I talk to Bruce Hoyer about the reverse classroom for Jiu-Jitsu training. Bruce coaches out of a small town in Dakota that has produced 7 UFC fighters and uses innovative teaching strategies including the flipped or reverse classroom model of instruction. The flipped classroom is an instructional strategy that has the students study the techniques at home on YouTube and then come into class ready to drill.
We discuss his use of this teaching model in-depth, using language learning software and spaced repetition and other innovative uses of technology for teaching BJJ.
Listen To Bruce Hoyer
BRUCE HOYER INTERVIEW
Sonny Brown: Welcome to episode number 13 of The Sonny Brown Breakdown, a podcast where we discuss the training, teaching, health, and education of mixed martial arts to help you find the difference that makes the difference. I’m your host, Sonny Brown. In this episode, I talk to Bruce Hoyer from Next Edge Academy. He coaches out of a small town in Dakota that has produced seven UFC fighters and uses a variety of innovative teaching strategies, including the flipped classroom model of instruction. The flipped classroom model works as an instructional strategy that has the students study the techniques at home on YouTube and then come into class, ready to drill. We discuss his use of this teaching model in depth and also using language-learning software and spaced repetition to help with information retention and other technological changes in teaching Jiu-Jitsu. Now, let’s go to the podcast. G’day, Bruce. How are you? Thanks very much for joining me today.
Bruce Hoyer: Hey, not too bad. It’s not very often that I get to talk to somebody that’s on a completely different time zone from me. I think it’s your late night and my early morning.
Sonny: That’s it. I appreciate us coming together, opposite sides of the world to share some knowledge. It’s going to be good. I really appreciate it. What got me onto you is I was listening to a podcast. I think it was the Combat Learning Podcast, and you were discussing your use of the flipped classroom model of learning in your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy and I think MMA Academy as well. I’m familiar with the flipped model of classroom learning myself just from my work as a PE teacher, but it’s something that I haven’t really heard of being used in a martial arts context until I was listening to your podcast. I wonder if we can just start off, maybe you can explain to the people who haven’t heard of what that is, just exactly what the flipped classroom model of learning actually is.
Bruce: For us, the flipped classroom model is that we take the instruction portion out, now that videos have gotten much better, we take that instruction portion out of the classroom. We actually have them watch that beforehand. Then when they come in to train at the gym, pretty much 95% to 100% of that time is done drilling and then us watching that done. For me it’s tough, because if I sit there and I show something for 10 minutes and I’ve lost 10 minutes where that person loses that valuable time. Now, I think with everybody being at home so much that they see that as a real valuable time. For me, that was the big thing. The other big thing is the fact that all of us are coming in at different levels. Maybe you have somebody that’s brand-new and then you have somebody that’s training, getting ready for a fight in the UFC. All those guys are at different levels. Just being able to tailor a class to that, for us providing all that information in a curriculum to watch it at home before you come in. That was the big change for us.
Sonny: Instead of then people come in, you spend 20 minutes showing them the techniques, pretty standard style of running a Jiu-Jitsu class, you’ve actually filmed the videos beforehand and made them available online for everyone to look at before they come into class, yes?
Bruce: Yes, exactly. For the most part, it’s been a really good experience. I like it a lot. I think I lose a little bit of that connection of when I teach, trying to be more of an entertainer, but it definitely you get to keep a lot of the coaching and instruction in there.
Sonny: That’s interesting you mentioned that about losing that part of being an entertainer, maybe.
Bruce: It’s big. When people come in it’s tough, because you have to really come around and teach in a flipped classroom style and feel like you still have to be an entertainer a little bit. I think any Jiu-Jitsu coach, any coach has to be a little bit of that to keep them engaged and keep them learning.
Sonny: Yes, right. You find that when you’ll be coming round and it’ll be the smaller groups, you feel that there’s something missing there?
Bruce: Yes, you have to replace it with, as you come around with those smaller groups that are doing it, you have to maybe say, “Okay, you can also do this. Add this, or put this in there.” Also, be a little bit of a– Whatever your teaching style is, funny guy, or whatever it is in order to keep those students engaged.
Sonny: Interesting. That makes sense, but it’s a big departure from the traditional style of teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where we’ve got the coach at the front and he knows he’s the dictator or such, or he’s the know-all of all the techniques and we have to go to him. You’ve really flipped it on it’s head. [chuckles] What actually made you decide to look into this avenue of teaching, or what drew you towards it?
Bruce: We live in South Dakota. South Dakota, for everybody that’s not familiar is really a rural area. We have about 200,000 in this metric area, but predominantly, when I started, the closest Jiu-Jitsu black belt was– There was one four hours away and then the next one after that was probably 10 hours away. A lot of our learning– We had a purple belt that was teaching us that was from Pedro Sauers Gym. Back then it was in Salt Lake City. He moved here for a while, but for the most part, it was a lot of us just trying to piecemeal things together. I think that’s what started– A lot of it is that, “Okay, I’m already doing a lot of this for myself,” and turning this almost into a little bit more of a system. Then the second end, when I became a coach, every time I was driving into the gym– I think a lot of coaches used to be this way. I think they’re getting a lot better with it now, but they used to be driving in the car and they were like, “Oh man, what am I going to show today? I’m going to do a half guard series today.” They figured that out about five minutes before they come into the class, or when they come into the class. They come into the class and because they’re a black belt and they know a good series from half guard, that’s what they’re doing today. Maybe that’s not the best thing for the students today, but it’s what I decided I wanted to show today. That used to always make me feel like crap. I think there’s the other avenue of, “Okay, we’re going to show this series for a week, or we’re going to show this series for a month, or this position.” Which I think is really good as well. We did that for a little bit, then just slowly, as I saw students that were in the beginner levels that were brand-new, and then the students that were advanced, I had to teach two or three different techniques depending on what their levels were. Then finally, I decided I’m going to start doing it this way. I had seen it done before on some other sports. I know that it had been done in football. There was actually a couple of Australian folks that I think, same thing, the PE teachers that were a big influence.
