I’ve written about the psychology concept of schemas before. They’re basically shortcuts our mind creates to make life easier so we don’t have to think out every single action we do every single time we do them. As we regularly complete a complex series of tasks over and over, our mind does us a huge favor and simplifies the complex task in to a “prepackaged” simple action, i.e. a baby learning to walk.
I hadn’t considered the application of schemas to jiujitsu until a cop buddy of mine was prefacing a series of techniques with a schema-related concept prior to teaching how some techniques flow in to other techniques, e.g. the armlock from guard transitions to the triangle choke, and the triangle transitions to the omoplata, and back again.
To illustrate the concept, he began describing a situation in which an aggressive suspect made a move to attack. He told me he instantaneously and instinctively drew his firearm and leveled it at the attacking suspect a half beat before his conscious mind realized he’d done so. His swift action caused the suspect to stand down, and no lethal force was used.
Years of repetition had enabled John to instantaneously perceive a threat, perceive it as potentially deadly and in need of potentially lethal force, remove his pistol from his holster, properly aim the pistol at the threat, and then pause before squeezing off a round to reassess the threat. If he had to think through each of those steps, his actions would have been significantly slower and his life and subsequently the suspect’s life could have gone very different paths. His schema, based off countless training scenarios and real world application, worked well.
Well, it works the same in jiujitsu, but with obviously much less dire consequences. The reason people get really good at jiujitsu has everything to do with schemas! A lot of factors go in to making a jiujitsu technique work against a resisting opponent. Awareness is huge, as two people grappling certainly can create a fairly tangled, confusing web of limbs.
For instance, to pull off an arm lock against a resisting opponent, I have to consider what my left arm is doing, what my right arm is doing, where my left leg is, and where my right leg is. I also have to consider where each of my opponent’s respective limbs are. Furthermore, I have to consider where my opponent’s limbs are in respect to my own limbs at any given moment. Body positioning, weight distribution, and body angles all have to be considered. Timing of technique, knowing when to apply the technique, knowing when to not apply the technique, and knowing how to even get in the position to execute the technique are all factors. Finally, doing all of these things instantaneously while simultaneously being aware of your opponent’s attempts at defending as well as possibly what your opponent is trying to do to you in return makes a seemingly simple technique infinitely complex to a beginner.
Through years of drilling, practice, and live application, the complex series of tasks necessary to arm lock somebody gets prepackaged in to a nice little schema. It becomes automatic. It is my “Arm Lock Schema.” Put in a slightly different situation, I have a “Triangle Schema,” and then a slightly different situation from the previous, and my “Omoplata” schema activates.
John was just teaching us to loop those schemas together, ultimately leading to the real life ninja shit of the Arm Lock/Triangle/Omoplata Schema.