Archive for the ‘Effective practice’ Category

Re-inventing the wheel?

October 16, 2011

I recently received an email adverstising a soon to be released DVD set.

The theme behind this set is techniques for ‘defeating larger, stronger opponents.’  There are a few other products designed for older grapplers that fall into this category too.

I’m thinking to myself, this is like an offensive football instructional advertising plays to set up and score touchdowns… 

Is there Jiu-Jitsu out there not geared for the small, old, and weak?  While probably 99.8% unintentional (these products aren’t free), I think things like this come from BJJ not being very competitive as a whole compared to other domains like chess where fundamentals are well established, and people know how to practice.

Even the most innovative football or chess coaches rarely come up with something new.  Rather, only after thousands of hours of intensive fundamental and foundational training do they combine old elements in new and inventive ways.  Rickson for example, cites his BJJ as essentially Helio’s Jiu-Jitsu philosiphy and techniques adapted to himself. 

In terms of practice, re-discovering chess when there are well established grandmasters and probably thousands of tried and true resources available is the training equivalent of a civil war re-enactment.  It’s fine so long as you don’t mistake the re-enactment for actual productive action taking place in a live combat situation.

And if you stumble across something new and novel that’s completely cool, but like BJJ fundamentals, a position is only as good as its effectiveness in carrying out a prescribed intention. 

From this perspective, a move an instructor spoon feeds a student step by tedious step isn’t better than something ‘discovered.’  Rather it’s about how effectively it gets the job done.

Related Rickson Gracie interview:


Study, Drilling, and Sparring phases

October 14, 2011

This is somewhat of a re-edit of the ‘Class vs. Practice vs. Sparring’ post.

Let me know what you guys think about the langauge change.

The idea is the same, but I would say study, drilling, and sparring fall under the umbrella of ‘practice,’ with ‘success’ gauged by how much better you get each practice.

Something Eric and I talked about last week is under the above paradigm, it’s crucial to be just as attentive on the feeding end of drilling as the recieving.  To get the most out of practice you have to be there for everyone on the floor.  One person can diminish the quality of a session.

As in the strategy post below, I believe once you get the idea of effective practice idea humming, accurate identification of when to drill, research, or do timed rounds will fall into place. 

The sky is the limit if you show up to get  better in a planned, strategic fashion.


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.


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.

The most important aspect of drilling

July 28, 2011

The key factor in drilling is being successful. 

My two favorite quotes here are:


“Practice does not make perfect.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.” ~Vince Lombardi


“Go so slow you can’t screw up.” ~Ryron Gracie


Where people stumble is rushing through technique so fast they miss 50-75% of the details, and/or adding resistance A.S.A.P.

How can you implement something you never took the time to learn in the first place?  From a technical perspective, your doubling and tripling the practice time it takes to master a give position.

Part of this behavior probably comes from the ‘if you’re not struggling, you’re not getting anywhere,’ mindset.

Thank goodness drama flavored smoothies are optional. =)

Train technical, be successful.

Question #3: Organizing time

July 6, 2011

If you had 10hrs to train a week, what do you think would be the best way to organize it for learning speed of the average person (obviously all are different)?

Numero uno is figuring out the general direction you want to head in.  In other words, what specifically inspires you?

The flock thing to do is being pulled in the random direction your thoughts, other people, and all other outside influences in the moment.

Once you have this figured out, or rather allowed space for it, 90% of your work is done.  Congratulations Francis, your officially living on purpose!

The trinity of training is class/research, drilling/refining,  and sparring/testing.  Again here, half the battle is being aware of these things fit, influence, and blend with one another.

I’d slap a twenty on 85% of BJJers neglecting one, and often two of these areas in favor of another.

As far as how much time should be spent doing what, I think that is always in a state of flux based on your needs, current lifestyle, and grappling evolution.

Beginners for example should demonstrate enough discipline to drill cooperatively and technically before they have any business sparring.  So, for them it’s going to be heavy helpings of class and drilling.  Mastery doesn’t happen overnight, so why the rush to test techniques and positions they’re barely familiar with?

