“Dennis plays an imaginary game.”

Last night we had a fairly free form BJJ class. This started because I arrived a bit early and started rolling with one of the other students, for fun, to warm up, before class had started. As other students arrived in time for class, they joined in, and so the class had started without any formalities. We are a school that’s fairly light on formalities as it is — I don’t have to call my teacher “professor”, nor do we bow before we enter or the leave the mats. No, we have music playing and the atmosphere is relaxed.

So the class consisted of us just rolling five minutes at a time, switching to new partners. An hour went by like this and it by the time the end of the class approached, Cesario, my teacher, called us together and started going over some of the individual mistakes he saw us make, often repeatedly. “You keep losing position because you don’t fight for the underhook,” “when you try to do a hip bump sweep you don’t turn enough to attack the weak plane,” etc. We got some valuable feedback.

After that, he went down the line of all the students and describe the fundamental flaw in our game. For instance, one student got a great compliment; he learned very quickly and had a tremendous understanding of the body as it relates to BJJ, but that he couldn’t translate that to a live roll and that he should start rolling the way he trained.

I got some advice, too. Or rather, I got an observation. Cesario said; “Dennis plays an imaginary game. He has an idea of what he wants to try and then experiments. Sometimes you have to wake him up and tell him that he’s in a fight. I like that mentality, but after you tap a guy three times. First you show someone who is boss, then you go and play.”

It’s true in more ways than one. I am a romantic, an escapist and a dreamer. My father taught me that. I get obsessed with stories, with narrative. I also don’t primarily practice BJJ for the competitive element. So I do end up rolling for the game element, for the fun of it, and I do like to experiment. I’ll try and go for worm-guard because I want to see what I can do with that in a live roll. To me, BJJ is a game of chess. To Cesario, it’s a fight first, game second.

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