Archive for the ‘Coaching, teaching, instruction’ Category

Favorite Coach K ideas

September 9, 2011

I listened to the above book last week, by Duke University’s long-time head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Two of my favorite ideas were as follows:

Play for innocence– Forget outside ideas of success.  Play for the reasons you fell in love with the sport.  This is the only guide that matters.

Respect is time you give to some one or something– What I love about this idea it makes the idea of respect simple and tangible.  Undivided attention speaks for itself.


More on fishing and principles

August 21, 2011

As stated in frozen food two posts below, there’s a big difference between demonstrating catching trout and teaching the principles of fishing.

I wanted to add that understanding principles of fishing doesn’t automatically make you an expert ocean salmon fisherman either.

What a principle based approach does offer are frameworks for asking the right questions.  ‘Right’ in this context meaning questions that get you to the heart of  the essentials effectively. 

This is where the journey to mastery starts, because if you don’t have a grasp on core essentials you’re most likely spinning wheels:


A field of study

August 17, 2011

My coach and I were talking today about a very good brown belt he’s currently given privates to.

Having known this brown belt many years prior I was curious as to what his strengths and weaknesses were.  Eric replied that he knew a lot already, so the main focus has been shifting his approach to thinking about BJJ as a whole.

In other words, what’s the big picture?  What’s the essence of a position?  What are the core principles, and mechanics that make things work?

What really got me thinking further, was Eric mentioning how much time a student can waste by not training intentionally…

The realization that mugged is that essentially BJJ is a field of study just like Language, Math, and Science…

This may seem like common sense, but the truth is a lot of time we focus on getting the one-up on our peers, promotions, who tapped who, tournament outcomes, who has the best academy, best coach, and other prom dress related subject matter.

All those things are fine up to a point, but none of them have to do with effective, thoughtful, and progressive study.

I told my buddy Garrett today that I expect 20 hours of research to find that one tiny, basic detail that makes a world of difference, often sifting through the same footage over and over.  This is the caddyshack par for the course.


Leverage and fishing

August 16, 2011

Reading what a friend had written yesterday about what he’d learned so far from cross-side bottom made me think of the teaching some one how to fish metaphor…

Teaching a position without explaining the leverage of it and how it’s created is akin to showing some one your set up for trout fishing without explaining you might need a different pole, bait, strategy, and attitude for salmon fishing.

Leverage is the entire point of Jiu-Jitsu.  Effective BJJ positions exist when the structure makes good use of leverage. 

It’s not about some isolated scenario you do your best to mimic. 

Trying to learn Jiu-Jitsu this way, you might as well be fishing with a hook and reel in the frozen food section



Competition vs. Foundation

August 12, 2011

Talking about teaching philosophy with a friend over the past year, it seems somewhere along the line he interpreted my approach as non-competitive.

The truth is I want very proficient, technical BJJ practitioners, with a focus on long-term effectiveness.

What I’m not concerned with, is how well a student with 1-2 years of experience matches up with other relative beginners.

A beginner for example, who has spent the bulk of his time mastering entries for the d’arce choke is probably going to work a student who’s spent the same amount of time learning basic escapes, positions, transitions, and submissions.

The thing is, this d’arce by definition is a trick because it doesn’t have any supportive depth.  It’s like dry rot covered with fancy paint.

On the other hand, if you plug-in a d’arce choke to a solid, basic game built over time, you have the beginnings of what could be a masterpiece.

The same goes for sparring too.  If early on, I spend the bulk of time teaching you how to drill and isolate properly instead of full-blown sparring, you’re probably going to get run over by heavily sparred students with equal mat time because you have less experience transitioning. 

The problem is, those transitions are likely attribute based. 

The point of good drilling is to go slow and be technical enough to prevent holes from happening.  The slower you go, the less chance you’ll have to go back and fix things later.

Levels of competency

August 8, 2011

Here’s a BJJ take on skill-level influenced by Noel Bruch’s stages of learning:  unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence.


Exposure- You’ve seen a position before, likely recognizing it if you saw it again.

Familiarity You generally find the position sparring people unfamiliar with it.

Expertise- You’ve drilled, isolated, and repped a position to the point where you find it on 95% of the people you grapple.  They are most likely familiar with the position, but you’ve put more time in than they’ve spent practicing the  defense.

Mastery– The position is part of your soul.  You don’t have to think about it.  Black belts know it’s coming and still can’t stop it.


Foundation, basics, and curriculum

August 2, 2011

What does ‘foundation,’ or ‘basic technique’ really mean?

From a teaching standpoint, one thing I don’t hear a lot of, is presenting information that builds on previous lessons in a progressive, organized fashion.  The culmination of which represents a curriculum.

The better the curriculum, the less likely a student will feel like they’re fumbling in the dark, trying to piece things together.

So, ‘basics’ as I’ve defined them here, are movements, positions, and ideas one can effectively build on.

Taking the above into consideration, 9 times out of 10, the less you cram in, the better the lesson is. 

Remember, you’re not just teaching how to catch fish, but to catch fish more and more effectively over time.  This isn’t going to be achieved in one lesson, or possibly even a lifetime, so relax and enjoy yourself.

Winners and Losers

July 17, 2011

I read an interview about a week ago with a well known BJJ coach who said he felt 97% of people out in the world are ‘losers,’ and 3% or ‘winners.’

To give this statement some context I believe he is talking about finishing what you set out to do, and following through with your goals. 

My spin on this is people aren’t losers so much as lost in the lights of Vegas.  I think it’s hard to go anywhere over a length of time, if what you set out to achieve doesn’t resonate on a personal level.  Which is to say, inspiring.

Do we really need motivation do things we feel like we were born to do?  Heck, if I had to motivate myself in order to write this blog post I’d likely be tuckered out before I started writing.  And while it might feel good in the moment to finish a post, I don’t believe doing so makes me a better or worse person. 

The question is, am I doing something that resonates? 

There is one person who can answer that. 

Maybe the biggest cosmic joke in the world is people seeking Gurus to find the person reflected back at them in the mirror everyday.

Are people stupid?

May 13, 2011

The most fundamental and brilliant psychological principle I’ve heard to date comes from the noted family therapist Virginia Satir.  It’s stated as follows:

‘The strongest human instinct is to do what’s familiar.’

I think this is huge concept for a teacher to understand.  That people behave in counter-productive ways not because they are stupid, but out of habit because they are human.

This is real world compassion.

This leads into another awesome quote/passage I read this morning from the ‘Tao of Leadership’ by John Heider:

‘To know how other people behave takes intelligence, but to know myself takes wisdom.  To manage other people’s lives takes strength, but to manage my own life takes true power.’

Passion, planning, and organization

April 27, 2011

John Wooden was famous for spending 2 hours with assistant coaches planning 90 minute practices.  These practices were designed meticulously down to the minute with team managers given 3×5 cards of what they needed to be doing and where they needed to be at a given point in time.

Wooden made it clear to his staff that these planning sessions were not to be interrupted except in an emergency basis.

People who attended these practices (most were closed) likened them to a symphony orchestra with Wooden the conductor.

My thought today is the look on Wooden’s face if you told him you loved BJJ, before proceeding to tell him you usually practice whatever comes to mind on a given day.

Impulsiveness and intentionality are opposite ends of a spectrum.