At the core of every technique in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there is a principle (or many), an underlying concept that transcends the specific technique being taught or learned.  When we practice a certain technique we start off with grasping the surface elements to it. The physical movements or “pieces” to that technique are important to get familiar with. But after some time our understanding of that techniques goes deeper. We go below the surface and become familiar with a principle that not only allows that technique to work, but can be applied to a wide range of techniques. So, we need to drill the specifics of a technique repeatedly for two reasons: To absorb the physical movements into our subconscious (ie, muscle memory) so that we can stop thinking and just react instinctively, and to gain an understanding of the principle that gives the technique its utility.  Once we start understanding principles (and there are many) we can then link them to other specific techniques, seeing similarities between them. Once this happens learning specific techniques gets significantly easier. Thus, our skill level begins to take off.

One of the most powerful and useful principles I have learned is something I call CONNECT/DISCONNECT.  This principle has intertwining external and internal aspects.  A physical and a mental side.


In a nutshell, CONNECT is the attachment part, where we are one with our opponent. We move together, physically linked. It is not just in physical contact, it is where we are glued together. There is no separation. DISCONNECT is when we detach (to varying degrees) and move independently of our opponent. There is some separateness that is allowed so that we can alter our relative positioning to our opponent.   This is an easy enough concept to grasp, but when should we connect or disconnect?  That’s more difficult and heavily involves awareness and timing. Here we have to look at the internal aspect of the principle.


Training and experience (mat time) will mostly solve the answer of WHEN to connect or disconnect. However, a correct mindset will help with this.  Generally, wanting something stubbornly (what I call “insisting”) is counter-productive to the development of our TIMING.  And as we know, TIMING is the “when” to do something.  So, simply put, when we “insist” on having our way and wanting something aggressively, we ignore the CUES that may be right in front of us.  When we get fixated on a certain technique we get tunnel vision and unaware.  This lack of awareness hinders timing.  So, “insisting” is a misapplication of CONNECT.  Therefore, to aid in our cue recognition and timing we must DISCONNECT from wanting ANY specific technique. Our awareness must zoom out and cover a broader scope (ie, DISCONNECT) so that we may discover the paths of least resistance. We remain mentally disconnected until we need to focus our awareness (CONNECT) and zoom back in and analyze a problem at hand. This “awareness-connection” helps with scenarios that are completely foreign or new to us. Our analytical or thinking brain then needs to take over and problem-solve.  We CONNECT to the problem, figure it out, internalize and digest it into our subconscious. Then we can DISCONNECT once again and flow instinctually. To me, mental DISCONNECT is synonymous with FLOW. And only when we can flow internally can we flow externally.


It follows that we must switch from CONNECT to DISCONNECT and back again forever.  It is impossible to stay in either of these states continually.  Physically, CONNECT/DISCONNECT allows us to transition. its all about MOVE, HOLD, MOVE, HOLD, etc.  Mentally, it is necessary to be aware and follow the path of least resistance. We DISCONNECT from wanting or insisting on anything and accept the opportunities that arrive before us. If, for whatever reason, there are no opportunities at hand and no path of least resistance, we can zoom back in and CONNECT to get the ball rolling again. When we get stuck like this, we can call upon our analytical brain to problem-solve.   It would be like a river flowing that suddenly gets damned up by debris. We must then send the troops out into the river to clear the debris and get the it flowing again.  But beware, once the debris is cleared the troops need to get back out of the river so it can flow. If they don’t those troops that helped clear the debris then become another type of debris. In this metaphor, the initial debris is a new or foreign problem that we don’t have the subconscious skill level to solve yet, the Troops are our analytical or thinking part of our conscious brain, and the river is internal flow, reality acceptance and non-judgement.

Knowing when to CONNECT and when to DISCONNECT is vitally important. The physical/technical application of this principle is easy to learn. Just train often and consistently. Listen to your coaches and put forth effort. Don’t waste opportunities to drill or roll.  With the internal side of this principle we should start by relaxing our body as much as possible. The mind not only affects the body, but the body can also influence the mind. Be aware of your breathing and muscle tension. Realize that not every moment is life-threatening. Be calm whenever possible, and it is always possible.


Can this CONNECT/DISCONNECT principle be applied outside the realm of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Is it useful in everyday life?

Lessons learned ON THE MAT can be applied OFF THE MAT as well.