Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not have a very uniform or codified method of presenting information. Classically it is taught as a collection of positions and moves. The moves are essentially pathways from one position to the next. One thing that jumps out at students soon after they begin training is that the names are not universally agreed upon and there can be great variance in what elements constitute each move or position. For instance; “what is proper side control?”
This presents a few basic problems for the new student trying to study outside of class. At Praxis I present the material in what I feel is the best format and progression for students, however beyond the few videos we have put up there are not many resources to help you study. The next logical step for a student is to google/youtube what we are working on, but what you generally find is someone else's take on how they think Jiu Jitsu should be presented. This doesn’t help you, the student, advance your understanding very effectively.
While the lack of concise common terminology may seem a little frustrating at first you will hopefully soon learn that this is actually: 1) a method of conveying a large amount of information in short amount of time, and 2) a fantastic system of preserving the integrity of what is essentially an art form that is passed from person to person through hands on training.
What does that mean? Well:
If I need to instruct a competitor I can say, “don’t allow his grips, he is looking for the pull. You’re going to pass off the pull and look for Joe's favorite finish. Do you see it?” With a nod from the competitor I know that he received the information and his opponent only got a piece of it. The opponent is now thinking about many things; he knows I’m looking to pull, should I still try it? Can I take him down? Can he take me down? What is Joe's favorite attack? He thinks he can pass my guard?”
Preserve the integrity of the art: The only way the student and teacher can share that dialogue is because they spent hours together on the mat. The more both participants respect that, the more both participants will get out of it. This is contrary to the forage and store method of knowledge acquisition common place today. This is experiential learning. We are sharing the workload of you finding your game. We discover what is working for you and what isn’t. It is a process, not a download. Terminology, while helpful to a point, quickly becomes a game of syntax and semantics that doesn’t influence your Jiu Jitsu much at all.
Make the jiu jitsu fit you, not you fit the jiu jitsu.
This is a classic quote from Jiu Jitsu and it highlights the living animate nature of our art. One example of leverage in the inanimate world is tools. If I ask you to hand me a wrench, but give you no other information, then I am not much closer to getting a wrench. You might ask me what size? What is it for? Is it a wrench with a locking mechanism? Will pliers work?
If on the the other hand I say pass my guard to an experienced Jiu JItsu player, they can immediately get to work. The experienced player knows how they like to pass. They can see the guard I am trying to set up. The can immediately understand the task at hand and begin to employ a strategy to accomplish it. It’s not a novel concept.
Those few words represent a large volume of work. The volume of work is a shared labor. The reason you know, (or will learn), how to pass the guard is that you work diligently with your teammates to find what does and does not work FOR YOU. The volume of work is what allows us to maintain the empirical nature of Jiu Jitsu. For example, you passed their guard, awesome - do it again, then again, then again. Can you pass using one hand? How about no hands. Can you pass only to the left? Can you pass without standing? We aren’t training so we can get lucky once, repeatable skill on demand is the goal.
One trait that I hope you have seen in our classes is that I try to arrange the material and training in a manner that forces you to try and solve problems. I want you a little frustrated and confused in class. The reason for this is that I want you to actually learn the material and not memorize the answers. I want you to have a working knowledge and skill with Jiu Jitsu, not a faint recollection of someone else’s understanding of Jiu Jitsu.
If you meet Buddha on the road
It is common for some students to make little progress because they have the wrong frame for learning. I believe this is often the result of an unintentionally self-limiting search for the highest authority they can find, and then an alignment with what that person teaches. One of the greatest gifts Jiu Jitsu offers is its ability to help you understand how you personally approach and solve problems, and then improve that process. For me as a teacher to insist that you solve the problem my way would be for me to limit your growth and potential to only the solutions that have worked for me.
You need a teacher's guidance and support, particularly at the beginning. My goal is to help you find your style, not mine. I can’t teach you to swim. I can show you how I swim, I can talk about what it is that makes me swim, I can break down the individual movements of swimming. I can teach you how to drill them so that you use the correct movement at the correct time. In the end though, you teach yourself to swim. It is important to grasp this concept early because for the big tests in life, you are accountable for you. You cannot send your teacher in to pinch hit for you.
Fortunately this process doesn’t have to be daunting and unmanageable, you just have to learn how to consistently take small steps in the right direction, work diligently, and be patient with yourself and others. We are all working towards a personal version of our own best skill and ability at Jiu Jitsu.
