The White Belt Chronicles: The Surface Area Of Ignorance

old man bjj

As the sphere of knowledge expands, the surface area of ignorance grows ever larger (Dennis McKenna)

This quote PERFECTLY describes my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experience.  I think that every white belt can relate.  I can’t speak for higher belts, but I suspect that the same is true for them.

Jiu-Jitsu is the ultimate “feedback mechanism”.  You go to class, you learn a new technique, you drill it with your training partner for the duration of the class, then you hit it in specific training.  This process happens over and over again. Each class learning new techniques, then drilling the new techniques.

Then, when it’s time to roll, you attempt to apply what you’ve learned in a real time scenario, and this is when that quote kicks in, especially when you are rolling with a higher belt.  You quickly realize how much you don’t know.

Socrates was persecuted for saying that the only thing that he knew, was that he knew nothing.  I feel the same way, and it seems that the more I learn about Jiu-Jitsu the more the surface area of what I don’t know seems to expand – the more I realize how much I need to learn.

When you start Jiu-Jitsu, as I did a little over a year ago, it feels really good just to learn a few things.  It gives you some “talking points” with your friends.  You can demonstrate a few little things at your house, etc.  You can pretend like you know what you are talking about while watching a ground fight in the UFC. But you don’t really know anything.  That becomes very evident when you roll against guys who do know what they are doing.  You are easily handled by them.

As your knowledge has expanded, the surface area of your ignorance has also increased, because in order to effectively use your technique, there are many other lessons that you must first learn, lessons that you were completely unaware of prior to learning the technique, but that you are now aware of because you have rolled.

Each step forward reveals a new path that is unfamiliar to you.

This may seem discouraging to people reading this post, and thinking, well I don’t want to do Jiu-Jitsu then.  Actually it is completely the opposite.

The more my ignorance is revealed to me.  The stronger my desire grows to get better. 

That is what Jiu-Jitsu does to you.  It is remarkable.


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