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5 Questions Every Jiu Jitsu Student Need To Ask Themselves

BY KIT DALE, AUGUST 5, 2014

I think today’s Jiu Jitsiero are too often willing to substitute study with strength training, innovation with imitation, problem solving with repetition drilling and expression with mimicry.

(It’s important to be objective in order to get the most out of this article. Look inside and be honest, then take a look outside the box.)

In the short term the benefits from mimicry, strength and conditioning training, and repetition drilling can be an affective way of learning. World champions have been forged and many championships won utilising this methodology.

But, there are also downfalls.

Ask yourself:

How much does your game rely on conditioning?

Is there a noticeable difference between the fit and unfit version of you?

Is there a difference in your long and short term memory retention?

Do you have a sound understanding of the fundamentals of jiu jitsu, or are you just mimicking and repeating movement patterns?

Is your game a true expression of yourself, or are you just a recreating someone else’s set patterns and routines?

I believe that these questions are of importance.

If you brought me Student A and said,

“Kit, here is a very hard worker. They will listen to every word you say and do everything you ask. They’re strong and athletic, but can’t problem solve their way through a rotating door.”

My recommendation is for them to train 4 sessions a day. Break down each session into 70% high repetition drilling, 15% specific training, 15% sparring.

My opinion is that a focus on concepts and fundamental dynamics of jiu jitsu would only prove to confuse Student A, and could serve as a deterrent. Let’s give this student techniques to drill, the conditioning to push the pace and the mindset to implement. They COULD be the next world champion, but PROBABLY won’t ever be the next world class coach or jiu jitsu philosopher (goals aside).

I would also highly recommend Student A to focus on only a small area of the game and specialise in it. This will give them a positional edge in competition and they will be able to draw people into their area of expertise.

Attempting to learn a wide variety of techniques and positions and become well rounded will only prolong their learning progression. This path is usually an 8 -12 year black belt journey due to high volume of procedural information they will need to absorb, and eventually convert muscle memory.

Ultimately, what we would have is a jiu jitsu specialist. Someone with a very select skill set; a “one strategy fits all” approach.  Forced to impose their will upon their opponents with reckless abandon.

Conversely:

If you brought me Student B and  said,

“Kit, Student B is a highly intelligent. They have huge potential, but they lack enthusiasm. They are lazy and have no focus.”

Under these restraints I would recommend Student B spends as little time drilling and repeating as possible. Only enough to become physically aware of the technical requirements of any given technique. More focus must be exerted on learning the fundamentals and concepts; internalising information to knowledge rather than building muscle memory. From here Student B can apply this knowledge to discover their own style.

As an instructor and/or coach attempting to force a “lazy” person to work hard you run the risk of killing their motivation for training and make it unenjoyable; your student may even quit once the going gets tough.

But, what I am suggesting is that we teach them the strategies, fundamental and concepts in jiu jitsu. Then put them in an environment where they have plenty of rolling time to explore and develop. Ratios as high as 50% specific training, 50% sparring – broken up into four sections with Q and A’s to critically appraise and correct. The outcome is often an enjoyable one and it fosters an environment of growth and development without stagnation; allowing Student B to find a lifelong passion and endeavour.

This is the type of grappler will harbour the potential to take jiu jitsu to another level. Having a deep understanding and fluency in the language of jiu jitsu; being able to translate and teach it to others – conveying their knowledge back to raw information.

I feel this will also aid in extending mat time into their old age. This is because they will have developed a game that does not rely on fitness, strength and conditioning – but on technique, critical-thinking, problem solving and strategy.

I would recommend this type of grappler to study all positions aiming to become proficient and fluent in as many positions as possible.

There is no need to clutter their head and internalise thousands of techniques or drills – rather 30-100 concepts and a sound understanding of the fundamentals. This creates a faster rate of progression. The benefits are usually slow at the start, but growth comes exponentially faster.

The more fundamentals internalised, the more energy they can put into problem solving and innovating – using trial and error to come up with their own identity of jiu jitsu . Their own brand and, most importantly, their own expression of jiu jitsu.

This will usually take 4-8 years from white to black whilst creating a well rounded, creative strategist.

So In the long run, is your style of training consistent with your end goal?

If your only goal in sport is to compete at the highest level and/or win competitions, then use the methods of Student A. But, if you want more out of jiu jitsu – if you want to understand, teach and express yourself honestly through jiu jitsu then you may want to reevaluate the way you train it. My suggestion is to use the strategies of Student B.

Obviously these types of student can and will vary, and i won’t go into deep detail on it. These are just two of my best examples from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Please take a minute to ponder on the questions I pose.

If you want to just be a competitor then I’d probably just move on and pay little attention. But please heed my words if you want to continue rolling, learning and possibly teaching into your old age – leaving not just a legacy of competition behind but teaching and sharing jiu jitsu with the next generation; creating a generation of smart thinkers not just hard workers, creative artists not just imitative artists.

Regards

Kit Dale

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