Learning How to Learn – Course Notes and Summary

Learning How to Learn – Course Notes and Summary

Focused vs. Diffused mode.

  • Our brain has two primary modes of learning. Focused and Diffused mode.
  • Focused mode moves through your brains neurological network as if it is following a familiar path. It can move step by step through your mind till you learn the new information.
  • Diffused mode runs through your brain in a more erratic motion. Diffused mode operates as if you need to draw upon many different parts of your brain and existing knowledge to help you understand the new insights.
  • Think of focused mode as like a spotlight with a single sharp focus of light and diffused mode as a floodlight that covers a much larger area.
  • Salvadore Dali had a creative output of surrealist art and talked about his method for thinking about what to paint. He would lie on a chair with a key in his hand and gently start drifting off to sleep while thinking about his desired topic. As he would fall asleep, he would drop the key on the ground, and the noise would wake him. He would then get up and take his gathered thoughts and go paint.
  • The routine Dali practiced was him going from a diffused mode of thinking until he would go and paint at which point he would become focused.
  • Thomas Edison would have a creative output of many rational inventions, but he also spoke about using a similar technique. He would instead hold onto ball bearings. The process was the same for him as he would gather knowledge in a diffused mode then wake and act on it in a focused manner.
  • More information on the hypnagogic nap: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/02/18/hypnagogic-nap/
  • You do have to build a neural scaffold to gather new knowledge and grow your capability to learn. Think of it as similar to weightlifting where you will require daily practice while slowly increasing the weight to build up your mental muscles.



The Brain

  • The brain is the most complex system in the known universe. With far more capability of the worlds fastest computers. But we are not conscious of the way the brain works with most of the heavy lifting taking place in the subconscious. Your brain is active even when resting.
  • An old view of the brain suggested that the patterns of synapses would not change much once the brain matured. But we now know that new synapses can always be formed, and others are lost.
  • Synapses are the 20th the size of a human hair.
  • New synapses formare formed when you sleep, so you wake up with a different brain than when you went to sleep. “Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
    The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
    Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
    Chief nourisher in life’s feast,” – Shakespear
  • Www.brainfacts.org
  • Practice will help strengthen neural connections in the process of learning.
  • Math and science use symbols that have no emotion attached to them and are not analogous to anything in nature so they will need to be practiced more.
  • A thought pattern is when neurons become linked through repeated use. The more abstract the ideas are, the more, you will need to repeat them through practice. Practice makes permanent!
  • When you first understand something, a faint neural pattern is created. But as you practice further you will deepen a neural model.
  • When you are learning, you want to study something intensely and focused and then take a break. During the break, your brain will be in a diffused mode, and your “neural mortar will be able to dry”.  Similar to physical exercise the growth takes place during the rest periods.
  • Scientists believe we have two major memory systems, Long-term memory, and Working Memory, you can bring long-term memories into your working memory so you can think about it.
  • Working memory is the part of memory that controls what you are immediately working on and processing in your mind.
  • Researchers now widely believe working memory only holds four chunks of information. We automatically group information into chunks, so it seems larger that it is. Working memory can be considered like a blackboard.
  • This is why your may repeat a memory to help remember it to stop other items invading the four chunks you have available.
  • Long term memorys are more like a warehouse and are stored in different areas of the brain. The long term memory has room for billions of items.
  • Long term memory is important because it is where you store new techniques you are learning. Everything you learn will first be entered into your working memory and to transfer it to your long-term memory will take time and effort.
  • You can make the transfer with a technique called “Space repetition,” this method involves repeating what you are trying to retain but spacing it out over several days.
  • Research has shown that trying to learn something by repeating it several times in an evening it will not be nearly as efficient as doing it less time but over multiple days. This is the same function as “letting your neural mortar dry”.
  • Simply being awake creates toxic products in your brain, when you sleep your brain cells shrink and decrease the space between your brain cells that allows fluid to flow past and wash these toxins clean. Sleep helps you keep your mind clean and healthy.
  • Sleep helps you think clearly, getting too little sleep makes you do worse on tests and perform poorly and sleep deprivation over a long time causes many health issues.
  • Sleep is essential to the memory and learning process. During sleep your brain tidy up the ideas and concepts, you are learning and erases the less important parts of memory you are trying to remember.
  • Sleep helps reinforce the neural patterns that you are working to develop. It has also been shown to help with deeper problem solving. This diffused mode of problem solving has to be activated by doing focused style learning first.
  • This process allows your brain to go over tougher aspects and talk to all areas of itself to help with problems you are attempting to solve.
  • To help learn you want to surround yourself with a stimulating environment and people, but if you cannot do this, then you can get the same benefit from exercise.
  • Aerobic Exercise for New Brain Cells and Cognitive Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5KVR5wnOqw




  • When you first look at a new concept, it is where you unite scrambled information into one piece through giving it meaning. It is the opposite of mere memorization. By chunking, you can then see how the information relates to other items and subjects.
  • Chunking is like taking many computer files and turning them into a single zip file.
  • The concept of chunks pertain to academic information but is also in sports and music or any other skill that can be learned.
  • Learning a song on a guitar can be considered a large chunk, it involves listening, watching and acting. Grasping a song you may need to break it up into mini chunks of the song and learning certain parts of the song first and then piecing it all together. Piecing all the mini chunks together into a larger chunk is the process of chunking. This process can be applied to sports when learning certain techniques.
  • Building your ability to comprehend an entire chunk can be considered as building your cognitive muscles and load.
  • It is important to look at how individual chunks connect between steps and not entirely on why a particular chunk works.  It is not just memorization of chunks but understanding why and how the chunks can connect.
  • Focused Attention: When you first begin to learn a technique you create new neural patterns that connect with existing neural patterns, This requires your focus so that your brain is not having its attention divided.
  • Understanding: Understanding the information you are attempting to chunk is also crucial, you can focus and use your focused and diffused modes to get the gist or vibe of the idea. You can still create a chunk if you don’t understand but it can often have a problem fitting into other chunks. Also, just because you can grasp an idea does not immediately lead to expertise, a review is still required.
  • Practice: Learning a chunk will also require understanding the context of the chunk, so you know when to use it and when not to use it and how it fits into the bigger picture. Practice will help you broaden the neurons connected to your chunk.
  • Learning takes place in 2 ways, the bottom up chunking process and the top down big picture process. Both of these are critical to gaining mastery.
  • Recall: Simply re-reading knowledge is not as useful as looking away after reading and attempting to see as much as you can recall. Retrieving knowledge is not just a mindless robotic process, but the recall process helps build neural hooks that knowledge is hung upon. Remembering material when you are outside your usual place of study will also help you prepare for taking tests which will be in an unfamiliar room.
  • The illusion of Competence: Merely glancing at a solution and thinking you know it yourself. You have to have the information living in your memory to be able to recall it later. For instance just highlighting text can mislead you into thinking you have learned and stored the information in your brain. Instead, create notes in a margin that synthesize ideas.
  • Motivation is essential to learning. If you are not motivated about a topic, it is a lot harder to learn.
  • Most of the neurons in your cortex carry information about what is happening around you; it will send information not about the content of what you are learning but the importance of it to you.
  • Acetylcholine, Dopamine, and Serotonin are neuromodulators that control how neurons respond to other neurons.
  •  Acetylcholine: neurons form connections that are necessary for focused learning.
  • Dopamine: Our motivation is controlled by dopamine. This helps reward learning and also affects decision making. Dopamine predicts future and immediate rewards so it motivates you to do something that may not be an immediate reward but lead to a long term reward.
  • The ability to combine chunks of information is a skill that many top innovators practice and master. Bill Gates would set aside a week of reading to help build different chunks of information in his mind.
  • Musicians, linguists and scientist can each access large amounts of information in their field. Chunking is not all you need, but it is crucial.
  • It can help understanding different fields as when you know one chunk it can help you understand other chunked concepts in a different field. This process is called Transfer.
  • A chunk is a process of compressing a lot of information to the most compact form. When you have many chunks of information, your diffused mode of learning can help you connect different chunks of information.
  • You can imagine chunks as being pieces of a puzzle that you are putting together.
  • The bigger your library of chunks you have you will be able to see patterns between chunks and find solutions.
  • You have two ways to solve problems, and these are Sequential (step by step) and Holistic (intuition). Most difficult problems are grasped through intuition, it works in diffused mode, because they are normal with topics that are unfamiliar.
  • Law of serendipity: Fortune favors the brave. Only focus on whatever subject you are studying and if you concentrate on the first concept, the following ideas will be a bit easier to understand.
  • Overlearning: This is when you continue to examine something after you master it. This can be valuable in practices that involve automaticity.
  • Be careful of overlearning in a single session. Once you have a concept down in a single session, you do not reap any benefits by going over and over the idea. Instead, use a subsequent study session.
  • Repeating something over and over that you have already mastered can create an illusion of competence on a given area. Instead, continue to focus on areas you do not completely understand with deliberate practice.
  • Einstellung: This is a concept where you have an initial thought, or pre-existing neural pattern may prevent a better idea from being found.  This is a sort of rut that prevents your brain from going to a new area where a solution may be found. It is a mental roadblock.
  • You sometimes have to unlearn old approaches to learning new ones.
  • Mastering a new subject involves not only learning basic chunks but how to select and use them. Learning basic chunks can be practiced by alternating between different problems that require different methods of solution. This process is called Interleaving.
  • Interleaving is what builds flexibility and creativity as it leaves the realm of repetition. If you interleave between different subjects and discipline, you can weave your different knowledge chunks together.
  • There is a tradeoff here of becoming a specialist to a jack of all trades. The specialist may be more susceptible to Einstellung but learning many disciplines may not allow you to go as deep in one area.
  • Different areas of knowledge do not have to be strictly academic areas of learning.
  • Chunks are pieces of information that are bound together via use and meaning. They compactly store essential ideas. They can get bigger and complex and are built with focus, attention, understanding and practice. This simple recall is an excellent way to help to learn Chunks.
  •  Changing your environment when learning the same ideas will help you be able to chunk ideas and recall in many areas.



  • Building stable long term memory takes time, and you cannot put off until the last minute.
  • Real learning takes time and cannot be done by simply cramming information. That is why you need to avoid procrastination.
  • We procrastinate about things that make us feel uncomfortable; you shift focus to something more enjoyable which gives you a temporary feeling of happiness but can cause long term unhappiness.
  • Procrastination is a bad habit that can influence many different areas in your life.
  • Consider procrastination like poison. It is deadly to you, but you can build up a tolerance by ingesting small doses of it.
  • Four parts of a habit: Habits can be good, bad or neutral. They can have four parts, The cue that launches the trigger. The routine, habitual response that you will fall into after you receive the prompt. The reward you receive from going through with the routine that helps form and cements your habit. The belief in habits gives them power, to change a habit you need to change your underlying conviction.
  • The journey, not the destination: Focus on the process, not the product. Focus on spending the time working, not what will be produced at the end of the time which you may consider unpleasant and cause procrastination.
  • Changing your habit: The only place you need to focus your willpower on changing a habit is to change your reaction to the cue. Recognise your cues and what launch you into your procrastination habit. They usually fall into four categories, location, time, how you feel and reactions.  The routine is where you must actively rewire your habit, to do this you must make a plan for what to do next time you notice your cue has triggered your habit.  You will need to find out what your reward is for your habit and see what it is and what it can be substituted for that is beneficial. You will need also to change your belief system and believe that your plan to change your habits will work.
  • Life and learning: Once a week write a list of essential tasks in a journal. Then write a daily “to do” that you can easily work on. Write your daily “to do” the night before, so your subconscious can work on the topics.
  • Plan your day, especially your quitting time! Break times are also important to have planned. Eat your frogs in the morning, tackle your most difficult tasks first, so you do not procrastinate them all day.
  • Learning and tackling procrastination has to be done bit by bit like building a wall or weight lifting for muscle. Commit yourself to a routine each day.



