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You might have heard this quote before:

“The best swordsman does not fear the second best. He fears the worst since there’s no telling what that idiot is going to do.”

Many attribute the quote to Mark Twain, but it was actually a summation of something Twain wrote in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, 1889, which was:

“But don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do: and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”

I think about that quote a lot, mainly because I spend a lot of my time sparring with people in jiujitsu who range vastly in skill level. And the reason I think about that quote a lot is because it’s true.

When I’m rolling with a higher belt in jiujitsu, my best jiujitsu comes out – I can pull off things – clever, complicated things – I can’t do with beginners because the more experienced person is reacting correctly for a jiujitsu person. However, when you roll with a beginner even they have no idea what they are going to do next, so you are constantly stuck in this awkward stop/start phrasing of movement where you have to be constantly on guard for the unexpected because the risk of injury is real. But rolling with beginners also reaffirms another maxim for me – often you don’t need complicated jiujitsu, you just need to do the simple thing well.

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