the next part of the movement. So for now play the game to win but be prepared that you might tap and that defeat is nothing compared to what you have coming if you do not embrace the KeepItPlayful movement.
Ryron: What else does it mean to KeepItPlayful, the second part of the movement?
KeepItPlayful: The first thing to discuss is how a big part of jiu-jitsu practice today is about avoiding inferior positions and if you happen to find yourself in one you do everything within your power to escape. Why do we fight so hard to avoid and escape inferior positions in practice?
Ryron: So we don’t lose.
KeepItPlayful : Good! The main reason is simple, people seem to believe that if you are in an inferior position you must be inferior to your training partner and someone who is inferior is the loser. So you are correct, the ego does not want to lose. Why is that position established as inferior in the first place? In competition, points are scored against you and you are more open to submissions and/or strikes. So basically, you fight so hard because you are in a position which you have very little knowledge leaving you vulnerable to defeat. This leaves you uncomfortable and fearful of being the loser. What’s ironic is that 99% of the time you are training in a practice environment and whether your opponent scores, lands a submission or a strike, does not matter because it is just practice.
Ryron: I believe people fight hard because they are preparing for war. Whether that is for fun in the academy, competition or a street fight.
KeepItPlayful: Yes, I know you practice to prepare for battle and there will be a day where the outcome matters. This is exactly why you should KeepItPlayful, because one day the outcome will matter. We have to look at what we are doing to make sure we are more prepared. The only way you can be more prepared is through more understanding of the position.
I think it is safe to say that with knowledge comes understanding and then comes comfort. You may find yourself in an unknown and uncomfortable position and you feel like you must escape. The dilemma here is that you are in a position that is unknown and the only way for it to be known is to spend time there. When are you going to spend time there if not in practice? You seem to always be in a hurry to remove yourself from the unknown and surprisingly your desire to be somewhere else is what takes you out of the present moment leaving you vulnerable to points, submissions and strikes, the exact reasons you wanted to get out of that inferior position in the first place. What is interesting is it that, what you think you should do is exactly what your opponent needs you to do to be the victor.
Ryron: You mentioned the ego, why is that? And do you not have an ego yourself?
KeepItPlayful: Yes, I do have one and thanks to my ego I KeepItPlayful. I use my ego in a way that is helping me stay on the mat longer and learn faster. What I am doing is investing a little time everyday to survival strategies. My ego is dedicated to allowing everyone that I spar with to achieve the most advantageous positions, thanks to my ego, I pull mount. Sometimes after I do this I think, “nobody can hold me down” and that is my ego talking. Believe it or not my brother, KeepItReal, sometimes chokes me out and my ego says “Dang!” One would think that after doing this enough one would feel inferior when in a supposed inferior position. Or one could be confident that the understanding of survival is gradually growing and soon enough will far out weigh their opponents offense.
Ryron: Are you suggesting that most of the Jiu-jitsu community is losing touch with what Jiu-jitsu is all about? Possibly losing touch with the principle of survival?
KeepItPlayful: Losing touch insinuates that they had the principle understood at some point or at least have been exposed to it. The principle of survival is synonymous with Jiu jitsu and yet many instructors gear more to teaching how to avoid and quickly escape from inferior positions, not because they do not want to teach you how to survive but rather they do not know any other way to teach. Somewhere along the way from the Grandmasters Carlos and Helio Gracie to our instructors, someone did not carry the torch of teaching survival. The instructors lack the knowledge making it impossible for them to teach you survival.
Ryron: This feels a little disrespectful.
KeepItPlayful: Disrespect is the last thing on my mind. I don’t know who taught you and what you have picked up. Maybe your coach has taught you just how important survival is and you are ready for the day you will be tested. Even if your coach has not taught you survival, it does not make them a bad coach, they simply lacked exposure.
Ryron: How will we know if we are being taught survival?
KeepItPlayful: Simply ask yourself, how often has your coach/instructor explained to you the importance to preparing for the day when escape is not an option and your only option will be survival?
Ryron: That is a good question. What about an offense that is so solid that it keeps your opponent on the run? This would also insure your survival.
