This started as a blog about training together as a family, in part to inspire other women & families to get involved. As female participation in jiu jitsu has increased, as we have grown as athletes and as we learned that families training together aren’t such an anomaly, the blog has evolved. Jen gets personal with posts on ambition, challenges & achievements in BJJ, CrossFit & with nutrition, while Tom's posts are more educational, informative and analytical in regards to training. On occasion you may hear from the kids.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The empty cup

You actually have an advantage if you are new to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and have never trained in another martial art. That might sound strange but it is true. It is better to come in with the mindset of a little child, eager to learn and without preconceived ideas of how to fight. You will learn faster because you are a clean slate.

The instructor does not have to correct bad habits you might of picked up trying to teach yourself by watching YouTube, MMA or from wrestling with your friends in the backyard. The same goes for traditional martial arts like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Wrestling or Kung Fu. While these arts do give someone a good mental and physical foundation for training, they some time contradict the motions found in Jiu Jitsu. Example: Wrestlers never want to be fighting while laying on thier back, a BJJ practioner actually attacks while on lying on their back. Take downs found in Kung Fu, Karate and Judo usually emphasize only the opponent being thrown down to the ground, in BJJ the take downs envole both individuals going to the mat leaving the BJJ practioner in a superior position on the ground.

Coming in with an open mind is the biggest advantage for the new person. In contrast, someone who starts BJJ and thinks they know everything is very difficult to instruct. Like a popular Zen proverb states "their cup is already full.

The proverb: A Japanese master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The master poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
Like this cup, the master said, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

Posted by Tom


  1. Love it. I was told this my first trial lesson and figured it was just something they were telling me to be nice to the new girl, but I'm starting to see that there actually are advantages. Great post!

  2. That proverb is definitely an oldie but a goodie. ;)

    Still, interesting you should mention the advantage of coming in with no MA knowledge, as in my experience, BJJ is somewhat unusual in that very often people have already trained in something else. That is certainly true for me, and for the majority of my regular training partners.

    It also probably accounts for the fact that the average age of people in BJJ is a little higher than other martial arts - I think the FightWorks Podcast did a poll a while back, and the average came back as around 25-30.

    But perhaps that is now changing, with the growth of the sport, especially in the US. There are definitely a lot of great youngsters coming through: I can think of scarily talented 14/15/16 year olds at a number of the academies here in the UK.