Experience and Rule Breaking

I have worked as a mental health therapist for twelve years and have been doing jiujitsu for almost ten years.  So, I have a decent amount of experience in both endeavors.  Both my profession and my passion require a lot of technique, and for beginners of either activity, the nuances of that technique might not be readily apparent.


From day one, I was taught to learn and drill technique for both.  Sound technique has saved me from getting choked unconscious by people countless times!  It’s also helped me while grappling people.  Developing proficiency in technique is how I improve; and is critical when I am confronted with some brute trying to hyper-extend my arm or getting through to a sullen teenager that was drug to my office by her parents because she won’t do her homework.

Recently, I’ve begun to discover it’s possible to break from technique and use “bad” form in certain situations.  It takes a lot of experience in a given activity to know when it’s okay to break from technique, as the consequences of doing so can be disastrous.  If I have my opponent’s back and while going for a rear naked choke I happen to break from good technique by crossing my feet in front of my opponent, I’m going to get ankle locked by anybody that’s been grappling for more than one month.  If I’m talking with a client that is processing their trauma and I take a break from good technique by having them talk about too much too soon, I run the risk of re-victimizing them right in my office.  Both those options suck.

The thing is, an experienced grappler will come across situations in which breaking from the use of “good technique” is correct, just as an experienced therapist will know when to push their client a little bit, even if it may appear to be a break from standard clinical practice.

I’m sure this concept has carry over to a lot of other domains as well.  Have you noticed this dynamic anywhere?