KeepItPlayful: Correct, this is a good strategy that will work for a while. If you can guarantee this strategy being effective against everyone on the planet for the rest of your jiu-jitsu career I would say dedicate all your time to training that strategy. Since nobody can guarantee that, you have to train survival also, that is if you plan on staying on the mat through black belt and beyond. If you are learning Jiu-jitsu without learning how to survive, you are not learning Jiu-jitsu!
Ryron: Okay, so for those of us that want to join the KeepItPlayful movement and learn survival, what do we do?
KeepItPlayful: I thought you’d never ask! The next part of the movement is the KeepItPlayful roll. Next time you are rolling or sparring, whether you are the more advanced student or not, allow yourself to end up in the position you find most uncomfortable. To KeepItPlayful when sparring is to bring comfort and understanding to positions through awareness. This is a strategy for anyone who would like to be comfortable where most are uncomfortable.
Use your training partner to help you learn. Observe yourself being defeated. Tell yourself that you are allowing your training partner to show you their favorite techniques, take mental notes. Fight the urge to escape and not be tapped out but instead invite the inferior position and the submission.
If you are the more experienced person, you have someone that you can use to practice your escapes, transitions, submission counters and submission transitions and many other things for when you go against someone more advanced. Trust me, you are going to wish you had more practice in whatever situation you find yourself. Since you have a partner that you should be able to get into any position, remember to be helpful and allow your partner to practice also. You are more experienced so you have to want to help them, and by help I mean help keep them on the mat, do not destroy their egos, allow movement.
As the newer person, get ready to be under full attack. Chances are your training partner is out to show their superiority, and this is great! Put observing and learning what they are attempting over trying not to lose. Do not attempt to overwhelm and defeat them, for two reasons. First, they are better than you. Second, use the opportunity to allow them to show what they like, their strategy. Remember, the only reason you keep losing is because you are being out-smarted and surprised. If you observe them long enough you will see everything coming, the sooner you can see, the sooner you can use techniques to start defending. (Read Sparring with Black belts blog)
Ryron: Invite the submission and let yourself tap?
KeepItPlayful: Absolutely! If there are people out there still able to surprise you and tap you then I suggest you invite the submission once in a while. When sparring, instead of exploding to avoid a submission leave yourself a little available and observe the steps that your training partner takes to achieve the desired choke, armlock, etc, go as far as letting yourself be tapped out. Take the information they gave you and make a small move to defend the next time. What you are doing is building familiarity with positions and submissions, being a scientist! How many times do you think you have to allow and/or observe a submission happen to you before you can defend it with some technique and little to no explosiveness?
Ryron: Depending on the opponent, not too many times. I see how someone can show you their game fairly quickly, isn’t this a little risky?
KeepItPlayful: Exactly! The risk in not taking this approach is doing what most people do. Over time the techniques and natural ability allow you to avoid inferior positions and submissions, it proves to be successful. You are doing very well at your school and advance through the belt system like everyone else. You reach purple, brown or maybe even black belt and one day you come across someone on the mat that stifles your natural ability and technique. For the first time in years you have not only been put in an inferior position but you are stuck and forced to survive. This is why today you can encounter black belts that react like white belts when matched up against other black belts. Why we see black belts getting tapped out with some of the most fundamental techniques or failing to escape a position multiple times. I can almost guarantee they did not invite the position and/or submission when they were beginners. The interesting part is, there is a good chance their opponent did not either. You can hang out in inferior positions against your will with no awareness or you can invite inferior positions and bring awareness with you. The same way the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are not seen for years, the choice to KeepItPlayful might not give fruit for some time.
Ryron: You spoke earlier about a how a submission is a small defeat compared to what we have coming if we do not embrace the KeepItPlayful movement.
KeepItPlayful: Exactly, This makes getting tapped out look like Disneyland. Fortunately for you, if both the KeepItPlayful attitude and roll are being practiced then you are set up to avoid this defeat.
Ryron: What is this greatest defeat, losing belief in the art?