Sonny: I’ll have to look into that and see if I could find out who they were. I might be able to get in touch with them. It started then for you, you mapped out your whole curriculum and then you realized, “Hey, I’ve got this all planned out in front of me what I’m going to teach.” Was it a case of, “Why don’t I film these techniques now and give it to the students beforehand so they know.” Was it a natural evolution?
Bruce: Yes. It’s been constantly evolving. I think, now, it’s to the point where we’re tinkering with the idea of, “Okay, how are we going to present this information?” When we first started doing it, it was on Evernote. The nice part about it is that I would send them– It took a little bit longer to do, but essentially, I would film four techniques, and after each class, send that student another class and then they could make notes on their Evernote and everything. That actually worked pretty well. It just took a while because I had to email or add in Evernote that lesson to every person’s notebook, if you will, that did the class.
Sonny: Was everyone had an individual Evernote that you would then update for all them individually?
Sonny: Okay. That sounds pretty labor-intensive. Did you stick with that or did you move onto something else?
Bruce: No, we switched. The second iteration was us doing a learning website that everybody could follow the track. That worked really well. Then the latest one now is we have an app, basically where they can do the same thing. You had to learn programming languages on top of that now, because I wanted to build it myself. That’s where it’s gone. It needs to be efficient as well. If we have 40, 50 people on class and two or three classes a day, that gets to be an hour and a half of my time that I’m eating out that doesn’t necessarily have to be there.
Sonny: From the perspectives of the students then, say I’ve been there a couple of months or something, what does my week look like? I know I want to do some classes. How would I go about preparing for those classes or what type of perspective do I have as a student on this?
Bruce: Sure. This is one of the things we’re switching back to. For the longest time, we had it as a scaffolding system, if you’re familiar with that, instead of teaching the Americana, Kimura, straight armbar kind of thing.
Sonny: Sure, classic.
Bruce: Exactly. We’re going to do this. If they move their arm this way, we’re going to do this. We’re going to move it straight. You’re going to do this. From everything that I’ve read, as far as coaching and teaching, that’s due to interference. If I teach you all three, you muddle through all three of them. Say you were to start, we have basically one technique from every position, or I should say one offensive and one defensive technique from every position. Then you get through all those, and then you would basically move. Then you add a second thing after that. You’re adding one thing to each position. Maybe you would do maybe a pass from half guard, a pass from close guard. Basically there’s a list, but you get the idea. One thing from each position, each standard position, and then one offensive thing where you do that. Then the next time you come through, maybe you’d learn another pass or a different way of doing that or a different submission. We’ve started building on that. Then we went back to that same model where it’s like, “I’m going to give you a position and I want you to work on this position, maybe for a week or two.” I think we’re going to get back to the scaffolding side of things where it’s back to one thing at a time and rotating through several different positions. There’s roughly 25-30 positions rotating through learning one thing each time. Feel good with that, move on to the next position.
Sonny: Okay. So your classes are set up in the way that there’s going to be a position going in and then the students look up the videos of those positions and then they can pick what they want to do from there? Is that–?
Bruce: Right. That’s the way that it has been for a little bit, that we switched back to just because it seems so weird for a Jiu-Jitsu side to stray away from, “This is your positional game plan,” kind of thing. I think that’s probably the best one there. Once they’re past blue belt, in the purple belt, I think that’s good, where they can look through that list. Anyways, they would go through that scaffolding system first, and then once you’re blue or purple belt level, I want you going through those positional things.
Sonny: That makes sense. They’re working through their positions. How do you divide the class up in terms of belt level or skill level then or–?
Bruce: We don’t. Everybody in this is in the same class. We don’t have a beginners or an intermediate class. The way that the class works is one person drills from their series for 10 minutes and the other person drills for 10 minutes. We do like the, either no warm-up or the slightest of warm-ups. Then we’re going to drilling. One person will drill strictly for 10 minutes, the other person drills for 10 minutes. Then what I want that person to do, we’ll possibly do a little bit of a warm-up after that. Then we’re going to go into live positional rounds for three minutes from their position. You would do your position for three minutes top and bottom, and then that person does their position for three minutes top and bottom. Then we’re coming back to that drilling portion. You drill for 10 minutes, I will drill for 10 minutes. We find somebody new to go with for another three-minute round of positional rounds from there. Then you’re coming back, so that you’re just– So you end up doing that series three times, because what I want is, “Let’s try to learn this technique in rote. This is how you grab the arm. We’re going to do this. We’re going to put the leg over and that’s how the technique’s done.” Then I want them to try that. The nice part about this is that you get a real test on whether or not this is going to work. If the setup is going to work, because that person, that other person that you’re going live with doesn’t know what you drilled that day, or most likely doesn’t know what they drilled that day. Compared to the other side of things where, if you’re teaching armbar at the gym, everybody knows that, “Okay, you’re going to be trying to go for this technique.” At least you should be, because that’s what you’re learning that day. Everybody has a heightened sense of what they’re doing. Going back and forth with that, I like that person to– Whatever moves you’re learning that day, don’t just try to do your A-game from half guard. I want you learning these new techniques that you’re working on from half guard. Try to implement those. Where do they go wrong? Then when I come back, rather than me spending more time coaching, I’m tinkering with them, saying, “What was your mainproblem?” They had their weight too far back. Let’s try to get their weight loaded up or let’s try to get a hook underneath or something there. So then, that third time when they come around, each time it should look a little cleaner, a little better, and then it’s nice to just be able to sit the students, say, “What’s the real problems that you’re having with this technique?”
