There are 3 levels of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu...and I'd imagine any form of martial art and combat sport to be honest.
These 3 levels are:
Responsible (Or Response-Able.)
The Reflexive/Reactive Level is marked by our instinctual movements....movements that are hardwired into our system to protect us from danger. Think about going into the fetal position when we hear a loud sound or something startles us. These can be good reactions in most situations but in a grappling context they can be quite dangerous.
Some common sights you'll see in the Reflexive Level is giving up the back or pushing with the arms when you get mounted which quickly gets you choked or arm-locked.
Another example of the Reflexive Level is using up all your energy while trying to escape and panicking under the pressure, exhausting yourself to the point that you can no longer defend yourself and surrender position.
Picture the new white belt student in your head for a moment. They have the best intentions, but are usually quite spastic and reactive simply because they haven't learned how to respond well to the techniques that are being applied to them.
The Responsible Level is the next level in BJJ. I want you to think about that word for a second and break it down...Responsible...Response-Able. It's literally your ability to respond.
On this level, you're able to think clearly and respond to your partner's attack with clarity and focus.
You know what to do.
You can step between stimulus and response and choose the most appropriate counter.
Please try to pay attention the next time you feel yourself being triggered and see if you can sneak back into that lovely place between stimulus and response and actually stop the reflexive...knee-jerk reaction and choose your next move.
In many situations you know well ahead of time what your training partner is planning so your response is proactive and not re-active. In fact...you can start to develop your game entirely around well-timed responses that put you into better position and also use your responses as attacks. For example, I have very few guard passes, but one of my favorites is the old-school stack pass. Often times I will simply wait and bait my partner to go for an armlock or triangle and use this opportunity to secure his collar and go for the stack pass. Do I get caught sometimes? Of course. But it does work very well for me. Being well-developed within the Responsible Level can blend into the next and 3rd level of BJJ, the Creative Level.
On the Creative Level, you are the attacker, you are the person that decides where the game will be played and just how quick the pace and flow will be. You know that term Martial Artist? I believe that's where the "Artist" comes from, the Creative Level.
But the strange thing is though...artist don't sit around talk about art. They talk about work....works of art. It's a creative process. One that requires great effort and patience. One that requires us to chisel away at the non-essentials on a daily basis so we can bring out the beauty that's not hindered and dampened by excessive effort and tension.
Jiu-Jitsu is not something you take...Jiu-Jitsu is something you make!
So get to work Jiu-Jiteiro! Start creating!
When you get a second please check out these awesomely creative Jiu-jiteiros: