In this episode, I talk to Andy from the School of Grappling. We discuss the idea of developing grappling intuition and instincts, specifically through the use of constraints-based learning games and the gamification of grappling. The School of Grappling Instagram and website has many great articles that look at statistics of MMA and ADCC grappling exchanges and how to use systems and heuristics to improve your grappling training.
Moving Away from Technique Focus to Developing Intuition
Many coaches focus too heavily on techniques and collecting more techniques rather than developing true intuition in their students. However, great masters and high-level competitors act intuitively without conscious thought. Andy believes the end goal of training should be to foster this sense of intuition through experience. He argues techniques and concepts are useful tools but should not be the primary focus. Coaches should design experiences that allow students to gain intuition implicitly rather than explicitly teaching techniques.
Using Games Instead of Drilling for More Effective Learning
Instead of repetitive drilling, Andy proposes breaking down techniques into smaller games. This gamification approach makes training more playful and enjoyable. Appropriately designed games provide the right constraints so students develop functional intuition. The games feature measurable goals and rules that force students to find solutions, gaining valuable experiences. According to Andy, this allows faster development of skills compared to mimicking techniques shown by the coach.
Importance of Letting Students Gain Their Own Experiences
Andy stresses the need for students to gain experiences themselves, rather than solely mimic a coach. He believes coaches should thoughtfully design practice to provide students with the right experiences for learning. Breaking skills into smaller tasks allows successes while ensuring an appropriate level of challenge. This forces students to act, perceive, and make decisions, embedding the experiences intuitively. Andy contends this experiential approach develops true mastery faster than just pursuing idealized techniques.
Training the Average Student vs the Full-Time Competitor
Many top competitors excel through immense experience gained by training full-time. Andy argues their coaching methodology is less relevant than the sheer amount of practice. The average hobbyist training twice a week requires more guided, optimized training. He believes coaches should focus on maximizing the value from limited time on the mats. Gamification and intentional experiences are vital to accelerate proficiency for students who cannot train professionally. Andy emphasizes tailoring the training approach to the available time commitment of students.
School Of Grappling Interview Transcript
Sonny: Welcome to episode number three of the Sonny Brown Breakdown, a podcast where we will discuss the training, teaching, health and education of mixed martial arts. In this episode, I talked to Andy from the School of Grappling, where we discuss his fascinating ideas about teaching and developing intuition and instincts in your grappling training. Now let’s go to the podcast. Just give you a bit of background I came across your stuff, I believe it was on Instagram. I first saw the School of Grappling Instagram account and I was very intrigued by some of the ideas that you’re putting across, some of the posts you’re putting up, lots of work you’ve been putting into it, researching the statistics of ADCC and MMA, and I thought you had some excellent ideas and I thought it’d be great to get you on how to chat. And so, I’m just wondering, you know, with your School of Grappling page, what’s the overall idea that you’re trying to impart into people with School of Grappling, and just a bit of your own personal background with grappling and also your education background?
Andy: Okay, first of all, what’s up guys? Yeah, I think I’ll start with my background first and I will not go too much in depth because I actually think what I’m talking about is way more important and way more interesting than I am. I’m basically just a physicist. I like to really analyze stuff. Obviously, that’s why I did all the statistics and I have 20 years of grappling expenses, it all started with judo. And some of you may know, some of you don’t, that in judo the rules changed a lot over the last, maybe 10 to 15 years and they got more and more restricted and competition got more and more specialized. So, I felt like I needed to go and learn something else. And probably like everybody I watched the UFC and I saw this whole Gracie story unfold and thought like, like, huh, just BJJ seems to be the shit. So, I started BJJ and sadly, I really got a bit disappointed because I felt like I went from one specialist thing to the another and because the stuff I learned in BJJ was literally nothing like grappling in MMA at this time. It’s like, all these rules and so much got pulling the key stuff got weirder and weirder. So, I focused more on No-Gi grappling because I felt like this is a little bit closer to real grappling. Because like I said, I wanted to go to something which includes more than judo and not from one specialized thing to something different, which says specialize in another direction. So, I started moderating No-Gi and first, all the leg lock stuff when it came about and then I realized, ah, that’s still not kind of all grappling has to offer and still doesn’t really look like, like grappling in MMA at all.
So, I studied a lot of wrestling, especially folks style wrestling, coach wrestling in the USA and then slowly, I felt like huh, yeah, now things get more like grappling. If you include all the stuff from judo, all the stuff from jujitsu, from No-Gi jujitsu and a lot of wrestling, I felt like this is actually what grappling is about, if you combine all the stuff. And this is kind of also what I tried to do with my page, I want to move the grappling community a bit more together because I feel like all the sports specialized in different directions like judo, jujitsu No-Gi jujitsu, submission only, Sambo, wrestling, freestyle wrestling, all this stuff. Everybody’s specialized and actually that’s a good thing, I feel like, because that’s needed if you want to progress in a certain direction, but I feel like my role or what I’m trying to do is to bring it back together again to say like yeah, you know what, in the end, it’s all grappling and maybe it’s fun and we can all learn if we take look at it all and not just focus on our own stuff. That’s like the first thing I tried to do with School of Grappling, also the cultural side and the historical side, because for me, grappling is a sport, obviously, and that’s a really important part. Not so much in martial arts, like Parag Mickelson, also says, I think that’s not so important. But it’s also important for culture and stuff like this. I always felt like the Greeks showed how important this kind of sport like grappling or 05:41 [inaudible] can be on the society. Also, like if you take a look at Mongolia, for example, people just meet in the field and they grapple and they get like huge honors and thousands of, watches and all the stuff and yeah, that’s always interests me, like, the cultural side also.