  • Human brains have a superior visual memory system. We can look to tap into this visual memory system to help us remember non-visual memories by associating them with an image. We can enhance this further by association the sounds and feel that the image creates. The more memorable of a picture that we associate with a chunk of information they more vividly we will be able to remember it.
  • This visual image still needs to be repeated to help form the neural connections. Handwriting ideas appear to help establish the neural connections the best.
  • You can use flash cards to write down ideas with associated images and feelings, Then shuffle the cards to help interleave these memories into place. Take breaks and re-look at the flash cards at different intervals.
  • I good online flashcard system is http://ankisrs.net/
  • Whenever you recall a memory, it changes through a process called reconsolidation. AS we learn new things our old memories also change. This is why it is best to space learning over time than to cram and mass in a short period.
  • Memory Palace Technique: Creating meaningful groups of words and images is a powerful key to remembrance. Using the first letters of each word and creating a sentence with these is a classic memory technique. The memory palace technique involves creating or recalling a familiar physical layout like your house or a castle. This memory of a physical place becomes your memory palace. Add things you want to remember to your image of the house or palace, so you create a familiar memory of the palace and add additional memory withing the different rooms. https://litemind.com/memory-palace/ and Method of Loci.
  • Creating a disciplined system to learn your memory is crucial in building a superior learning system.



Unlocking Your Potential

  • The best way to grow new neurons to help your learning is through physical exercise. It is by far more efficient than any drug on the market to help you learn; it is important for schools to have P.E and recess as this contributes to the learning process.
  • One of the best techniques you can use to remember ideas is creating a visual image, metaphor or analogy that associates this idea.
  • Being able to use your mind’s eye and visualize has been responsible for many breakthroughs in both art and science.
  • We can learn physical actions by repetition to create muscle memory. But chess masters, surgeons, and fighter pilots have to make complex decisions in split seconds, so they have to shut down their conscious and go by intuition.  AS an idea you are already holding in mind (Einstellung) can block new thoughts.
  • Deliberate practice on the hardest parts of a problem will help build your mental muscles to rival anyone who is naturally gifted.
  • The imposter syndrome: Even if you are highly proficient in a topic you feel like you are getting lucky or that you will be found out as a fraud. This feeling happens to a lot of people. More on Imposter Syndrome.
  • Perseverance can outwork talent if you free yourself from cognitive bias.
  • Teamwork: The best way to catch your blind spots and prevent yourself from fooling yourself is to brainstorm and collaboration with other people who have knowledge of the subject. If you work on your own, you can lead yourself to believe you have a much higher level of competence than you possess.
  • A checklist for tests: Test taking is a powerful learning experience, you retain far more information from taking test and practice testing than from merely studying. The following questions are used to quantify if you have done all you can before taking a test. Did you make a serious effort to understand the text? Did you work with classmates to check solutions? Did you outline every test solution? Did you actively participate in active group discussion? Did you consult with tutors if you didn’t understand something? Did you carefully go through a study guide?
  • Test taking tips: Common knowledge suggests that when taking a test you should first work on the easier problems then move on to the harder problems. Science suggests the best way is to start with the harder problems first, and if you spend a minute and get stuck on this issue then stop and switch to an easier question, this allows your diffused mode of thinking to work and you can go back to the hard problem again.
  • To calm yourself if you are stressed in a test you should place your hand on your chest and breath deeply. If you practice this test into the weeks before the test, then you will be able to call upon this technique to relax much easier.  Also, try consciously relaxing your tongue, cover up the answers to multiple choice questions and try to recall the information, face your fears, the day before a test have a final quick look at the material, but you will need all your brainpower the next day so do not use it before hand.
  • Teaching ideas to others will help them strengthen and resonate in your mind.


Summary of the coaching styles of Muska Mosston

Summary of the coaching styles of Muska Mosston

Summary of the coaching styles of Muska Mosston

Summary of the coaching styles of Muska Mosston

Command Style

  • This style is a very dictatorial style of coaching where the coach gives directions, and the students are instructed to replicate the instructions. The coach will then circulate throughout the students and provide individual feedback.
  • Groups who are receiving instruction are set up in an organized pattern with military precision.  Often used for drills, warm-ups, and cooldowns.
  • The coach directs the speed, timing and position of how the move is to be practiced. They would signal when to perform the move, and the students would respond.
  • This style makes efficient use of time, as the reputation involved in the learning process allows for maximum time spent performing the move.
  • The students do not have to think to learn the moves and just learn by memory, reputation and recall.

Practice Style

  • The coach will give the task to the students to perform in the same vein as the command style.  The coach will still circulate to provide feedback.
  • The students break up into smaller groups and decide on their rhythm, pace and repetitions on how they perform the move.
  • Students are given more control over their actions and have to take responsibility and independence for their actions. The additional responsibility may have an effect on the time spent practicing the move.

Reciprocal Style

  • The coach gives instructions on how to perform the move. Then a team is broken up into pairs or threes.  One person in the group is the designated observer in the group.
  • Instead of the coach then having to circulate to give feedback, the observer in the group can be giving constant feedback. In this way, feedback will continually be being provided which should lead to an overall greater volume of feedback..
  • The coach will give a list of things to check and look for to the observer. The coach then only needs to communicate with the observers.
  • This results in better socialization between your students and they take an active role in their development.
  • The coach is then not required to be physically present for feedback and modifications. But less time will be spent performing the moves because of the additional observer.

Self Check Style

  • The coach will give instructions for the move and will give the students a list of things to check during the performance of the move.
  • Students then practice the movement and, assess and compare themselves to the checklist that the coach has given them.
  • The Self check style allows for more time and progression of the move, and the students learn from the repetition and memory of the move.

