(How Albert Einstein Changed Jiu Jitsu)
When you think of the word scientist, let alone naming a specific scientist, there is only one person that comes to most people’s mind. That’s right, Albert Einstein. Most of us have a general idea of what Einstein did for the world of physics. You know, the basics… advancements in thermodynamics, quantum theory, and of course his general theory of relativity. But how does all of this have any relevance in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Albert Einstein also made the connection between space and time, one of the most important discoveries in physics… and Jiu Jitsu.
Digging deep into the theories of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
First we will need to do a few things… We should all approach this with an open mind and the will to dig a little deeper beyond how we already comprehend Jiu Jitsu. This means making our own discoveries and developing our own theories. We should always be expanding our BJJ horizons… all of us. In this example, we are addressing a commonly discussed subject within Jiu Jitsu: Space. What space means relevant to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how we tend to commonly look at the subject.
The common thought process on space and how to use it in Jiu Jitsu
Every time I have ever been involved in a discussion about space, it comes down to a very basic premise. When you are in an offensive position you want to leave no space between you and your opponent. When you are in a defensive position, you want to create space between you and your opponent. This makes sense when you think about bridging to escape from bottom side control (creating space), or when you have someone mounted and you are trying to apply a shoulder or arm lock (Leave no space). We can get much deeper about the subject, and we will.
Turning space into space time.
As I mentioned, Einstein connected space and time in physics. I would like to do the same pertaining to Jiu Jitsu. The time portion of the equation is often overlooked when talking about space in Jiu Jitsu. One of the most important and advanced theories in BJJ is the concept of timing and sensitivity.
Time plus sense equals timing and sensitivity
In Jiu Jitsu we should always be using our opponent’s weight, momentum, and movements against them. We use sensitivity to feel where our opponent will go and when they will go there. Timing is utilized to act on these movements offensively or defensively. We use sensitivity to calculate our timing and our timing to execute actions. That is timing and sensitivity.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu spacetime revealed
Both of these should always be present and both are constantly utilized. This means that there is never a period while training Jiu Jitsu, that timing and sensitivity are not relevant. Combine this with space and this is Jiu Jitsu spacetime.
Space is nothing without time and time is nothing without space
We must always be advancing forward. This means that the space time between you and your opponent is nothing without the time portion. I can create space in an attempt to escape from the bottom, but if I let that space become stagnant, I will lose any progress I have made in advancing. We are constantly using movements, both subtle and pronounced. We should always be reacting in some way to everything that is happening on the mat while we train. Our individual motives at any given moment are always in constant change. From this perspective, the space and time are intertwined in the never-ending flow of an active sparring session.
Positive spacetime and negative spacetime
In the artistic world, there is positive space and negative space. Positive space is the subject of the piece. It could be a face, a building, or any other object. It is the thing that your attention is to be drawn to. The negative space is all the space around those focal objects; think of paintings, videos, or photo’s. In a painting of an apple on a table in a room, the apple and possibly the table would be the positive space and everything else in the background would be the negative space. I’ll keep it simple and say that in relation to Jiu Jitsu, positive space is the occupied space and negative space is the unoccupied space within the confines of the sparring match.
You can learn a lot from Reddit
I first read about this concept of positive and negative space in Jiu Jitsu from a post on Reddit. As I was preparing for private lesson a few days ago, the student I was preparing for, sent me a link to this Reddit post. She was very interested in learning about space and the theories that would go along with it. If you are interested in this post, I would encourage you to check it out here.
My take on the Reddit post and my interpretation
Simply put, this post explains how we are to address positive and negative space. If a negative space exists, there is then the opportunity to occupy this space and convert it into positive space. As the original poster mentions, this is not necessarily good or bad. It is the control of said space that is important. The control… this is the common denominator that connects positive and negative space in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This control combined with the timing and sensitivity that we discussed earlier is, at a basic level, the Jiu Jitsu spacetime I have been talking about. Let’s just take a closer look at the common controls in both positive and negative spacetime.
In all of the situations above there are two main points to be looked at. First, is the need for some type of control in any of them. This can be something as simple as grips and hooks, or as tight as hip pressure on the top. All forms of control. The second point is motive, we briefly mentioned earlier that the positive and negative space will constantly be changing. This constant change in space time will also cause a constant change in motive. Basically, if you are passing the guard, your motive at that moment is to get passed your opponent’s legs. If you are playing your guard, your motive will be to sweep or submit. All the while you will be controlling positive or negative space dependent on your situation, movement, timing, and controls gained or lost.
I am not a scientist, well, in the traditional sense of the word anyway. I would like to think of myself as a person that conducts research and experiments. I just do it in the world of BJJ. I am obviously not a scientist in the literal manner that Albert Einstein was a scientist. With that being said, I am about to make an attempt at relating antimatter to the spacetime of Jiu Jitsu. Antimatter was not discovered by Einstein, it was first introduced as a concept of physics in 1928 by Paul Dirac. At any rate, let’s get silly and introduce it to Jiu Jitsu.
The occupied negative space time
I am really going to go out on a limb here and make some crazy connections. Antimatter is the matter, negative matter, so to say, that connects all positive matter. Remember, I am not a scientist. Basically, all the negative space you see in the universe is occupied by this antimatter. This is true; therefore, it is also true in Jiu Jitsu, right? Yeah… that’s right… I think. Anyway, I would like to attribute value to the antimatter in Jiu Jitsu in the form of all the stuff we can’t see. Negative space is in effect occupied by our controls, our timing, our sensitivity, and our motives. That is the antimatter in Jiu Jitsu.
Bringing it back to the maintenance of your Jiu Jitsu space time
Now that we have established the antimatter, how do we maintain it? This brings us back to our common denominator. Control. Losing control of your space time is bad, whether the space time you control is positive space or negative space. Those controls will lead you to a dominate position and ultimately to a submission finish, if all goes according to plan. We are throwing the common concept that holding an offensive position as positive space is the only form of control. We must maintain our control in both positive space and negative space. With that unbiased control, we will be able to advance through the progression of offense and defense, eventually gaining a dominate position and finishing the fight with a successful submission attempt. This has absolutely nothing to do with positive or negative space. It has everything to do with the control and motive of that space… or should I say spacetime?
Theoretical Physics vs Experimental Jiu Jitsu
Albert Einstein was known as what’s called a theoretical physicist. These are scientists that spend a lot of time developing theories through mathematical calculations and deep thought processes. These theories are often tested through experimentation done by experimental physicists. We have just engaged in theoretical Jiu Jitsu. What we need to do now is head out to the mat and start conducting some experimental Jiu Jitsu tests.
Mindset on the mat
We need to test our theories with experimentation. The academy is our laboratory and all the tools are right there connected to your body. Be a scientist. Take these theories and think about them as you roll at your next class. What does positive and negative space mean to you? How will you connect your space and time on the mat? How will your motives dictate the control of your positive or negative space? How far will you take your theories in experimentation? Albert Einstein connected time and space through theoretical physics. We can do the same with our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. Who knows, maybe there will be a Nobel prize for advancements in Jiu Jitsu physics? We can dream, right?