Sonny: I really like that because I’ve had the problem in the past where, of course you show a technique and it’s one of those moves that, if the people can see it coming a mile away or they just they know, everyone’s just been shown and it and the students don’t get that success with it. Then we know that a little bit of success will give them encouragement to keep learning and keep trying with the technique. I really like that as a way to increase the chances of early success while they’re learning. Makes a lot of sense. I think that’s huge though. Students are coming in and this seems to be the big benefit of this style. They’re starting to drill straight away, right? Is that–?
Bruce: Yes. For me, it’s always been weird was that, I enjoyed doing the warm-ups before the rolling portion. For me it’s tough. You’re going to warm up. Then for me maybe you’re going to sit down like in a regular classroom. You’re gonna sit down for 5-10 minutes, watch the coach explain something, and then kind of get into it. I’m not doing a whole lot of physical activity before any other rolling stuff and so splitting that up. The more time that I can get with that student actually trying the technique than me explaining it, the better I feel. Just because that’s valuable time for them means they’re not going to be in the gym all the time.
Sonny: That makes sense. We might spend roughly 15-20 minutes at the start of a lesson instructing. That’s a third of the lesson. If they can get that time to instead be drilling from stuff that they’ve already picked up while they’re watching on the way to the gym, that’s huge. You multiply that out over weeks and months and years. That’s a lot more time that they can spend actually working techniques instead of listening to the coach at the front which may grab their attention that day, maybe they don’t.
Bruce: For me, it’s about having them try it and practice and actually try to implement it and see where the problems are, because it makes me a little bit better coach. Like, “Okay, if I can see that 10 people right now are struggling with this particular way of doing this technique, then maybe I can switch the way that I teach it a little bit.”
Sonny: That brings up the change of role of yourself there as a coach. It seems like a pretty big change. One that will probably cause a lot of traditional coaches to be hesitant to make it because it really reshapes your position in there. How have you found that?
Bruce: For me, it was weird because I never really accepted the role initially. I feel like– When our coach left, I was left as a purple belt in this area. Well before I wanted to be able to teach. I was still competing quite a bit and traveling all the time. I always felt like I was just with them rather than being that coach. For me, I don’t feel like that mentality ever was there. That didn’t have to change as much. I felt like whether– Because we had a couple of guys that were getting ready for the ultimate fighter, then a couple of guys that were competing in Jiu-Jitsu pretty heavily. I didn’t feel like I was that good, so I was always trying to help those guys out for the longest time. Then ended up started competing a bunch myself. I’ve never felt like I was the coach. I always felt like I was also just the same level, if you will.
Sonny: Then you’ve got that all set up. Have you run into any problems with students then, they come into class and they’re like “I haven’t watched the technique.” They just, “I haven’t done the homework.” It’s just the best-laid plans go to waste and you back to teaching it in front of everyone?
Bruce: Oh, for sure, and I’ve wanted to. I definitely think that it makes me pull my hair out. The more effort that I put into these lesson plans and the more effort that I put into making this as easy as possible, the more– Not the more, but the times that it fails me. It just actually just tears my heart. It just kills. [chuckles] That’s the tough part. I do think that there’s a certain student that is best for. I’ve said it before to you. I think this isn’t for everybody. I think there’s a lot of students, myself included, that would much rather just have me show the technique and then being able to copy that technique and feel good. They don’t want to have to think as much inside the class. The nice part is is that if they didn’t do their homework before and they want to come in and take their 15 minutes I would normally spend coaching them and watching the technique, they can. It’s really in the hindsight of things and not losing out any more time than they would have if the coach was showing it anyways. We have a separate room where they
Bruce: can go in, put their headphones on, watch the stuff and then come out and do it.
Bruce: For sure, I think it isn’t for everyone and I think there’s a large group of students that would rather have me teach the traditional way.
Sonny: Yes. Yes. No, that is a interesting point about, probably is just less thinking, less effort for students to put in ahead of, to take some extra time out of their day, obviously. Which brings up, I guess, how you’ve actually been presenting the information in the videos. My tendency, I would think is if I, okay, I’m going to give it to them ahead of time. I’m going to pack in every little detail I possibly can into this video and they can sit there and watch it or make it the encyclopedia, but then obviously that’s probably the longer you make it, the less people are actually going to watch it. How have you actually found the best way to package that information up?
Bruce: For us, the videos are super short, maybe like a minute and a half long, and then we have gifs for every single one, and that should really be, for us, a reference. Looking at that, that’s another weird thing too. On all of our classes, their lesson plan’s on their phone. Everybody has their cell phones out on the mats. It looks ridiculous. They’ll look real quick, and they should have already watched the video so that little gif should just be like, “Yep. Okay. The hand needs to be there. I’m doing this.” The videos are about a minute long and then we go into further explanation either through audio or through longer videos that they can watch at home as to the finer details. For me, I would rather teach it in like a kind of a group where it’s “Okay, this is the general idea.” Okay. Then the second series through, okay, this is detail number two, because we don’t want to do this. Maybe we’re doing like a rear naked choke and we want to try to hide that hand or we want to try to get this behind the head faster kind of thing. Just adding into those little details. It’s funny stuff. I think Stephan Kesting actually just had a video on that same kind of idea not too long ago with Bernardo Faria.
Sonny: Yes. Okay. Nice, super-short videos, to the point. No, “Huge honor for me guys,” at the start to drag things out, it’s just–
Bruce: Yes. That’s part of the showmanship that you lose in this style and there’s definitely something to that. I think people, when they come to the Jiu-Jitsu class, yes they want to roll, but they also want to be entertained a little bit. So part of the tough side of this is that I lose out on a little bit of that unless I can make that connection with the students one-on-one while I’m sitting down with them going through their stuff.
