I remember when I first started Jiu Jitsu. "YouTube" learners were always laughed upon by coaches and other Grapplers. You would see a student come in with some fancy new 87 step technique, that he saw online. And he would sit there scratching his or her head when it come to applying it live.
Truth is probably 80% of the techniques we now see on YouTube are junk! Not in the sense that they don't work! But in the sense that they are over complicated solutions to a problem that could be solved with something much more simple. Problem is these days, people don't want to watch simplicity because it looks "boring" or "old school". They want to see some flashy triple roll to the back from "crutch guard", that finishes with three arm bars and a modified no arm guillotine. Not to mention it's usually demonstrated by a guy who gets defeated in the first round at every competition. It's insane!
Now with all the hype being about submission only competitions, there is little emphasis based on controlling your opponent. The Grapplers that are made famous have "nice looking flashy subs", but very little understanding of control. In a tournament they may submit a lower ranked competitor that really shouldn't be in there for starters. But never against a equally skilled opponent. You will also see them get passed 30 times in a match, defend submissions (which is quite easy when there are no points, due to there being no emphasis on positional control). Then they reach the overtime round and win with the fastest escape!
Now I'm not here to bitch and complain about submission only comps. That's for another thread! I'm here to tell you "yes you can learn, and learn very well, from YouTube". You just need to know where to look! And I'm telling you now. It's not in these viral 37 step moves you're seeing people's jaws drop over now.
If you want to improve your jiu jitsu with YouTube, you have to learn how to watch live matches or rolls. That's where the gold is, but it's hard to see. Sometimes it'll go right over your head. But! As a human we have a very helpful biological tool called the subconscious brain. Even when you're watching something, but can't quite grasp it, or remember what actually happened, the subconscious part of your brain does! It remembers everything. It actually takes in around 1 million bits of information per second.
Only draw back is we don't know yet how to unlock this information at will. But what we do know is that it naturally comes out in certain environments. for example, I remember one time watching this kid roll in a comp and it was the first time I'd seen someone use a guard like Michael Langis, where his opponent would reach under both of his legs in an attempt to stack pass him. But Michael would sit very comfortable in this position, recovering or even attacking from there. After watching the match it was on my mind. I had no idea what he was doing, but I really wanted to know. Next day at training I started playing guard. And suddenly there I was in the same position as the kid in the video. I was somehow feeling comfortable for the first time there and had answers as well.
Was this a coincidence? Or did my brain record and absorb something that I didn't consciously notice? It doesn't matter. My guard improved in that position substantially. So this began my journey of "you tube" learning. I started watching all my favourite players and in a way, observing their games. Or parts of it!
As a big advocate of specific training and live sparring, I dislike drilling techniques. If you follow any of my stuff you will know why. If not, in basic, it's because the more you drill a technique or pattern the more glued you become to that movement. It's making you rigid and predictable. To move away from drilling is like removing the roads on a map. It's scary at first but eventually you will realise that you can now go anywhere you want! Yes there are holes and big rocks in the ground, but you will eventually identify them and thrive in the freedom and uncountable possibilities that exist in Jiu Jitsu.
So step 1)
Identify what it is you want or need to work on in your game!
Find someone who has those attributes you desire.
Watch them for at least 20 minutes a day.
Put yourself in the positions you watched and let your subconscious bring forth all in which you didn't even know you learned!
Hopefully this helps you! And if it did, and you want to learn more, check out some of my products. I highly recommend my product "the art of learning jiu jitsu" as it covers many topics similar to this.