KeepItPlayful: Even worse than losing belief in the art is losing belief in yourself. When you start your jiu-jitsu journey you are addicted to the process of being given a problem and then taught a solution. You are not concerned with being defeated because you expect it. The uncertainty of how and when you are going to be defeated is actually exciting. Very quickly problems become situations and before you know it you are able to apply much of what you are learning successfully in sparring. You go from being able to defeat 1 or 2 of your training partners to most of them. Then finally you are one of the top jiu-jitsu heads on your mat or in your town, most likely a purple, brown or black belt.
Ryron: Seems like the perfect journey.
KeepItPlayful: Almost perfect, anywhere from blue belt to black belt you can feel like you are one of the best on the mat. You feel this way because you are probably not being defeated anymore. This does not mean you are done being tapped out forever. Before you know it there will be some new student who will out shine you on the mat, someone younger, faster, stronger, or maybe just better. Remember the reason you always return to the mat? The escape, escape from life’s stresses. Now every time you step on the mat you will feel stress when you see that new student. This happening does not mean you are no good, it just means jiu-jitsu is amazing. If you are truly in pursuit of perfection, this is the best thing that can happen to you because being defeated only makes you stronger.
Ryron: This is natural but it is not easy to swallow. Because they went from losing all the time to reaching a point where they did not lose for years, they are vulnerable. I feel that once someone tastes only submissions for years and then all of a sudden they start getting eaten alive it makes sense why they would hang up their gi and start to lose belief in themselves.
KeepItPlayful: This is exactly why it is so important to KeepItPlayful! From the day you start sparring I suggest you KeepItPlayful at least 50% off the time. We KeepItPlayful today because we never know when we will be overwhelmed with technique, power, speed or strength. When the day comes that you meet someone who would have normally eaten you alive you will actually be more likely to weather the storm. Someone might dominate you or even tap you, but they are going to have to work harder than usual. Remember the KeepItPlayful attitude, losing is not the worst thing that can happen to you, but this takes preparation.
Ryron: Why only 50% of the time?
KeepItPlayful: 50% is a minimum, you should dedicate some time to telling yourself that you are not going to allow a submission or a guard pass. The next day you go back to allowing lots of movement. If you feel that you would like to dedicate more time to KeepItPlayful that is only more beneficial.
Ryron: Are there some people that may never need to adopt the KeepItPlayful movement?
KeepItPlayful: Absolutely, people everyday make the decision to do the complete opposite of KeepItPlayful. The question that I always ask is, how much do you enjoy jiu-jitsu and for how many more years would you like to enjoy it? To answer your original question, what is the KeepItPlayful movement? The movement is dedicated to those who choose to create movement on the mat. Everything from escaping or allowing an escape to attacking or allowing an attack, we cannot afford not to be moving. Foresight to see how learning survival will help in competition and street but it may also be the key ingredient to keeping you on the mat and avoiding the greatest defeat. If there is one thing we can all agree on is that we want to stay on the mat for as long as possible. Movement without awareness is wasted movement. What this means is you cannot afford to move and not be aware of what is happening. When you KeepItPlayful you have an awareness of what is happening and have an appreciation for jiu-jitsu whether it is being effective for or against you. This appreciation is very important so you do not beat yourself up when the day comes that you start getting defeated again.
Ryron: Correct me if I am wrong, you do not need an instructor to teach you the most valuable understanding of Jiu-jitsu, survival, all you need is to become a scientist. If you know Jiu-jitsu you know who the greatest scientist of all times is. That would be my grandfather, Grandmaster Helio Gracie. When he was in his 80’s and 90’s I remember times where he would ask people who were 100 lbs heavier and 50/60 years younger to attack him and he would neutralize their offense with ease, this was how he trained himself. One thing I know is that his whole life, but especially as he got older, catching a submission was the least of his worries. Victory for my grandfather was survival, and because he dedicated so much to survival it allowed him to achieve the greatest victory, stepping on the mat everyday of his life.
KeepItPlayful: Having an instructor helps but it is not necessary. As for your grandfather, he did not neutralize his opponents’ offense with ease; it took a lifetime of Keeping it Playful.
Want to join the KeepItPlayful movement?
Next time you step on the mat, make your number one priority movement. Anyone who would like a free KeepItPlayful gi patch (Limit 1 per person) please send a prepaid/stamped envelope to:
3515 Artesia blvd
Torrance, CA 90504