People like to compare BJJ to Chess or any other strategy game. Actually BJJ is more often compared to strategy games than it is any other physical sport. There is definitely a strategic and mental aspect. But there is no strategy game like BJJ, and any comparison will never do BJJ justice as it is the most unique strategy game that I know of.
Let me compare it to first Chess.
- Chess is turn based - BJJ is not turned based, actually I can take all your turns in BJJ if I am good enough.
- Chess is a perfect knowledge game where you know where you see his pieces and he sees yours - BJJ depending on the players, neither players can see anything, both players can see everything, only one player can see everything and the other can't see anything, or any combination therein.
- Chess allows both players to start exactly the same with the same pieces - In BJJ one player can have all Queens, or one player can have only one piece. Even the arrangements can be different. One new player can have all his pieces in the wrong order, whereas an experienced BJJ player can have it ready to checkmate.
- Chess, each game is unique and starts all over again fresh with the pieces replaced - BJJ is cumulative, the more you play, the more pieces and tools you have the next time.
- Chess has a opening play, middle game, end game - BJJ also has an opening, middle, and end game. Grips, positions, finishes. But in BJJ you can start out in the end game, or middle game, or restart at any time to the opening play, or end it all with one move.
This is not only true for BJJ vs Chess but really for any turned based strategy game like Go or Poker or Risk.
BJJ vs RTS (Real Time Strategy)
- RTS is not turned based and neither is BJJ.
- RTS allows both players to start with same resources - BJJ allows players to start out with resource disparities.
- RTS allows each game to be a new game - BJJ is cumulative, more games I play more resources I start out with.
- RTS both players cannot see what the other player sees, they have to scout - BJJ one player can start out with full knowledge of everything you can do.
- RTS allows people to have the same kinds of units and is very balanced - BJJ is not balanced and can be very lopsided towards one player.
In RTS and Chess and other strategy games, you can theoretically have a prodigy. In BJJ we use the term prodigy loosely but no one ever really is in the truest term. No one can train a few times and accidentally beat a world champion. Even people who get black belts in 3-4 years, they train 3-4 times a day religiously and accumulate more mat hours than people who train 10 years. So its not like a Bobby Fisher or a Josh Waitskin who sees a Chess game, plays a few times in the park, and then starts to beat adults. In BJJ a child cannot beat an adult very easily. Sometimes you will find people who have a natural instinct or intuition for a certain strategy game, it just makes sense. This is less true for BJJ where by design all your intuitions and instincts are wrong, because all my submissions and moves are based on you doing what you would naturally do. Extend your arms to push me off leads to an armbar. I sit on your chest so you give me your back to try and get up, leads to a choke. All the instinct you have innately or were conditioned with are wrong and will be used against you. Prodigies? No way. Hard workers? Yes.
They all have rules, but BJJ only has rules in a tournament. The actual art itself has many variables as you can be creative. A Rook works the same way for everyone in Chess, whereas in BJJ you can use a move differently based on the player. There are an infinite types of games that can be played in all of these games, but in BJJ, each move can have an infinite amount of variables, whereas in other games that piece or unit can only move or work in the way that was established when the game was programmed or created. In BJJ you are the rule maker, the programmer, the designer. Every day the whole thing changes each time people roll.
The mental side is close to this game, but the physical side can be compared to any tough sport. And the psychology now changes when you risk and factor in your general well being is at stake. You can then make a fair comparison to rock climbing or surfing, but you are not manipulating nature in BJJ, you are manipulating another human being who has the ability to manipulate you in a rational manner...
What is true of all strategy games are, you cannot think so many moves ahead. You try to out think your opponent or think too many moves ahead or predict that you think he thinks, and after a while you just have gibberish. You have to always play with the tools in hand at the current moment the best you can. Do what you can when you can the best you can. It's about being there in the moment, in the zone with no distractions.
The similarities are there, especially the one where to be world class you need thousands of hours of practice. But BJJ is a totally different animal that is unfair, confusing, physical, goes fast, and ever evolving. At the end of the day a Queen is a Queen in Chess but in BJJ a totally different move can be created. BJJ in a sense is like the Universe. Its ever growing, ever changing, unfair, strong, cruel, hard to predict but at the same time in perfect balance and harmony.
The best part about BJJ is that, unlike other strategy games it is not always about diminishing returns. In an RTS if your units or supply line or economy gets hurt early on it is impossible to win unless there is a major failure on your opponents part, which is relying on something out of your control. Same with strategy board games, more pieces you lose harder it is to win. In BJJ though no matter how bad of a position you are in, you can still manage to survive and win. In other games a game can be decided from the opening play, but in BJJ you never know what will happen with absolute certainty until it actually happens, there is always a chance for the underdog or the person who is down to win. That is why BJJ was created, to give the little man a fighting chance. His struggle may not be for not.
I live life like I play BJJ. That everything I thought I knew was wrong, and is always wrong and is in a process of being proven wrong and corrected. That all I really know is from trial and error and even then it may be wrong. I will forever be a student and in my pursuit of excellence will I make my biggest gains. You can't have just one master or teacher in life because you will miss so much, too many variables. You need a wide array of perspectives to guide you in your journey.
*As you may have noticed, this blog keeps getting updated and gets bigger and bigger. Key concepts always have room for development, which is the sign of its vitality. Just like my own ideas on BJJ and life keep growing and evolving and developing.