Great hitters in baseball know when not to swing. BUT they learn when not to swing by swinging…hitting and missing.

In Jiujitsu we learn when to attempt a movement, by attempting the movement, successfully or not. Through steady live action feedback we develop a feel for when to do what and how. To get the invaluable feedback we need the reps, successfully executed and failed. Both guide us in narrowing that window of most probable opportunity for success.

HItting theory and technical drilling can get us started, but the live action swinging under pressure, attempting a new movement under attack, delivers us the instinct to swing or hold steady, pull the trigger on that technique or let it pass.

We need to not let the fear of “failing” rob us of the feedback data required for the technique’s success. Waiting for the perfect opportunity will leave us striking out without a swing. To master a technique we need to see where it doesn’t work as well as where it doesn’t. Let our failures narrow our technique into a window of success.

That said, once we have some, we shouldn’t fall in love with success. This is where plateaus creep in. Remind ourselves that any success we have came through the countless failures before it. Our “go-to” movements were once in our fail pile. We need to keep failing forward, keep swinging at the new pitches while we learn exactly when to not swing at the old ones.

Note: In the same way you wouldn’t swing a bat if someone stepped in front of it, we should be mindful that the preservation of our training partner trumps any technical execution. Technically brave over physically rash. If we both are conscious of our physical safety over taking the chance, we’re safe to explore technical mastery through swings and misses. The common “white belts are the most dangerous” comes from these flipped objectives, but we ALL need the reminder. Preserve your teammates before swinging, swing at everything, let the misses teach us when not to swing. Repeat.