Sonny: Yes, okay. What other then troubles had you run into in the implementation of this when you’ve brought it in or is there any other speed bumps you’ve hit?
Bruce: I think the technology side is tough. Be it through Evernote, I think that was one of the easier ones. The website one was really tough just because it seemed like for some reason everybody had, “Hey, I need to have my password reset.” or “I need to do this.” That was time when it would go into the gym and either I was having to reset a password or help them out with that. Maybe it’s just lack of computer knowledge, which is always surprising to me now because it’s in 2020, it seems like everybody can do stuff on their phone and everything. I think a little bit of that, just the struggle with technology was a little rough as well, but other than that, it’s been good. Trying to find out that, but I think this is with all jujitsu coaches, trying to find out that best balance to have, Students learn at the best rate as far as, like I talked about before, “Okay, do I show one technique and then we go to another position? I show another one or do I show this whole series? Then now maybe show them four series.” This has been six months and I haven’t shown another position for a long time.
Sonny: Yes, okay. Then how far out ahead have you got the curriculum mapped out for your students?
Bruce: We’ve got probably like 1400 videos on there. Realistically, that’s supposed to be the– Once they get past the scaffolding part where they’re learning one thing at a time and then going into the positions, the positions really are just, they just continually rotate through, and so I’ll continue to add stuff onto that as we see it happen in competition and things like that. That’s all laid out as far as, “Okay. I want you go into this position so you’re doing half guard. Once you feel comfortable with all the material in there, then you move onto the next one and then the next one, and the next one.” The nice part about that is, is that if you miss a class or two or three, you haven’t really missed anything from that series. You can just jump back into that series and go there. Compared to some of the other classes where, if you miss two or three days, maybe a coach taught another series that you didn’t get to learn, and so that can be tough at times too.
Sonny: Yes, I know that, where you teach something and someday you weren’t here for the counter, so you’re going to be getting caught with that one for a while.
Bruce: It’s weird. I want to get super nerdy into it now. I’ve started it, but I’ll probably never release it, where like– Have you ever heard of Anki before? The spaced repetition software?
Sonny: I’ve heard spaced repetition but I’m not sure of the software.
Bruce: Okay. Think of the software as like a really– It’s free software and it’s sweet. I use this for language learning. The nice part is that–
Sonny: Is it flashcards?
Bruce: Yes, it’s flashcards.
Sonny: Got you.
Bruce: This sounds completely hokey, and so go with me for a second, but I love it where in jujitsu, if I show not necessarily techniques or concepts, maybe we’re doing like leg drag or something. For me leg drag as a concept is you’re doing that from a lot of different, even though it’s a technique, it’s, for me, more of a concept. Taking a lot of these concepts and putting them in this flashcard system and then having that system on the bottom, basically it has, “I don’t know this at all. I kind of know this, I know this pretty well. I really know this.” Then that, depending on what you answer, it throws it in that mix way more. The next iteration I would love to do is basically you’re doing a ton of different techniques or a ton of different concepts, but based on your level of how well you feel, how comfortable you feel with this is how much it’s actually showing up that day. You might be doing something from every position and say, “Okay, I don’t know that one at all.” Then you have to review it again before the end of the class. Or, “I know that one pretty well.” So then maybe in a day or two, that’s showing up again in there. It seems all over the place, but I think that would be really cool just in the fact that if you were to ever– Maybe your armbar or whatever, and then like the second version of that, that I think would be really cool is to have either a coach or, you know, your training partners also assess that one through four scale of how well they feel like you did that technique and see if there’s a big difference between that.
Sonny: Wow, that’s a really cool idea. Yes, there’s a couple of things I want to talk about there. Maybe if you can explain spaced repetition of learning just for people who are unfamiliar.
Bruce: Sure. Spaced repetition in that realm, it’s like, there’s a certain amount of repetitions that you have to get in till you feel like you learn that. For, say, language learning like me, you’ll learn a word and then what this software does is essentially, right when you think that you’re going to just about forget the word, it brings it up again and says, “Okay, remember this word.” And if you have to think about it for a little bit, then boom, we’re putting it on again later. Then once you really begin to remember that word, it only brings it up a couple times every month or every year or whatever, just so you can still have that in the back of your mind.
Sonny: Yes. I think everyone could probably understand that for martial arts curriculum. I don’t know if you know, some people they might do a move in a curriculum once for the grading and then it goes a bit stale, but this would actually be kind of keeping it, at least in their memory enough till it’s locked in.
Bruce: Yes. That’s always kind of intrigued me on that side. I don’t know anybody that’s done it that way yet, but it’s, and I don’t want it to be just rote technique learning of like, “Okay. Yes. I know I’ve built up this 700-technique list that I can do.” I think it’s really interesting to do concepts well, but I’m sure that you training as well there’s stuff I look at, and I’m like, “Man, I haven’t done that technique for two years.” It’s really interesting to me that that happens like that where it’s just, hasn’t a part of your game yet so you haven’t even done that technique for years.
Sonny: Yes, no, for sure. There’s ones I can think that, yeah, those moves that, “Yes. I know that. I just haven’t done it in a while.” Like “Yes, give me a second. It’ll come back to me.”
Bruce: Then you’re trying to hit it live and it just never works for some reason.
Sonny: [laughs] There’s fascinating ideas that, I’ve been speaking to a lot of other people about your teaching concepts and everything, but what is it that’s actually driven you to look into these areas, because– Have you been taking inspiration from anyone else or is this just you venturing down these paths off your own accord?
