I remember the first time I heard the phrase “The more you learn the less you know” (it was in the theme song to the show Growing Pains.) I thought “That’s stupid, the more you learn the more you know.”
Since that time, however, I’ve encountered the truthfulness of that statement over and over again. When I studied phyiscs in college I realized there were people that were tackling issues I didn’t even understand. I leared that F = mA but also realized I had no idea what particle physics was.
I’ve realized that in everything I’ve studied. It didn’t matter if I was studying engineering, woodworking, or theology. A tiny bit was enough to open my eyes to the fact that I didn’t really know anything.
With Jiu Jitsu it appears to be more than a mental assent to this truth. What made me realize this was a sparring session Christmas morning. There were 4 of us that showed up so we did a lot of “Pass-Sweep-Submit” drills from different positions. Essentially one person starts in a certain position, (e.g. full guard.) Then another person tries to pass his guard, while the first person tries to either sweep or submit. After about an hour of this we circled up and Anthony gave us some pointers on things he saw, and things he was trying to work on.
That’s when it hit me. I was sitting with a brown, purple and blue belt. All of which seemed to have no problem passing or sweeping me, and holding their own against each other. And yet, AC said “Here’s the first thing I address in half-guard.” And went on to explain his method. It helped me tremendously (because I was clueless when it came to half-guard.) But it also seemed to help the purple & blue belt as well. That’s when it struck me, even though they handled me with no problem, and did ok against each other, there were still little tweaks to be made to their game to improve it.
If the position I learn as a whitebelt was all there was to do in BJJ, then once I mastered that I’d be on the same page as everyone. But that’s not the case. Some people have nasty full-guards, others might excel at half-guard or spider-guard or mount. It’s not enough to learn the basics, (although that’s essential) because there are a million little details that I don’t even realize yet that make a more effective guard.