It is not uncommon in our line of work to pursue excellence in other areas. Maintaining the mystique of general badassery is no easy job and for many of us, it is a balance between daily duties and several hobbies or sports. Many of us compete in various activities that enhance our operator skill sets. Our skill sets, as nuanced as they require both on and off duty time to enhance making us better in our demanding and frequently dangerous profession. For some of you, this is competitive fitness, 3-gun, IDPA matches or like me Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
At SOFLETE we preach a simple lifestyle model of die living. The life we live everyday comprised of our job, sport or sports feed into our core goal; our every action echoes the mantra of daily optimization allowing us the peace of mind knowing that if we are to die today, we will die at our best. We shoot in our downtime because we shoot in our on-time and we workout daily to optimize our performance when duty calls. While many aspects of these sports cross the boundary between fake and real life, I’d like to take a moment to discuss our off-duty approach to “sport training” ensuring that we don’t build bad habits for the sake of sport.
On the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Carlos and his younger brother Helio began learning and modifying the ancient Japanese practice of Judo and created a human art form for the purposes of self-defense. Like all innovation, it was an art born out of necessity not a case of ars gratia artis. In the Jiu-Jitsu documentary "Roll," Chris Haueter recalls an early memory rolling with Rickson Gracie in the days when Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was little more than a garage gym franchise, "I remember a swift slap to the back of my head, and I was shocked! But it was the most valuable lesson I ever learned because it reminded me of why you never expose the back of your neck and spine…you are always training for the street."
For people practicing a sport that has a direct application to our profession, we must remember that the first lessons form the basis of what we revert to in times of crisis. This concept is preached time and time again in our fitness and shooting programming where we continually emphasize a need to master basics first and foremost. Often our sport takes us beyond the realm anything we'd likely face in real life. While this often translates into the advanced development of our skill sets, this doesn't replace the need to master basic technique, the "street" applicable method first.
When breaking down fighting in reality and sport, we must be mindful of critical differences and adjust accordingly; moreover be aware of how the rules of our game don't translate into the rules of a real fight. You can't win a street fight on an advantage. Many different BJJ practitioners and Mixed Martial Artists over the years have weighed in on the topic and to summarize years of experience both on and off the mat the difference between street and sport is the distance at which the fight occurs. He who manages the distance manages the damage to come. When Rener and Ryron Gracie from the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy weighed in on the topic from their families academy in Torrance, CA, they used the example of hand placement to guard against an opponents grips and chokes during a competition (arms tight to the side with your hands up).
While defending against such attacks is paramount in a contest, it does nothing to manage the distance with an adversary who happens to be throwing elbows and haymakers to the face. Looking at this example when a person begins their training; we advocate for an individual to master basic self-defense before going on and expanding into a sport with well over 1,000 moves that continuously evolves. The rules of our game widely dictate how are to conduct ourselves on the mat and also have changed certain gyms approach to training. The rules of our sport dictate how we perform during competition but never let it get in the way of maintaining proficiency of the basics in case one day shit gets real.
Our profession demands a lifestyle where operators be judicious with their free time choosing sports and pastimes that directly contribute to our success in combat. Within our sports' , as combat athletes we need to be even more judicious to ensure the habits we build reinforce our real goal of being the absolute best at what we do when it matters. Any hobby that directly translates into the performance of our duties needs to begin with a mastering the skills that transcend that line first before anything else. In the gym this means mastering the points of performance for major lifts before attempting more complicated moves; on the range, this means hours of dry fire and reload drills combined with maximum draw efficiency and on the mat, this means mastering the basic punch block series, even making it a part of your daily drilling before trying to hit a berimbolo you saw from that cool YouTube video.
Ryron Gracies' analogy of a training pyramid illustrates the point; imagine for a moment an inverted pyramid. Conventional knowledge implies a broad base culminating towards a narrow point however the needs of our profession invert this model. Master the few basics; the go-to techniques applicable in both street and sport and then expand outwards into sport-specific techniques.
The sports we take on contribute to our pursuit of being better operators, however HOW we approach our sports matters more for us than those who are not as likely to use the skill. Proper drilling in this basic manner ensures success in both realms and backs up our fighters with a degree of confidence that allows for success in a bar fight or a firefight. In the words of Ryron Gracie, "Just because you are learning how to fight doesn't mean you have to fight to learn."