Bruce: I definitely kind of looked around at some of the other learning styles for a while and then I hit upon that flipped classroom style and that was huge for me. There was a couple of videos, like I said, in the other athletic side that seemed a couple of wide receiver coaches that were doing it, and then a couple of PE coaches that were doing it, that was really influential. I decided to try it and I feel bad, because we did this probably three or four years ago. We started tinkering with that idea so my poor students, every time I came to class it was some new like, “Okay guys, we’re going to do this. It’s going to be perfect. It’s going to be great.” I felt bad for him during that time, but just trying to learn how best to do that when we really didn’t have any other model out there to look at it with.
Sonny: I think it takes a lot of courage to actually do that, because it’s so easy to just resort back into just teaching it how you’ve been taught. It’s no surprises for anyone. Probably people aren’t going to complain that you’re doing it like everyone else, so there’s less risk. There’s a bit of comfort and ease in that. There was that. Was it just your ideas of what it could be that made you take those chances?
Bruce: Yes. A little bit, I think and then just the urge of like– We’re from a small area here in South Dakota, but we’ve luckily had some decent success. We’ve had 70 people go off to the UFC, Australia got Ben Nguyen. Ben used to train with us for a long time. He was with us for eight years [crosstalk]
Sonny: Nice. Everyone knows him here.
Bruce: Your dang Australian women stole him from us. Actually, truth be told he went to Tiger Muay Thai for a year, and then after that he moved to Australia. He started here in Sioux Falls, and so I think it’s a little bit of a little man syndrome in the fact that we’re a little area, that we want to have big results. I think that we needed to figure out some leg up on that group, just because we don’t have the big-name coaches, like I said. Still the closest coach, black belts probably three hours away. That was probably the biggest part of just constantly …
Sonny: No, that makes sense. Just that need and to be able to do it has prompted you. Because it is funny when you’re looking at other sports where, I don’t know, I’m just guessing that they probably have a bit more room to experiment with instruction styles. Whereas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, that you could name certain places that even attempting what you’re attempting would just not be able to happen at all, right?
Bruce: Yes. Even my coach, my coache is Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros he’s just like, “It works for you, but it’s crazy.” It’s something that I don’t think he would probably ever do. I’m fortunate in the fact that he allows me to do that stuff, because we’ve had a good relationship for a long time. I think when most people see it, they probably see it as like, “This is terrible. This is going the way of Taekwondo.” Where this is like, “I’m going to show a video, and then this is how you’re going to do it or YouTube, Jiu-Jitsu.” Which, honestly let’s be honest, eight years ago, nine years ago if you were training and you watched YouTube videos there was probably some guy on the grass rolling around trying to show a really terrible Kimora. Now you’ve got the best instructors in the world showing really good techniques on YouTube, because that’s their mainstay of income now. That’s evolved completely. For me now if a student wants to watch a video from YouTube to add to that, then great. We’ll watch it and we’ll say, “This is something that we want to add to the curriculum because this is now becoming a big portion of the sport.” I’m a little bit different than that too where I’m all for that if a student wants to do that. As long as it doesn’t deviate too far from the lesson plan that we want to implement.
Sonny: It’s definitely, like YouTube has changed. Like you said, the last 8 or 10 years, it’s huge. whereas all those old videos are still up there. Now if you’re looking for something you might, you’re just as likely to find something by Caio Terra or Danaher] or some other world champ that’s up there. Just the idea of people using YouTube as a core part of their teaching, even if it is your videos that you’re putting up there. So far is not being used. I really think with the recent lockdowns, quarantines going around the world, every man and their dog’s out there filming videos now. All of a sudden, it’s 100% fine learning over the internet now in the last couple of months. It’s completely acceptable. I do wonder when things start opening up again if that’s going to open up these new opportunities.
Bruce: For sure. I think the technology side should be huge in Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve told several people, I’m like, “Hey, create an app, or create a website where people can go to,” because even if it’s just, “I’m a guy that’s interested in class and I want to watch these videos so I feel more comfortable before I come in and train.” Even that, or the beginner level, boom. We have all these videos with you. Even if you’re still doing the regular class the regular way, access to all these additional videos, I think that’s a huge resource that students should have.
Sonny: I think there is that special touch of it actually being a video from your coach as well, that you can still make it, personalize it and put enough value into it. It still makes it worthwhile that they go to that. How then do you actually grade your students then, is there still standard gradings or?
Bruce: For us, it’s an amount of time. Then when we roll, how they feel rolling. There’s some days in the class where instead of me showing, I’ll leave it up to maybe another higher belt to walk around and help with techniques. I’m taking a minute or two to roll with each student and saying, “This feels pretty good.” Or fix this, or do that. That’s how the grading goes through. It’s definitely not a, “You’ve done 175 classes underneath this system. Here’s your stripe.” I understand that. I think that’s one of the hardest things in this sport to do is grading. Especially grading that’s not on a perfect scale, if you will of like, “I do 125 classes, I get this.” I think we’ve had to do it to where, certainly, people have ideas when they’re going to get their promotion based on where they’re at in the curriculum. Because I’ve definitely heard from students that that’s a complaint that they have is, “I need some sort of goal, or I need a map to be able to get to this. If I’m not competing–” For a black belt it should be– We always just think, “It’s just the journey, just keep going.” I think lower belts at times definitely need that carrot in order to keep training for their goal.
Sonny: You’re right. I think a lot of people who are black belt now, probably, would have got it no matter what. Whereas, [unintelligible 00:37:09] the motivation helps, it’s great. Everyone needs it, needs to have that feeling of progress. That makes sense that then you’re not just relying on the technology to grade, it’s still the prove yourself on the mats, not with the videos, right?
