I was teaching Jiu Jitsu recently.
We were going over the most iconic of moves in combative wrestling. The Rear Naked Choke. It’s the one where you are behind someone and wrap your arms around their neck and make the other person go to sleep. Done correctly it will take three to eight seconds of properly applied pressure to put them to sleep. It’s an amazing application of human kinetics. Graceful, simple, and artistic. Yet extremely difficult to do properly.
I teach basic principles behind the mechanics. I make a triangle with one arm in front of me and have the students follow. I ask them to flex their arm and put as much strength into it as they can. The little triangle becomes very rigid. Some of them are extremely strong and big muscles make the hole a tiny bit smaller. They accomplish nothing with the intense amount of energy exerted. The triangle shaped hole that has an imaginary neck inside it didn’t shrink in size enough to effectively cut off blood flow to their opponent’s brain.
If you’re going to choke someone out with this iconic move, it’s about finding Zen. Understanding the proper application of moderate pressure, and then applying it relentlessly. You see, the whole goal is to make the triangle smaller. Take your hand and place it on your opposite shoulder. You should have a triangle in front of you. Now, while keeping your hand on that shoulder, pinch your shoulder blades together. Draw the points of your shoulders back and down. The moderately sized triangle should now be tiny. This isn’t the entirety of the move, but it’s enough to understand it. It was never about effort or hard work to do it right.
Effort does not equal results. The inherent human drive, especially that of men who are learning how to choke out other men, is one of effort. When in doubt, try HARDER. Work hard and you will succeed. Well this is true if your goal is hard work and nothing else. Try saying this, “Hard work will offer me great success at working hard.” If you want to effectively apply a rear naked choke, then straining your muscles and working harder at it won’t punch the ticket. My wife told me one day that the biggest inhibition I had to making money was the belief that I had to work hard for it. Maybe she knew more about Jiu Jitsu than I did. Maybe she should be teaching me the Rear Naked Choke.
Don’t confuse hard work with persistence. Persistence is a virtuous trait we often deny internally. If, in those hard moments of conflict, strife, need or whatever I would have been persistent with the application of appropriately applied emotion and thought, then I would have grown from it. Teaching yourself to shut off and get through it isn’t growth. It’s a survival mechanism that sprouts from trauma. We adapt it and overlay it to the entirety of our world.
Take a second and think about your life and how you react to challenges, conflict or need. I know what I spent a long time doing. I flexed and made the triangle more rigid. I believed in pushing through it and becoming hard in order to break through to the other side. I spent years trying to choke out my problems and only succeeding in making myself tired in the process. It’s what I did. It’s what people I know do. Tilt. Lean hard into the fight because otherwise you’ll get knocked down. Put up emotional walls, don the heartless armor and disconnect brain from heart.
Even if you understand all the basic ideals of how to properly place a rear naked choke, it still takes a lot of practice. Knowing how your body moves and analyzing your personal kinesthetics will help you get it right. There is a map, but you’ve got to tweak it in order for it to work. Jiu Jitsu is an individual art. Everyone’s bodies are different. Even the opponent you are trying to choke has a slightly different neck than the person you practiced on. You have to feel for the position and innately know where the adjustments must be made.
So too is the Rear Naked Choke of Life.
The next time you find yourself in the moment more willing to confront and stand hard instead of bend, question it. Is it really going to work or are you so used to doing it that way that it almost feels good no matter how much it doesn’t help. I challenge you to bend and flow with persistence rather than lean harder into the world. I challenge you to believe that hard work is simply hard work. Sometimes it is the right answer, but don’t transpose it to being the right answer all the time.
Remember this. Persistence can be hard work but hard work isn’t persistence. How are you moving through life? What are you doing to bend, flow and adapt to the challenges before you? How are you applying the rear naked choke?