15 years ago, in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen coined the phrase, “Disruptive innovation.” He applied this term to the worlds of business and technology to describe how newer, “better” ways of doing things will upset existing methods and eventually overcome them.
Disruptive innovation explains how steamships disrupted sailing ships, cars disrupted railways, personal computers disrupted word processors, Wikipedia disrupted encyclopedias, digital photography disrupted film, cell phones disrupted public pay phones, and so on. Christensen writes, “Start-ups often provide disruptive innovation and readily eat into the market share of older value networks.”
In the worlds of business and technology, disruption is one of the natural keys to invention and success.
How does this apply to Jiu Jitsu?
The story of Jiu Jitsu is the story of disruptive innovation. Back in 1993, at UFC 1, Gracie Jiu Jitsu disrupted many people’s ideas about what a real fight between highly trained martial artists would look like. The training methods and theoretical insights of Jiu Jitsu forever altered the martial arts landscape.
On a technical level, Jiu Jitsu is ever evolving. For example, Spider Guard, De La Riva, Rubber Guard, X Guard, Tornado Guard, Inverted Guards, Berimbolo, etc. – all provided disruptive innovations to the basic Closed Guard.
When innovative grappling techniques are proven to be effective at the highest levels – they attract our attention. The combination of newness with craftsmanship often leaves us intrigued, puzzled, amused and motivated. It reminds us that there are always exciting new worlds to explore or rediscover.
“Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.” – Albert Einstein
Disruptive Jiu Jitsu.
Most of us will probably not disrupt the game of Jiu Jitsu in any major way. We probably won’t be responsible for developing new techniques that disrupt the standard norms and are proven effective at the highest levels – but we can disrupt our personal Jiu Jitsu.
When we disrupt our game, we disrupt the games of others. By disrupting the expectations of our regular training partners – we are helping them to improve. This is how we all can contribute to Jiu Jitsu, even if it’s in a very small way.
Yet, many of us fall back on non-disruptive Jiu Jitsu that thrives on the comforting repetition of the forms and sentiments we are most familiar with. What if, on some occasions, we made a concerted effort to choose the unknown over the known?
By trying something we normally never do, we may add a new dimension to our game. Taking an experimental, investigative and exploratory approach to Jiu Jitsu can be very beneficial.
“Breaking an old model is always going to require leaders to follow their instincts. There will always be persuasive reasons not to take a risk. But if you only do what worked in the past, you will wake up one day and find that you’ve been passed by.” – Clayton M Christensen
Is all disruptive Jiu Jitsu an improvement?
Of course solid fundamentals are of primary importance – there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The right amount of disruption is healthy, but too much is detrimental.
Innovation often comes at a cost. An article today in the nytimes reported the harmful effects that chemicals are having on our environment.
Are there parallels to this in the world of Jiu Jitsu? Have we had any disruptive innovations that actually may not be good in the long term? Likewise, have we lost anything of value from the past?
Disruptive innovation is a quintessential component and at the very heart of Jiu Jitsu. As Jiu Jitsu evolves we have to evolve with it. In order for us to grow we have to try new things. Just as we update our mobile devices, we have to update our Jiu Jitsu.
By adopting an adventurous and investigative mindset, we can assess our current approach and ask a few questions: How can my techniques be made more effective? Can I be more imaginative? What am I missing and where have I become complacent? What can I do that might be different from what I’ve previously seen or done? Innovative, creative and effective grappling techniques are always in vogue.
The popularity of these videos indicates the delight we find in innovation. It is also an interesting phenomenon that “how” a person wins is often more important than “who” won.
What do you think…? Is it necessary to constantly upgrade your Jiu Jitsu technology? Do you try to explore every disruptive innovation that comes along, or is better to just stick to the basics?
“Technical skills can be learned by almost anyone who has the determination to pursue it, but innovative ideas and the ability to express them come from some place beyond the material world.” – Carole Ann Borges