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"Balls and Brains"

By Christopher kerbis

I train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu at a place where a sizable portion of the practitioners have made a decision. They had made a determination, usually at white or blue belt, that Jiu-jitsu falls within the top 3 priorities of their lives. With these individuals, it usually lies somewhere in the hierarchy alongside family and career. The order in which they rank varies from person to person. However, make no mistake, highly proficient practitioners that I know place it somewhere in the top 3. Sometimes, BJJ is the career. Then it’s 2. I’d like to believe that this in itself is common knowledge.

This dedication can manifest either abruptly or gradually over a course of time. Either way, it’s a conscious decision they continue to make every day. Now this isn’t to say that they don’t do other things. I know extremely successful practitioners who posses other hobbies and interests outside of grappling. I have teammates who rock climb, study languages, roller blade etc. However I believe that root purpose for other endeavors is to maintain physical and mental health due to the rigors of hours spent training in conjunction with family obligations and perhaps a career.

If you noticed I did not list mental or physical health as a priority. This is because it’s beyond a priority. It’s an absolute necessity. Health is the fuel that powers all you do. Without your physical or mental health, everything you hold important will suffer. Your car wont run without gas and you won’t function without your well being.

There was something I heard in the Marine Corps that stuck with me to this day. Mind you that was 2003. During a course on mission planning one of the instructors had said that a successful combat operation has a combination of “balls and brains”. You have to know how far to push to maximize capabilities without compromising your overall objective. Over the years my observations of others, along with my personal experience, solidified this. Someone who pushes their limits constantly both physically and mentally is indeed dedicated. I highly respect dedication. Dedication takes dicipline.

However the ones who I truly admire are the ones who have the intelligence to know when any more dedication will result in diminishing returns. These are the ones who are the best able to optimize their training. Individuals with the right balance of commitment vs intelligence usually have the most sucess overall in their chosen endeavors.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s been a highly successful Jiu-jitsu practitioner who hasn’t pushed it too far. In combat sports, discipline is currency. If you never overtrained, then you probably aren’t dedicated. The concern of under preparation is ever present in high performing individuals. None the less, the ones that consistently have the intelligence know when to discipline their dedication, usually have the best results. These are the people that can habitually line step but never overplay their hand. This dose not only apply to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Truth be told, we all have pushed something past the point of constructive diligence. I’ve made this mistake with Jiu-jitsu, as police officer, and with my family. I still struggle with it. But part of my personal growth is knowing when to hit the gas, pump the brakes or temporarily coast.

I dislike like the term “work smarter not harder”. Although I understand its meaning, I feel it’s misleading. I prefer something like “work hard and do it smart” Hopefully I will continue to improve at this but only if I continue to observe those who navigate it well. The ones with the balls and brains.