“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
To the left is one of many comics by my friend Laurent called “Adventures of Laurent and Lex” about the eternally-ecstatic cookie-loving Laurent and the absurdly-stoic Kafka-reading Lex. It inspired this blog post…
People come to the mat with different goals. Some to learn, some to socialize, some to get a good workout, some to prepare for competition. For me, it’s usually a mix of all of these. The primary goal changes from day to day, depending on my mood, plan, and the “feel” and skill-level of the group as a whole on that day.
In the midst of this chaos of goals and approaches, the thing I find that beginners often get wrong is the amount and the timing of talking. You have to draw the line between two types of training: hard training and relaxed training. If you’re training hard and are in doubt, be quiet, and focus. That’s the rule I follow, and the one I would generally recommend to others. When I say “train hard”, I don’t just mean the pace of the training. In fact, you don’t have to physically be going 100%. I am more referring to the fact that your mind is 100% involved with the training.
There are two common types of talking during training: (1) joking around, and (2) discussing a technique. The thing about both of these, is there is a strong temptation to talk for an unreasonable amount of time in the context of hard training. Saying one word is a gateway drug to starting a 10 minute conversation. You are surrounded by intelligent jiu jitsu nerds, so of course, you want to joke around and troubleshoot techniques. Still, both these things are something you should save for the end: when the hard training of the day is done. At the end, there are few things that I enjoy more than talking for 10+ minutes about a technique, counter, position, transition, etc, whether it’s with a brand new white belt or with a long-time black belt. Even more than that, I enjoy talking philosophy, women, and the meaning of life with a friend who just spent an hour trying to achieve a simulated end of my life.
Of course, there should be a balance, like with everything else. Ultimately, even for the most serious competitor, having fun in training is more important than almost anything else.
For me, the philosophy and humor come after “battle”. The “fun” I look for in training is the zen state of complete mental focus AND complete physical exhaustion. If I have enough brain cycles left for talking outside of a 3-4 word comment, I am probably not training hard enough, both physically and mentally.
All that said, everyone is different. I tend to have a stoic nature, preferring brevity and silence: more thinking and less talking. But there are brilliantly funny friends of mine who can fire off 100 words a minute, and naturally break through the exhaustion of a tough training session or a tough competition day.
Edit: I really like a “general rule” that someone said on Reddit about this blog post. He said it much clearer than I did:
A general rule I’ve found helpful:
- If one or both people are dedicated competitors, STFU.
- If they’re lifestyle jiu jitsu students, feel free to have a good time.