Artistic Expression


Jahred Dell []

There is a certain joy to being able to express oneself through an art form. Through any medium, there is an extent to which the practitioner can create something unique, develop their own style or approach. The martial arts allow for this too.

Because of the highly personal nature of something like grappling, it only seems to make sense that the practitioners personality would influence the way they express the art. We see everything from intense, aggressive styles to those who are steady, methodical and measured. All practitioners will express the art differently as we all have different ideas and understandings of what it means to us. 

Because any art has the space to be interpreted differently, it leaves the door wide open for freedom of expression. A martial art, despite having many non-negotiable principles that underpin it, is not a science. The ‘art’ in martial art tells us that this is a subjective thing, not something that can be measured objectively purely through numbers, statistics or logic. There are nuances and traits within any martial art that separate it from science, because it is subjective there is often no ‘wrong’ answer. This is where interpretation and expression step in.

One might argue that the more experience and mastery a person has of their art, the greater their ability to express themselves through it. When you watch a high level black belt for example, you see a level of expression only enable by years of training and ability. The main concern for a beginner is to learn the movements, techniques and building blocks so that expression may follow.

Once we had a particularly uncoordinated (yet extremely arrogant) beginner drop in to an advanced class. The instructor was showing some crucial details for a technical side control escape, a technique the beginner believed he did not need to know. “Ah I have my own way of getting out of here.” he said as the instructor came around during drilling. He then proceeded to demonstrate his technique, which was essentially a mess of panting, uncoordinated movement with little to no success at all. The point here? Firstly, don’t be that guy. Secondly, before I can create an amazing painting, I first have to know how to hold the paint brush. Our friend from this story still can’t hold the paintbrush correctly because of his mindset. Multiple gyms & failed attempts to validate his ego later, he has yet to realize that his interpretation of the art needs revision.

There is so much to explore within this topic, that it starts to become a little unwieldy. The Arts as a whole allow for nearly endless expression and this includes the martial arts. There is a level of fulfillment and satisfaction in being able to express yourself that we tap into every time we train, for that I feel extremely fortunate to step on the mats every day.

Thanks for reading.


Jahred Dell is a 27 year old Kiwi/ South African. He has worked as a freelance sports journalist, is a published poet and is currently a practicing High School Teacher. Jahred also runs a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blog called Articulate BJJ which he began in 2017.



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