Bruce: Yes, for sure. That’s the biggest thing. I think when they hear about this they think that it’s just going to be, “Yes, this, you did Kimora today. You watched the Kimora videos. So we move on” That’s not the case at all, the only thing that I’m doing is trying to take that like you said, that 15 or 20 minutes out of the class. So we can get more of the drilling in, so we can have more time with that.
Sonny: When you explain it to people like that with the, “Hey, 15, 20 minutes per class.” That seems like an easy sell to me to get people on board with. What other pieces of technology then, other uses of videos. It seems you’ve got a good handle on at all, what other ways have you found to be able to implement them?
Bruce: We film every practice. We have a couple of webcams and a couple of other cameras that are up. Those are available to our students as well. Say you roll in your training, and you want to watch that later and say, “Man, how did that guy get me in that sweep? Or how did that guy get me in that choke?” If you watch any of your competition footage, or any of the rolling sessions. Your roll in your mind is completely different from the roll that you have on video. It’s nice to be able to go back through that. What we’ll do too, is if I have some more time I’ll go on. Watch those videos and then we’ll do a voiceover or little annotations and things like that. I’m slowly been building those as well. We’ve done that for years. It’s only recently that I’m like, I’ve explained this in a video 185 times. We’re slowly building up a little database of problem areas where I can present to people and say, “See how you did this?” That we need to be doing this or that, or and so slowly adding those in as well. Which is labor-intensive. For me, I’m still rolling during the rolling time, probably 90% of the time. I don’t get to watch my students as much as I would like to, I like to roll with them. This video is a good way for me to both get my own rolling in, and then watch the students later on. So I don’t feel I’m short-changing them on that portion as well. That definitely goes in waves. I feel I watch a ton of that and then I’m like, “This is just too much.” Then I take a month off and then I’m watching a ton of it. I think those are good, helpful things. On the other technology side, we do quite a few. It’s a hard sell, but hopefully, it’s not going to be after this, of the online seminars that we’ll do. Maybe, you know Jeff Glover did one here like, right before everything hit I found it was at the beginning of March or end of February. Then Bill Cooper’s done a bunch, we’ve had Bradley Oshima. We’ve had just a bunch of people do seminars and things like that via the web. Our gym is really set up really nice. Fuji came through and made a really nice facility. Adidas helped out with that too, to where we have camera setup and we have TV setup. If you were to do, and then nice mics and everything too. If you were to do, say a seminar and you taught, you’d be able to speak to this person just like a Zoom Meeting, essentially. They can show the technique, and then you sit there and watch everybody do it. For us, we have only two people on that section of mat that has a camera on it. That particular student, or that particular coach can then just watch those two guys. Person A do it, person B do it, switch this, do this. Great and then two more people come in. Then once everybody’s done that technique in front of that guest instructor, or that seminar instructor. Then we can move on to the next technique. That for me is really cool too, which I think is a huge market for people where for Jiu-Jitsu athletes that haven’t really been fully tapped yet. Because for us we’re in a small area. We have about 185 students, but the airport here is tiny. Anytime you’re going to come in here, you’re going to pay, 6, 7, 800 bucks just for the flight. Then I’ve got to pay maybe a couple of 1,000 for the seminar, things like that. It gets very expensive, and then that person has to be gone from their family for two days. This way you sit down with a webcam and a laptop, which everybody’s been good with now. They show the techniques for two hours, because we try to limit the online seminars for two or three hours. Do that for two or three hours, boom. They go home and they make maybe half what they would have made in the regular seminar. It’s way less work and maybe if you wanted to be a glutton for punishment, you slam two or three of those together in a weekend and you’ve made a decent amount of money.
Sonny: Again, after what we’ve gone through now–
Bruce: Yes. That everybody’s now got the videos on point, and they’ve got the technology ready to go. Honestly, it’s been a super hard sell, other than people that I know doing those seminars. Where they’re like, “Man, I don’t think this is going to work.” Then every person that I’ve talked to, they’re like, “Oh, this is actually really personal.” You’ll see a lot of people doing that after this as well. If I can be on the mats, and you’re on the mats at the same time, rather than that person just sitting at home or whatever. I think it works very well.
Sonny: Yes. I think so. The thing I’m wondering is if after this, gyms will start putting in projector screens and things like that. Make that a bit more standard-issue, because if every gym had a projector and then it just boom, it just opens it up, wide open. Just go back a little bit. You’re actually filming all the rolling sessions each night, and then you’ll take that video and upload it to YouTube or something like that?
Bruce: Yes. Up onto YouTube as an unlisted video. Then we have a nice– It’s a basically a bot that will then go once that video uploads, then it’s just basically sent. Now it goes through the app. There’ll be able to watch that. As long as I take that video, upload it and then I shut the doors. 10, 15, 20 minutes later once it’s uploaded it’s available to the students to watch that night if they want.
Sonny: People can go back and watch and see if that sick Kimura trap roll was actually as [crosstalk]
Bruce: The nice part about that too is we’ve done that with a bunch of people as well. We’ll take those rolling videos and say, “Okay, let’s sit down for an hour at a time like this.” and have another instructor will say, “Okay, brutally be honest with us here. What are we doing wrong here? What could they be doing this way?” That’s been valuable too. Just like I said, we don’t have access to the high-level black belts that we would like in this area.
Sonny: That’s one of the most important things is just to be able to everyone to be teaching each other and giving feedback. Such an important thing to learn, and what you’re doing seems to really help and make that happen. You’d say you’d even go in and do like the individual breakdowns on those rolling sessions? That’s got to be labour-intensive, is that just when you have the time or–?
