This article was written by 3rd-Degree Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Nicolas Gregoriades.
We are all consumed by a myriad of worries and responsibilities from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. These include, amongst other things our careers, relationships and finances. Sometimes these concerns even permeate our dreams. But, when we are on the mat sparring against a resisting opponent – our thoughts are focused on only one thing and that is the moment. Jiu-jitsu is meditation - or at least a form of meditation.
In my opinion, this is the reason for the massive global explosion in popularity that it has experienced over the past decade. People start training for the usual reasons, e.g. self-defence, fitness etc. and soon become hooked. I believe we are all 'meditating' on the mat and most of us don't even know it. Perhaps our minds crave this release from our daily concerns and that is why we find training so enjoyable.
Just as there are many stages and levels of traditional meditation, so it is with 'mat-meditation'. Usually, we are focussed on which position we find ourselves in or the technique we are trying to execute. That is our 'moment'.
However, it is at the higher levels it becomes far more interesting, as I recently found out. A few days ago I was sparring with one of my instructors. At the beginning of the match, we started moving slowly and cautiously. I initiated an explosive movement and he countered with one of his own. Suddenly the tempo of the match began to rise.
For the first few seconds I was running through my decision-trees and accessing my mental database of techniques, but soon the pace was so furious I could no longer do that. For a moment of time – I can't say how long it was, several seconds maybe – I experienced something which affected me profoundly. I can't say exactly what happened. My mind just seemed to switch off and my body just switched to autopilot. I experienced an overwhelming sense of tranquillity and peace – strange considering that (according to those observing at the edge of the mat) the aggressive and fast-paced movements continued for several seconds more. The match ended and the mental 'stillness' was lost. I found myself completely drained – so much so that I had to leave the mat. For the next two days, all I could think about was what had happened. I tried to put it into words for my flatmate and my girlfriend but I just couldn't articulate it.
After much discussion with some friends and some research on the internet, I feel that the closest word I can find to approximate the experience is 'Samadhi'. From Wikipedia: Samadhi is a Hindu and Buddhist term that describes a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated) though the person remains conscious. Perhaps I will never touch that again. But all my training up until this point was worth it just for that one moment. And all my training from now on will be in anticipation of the next one.