Inclusion Style

  • The inclusion method allows for multiple levels of a step so that the skill level accommodates for all of the students and they can all achieve a level of success with the move.
  • Students will choose the degree of skill they want to perform the move at based on their self-assessment of their ability.
  • The coach will then provide feedback on the decision-making process of the students skill level but not on what level the students should choose.
  • Students have the option to take a step back to have success at the move instead of the class-wide level being too high, and they fail.  Allows the students to get more involved in their learning process.
  • Some students will have problems choosing what level to perform. Awareness of any gaps between reality and what skill level the student chooses should be a focus of the coach.

Guided Discovery Style

  • In this style, the coach will guide the students through a range or series of scenarios and problems. The students will then make their decisions on what the solutions to each of these problems would be.
  • Each part of a move is guided by responses to the previous step. This will mean a lot of time is spent waaiting to get answers and figuring out what the step will be and the coach to give cues. More patience will be required.
  • A lot more preparation will have to be done by ther coach as they will have to prepare on how to deal with the wide variety of responses the students could give. Even then you will still likley encounter unanticipated answers and have to spend time experimenting.
  • The guided discovery style will reduce the amount of time you get to spend physically practicing a move, but it will significantly increase the level of thinking ad cognitive involvement in the student.

Divergent Style

  • The students engage in working out what the move will be in response to particular problems.
  • Then each solution that a student comes up with is given value and used while the coach will encourage the students to come up with responses but will not make the judgement of them.
  • The divergent style increases the level of the creativity of the students and gets them to cooperate.
  • The divergent style will be very demanding of the coach as they must have a lot of knowledge on what responses should be encouraged and how to do that.

Individual Program Style

  • The Individual program will involve a program designed by the student and the coach based on their own abilities and skill level;
  • Completely individualized so it well not be suited to everyone and would dramatically increase the workload if done for an entire class.
  • The students can design their own problems and solutions and the coach will guide them and provide feedback on them.
  • The experience of both the student and the coach will be required for this to work and the student to actively engage in the design of their program.
  • Even the individual program will take up a lot of time to plan for the student as many factors and experimentation will have to be taken into account.


Summary of the coaching styles of Muska Mosston

Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – How to get better faster!

Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – How to get better faster!

Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Why the change?

If you are looking to improve, you need to become a self-reliant learner.

Typically we only spend a few hours each week in class, and this is simply not enough to progress in the sport! You need to spend time outside of class learning!

Prepare your mind to learn

  • Try to be in a happy, accepting state.
  • Try to not be negative about what has been going on in your day
  • If you need sleep and can afford to get more rest, SLEEP! If you have bad breath and that bothers you, BRUSH! If you have little pet peeves, which are bothering you, FIX THEM. The more that you have to keep your brain from wandering to the better!!!)
  • You must do something calming yet slightly active for exactly 10 minutes before class. If you do warm ups, then this is a good start but consider walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes and listening to music before you start your training. Stretching and listening to music is also good.


Establish an emotional connection

Why do we want to do better?

  • Competition
  • Exercise
  • Weight Loss
  • Self defense
  • Social Interaction
  • Learn a new skill

Establishing an emotional connection makes you learn faster. Think of all the subjects in high school that you didn’t want to learn. They were the most difficult ones for you while others that you enjoyed seems to be easy.

What style do I learn best?

  • Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.


Visual (Spatial)

  • If you are a visual learner, use images, pictures, and other visual media to help you learn. Incorporate as much imagery into your visualizations as possible.
  • Use mind maps. Use color and pictures in place of text, wherever possible. If you don’t use the computer, make sure you have at least four different color pens.
  • Diagrams can help you visualize the links between parts of a system, for example, major engine parts or the principle of sailing in equilibrium. Replace words with pictures, and use color to highlight significant and minor links.
  • Use BJJ books and try to recall the step by step images in the book


Aural (Auditory-Musical-Rhythmic)

  • Use sound recordings to provide a background and help you get into visualizations. For example, use a recording of you or the instructor talking through the techniques step by step. If you don’t have these recordings, consider creating them while training or writing them down and recording them after class.
  • Use mnemonics and acrostics, make the most of rhythm and rhyme, or set techniques to a jingle or part of a song.


Verbal (Linguistic)

  • If you are a verbal learner, try the techniques that involve speaking and writing. Find ways to incorporate more speaking and writing in techniques. For example, talk yourself through techniques or use recordings of your techniques or combos for repetition.
  • When you read content aloud, make it dramatic and varied. Instead of using a monotone voice to go over a procedure, turn it into a lively and energetic speech worthy of the theater. Not only does this help your recall, you get to practice your dramatic presence!


Physical (Bodily-Kinesthetic)

  • If you use action, movement and hands-on work in your learning activities. Having someone do the technique to you first is going to be your best option. Also drilling the move and going through details.
  • For visualization, focus on the sensations you would expect in each scenario. For example, if you are visualizing the feel of the gi collar or sleeve. Where your weight needs to be. Often you will feel yourself have to move around while visualizing.
  • Keep in mind as well that writing and drawing diagrams are physical activities, so don’t neglect these techniques. Perhaps use big sheets of paper and large color markers for your diagrams. You then get more action from the drawing.


Logical (Mathematical)

  • If you are a logical learner, aim to understand the reasons behind your techniques. Knowing more detail behind your techniques helps you memorize and learn the material that you need to know. Explore the links between various methods, and note them down.
  • Think of concepts
  • Also, remember that association often works well when it is illogical and irrational. It doesn’t matter how logical two items are together. You have a better chance of recalling them later if you have made the association illogical. Your brain may protest at first! So think about giving concepts or techniques funny names.
  • You may sometimes over analyze certain parts of your learning or training. Over analyzing can lead to analysis paralysis. You may be busy, but not moving towards your goal. If you find, you are over analyzing stop! Take what you have and start doing. Often people try to take in a whole system of techniques and its tough to digest.