Bruce: When I have the time, the nice part about that is that nobody else needs to be on. For the longest time, and I want to get back to it we kept a database. Every time I had a comment, basically I would do the video. Just in a little database it would be, “Okay, Brian,” and then the note on there. Then we he got into practice rather than doing a curriculum, the five or six things that I saw on his rolling video, he’s working on those first. Saying, “Okay let’s get this fixed up, let’s get this better.” Then move onto that. I got away from that a while, just because it’s labor-intensive. If anybody knows how to make that better, that’d be great, just being able to add each one of those notes in there. I think the smaller other portion that I did was. I would watch the video, and I would talk over it and then have a transcription service. One of the cheaper ones to do that, and so that helped out a lot. Just trying to figure that out as well, when it’s definitely the students continue to have a database of things that they feel they’re messing upon. Then the same thing, if I see everybody’s doing the Berimbolo terribly. Obviously, I want to come in and maybe teach Berimbolo a little bit differently or better somehow.
Sonny: I really like that. It seems like you’ve got a lot of that feedback loop going on between you and the students in a way that seems like will actually end up with you giving them a lot more feedback. Even if it might not be while they’re rolling. What do you feel is the important benefits students are getting from that feedback?
Bruce: Definitely, I feel like almost all of the Jitsu side is, what can I make perform in live rolls and so. That’s the biggest thing, is that they’re getting that information under a real training situation. That’s probably the most, other than competing all the time, the truest tell of if you actually had that technique correctly or not. I’m sure if you show it to me while we’re just sitting there, great. Everything looks good, but can you pull it off during a roll? Or can you pull it off in competition? That’s probably the biggest thing. If we can help that person see where that mistake is being made, the frustrations of Jiu-Jitsu maybe go down just minusculey, but I’ll still take it.
Sonny: Now that makes sense. Then you also mentioned earlier with the side of feedback is considering maybe getting other students to rate the perceived ability of other students in their moves. That idea itself can seem a bit of heresy in some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu circles, right?
Bruce: Yes. For me, I feel getting that feedback is good, because maybe you feel like you really have that or the opposite. Maybe you’re a person that’s maybe a little bit of a Debbie Downer, and so maybe you feel like “Oh, I’m not very good at this technique,” and everybody else that’s gone with you rates this technique as a eight or a nine out of 10. You’re constantly doing it at a two. Maybe it is better than I thought or vice versa. Maybe you feel like you’re absolutely killing the technique, and everybody’s like, “No, we’re being kind to you.” I don’t know if that data would have to be– It’d be nice if it was completely anonymous, but– [laughter]
Sonny: Opens up a whole can of worms. [laughter]
Bruce: Exactly. What did you rate my Armbar at? Some just causing fights off of that.
Sonny: Yes, but mind you something, you often see on other online forums is like, “We’ve got this guy in our class who stinks,” or something like that. “How do we ever tell him?” You never know, maybe some way to say this guys going to rough all the time. Maybe a way to approach those social situations with some anonymous finesse might work. I don’t know.
Bruce: For sure, yes. Your Kimura is no good, and you stink. [laughter]
Sonny: Maybe a bit more delicate. Maybe a scale rating, one to five. It could work. Just to wrap things up. Have you ever had any problems that you’ve had to overcome, that you think might be good tips to give anyone else who might be listening to this and thinking about trying it? What advice would you give to someone who’s like this idea and might give it a go?
Bruce: I would definitely do it as a, two things, make sure that you have enough videos out there to support it to begin with. If you can start still doing the regular class and then start filming those for a while. Most of you guys already have, just because of the COVID thing. For a while just add the camera in there and start filming a lot of the classes, and then building up that structure. That’s probably been the toughest thing for me is trying to find that perfect blend of when do I put this information in. It’s great that I have that opportunity. Also, it’s terrible in the fact that it’s always on the back of my mind of like, “Oh, Where should this fit in the whole scheme of things as far as learning, compared to, “I’m going to show everybody this, and if that person picks up that little detail during this time, perfect.” That’s always a big thing, and then the second portion is I would just try it. When we first started it, one of the nicer things that was we had a little test group that we did and said, “Okay, during this class, Wednesdays at 6:30. We’re going to do just this flipped classroom style and see how people slowly adapt to it.” There’s been portions of me that wanted to, we’re going to have a regular class or regular style class on Fridays. Rather than that flipped classroom style, regular style class. Just so people kind of get both modalities, but that’s been the big thing is make sure we’ve had enough videos. When we started we definitely didn’t have enough videos. I always felt like I was chasing my tail creating content. Then the technology side, making sure that we have something up there that works really well. I think Evernote was really good, but it was labor-intensive. The website was really good, but be prepared for people to ask you all the time how this works or what to do. Then then the app has, it’s took a while for me to build it. If you’re going to have somebody build it, it’s going to be a little expensive. That’s been the best version for me so far, is just for somebody to be able to go on their phone and click. Then it just works.
Sonny: Yes, okay. I like the idea of just trialling one class a week to see how people take it. Especially if people already have a little of their curriculum filmed after this happens. Which I know is going to be the case. Did you feel like a point that you got to, where you were comfortable with the amount of videos you had filmed? If you’ve to give a rough guide, where would you think that people should get to?
Bruce: I would say, even 100 would be pretty good, of having a few series, depending on how you want to teach it. Just enough out there for them to be a little bit behind you, if you will, in the creating of that content.
Sonny: if anyone just wanted to try half way thing. They’re not certain that they could get their students fully on board yet. Is there any way you could think that not even just one class a week, just half the class or something like that to try it out. Because I still feel like there– Sounds like a good idea, but a lot of people are going to get pushed back to try and implement it and change like that.
