Pattern Interrupts

Break your opponent out of their pre-programmed responses and behaviors.

Imagine a scenario for me...

You answer your phone, and you're dismayed to realize it's a cold call from some lame telemarketer.  You're annoyed, you get your guard up, and you're ready to hang up...but out of nowhere, the sales rep says something so unusual, and so unexpected, that it completely breaks your rhythm.  He says:

"Hey, I'll be completely transparent with you.  I know you probably hate cold calls, and honestly, I hate doing them too.  I'm really sorry about reaching out to you this way, but it's my job to help people like you save money, and that's why I need to talk with you.  My goal here is to help you shave about 25% off your cell phone bill.  If you can let me know your current cell phone provider, we can probably get it done on this call."

Before you know it, you've been on the phone with the rep for ten minutes while he explains the benefits of the new cellular package he's offering.

What the heck just happened?  You were ready to hang up on this schmuck, and suddenly you're listening to his sales pitch.  How did he do this Jedi mind trick to you?


Introducing pattern interrupts

The above is an example of a powerful psychological tactic called a pattern interrupt.  A pattern interrupt occurs when you break the other person out of their pre-programmed responses and behaviors.

In the phone call example above, the sales rep created a pattern interrupt by saying something totally unexpected and unpredictable.  For most of us, our pre-programmed response to a cold call is to say, "I'm not interested" and hang up.  But through a clever subversion of expectations, the salesperson was able to bypass that patterned behavior, get past the initial "no," and pull you into a conversation.  And as every salesperson knows, the first step is to get the prospect talking.

Pattern interrupts are commonly used in sales, but they're equally applicable in competitive sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Whether you know it or not, your entire Jiu-Jitsu game is built on patterns.  Through endless hours of training, you've ingrained a series of "best practices" into your grappling.  These best practices exist for a reason and are generally good ideas, but like with any pattern, a clever person can interrupt them.

A common Jiu-Jitsu example of a pattern interrupt is: "just stand up."  Many Jiu-Jiteiros get so used to sparring with guard players that they simply expect their opponent to stay on their back.  But if your gameplan focuses on constantly getting back up to your feet, you can really mess with people who came into the fight expecting to focus on guard passing.

Pattern interrupts can be a great strategy for defeating an opponent who is otherwise superior to you.  To paraphrase MMA fighter Phil Davis: sometimes a white belt is the most dangerous person on the mat, because white belts do things the wrong way.  We get so used to training with people who do things "the right way" that if someone breaks all the rules, it can throw us off our game.

So here's a quick actionable tip for you: always be asking yourself, "what does my opponent expect me to do in this situation, and how can I safely deviate from those expectations?"

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