Archive for January, 2010

9 core principles of BJJ

January 27, 2010

Tactile Principles:

Sensibility– Body awareness; being relaxed and sensitive to smallest nuances of movement.

Momentum– Re-directing force, using your opponents energy against them.


Mechanical Principles:

Power- Bridging and shrimping with hips, core, and leg muscles to roll opponent and/or create space for frames and leg recovery.

Leverage- Supporting opponents body in space with frames (stiff arms and right angles), and bombarding weak muscles groups with strong ones.

Mobility- Bringing your elbows and knees together to create a cocooned, ball like structure that protects and enables rolling and spinning movements.

Posture- Head square over hips, preferably in a standing position to ensure balanced center of gravity.

Control- All hands on deck; arms, hands, legs, and feet purposely engaged at all times.

Strength- The closer elbows are to core the stronger the structure (applies to pushing and pulling in a straight line as well).

Domination- Breaking mobile structures down with flattening and elongating dynamics


Instructing, teaching, and coaching part 3: Coaching

January 19, 2010

So what does coaching imply, and why would a coach refer to themselves as a teacher?

The answer as it turns out is pretty simple:

Coaching implies goals.  In formal athletic settings from high school to the pros,  goals are implicit.  Wise coaches in these contexts focus the bulk of their energy on relationship building, developing and refining technique, as well as attribute assessment.  In other words, teaching and instruction!

Motivation and leadership (coaching skills) are still obviously going to play a crucial role, but it will be within the context of an organized team arranged for a purpose.  An individual off the street signing up for martial arts lessons is a completely different story.

Since the latter is what we are dealing with in a BJJ school, lets take a more personal look into coaching and see if we can apply in an individual context.

First, lets take a deeper look at goals and what they are designed to do…


“There is nowhere to get your just here.” -Michael Neill



I think the biggest mistake one can make in this area is placing a goal outside oneself as something to be reached.  What I learned from author Michael Neill is the only real purpose of a goal is to inspire you in the present, it isn’t to get there.  Although this is a subtle point, the genius of it is it goes around the traditional means of measuring ones self-worth against how well your doing in relationship to a goal.


“Follow the grain in your own wood.” -Howard Thurman


The second half of the equation are the goals themselves.  The important distinction here is are the goals exciting or inspiring?  Exciting goals are most likely viewed externally and sound pleasurable to acheive, but probably aren’t deeply personal.  Inspiring goals on the other hand draw on and draw out unique talents and gifts, and are grounded in the feeling of coming home.  Motivation here pretty much takes care of itself because your doing what you would have been doing all along if you hadn’t been ignoring yourself!

In recap, teaching as we’ve defined in preceding post is relationship oriented and grounded in rapport.  Instructing is technique oriented and grounded in principles.  Lastly, coaching is goal oriented and grounded in individual or collective inspiration.

Instructing, teaching, and coaching part 2: Teaching

January 17, 2010

“You haven’t taught until they’ve learned” -John Wooden


What I love about the above quote is it places the responsibility of students grasping information and skills on the teacher in a tangible fashion.

In a perfect world everyone understands principles and their applications at face value.  The reality is no two people process and internalize information the same way.


“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” -Ignacio Estrada


Although I’m not a big fan of classification by personality types, it can be useful to label the continuum of different mindsets people gravitate to in different contexts.  Common examples of these are ‘introverts vs extroverts,’ ‘doers vs. thinkers,’ ‘conceptual vs. detailed,’ ’emotional vs. logical,’ and ‘visual vs. kinesthetic.’

Athletically you have all sorts of attributes as well like speed, strength, body type, endurance, power, quickness, timing, and coordination.

Traditionally, teachers enlist methods (explaining, demonstrating, questioning, modeling, etc.) that ideally best fit an individuals way of learning relative to subject.  Mental and physical strengths are brought into the light of awareness, reinforced, and nutured as this process evolves.


“A guru gives us himself and then his system; a teacher gives us his subject, and then ourselves” -Adam Gopnik



In the same way the principles reperesent the deeper level structure of technique, I would say effective application of teaching methods are a result of student/teacher rapport.  Without connection and a level of affinity, strengths aren’t nearly as likely brought to the surface.

It could be argued that a skill base in methodologies comes first, and while I think a great teacher is always learning in this regard, without connection one is essentially guessing how best to reach a student.

So as we’ve defined it, percise application of teaching methods flow out of rapport in the same way techniques originate from principles.

Lastly, in reference to the beginning of the post, teaching must be measurable.  Since rapport in of itself cannot be measured directly, it’s vital for the sake of integrity to test it’s validity through comprehension.  If it can be demonstrated that material has been learned, then by definition it was taught!

So far we’ve defined teaching as a relationship based skill, and instructing as knowleged based.  Where does coaching fit in, and what is it based on?

To be continued…

Instructing, teaching, and coaching part 1: Instructing

January 16, 2010

“Reason does not work instinctively, but requires trial, practice, and instruction in order to gradually progress from one level of insight to another.” -Immanuel Kant


Simultaneously stepping into a student role while taking a break from coaching over the past couple of years has inspired giving further thought to distinctions between instructing, teaching, and coaching.

Probably the first thing that caused reflection on this subject was UCLA’s coaching legend John Wooden insistence on referring to himself as a teacher.  Lehigh University and Olympic wrestling coach Greg Strobel ( refers to himself in the same manner as a teacher and educator.  So why would two great coaching minds be clear about making such a distinction, and is teaching in a athletic context a seperate skill from coaching and instructing?

First, let’s re-examine, and take a look at the role of instructing: 

The first thing I think about in terms of instructing are ‘specifics,’ followed by ‘technique.’  For me,  instruction at the level of specifics are exemplified by:  Foot goes there, left arm goes, etc.  Jiu-Jitsu is a game of percision and inches.


“Every field of study looks for deeper underlying principles.  Discovery of deeper principles makes that field simpler because more of the events or things being studied can be explained with a common, overarching logic” -Roger Mills



 Going deeper, from specifics to technique, Jiu-Jitsu is based on manipulating the body through principles based on bio-mechanics.  Techniques are applications of these principles.  A common example is the principle of leverage where control of the head gives you body control (or more accurately spinal control).  A technical application of this principle in grappling would what is commonly known as the cross-face:

So in terms of Jiu-Jitsu, principles are infallible to the degree they make use of  the mechanics allowing a human to function dynamically.  Instruction as I’ve defined it is clear to the point that it is specific in terms of technical details, and logically makes use of mechanical/tactile principles.

So where does teaching fit in, and is it a different skill than coaching?

To be continued…