Ecological Approach to BJJ - Greg Souders & Priit Mihkelson

I talk to Greg Souders and Priit Mihkelson, two innovative jiu-jitsu coaches of our time, delving into their training philosophies and approaches to practice. Greg champions an ecological approach, centered on constraints and fundamental functions, while Priit’s foundation lies in using progressive resistance. We engage in a comprehensive chat about motor learning, and skill development, and compare approaches like ecological dynamics to traditional sequential technique teaching. They break down optimal ways to design training sessions, instruct students, and harness specific skills through games and drills. It’s a spirited exchange between two grappling thinkers at the forefront of understanding how to truly master BJJ.

Listen To Greg Souders & Priit Mihkelson


Topics Discussed

The Ecological Approach TO BJJ

Greg Souders advocates strongly for an ecological approach to learning BJJ, rather than the traditional model of teaching step-by-step techniques. He argues you should teach the foundational functional tasks of positions and techniques, not prescribe specific movements. The constraints guide the emergence of skills based on the interaction between the individual student, the task at hand, and the training environment. Greg believes this approach creates more adaptable, well-rounded grapplers.

Can You Accurately Prescribe Resistance?

Priit asks whether coaches can accurately prescribe levels of intensity and resistance in training. Is there even such a thing as true “maximum effort” that can be quantified? Greg argues you can’t calculate resistance and intensity as some external objective measure to provide students. He states that resistance is always relative to the specific task and situation. As beginners have no point of reference, they have to play around with effort levels to attune themselves to the information in training.

Optimally Structuring Jiu-Jitsu Training Sessions

Greg and Priit have an in-depth discussion on how best to structure training sessions and games to elicit the desired skills in students. Priit asks how Greg decides what specific techniques to introduce or whether to use situational end games. Greg states he focuses on teaching the general tasks of making and maintaining connections, managing distance, and destabilizing the opponent that underlies all techniques. He believes the functional solutions emerge naturally through the student exploring these foundations.

Redundancy in Expert Coaching

Greg explains an interesting phenomenon – once the fundamentals of a sport are deeply understood by top coaches, redundancy appears across their methodologies. At the highest levels of coaching, there is a monotonous, almost tedious repetition of general principles, with only slight individual variance in how they’re applied. Greg argues much jiu-jitsu coaching is still chaotic today, with many coaches just throwing random solutions at the wall to see what sticks.

Greg Souders & Priit Mihkelson Resources


It’s crazy. It took me four years to understand the basic science to even a small degree and took me another four years to implement it into a system that I thought was usable. And I’m constantly adjusting, so I just grind on this all day. I don’t do anything else.

– Greg Souders

Trying to understand how the mechanics, tactics, and functions relate. Totally different way of thinking about what my job is to teach them. That is very challenging.

– Priit Mihkelson


Greg Souders Links

Priit Mihkelson Links

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