Social (Interpersonal)

  • If you are a social learner, aim to work with others as much as possible. Try to hit as many classes as possible. If this is not available, then consider forming your group with others at a similar level. They don’t have to be from the same school or class.
  • Role-playing or slow rolling is a technique that works well with others, whether its one on one or with a group of people. Drilling with training partners in a slower scripted grappling session works great!
  • Mind maps and systems diagrams are great to work on outside of class. You can even use sites like Mind Mup to create them and share with your friends. Allowing them to add info or make changes.


Solitary (Intrapersonal)

  • Use books, DVDs, blogs and other media to learn as much as possible then ask questions of your instructors to help clarify gaps in your learning.
  • Align your goals and objectives with personal beliefs and values. If there is misalignment, you may run into issues with motivation or confidence.
  • Keep a journal of techniques, thoughts and feelings about the classes you attend.
  • When you associate and visualize, highlight what you would be thinking and feeling at the time you made the journal entries. You may want to do most of your visualization and association in private.


Phases of learning process

  • LEARNING PHASE: This is the initial phase. Generally this is when an instructor is showing you a technique for the first time and you are just beginning to start to learn it. Try to watch the instructor carefully and break the move into 4-5 small chunks. Write them down if you want.
  • RE-ITERATION PHASE: Begin to drill the techniques. Try to replay the steps in your head. Saying them under your breath if you want to.
  • REPEAT: Repeat the above steps for all the techniques
  • DO: Try to put yourself in the situations you learned that class
  • RETAINMENT PHASE: At the end of rolling try to recall each step of each technique you learned in class. Then later that night when you are going to bed do a mental check to see if you can remember the techniques you learned.
  • RE-DO PHASE: The next day in the morning commit a few minutes to trying to remember the techniques you learned. Using as many senses as possible to recall them. Saying them out loud or writing them down will help too. The last part is to work them into the next grappling session you have along with the new techniques you learned that day.

Block Vs Random Training

Block Training

Blocked Practice is what you see in gyms across America. These are all of the ‘traditional’ practice techniques that we thought were best. Block is when you work on one particular skill or technique at a time – think drilling 100 arm bars at a time

Random Training

Random Practice is a motor learning technique that creates a random and highly variable environment for development. Rather than focusing on just one skill or technique at a time. This will combine a number of techniques and skills in a random fashion


Block Vs Random in BJJ

We already do this!

The great part is most gyms already are setup this way. You first learn via block than random. However you as a person need to make changes to make sure you are getting the most benefit from it!

Block Training

  • Technique Learning
  • Situational Drilling with no variables

This is still necessary in my opinion. You need to learn the skill in an organized fashion first. Concentrate on learning the technique and establish links to previous techniques or ideas.

Random Training

  • Live Grappling
  • Slow Rolling
  • Situational Drills with changing variables

When rolling try to put yourself into positions that you are still learning or have just learned to refine the new technique. Don’t always rely on tried and true techniques. Allow yourself to fail.

So what are you saying?

During the ‘extra’ batting practice sessions:

  • Each player in the Block Training group would receive 45 total pitches in a block pattern (15 curveballs, 15 fast-balls, 15 change-ups)
  • Each player in the Random Training group would receive 45 total pitches in a random pattern (curve, fast-ball, fast-ball, change-up, curve, etc…)
  • Two acquisition tests were performed to measure progress during the six week experiment. At the end of the acquisition phase a random transfer test was performed where all the players received 45 pitches and the number of ‘quality hits’ were measured.


I don’t believe you! Show me stats!

A study was done looking into the effects of Block vs Random Practice on shooting a basketball. Students were divided up into two groups. One was trained in a block fashion (shooting the same shot repeatedly) and the other in a random fashion (shooting a variety of different shots). During the transfer test the experimenters measured the students’ success on their first shot attempt (a very game-like measurement because in a game you only get one chance to shoot a given shot). The results were again consistent with other experiments and field tests looking into the effects of Block vs Random Practice.



I need more!

During the ‘extra’ batting practice sessions:

  • Each player in the Block Training group would receive 45 total pitches in a block pattern (15 curveballs, 15 fast-balls, 15 change-ups)
  • Each player in the Random Training group would receive 45 total pitches in a random pattern (curve, fast-ball, fast-ball, change-up, curve, etc…)
  • Two acquisition tests were performed to measure progress during the six week experiment. At the end of the acquisition phase a random transfer test was performed where all the players received 45 pitches and the number of ‘quality hits’ were measured.




Lizard Brain – Amygdala

“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.    ― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.

The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.

The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”

So how does this affect my learning in BJJ?

  • This is the part of the brain that tells you that you shouldn’t do this technique because you will look dumb in front of the group if you fail.
  • This is also the part of the brain that tells you that you shouldn’t grapple with the people that are better than you because you are afraid you will lose.
  • This is also why many people choose not to compete even if it would help their learning process.

Show me a video!

Watch all of this guys stuff! They are really good!! Watch Trevor Ragan

How do I fix it?

  • Don’t try to fight it. You will lose. Acknowledge it and decide to do the opposite of what it says.
  • The lizard brain hates change. So make things random. Are you normally a guard player, try to get on top and be a top player for a bit. If you are a top player be on your back.
  • Treat your sense of fear and anxiety as a benchmark for things that you need to work on and get excited about making improvements there.
  • Everything is pretty scary at first. Driving a car, riding a bike and the first time you grappled, but once your lizard brain got over the fear it became old hat and now you barely think about it.

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings. When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.


Learned Helplessness in BJJ

A great example of this is how they train elephants. When they are young they tie an elephant to a tree. The elephant tries to break free but is too small to break the tree. After days it gives up. Then when the elephant is bigger and could actually break the tree it doesn’t believe it can so it doesn’t even try.