There is no learning going on when everything from raw data to problem set up and answer are given to you prior to sufficiently working with the problem. Working with the problem not only helps you solve it, but develops your ability to rapidly recognize similar problems when they pop up in the future. The way we really understand the relationship between variables in a problem is to fuss with them bit. Answers obtained without struggle are not owned, they are memorized. Beyond that they are other people's conclusions. Our goal here isn’t to indoctrinate you with our conclusions, it is to give you enough of a hands on knowledge of the basics that you can work with the material and truly master it.
The curriculum builds upon itself, so it is assumed that students in the fundamentals course have a firm enough grasp of the intro curriculum that they could help intro students drill the material without much prompting from the instructor. If you wish to advance through the program levels faster you should try to own the curriculum of the program you currently are in, not learn the material of the course you are trying to get into. Advancing from one course level to the next program requires one of two things: 1) I ask you to advance levels and you accept, or 2) you ask to advance and I give an ok.
The course progression is essentially self paced. You do not need to master all the material in one course level before progressing to the next, however you should be at a point that you are helping other students understand the material in the course you wish to advance out of much much more than you are receiving help.
I like students to be appropriately engaged in the material. Generally speaking, little productive learning occurs when you are bored out of your mind or scared to death. This is why I try to keep students a little frustrated/focused/diligently working and not fighting for your life. Once the drills and contests common to the course are failing to keep you frustrated or confused then you are getting closer to advancing to the next class. This also means that as you are less frustrated with the material you should be able to work with it more intently and deliberately. This will greatly accelerate your progress.
You’ll hear myself and the other instructors say this often, but beating the hell out of all the other students doesn’t move you up to the next course faster. We are here to help each other get better. If you want to really see how you stack up against peer competition please let me know. We have a path or those who compete and I am happy to introduce you to it.
How long we spend in each focus area will depend upon how everyone is doing with the material. We will cover offense and defense from each position as we study it. I am giving you what I think are the easiest tools to implement that offer the most effectiveness. Each weekly lesson gives you a few more tools to add to your knowledge base. As we move through the curriculum rotation I try to teach to the needs of the students who are currently in the class.
We do not cover all of the material for a position in any one block. For instance during the side control block we may only get to a third of the total material on the curriculum for side control. We try to teach to competence. Students are given enough material that they struggle to grasp it. I try to keep everyone just a little on the confused/struggling side. So when you are in class and feel confused about how the moves work, relax and know that many others do as well. Take your time, work diligently and try to see what works and what does not.
The intro course doesn’t follow the curriculum rotation. It contains a small set of moves that I think all Jiu Jitsu students should not just be familiar with, but actively working towards mastery of. So if you are in the fundamentals class and wondering how to get to the intermediate course turn your focus to mastering the intro curriculum. Your Jiu Jitsu will show much greater gains when you focus on excellence in a small set of moves instead of a cursory knowledge of many.
Less is more. Consistency counts.
There is a time for reflection and a time for resolve. When Liera Jr last visited he was asked about supplemental fitness training. Who remembers his response? He basically said do something for six months to see if it works for you or not. Interested in yoga as a means of recovery, (solid idea), then give it six months to see how your body responds to that.
This concept came up in our last competition camp when studying standup. Some chose to drill fifty different takedowns five times each. Drake however did as asked and drilled a couple of moves about a thousand times each. As a result he got much better at those two takedowns. While he didn’t get the chance to show them this time, his main training partner Nick got about a thousand chances to defend them. This came in handy in that Nick was able to stuff that same takedown when his opponent tried the move in a match.
Those are a couple of the principles of our academy at work. Progress isn’t a plug and play endeavor. I don’t show you a move on Monday and then you are a master on Tuesday. We work together to get a little better. The result of that work is the tide that lifts all of our ships. This is why it is important to not look for the immediate payoff on investment but to keep busy with the boundary of failure and success. That is where the growth comes from. Small consistent steps forward, not giant jumps and then a long pause.
You can apply this right now. Name three things you want to be better at then train those things until you have them down solid.Then find someone struggling with one of those things and help them improve. Your ownership of material solidifies when you help others. The added benefit is that when you are focused on the growth of others your attention is taken off the watched pot that will never boil, your own progress. You will become aware of your own progress when it is there and no sooner. Building up those around you will make that progress a pleasant surprise as opposed to a late bus or uber you impatiently wait for.
If you have questions about any of this, others probably do as well. Email them to me here.
See you on the mat