This week has been fairly light in terms of training. Not only am I feeling very ungrounded and out-of-sorts since leaving Singapore, but most people are in holiday mode and many academies are closed or “taking it easy” over the New Year period.
The New Year period has provided a good opportunity to begin to consolidate some of the techniques that I learned at Evolve MMA, to reflect on the experience and distill some lessons. This is the way my mind works – an experience is not complete until I’ve spent a considerable amount of time “brooding” over it and have extracted as much meaning and learning as I can. I’ve been criticised harshly for this in personal contexts, but have learned to accept and embrace it, as it’s integral to my learning both on and off the mats. In this sense, my Evolve experience is far from over. It’s fermenting now, like wine in a barrel. The value of the experience will be determined as much by this fermentation process as by the actual act of having gone and trained there.
There is a practical side to this. I work very closely Nick, and my fights and matches are very much a team effort. I kept Nick updated on everything I did in training while I was away – if there’s one thing that I’ve learned through trying to collaborate with independent coaches for MMA in a provincial town, it’s the importance of having your coaches know that you’re doing. This quiet week has not only given me the time to reflect on what I have done in Singapore, but to for us to begin to go over it on the mats together. Being taught a technique is one thing, but for me to make it my own – something that I understand and can apply within the context of my game – I need to share it with Nick, to get his insights not only on the details of the technique itself but of how it can best fit into my chains of techniques and options. It’s the difference, to me, of memorising an isolated technique, and of grafting it into the branches of my own MMA and jiu jitsu tree.
This whole process is made possible by the fact that everything I did at Evolve has been written down. I shared all of it online with Nick, Turner & Co, and have been refining my notes on the techniques themselves, along with Nick’s cues and insights. This kind of practice feels a little awkward to me – pretentious or irrelevant, even – but it works. It helps to consolidate learning through structure. Strength and conditioning, and nutrition involve written programs, and I also create written game-plans, flow-charts and drill sequences before BJJ competitions, so this is very much an extension of those things. It’s a different learning process to that of Muay Thai or boxing, which have always seemed much more intuitive to me, more like wrestling in their emphasis on reaction and muscle memory rather than complicated thought process. They don’t call BJJ “human chess” for nothing.
My cerebral nature, my tendency to dwell on my experiences, and my need to question processes endlessly have all attracted criticism in the past for various reasons, but it’s through embracing these traits that I am able to make the techniques I have been learning my own.