For pure, optimal, performance I’d take a look at how professional athletes spend their time.

I’d be super curious to hear the ratio of sparring/drilling/research Freddy Roach and Manny Pacquiao do, and how that has evolved over time.   There is a ton of money resting on the effectiveness of this training, so if there is a magic pill that would help joe grappler learn quicker, I’m sure they’re taking it.  Yes, Pacman and Roach are doing more training, but the average athlete can still use this information in terms of percentage breakdowns.

My final thought is, getting the most out of practice is a never-ending learning process.  Be wary of a coach that has all the answers.  Closed practices exist for a reason. =)

Question #1: Generating Momentum

June 24, 2011

1.  Top level people seem to generate momentum from virtually no wind-up.  How?  Is this attribute trainable or does it just come from experience?

I believe everything is trainable.  This may or may not be true, but at least I’m giving myself a chance at finding an answer. ;o)

The key to carving away at more efficient movement is gaining an intuitive understanding of timing, mechanics, and momentum through repetition, repetition, and more repetition.

Marcelo Garcia does two passes 90% of the time.  Each of these passes being a little different because every energy is unique.  Garcia uses the term ‘muscle memory,’ and says he doesn’t think consciously while rolling.  It’s reaction and feel. 

So yes it’s experience, but experience developed through a conscious focus on few things, not twenty.   

Application wise, you have to get a training partner and drill a specific scenario, preferably a high percentage one, or put yourself there during sparring over and over against a lesser skilled opponent. 

You can’t of course competitively focus spar against higher or evenly skilled training partners’s because you won’t get the reps in, and are not as likely to be relaxed.

This is the practice aspect of training.  I’ll write more on this later, but one can’t realistically refine anything if all one does is come to class before sparring at random.  Sparring in a purely competitive roll context tests practice effectiveness, while class is for learning and reviewing material for later practice.

Details and inches: Video of Marcelo breaking down a signature move

June 10, 2011

Outside the north-south choke so much of what I try to get across in this blog is demonstrated here:

Kesting spent 4-5 years experimenting with this choke, likewise his questions are brilliant.  Based on my experience a lot of people don’t have any questions entering a private (never mind good ones), or worse yet want me to calibrate where they are belt wise.

Marcelo is on the mat 3-4 a day, so 5 years of him working this choke is equivalent to the 15-20 years the average 3-4x a week grappler puts in.  Based Kesting and Garcia’s time invested this 10 minutes of FREE info is worth hundreds of dollars yet people commented on the poor audio.  Like Danaher wrote below: ‘Many will look, but few will see.’ ;o)

I didn’t necessarily like Kesting’s question about body types as 95% of the time this is an excuse not to even try.  Marcelo alluded to this as well.  You can make almost anything work if your willing to give it time, though, and practice.  To me genius isn’t about what you think, but how you think.

Shortcuts and quality

May 31, 2011

Refined, intricate, highly detailed quality takes thousands of hours of study, research, drilling, testing, and re-testing.

Looking for a shortcut is a fast trip away from the above mindset.

While shortcuts can help you feign knowing something well enough to get through lots of things (and possibly impress the un-knowledgable), you are an open book to individuals who have put the hours in.

How slow can you go…

May 6, 2011

The thing with all the tiny details that combine to make up perfect technique is if you’re not tediously training them now you’re going to have to come back and fix them later. 

Well, either that or your going to hit a brick wall at some point without understanding why (you were too busy looking for something new instead of patiently taking the time to refine what you already know).

Everyday I see more and more the wisdom of ‘everything you really need to know you learn at blue belt.’

Going back to slowing down, I’ve heard Ryron Gracie talk about this principle, and it’s a huge principle in card magic too:

You never ever, ever practice for speed.  Speed and timing comes from controlled and patient practice.

Ryron makes this practical by stating you want to go so slow that it’s impossible to screw up.

The adage is perfect practice makes perfect.

I see this type of technique training in every sport at high levels.  In fact Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the NBA, wasn’t allowed by his mentor to play pick-up basketball in middle and high school for fear of picking up bad habits (Durant’s long-term goal of course playing at a high-level NBA caliber).