How does this translate to learning in BJJ? Well when you first start you are often tapped out several times. This establishes a helplessness mindset. The great thing is that being aware of this helps you stay out of this trap. Everyone is human! Once you acquire enough skill you will be able to beat that person. The higher skilled practitioners are not unbeatable. He or she might just be right now with your current skill set but tomorrow is a different story.

Three stages of learning

  • Cognitive Stage- During this initial stage of motor learning, the goal is to develop an overall understanding of the skill. The learner must determine what the objective of the skill is and begin to process environmental factors that will affect their ability to produce the skill. The teacher must do their best to provide an optimal environment for learning, which may mean removing large distractors.  During this stage, the learner mostly relies on visual input and trial and error to guide learning.
  • Associative Stage – During this stage, the learner begins to demonstrate a more refined movement through practice. Now that the learner has had some practice and has identified various stimuli that may occur, they can focus on “how to do” moving on from the “what to do” in the first stage. Here, visual cues become less important and proprioceptive cues become very important. Proprioceptive cues refer to the learner focusing more on how their body is moving in space and what input is being felt from their joints and muscles. The more practice, the more proprioceptive input the learner receives to aide learning.  Therefore, the more practice the better!
  • Autonomous Stage – During this final stage of learning, the motor skill becomes mostly automatic. Progression to this level of learning allows the learner to perform the skill in any environment with very little cognitive involvement compared to the first stage.


Learn more about the stages

Over Researching

Don’t get in this habit! This happens when you first start and you want to know everything about everything! Your brain can’t process all that data at one time. You have to cut it up into bite sized chunks. No more than 30-40 minutes learning. As far as a technique number no more than 4-5. Then get into the art of doing! Once you feel you have really learned those skills, do the next 4-5. Allow your brain to digest the information that you have just fed it.

Also get specific! Don’t say I want to learn more from guard. Say you want to learn 4 sweeps from full guard. This will narrow down your dataset and help you master certain positions.

Research – Do – Analyze your mistakes – Research – Do – Reanalyze

Failing to get better – Do’s

Failures, screw-ups, and unknowns help you build resilience and character, give you insights about your work, yourself, and others, enrich your experiences, test your emotional intelligence, and add to your knowledge and skills. To gain the most from them, you could practice the following dos and don’ts on how to respond:

  • Feel and Reflect: Fully experience the emotions that come with failure before you jump to the next thing. You owe it to yourself to process the feelings (e.g. sadness, fear or anger) without getting overly attached to them. Speeding up and keeping yourself busy can cause you to miss out on vital lessons. To reap the nuggets, reflect and take a close look at what went awry. Did the mistake arise from a well-intentioned error of judgment or just plain carelessness? Reflecting on what didn’t work helps you learn from your mistakes and get on the right path.
  • Claim Appropriate Responsibility: Blaming yourself for events that are outside your control or constantly rescuing others signals that you’re taking on too much responsibility. But step up to the plate when your involvement truly matters. Think about your role in the situation and decide what you can do differently and better, going forward. Acknowledge your limits. Do you need more training? Is your workload too much for you to cover?
  • Admit and Reframe : When you acknowledge your misstep, you free up your energy to refocus on next steps. Get real about what constitutes success–dedicated work and true grit, coupled with mistakes and uncertainty.
  • Take Effective Action :Forget the word “try.” Set out specific action steps that you must take. If you fail to complete them, regroup and reset. Although trying is better than not trying at all, it gives you wiggle room to avoid committed action. When you focus on doing, you drop the drama associated with trying.

Failures, Screw-ups, and Unknowns | Dyan Williams

Failing to get better – Don’ts

  • Blow Off Failure and Move On Too Quickly: Failure can trigger painful emotions. It can derail you, raise your self-doubt, and heighten your anxiety. It often brings unnecessary stigma and shame. To take the edge off, you might dismiss your failures as trivial or reinterpret them as successes. But adopting an unrealistic, Pollyanna attitude has serious drawbacks.
  • Blame and Make Excuses: When you don’t take ownership of your actions and choices, you miss out on the chance to correct course. Blaming others or external events can give you a sense of control, but makes it harder for you to effect change. While clueless colleagues or a poor economy might be contributing factors, dwelling on them doesn’t change much. Chastising yourself also adds barriers to bouncing back.
  • Deny and Cover Up: Ignoring and hiding your mistakes cause you to miss out on the valuable lessons they provide. You are bound to repeat them if you don’t shed light on them. Denying your role in the failure or that a failure occurred thwarts improvement. Find a supportive group or create a learning organization where goof-ups are openly discussed.
  • Give Up Easily :Stretching and growing involves facing uncertainty and having setbacks. If you are not willing to move beyond your comfort zone, you might feel safe, but surely limit your opportunities. While quitting is not in itself a bad choice, you want to make sure you’re not simply succumbing to fear of failure. This kind of relinquishment leads to regret.

Embracing failures doesn’t mean deliberately seeking it or creating a lax work environment. It’s not a call for reckless conduct and disregard of standards. Fear of failure can be healthy when it protects you and doesn’t paralyze you. Failure and mistakes have real consequences. Do what you must to avoid or minimize them.

Failures, Screw-ups, and Unknowns | Dyan Williams

Mistakes are feedback

To make mistakes proper feedback you need to categorize the mistake into one of three categories.

  • Fluke – Try not to lump everything into this category, but sometimes they happen. You get flying triangled in 10 seconds. That kind of stuff…. things you know how to defend but it just happened. Don’t worry about these. Keep positive, laugh it off and move on.
  • Error in the Process – Your technique was off. You left your arm out of position and you got armbarred. Ask your training partner what you could have done better then try to fix it. Use it as a tool for further learning.
  • Having no information – You are a new white belt and you got swept from De La Riva…. You have no idea what de la riva is… How can you be mad at making a mistake you have no knowledge about. Your mind has built up no memories of this position so it will fail. When these start to come up. Learn about that position. Ryan Hall is a great example of this. No one was doing 50/50 guard and he tore through people that had no clue about this position. So don’t blame yourself, learn about the position and combat it next time. Also don’t get mad at the position or the person doing it to you. Its a learning tool…they are preparing you for when it might happen in competition

Ask Why.. then why, how & what.