Bruce: For me I think I would probably section it off into a group, and it would be the higher belt. I would say, “I’m going to put this information out there, especially the purples, browns, and guys that are already black belts.” Put that information out there and say, “Guys, who wants to be a part of this little group? We’re going to do this.” I think when you become that purple, brown, or black you’re kind of tinkering already. You know a vast majority of the techniques, you’re just trying to tinker. I think that would probably be my test group to go through that. Either that, or just absolute never done it before, beginning people. Those two groups, I feel like the folks that have already started. That’s probably been our biggest struggle is students that have come from another gym. Maybe they’re a white or blue belt that has come from another gym. They’re used to that way of teaching, and then we do this way. Now, when we’ve had higher belts, say purple belt moves to town, or a brown belt moves to town. They’re like, “Oh man, this is amazing. I love this.” Because this is already what I was formulating in my head. I’m just using it as a reference now, rather than learning from this as much. The struggle of that white belt to maybe beginner blue belt is the fact that they’re like, “No. This is how things are done.”
Sonny: Yes, that makes sense, because, yes. Purples, browns, generally they’re already starting to do their own self directed learning. You know, going off developing their own games. That makes sense that you could probably implement it with a group like that without too much pushback, I’d imagine.
Bruce: Honestly, for us we want them to be a part of that. You’ll see videos in there from purple, brown, and we have another black belt in the gym now. You’ll see other videos from them as well, and maybe they want to show something that they like or whatever. I want them to be a part of that as well as they start to learn how to teach. I think that’s a huge part of it as well. Is if they maybe want to open up a gym later. They need to learn how to have some of that as well. I don’t think you have to as much with this system, but I definitely think that it’s still a big factor.
Sonny: Yes, that’s interesting then, bringing those belts involved. How do you think has that helped the culture of your gym? Because it sounds like everyone’s in this team together. It’s obviously very different from what people are used to. What cultural changes do you think it’s had?
Bruce: I think the nice thing has been that a lot of the purple, brown, and black belts have really stepped up on the coaching side. Because maybe I’m working with this group, so somebody else is helping out over there. For the longest time in our system I think the peak situation would be having groups of three. Where it’s essentially an absolute beginner, maybe a blue belt, and then a higher, like a purple, brown, or black belt in each group. I still think that that’s a good way. I’ve thought about having almost like a management system for a while, of having like, “Okay, this purple belt, they get four blue belts to work with. Those are their four blue belts that they’re going to really try and improve. This blue belt gets five white belts that they’re really going to try and improve.” It’s funny, I was on Keenan and Josh’s podcast. We were talking about that for a little bit. Keenan said, “Really purple belt shouldn’t be showing people.” I said “I disagree. I think that if that person can get a little bit of information from that blue belt, and a little bit of information from that purple belt. Slowly work their way up the progression. I feel like that purple belt would have–” If they can say, “These five blue belts are my– I’m really trying to make those guys better.” I think that’s the mindset that I would like everybody to have. Is making everybody better through the team kind of deal. Just so it doesn’t sound weird. Keenan agreed based on the format that we have for class, i think this is the set up that we have that works really well for that.
Sonny: I think it is an ideal situation if everyone in the class is able to help out. At least someone in the class in some way on their progression. Everyone becomes their own teacher to a certain amount of people. That’s just going to help everyone grow quicker, because if there’s only the one headteacher in the class their time can only be spread amongst how many students.
Bruce: Right, then on the other hand, I really want to press that button of the blue belt, purple belt trying to teach this white belt. My hope is that they say, “Crap, I don’t want to seem wrong.” Then maybe before they speak, maybe they look at that information again, and what I’ve presented. They look at it somewhere else and then they present it. I really want to trigger that anxiety honestly of them being afraid of teaching anything until they feel like they know it. That in turn makes them learn it better.
Sonny: That’s good. I mean if they’re teaching people the information that you’ve given them to teach, or the feedback points that you’ve told them to give feedback on. Then that makes sense, rather than just I think everyone’s in agreement that they shouldn’t just teach some random move that who knows that they’re just some [crosstalk]
Bruce: [chuckles] They’re just some guy in the backyard from 2009. [laughter]
Sonny: That’s it. A Youtube video that was uploaded 2009, exactly. Those are the ones that I don’t, but if it’s like “You can teach this move. Give them the feedback on these certain points. Monitor someone else on these points,” then I think that that’s a way that it could possibly be very feasible to work. Awesome, Bruce. Thank you so much for your time, today mate. It’s been a great chat. If people want to get in touch with you, they want to fire away any questions to you. How should they go about to doing that?
Bruce: Probably Facebook would be the biggest one that we’re on or Instagram. The Facebook is just, Next Edge Academy. N-E-X-T-E-D-G-E-A-C-A-D-E-M-Y. The same thing with Instagram. They go on there. Either one of those two, I’ll try to get back to you fairly quickly. Otherwise, just go to our website, but our website if you have a login then there’s a tone of information in there. Otherwise, it’s just pretty basic. It’s definitely not something that I’m like, “I want this to flourish,” because I think it’ll be really interesting in the next few years to see if some of these does take off. What changes that I’m not seeing, that other instructors are going to make to make it even better. I don’t think that this is probably the best way of doing it. I’m sure that’s going to come years and years from now, but it’ll be interesting to see. Like you, said after this time, I think Jiu-Jitsu folks would become way more accustomed to technology now. I think you’ll start to see things like these. Maybe not the same thing, but these same idea a lot more.
Sonny: Yes, there’s going to be some changes no matter what. I think it could be very well the cutting edge of it. I’d love to maybe catch up again in a couple of months or something like that and just see where everything’s got to.
Bruce: See what’s happened.
Sonny: See if we’re allowed out by then. [laughs] Thanks, I really appreciate your time, mate. I know you’re busy there, so thank you very much. I’ve really enjoyed the chat. I think it’s great, and hopefully we can have some more in the future.
Bruce: Awesome. Hey, thank you very much for the interview and talk to you in a couple of months.
Sonny: Thank you. Cheers, Bruce.
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