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Coach’s Journal: Up For Any Challenge

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“That’s amazing!”

I catch myself thinking this all the time during Jiu Jitsu now. I see so many unique, unexpected and unplanned flashes of brilliance that I can’t help but marvel. Where do these come from, I wonder? Practice is a possible answer. 

But that doesn’t seem quite right. 

Jess turned a “wrong way” armbar into a beautiful spinning pirouette at her first class. Aaron cartwheeled over the guard and into a stunning back take, which I know he hadn’t practiced. (See main photo for the moment it happened.)Most of the time, students can’t remember what they did anyway. They just did it. There was no plan. 

And I think that is the answer.

A Place To Be Awesome

You are made to do this. You are made to do awesome things. They are not the exception, they are the rule, if a space is created for them to happen.This is what we are creating at Zenyo: A space for you to be awesome. 

The Jiu Jitsu we practice at Zenyo is based on innovation, not imitation.

Zenyo’s ecological approach to training challenges you to be innovative and creative. We do this by designing situations for athletes to solve problems rather than being told what to do by the instructor.

We are part of the movement, guided by modern sports science research, against the separation of technique, skill and training.

We are rebelling against established ideas like “fundamentals first,” “practice makes perfect” and “muscle memory.”

Muscle memory isn’t a thing. More than 100 years ago, renowned Soviet neurophysiologist Nikolai Bernstein debunked this idea.

“You are made to do this. You are made to do awesome things.”

You know what can make you less than awesome? Coaches telling you what to do and how to do it, changing what you do into their way, the perfect way—any way but your way. Criticism, correction and judgement, all normal practice in learning environments, lessen self-confidence and creative behavior.

“Mistakes” are not an unavoidable part of the way; they are the way. This is part of the revolutionary approach called ecological dynamics that we use at Zenyo. 

“Mistakes” can lead to awesome, like with Jess.Trying to take mistakes out is a simple approach. You are not, however, a simpleton, nor a machine. You can’t copy and paste code and then execute commands like a computer. You are a complex, dynamic, highly evolved and capable creation.

You are awesome now. As we work together to create a jiu jitsu environment that embraces exploration and individualism, the more awesome we all become. 

You don’t have to know everything beforehand. Just go. You will figure it out as it happens. You are designed to find your way. You are designed to be up for any challenge. 

Science Speak: Finding your way is not a vague, feel-good, self-help affirmation. “Wayfinding” is a concept from archaeology and ecological psychology that has been adapted into the sports world. The idea is that you have a built-in design to navigate a complex environment without the need for complicated maps or plans. “Individuals learn of their performance landscapes by experiencing them through interactions, detecting and exploiting its many features to ‘find their way,’” writes researcher Carl Woods. “Learners will actively self-regulate their interactions with a specifically designed practice environment to discover how to best achieve an intended task outcome, based on their current action capabilities.”

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