Ask yourself why you are doing a technique this way. Why are you are putting your hand on the collar? Why should my weight be here instead of there?

Understanding why will help you better understand every technique. Then you can start to form concepts and generalities that you can use to simplify your game.

If you want to go even further ask yourself Why, How and What. If you don’t know why you do something.. have you really learned it? This concept comes from Simon Sinek.

Don’t know why? Ask the instructor… They don’t know? Research it online

More videos!!

Becoming a self reliant learner

Use additional resources like:

  • Youtube
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Magazines
  • Seminars
  • Podcasts

Much of these tips will overlap but with a few small differences


What you will find is everyone has generally the same idea on techniques for some of the smaller details will change. This is normal and most of the time both people can be right they are just doing the technique slightly different.


  • Question your source! Only get videos from people you have found to be good teachers. I will include a list of my subscriptions at the end.
  • Watch one technique or an idea then search for that same technique to get a different perspective. Do all the steps then do the next technique. No more than 4-5 techniques at one time.
  • Online watch a few videos and only watch something that you can conceptualize. Basically if you are new hold off on Berimbolo. Not to say that you can’t watch it, but it should merely be as fun activity rather than trying to actively learn
  • Write the name of the move down. Then take step by step notes on how to do it. Splitting it up into about 5 parts. I use my phone to take notes so I can access them easily. Evernote is a great app for this.
  • Say the steps out loud. Then try to visualize the video in your head and follow along.
  • Watch the videos again and see if you missed any piece of info. Yes it will take longer but I would rather have you learn a few techniques well, over learning a bunch poorly.
  • Then before class watch the videos one more time. Then try it in rolling. Lastly compare what happened to the video a last time. Often videos include small changes to make for defenses.


I actually prefer books over videos, but I think that is due to my learning style. The nice thing is that you can bring books with you.


  • Again question your source! Only get books from people you have found to be good teachers. I will include a list of my authors at the end.
  • Read one technique or idea. Do all the steps then do the next technique. No more than 4-5 techniques at one time. Write the name of the move down. Then take step by step notes on how to do it. Splitting it up into about 5 parts. Even though the technique is already written down, you should explain it in your own words.
  • Say the steps out loud. Then try to visualize the pictures in the book in your head and follow along.
  • Read the technique again and see if you missed any piece of info.
  • Only read and remark on about 4 techniques. Anymore than this and your mind starts to wander. Your brain will also reject it because it seems like a lot of work. To do all this for multiple techniques.


Ah DVDs I have hundreds of them!!! This is not the way to go. It lowers my bank account and I haven’t even cracked open half of them. So please take it from me. Buy one set. Go through it systematically then sell it online and buy another set. For this its a combo of Youtube and book theory.

  • Usually DVDs come in sets of 3, 4 or 5. Find the one with the most relevance to you! For example if you suck at half guard maybe pop in that DVD in even if its really the 3rd DVD. Unless it is teaching a system over the course of those DVDs.
  • Watch one technique Do all the steps then do the next technique. No more than 4-5 techniques at one time.
  • Write the name of the move down. Then take step by step notes on how to do it. Splitting it up into about 5 parts. I use my phone to take notes so I can access them easily.
  • Say the steps out loud. Then try to visualize the video in your head and follow along.
  • Watch the videos again and see if you missed any piece of info. Yes it will take longer but I would rather have you learn a few techniques well, over learning a bunch poorly.
  • Then before class watch the videos one more time. Then try it in rolling. Lastly compare what happened to the video a last time. Often videos include small changes to make for defenses.

Magazines and Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts and reading BJJ magazines, but this is not where I choose to learn technique. With these take a lighter approach to the learning process on these. Listen to podcasts and read magazines for more of the lifestyle of BJJ instead of techniques. It also helps you learn who some of the better instructors are and the big names in the sport. Many of the magazines have technique sections, but often they are very complex speciality moves to look cool in the magazine. If you are a high rank person give them a shot! If you are a low rank person read them over and try to get the concept of the technique. This will help you later when you start getting into more complex techniques.


Man! I have a love, hate relationship with seminars. They can be great and they can be terrible. I have probably attended 40+ seminars in my day. Most are 3 hours. Don’t expect to remember everything! If you can take notes… do it.. If they will let you video tape for sure do it… but often people won’t let you.


  • Take notes
  • Realize that you wont remember it all
  • Do the move the way the instructor asks…(Often you will encounter instructors that do things differently. For instance on armbars some people will say to always grab with your elbows and some will say to always grab with your hands. Do it their way while you are at their seminar.
  • Try your best to lock in the moves you like
  • Again if you can video tape it. If they won’t let you … ask if you can videotape yourself doing the move on your phone. Dont disturb the seminar by talking through the video. Just rep the move


There are a few things thats can help you learn just by changing your mindest.

  • Have positive expectations about class and about learning- If you come in with a great attitude you are more open to learning.
  • Anticipate the next move – When your coach is teaching, listen but also try to anticipate the next portion of the technique. This will get you in an inquisitive mindset. If you are right great! If you aren’t it’s much more likely to stick because it disrupted your current thought pattern
  • Accept feedback – If someone tells you that you are doing something wrong try to listen to them. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong but give what they are saying a chance. Again if you go in with a negative mindset you will never believe what they are telling you.
  • Focus on the positives – maybe you didn’t get the entire technique right or maybe you couldn’t pull it off live. I am willing to bet that you got certain aspects of the technique right. You just need to go back research more, then test more.

Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets

Ashley Merryman: Top Dog – The Science of Winning and Losing



Don’t let randomness change your attitude. Say you hit a particular move 50% of the time. One day you are doing the move live and you fail 5 times in a row. Often this will send someone into a negative attitude. Then your average will actually get a lot worse. Chances are over time you will hit the move 50% of the time but don’t allow random spots of failure change your mindset. Chances are you will get it the next 5 times.

That being said, you should go back and see if any other variables were at play. Was the person better defensively, was your timing off, did you forget a step. Take it as a learning tool and not something you failed at.

Boost your learning outside of BJJ

  • Do mental puzzles – This is a fun one to do with BJJ too. Try to figure out as many different way you can get to a certain technique or combo. Try to figure out if you can do moves from other positions. Also take stock of all the techniques you know from a certain position. If you can only think of a few, you probably just found your new early for learning.
  • Visualize and Walking Meditation – Pretty much every day I walk the dog and listen to music. This allows my brain better time to process. Often you will feel like you were on a 5 minute walk and it will be 40 minutes.
  • Eat right – Not only is it good for your body and learning in BJJ but its good for the mind.
  • Get some sunshine – Your brain needs vitamin D and melatonin
  • Get rest – Many researchers believe that rest is the most important part to learning. It is what locks it into your long term memory.

Become a teacher

When you are a white belt I don’t suggest this, but it your are a Blue or higher this is a great way to learn. It really makes you figure out techniques. The why that I was talking about earlier! Once you have the why, it makes the doing part a lot easier. Teaching also helps build up your confidence. The more confident you are the less likely you are to feel ashamed if you make a mistake in front of the group.

Don’t recreate the wheel

One of the best ways to get better is to research a person rather than a particular  position or technique.

Try to find someone roughly your same size. Read up about their training and their style. Try to copy it at first then make it your own. Copy someone that is already in  the spot you want to be in. They have created a training plan already you just have to follow it.

20 hours not 10,000

Most people have heard the idea that you have to do something  for 10,000 hours to master something.  This seems pretty daunting but it has been shown that you can become fairly proficient at something after just 20 hours.  Especially if it is very specific.

Essentially about 20 minutes twice a day or one 40 minute session for a month.

So do you want to get better at submissions from butterfly guard? Spend two 20 minute sessions per day learning about submissions from butterfly. After a month you should be really good at submissions from butterfly. You have to be specific though and you can’t double up on skills and expect great results.


Mind maps

Use them!

Have two mind maps

1) Techniques that you know

2) Grappling system complete with all the defenses you have been presented with. So say one of your submissions from guard is armbar. Standard armbar. Then on your mind map some of the children of that armbar on your mindmap should be all the defenses you have seen so far and the counter to those defenses. This map will be massive but will also help your coach come tournament time. It will lay out all that you plan to do and your reactions to thier counters. Try to also do it in a way where a counter can lead back to another point much like a flow chart.

Rolling is great for testing these. If a new defense comes up. Get excited. It’s another to add to your mind map and you get to research how to combat that one!

Types of sparring partners

In live rolls you will mean 5 types of people. Here is how you should handle each one!

People way worse than you – Work your new and unrefined techniques when going with these partners. Allow yourself to try new things and don’t use your “A” game

People slightly worse than you – Try to work on more of your refined techniques mixed in with a few new tricks. Use some of your A game

Your equals – Use your main go to techniques and log the mistakes you found

People slightly better than you – Work on some of your defenses and try to impose your “A” game on them. Allow yourself to fail in new positions

People way better than you – Work on your defenses. Still try to out technique your opponent but realize the real learning is coming in your defenses.

Flow rolling with a purpose

In my eyes there are two types of flow rolling.

Flow rolling

1) Both people grappling with little to no resistance. Both are trying out new moves, having fun and just seeing where the roll takes them. This turns into an almost active meditation state and is great for having fun and learning new areas of the gym.

Flow rolling with a purpose

2)  in the second situation one person goes in with the idea of drilling a specific set of techniques. Their partner helps them to get in these situations and allows them to do the move that they wish to do. Then they begin to add small amounts of resistance at those particular moves and presented different defenses to those particular moves. So you will continue to grapple just like your flow drilling but actively trying to put the main trading partner into those positions they want to learn.

Final thoughts

  • Be specific in what you want to learn – example I want to learn 3 sweeps from deep half guard
  • Be random in the way that you learn the techniques. Learning one technique then learning all the defenses and variations of that technique so nothing surprises you.
  • Use more senses – Hear, Watch, Write it out, say it out loud, recreate it on video
  • Get much needed rest
  • Ask why – if you know the why you are much more likely to understand how
  • Bring a positive attitude everytime to class and your learning
  • Don’t allow yourself to slip into learned helplessness
  • Become a self reliant learner
  • Take failures as learning tools
  • Have fun

Resources on Youtube

Books to read

The X-Guard: Gi & No Gi Jiu-Jitsu
by Marcelo Garcia

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter
by Christian Graugart

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Technique
by Renzo Gracie

The Complete Guide to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
by Rodrigo Gracie

Encyclopedia of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Volume 1
by Rigan Machado

Drill To Win: 12 Months to Better Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
by Andre Galvao  .

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Path to the Black Belt
by Rodrigo Gracie

Jiu-Jitsu University
by Saulo Ribeiro

Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu: Revolutionizing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
by Dave Camarillo

A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
by Stephan Kesting

Passing the Guard (Vol 1): Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Details and Techniques
by Ed Beneville

The Grappler’s Handbook Vol.1: Gi and No-Gi Techniques: Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Submission Fighting
by Jean Jacques Machado

Strategic Guard: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Details and Techniques
by Joe Moreira

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Closed Guard
by B.J. Penn

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Submission Grappling Techniques
by Royler Gracie

Roll On ! – Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – How to get better faster!

Learning In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – How to get better faster! – For Source Click Here