And another thing I’m trying to do, is obviously all the statistics stuff I do, because I feel like yeah, many cultures have people in jujitsu, mostly, but also wrestling and judo, they all show stuff and claim stuff. But actually, most of it or some of it really is not supported by evidence at all. And I think smart people already knew this. So, for example, a lot of things you’ve seen in my statistics, I feel like don’t really show new stuff for the smart guys, it proves that they were right, what they felt was anecdotally right at the time. Yeah, the third part and maybe the part which is dearest to my heart is, I want to really educate people how to learn grappling or jujitsu, because I feel like, grappling, it lost so much in the last years, but teaching to not feel like yeah, the way people coach and teach in, jujitsu and judo, especially, not so much in wrestling, I feel like it’s really not up to date.
Sonny: Yeah, that’s certainly one of the things that drawn me to your work. And like you mentioned at the start there that you know, looking to combine the different grappling arts of judo, wrestling and jujitsu and I know one thing I’ve seen, you use the hashtag a lot on your Instagram page of, wrestle, jujitsu and linking that into how things are being taught in jujitsu, like to just basically discuss what your current thoughts are on the state of pedagogy used in jujitsu as a whole and just, you know how you think things are currently being taught or work, how it can be improved? And what your what thoughts are on this at the moment?
Andy: I want to start off with saying, I will be speaking about jujitsu, but I felt like the same is true for judo, especially because they’re both a sport, but they’re still kind of martial artsy. So, they didn’t make the jump like wrestling and reached the point where it’s just a sport but there’s still so many components of martial arts and I feel like that’s a bad thing actually. Because I feel like most people, competitors and coaches, they focus too much on techniques and that’s really a modern thing. I feel like they, there’s this misconception that you have to learn just enough or the right techniques and if you just know more techniques than the other guy, or the right ones, then at some point you will become skillful or become a master of your art. So, naturally, coaches who believe this like, okay, I just have to collect all the techniques that work and if I know them better than somebody else and I can do them better then I’m skillful, I’m a master and I will win lots of competitions or train. Good people and yeah, if that’s the goal, naturally, you will focus on teaching techniques, obviously, and I think that’s really bad because yeah, we will reach that point soon.
So, then some smarter guys, I feel like, especially Ryan Hall, or Rob 09:59 [inaudible], they introduced the jujitsu community to concepts and principles. So, basically what they are saying is, yeah, look, nobody can remember 10,000 techniques but you don’t have to, you just have to know, like, the underlying concepts and principles behind the techniques and then you can basically just come up with the exclusive technique at the time. And I feel like that’s a really, really, really big improvement to the first method. And it’s a method I also use a lot. I think concepts and principles are really, really important because if you know concepts and principles, you can come up with heuristics or rules of thumb, which help decision making in really complex situations. They’re way faster than techniques because you don’t really have to think that much. And that’s actually how I tried to transcend even that because, if you want to remember techniques, you actually have to do a little bit of thinking. And that’s a bad thing because everybody knows fighting or grappling, you have to make decisions really, really fast and you have to multitask, and a lot of things are going on.
So, what concepts, principles or rules of thumb do, they really, really lower the amount of thinking you have to do or the stuff you have to know. But actually, if you take a look at how really, really good math masters of any kind, it can be sports, it can be cooking, can be music, it can be arts, painting, anything, if you take a look at them, you realize most of them don’t think at all. They reach to the point where they just do stuff, intuition, with their intuition. And that’s actually something I have studied a lot. And I feel like that’s what I bring to the table. I say, yeah, techniques, sure they are important, but we shouldn’t focus on them at all. And I say concepts and principles, they are also important, they’re actually much more important, and they are still a big part of my method. But the end goal should not be to teach techniques or concepts or to develop a sense of intuition in each student you have. And if that’s your goal, and you’re you really say, that’s the premise I start with, then naturally all your training and all the classes you design look completely different because you have a different goal. And that’s basically, the starting point of my whole method and why I think most people have it wrong with all this technique stuff.
Sonny: Okay, that’s, a fascinating way of looking at it. And I really, like agree with the angle being to train people’s intuitions because that’s whenever you’re going against the good grappler that’s, you can tell that they’re not thinking, they’re just moving. So, my question would then be, if, you know, we’re shifting away from techniques to training concepts and principles, to maybe build that intuition, then how do we actually go about you know, working out what these principles are for grappling, which ones are the ones to teach that we should use and you know, how do we not just fall into the same trap of technique collection and just transfer that into say concept collection and figuring out which ones are the best to use and how to go about that?
Andy: Yeah, I don’t really use concepts and principles that much. And I tell you why because I think they are important for some people. For me, for example, I’m a nerd, I like to think about stuff. And, for me, concepts and principles have a lot, especially because I mean, I’m a physicist, I really, really know all this level of stuff. And that’s simple stuff for me so I can really work with it. But I also came across many, many, many, many, many students who aren’t like that. They just are really good movers; they like to move. They are a lot more embodied; they don’t think as much. And actually, I think, to attain intuition, you don’t need concepts and principles. They can help for some people, but you don’t need them. And actually, I think that’s, if you really think about it, if you think about some, I don’t know football players, basketball players, grapplers, fighters, for me is what, always was pretty obvious that they are not that smart. And they really don’t understand the concepts, and they really don’t understand the principles, at least not in an explicit way. But for some reason, they just move so masterfully, they always do the right stuff. They, but they do it without much thought. And I think a really good example for this is in MMAs, Tony Ferguson. I think if you would discuss concepts and principles with him, yeah, that wouldn’t go. But he still always knows what to do in the situation when it arises. And I think that’s the point, that’s where I want to go, what I want to reach in my students. I want to develop this intuition in everybody because I feel like this is literally the highest form of mastery.
And another thing I want to talk about in this, actually everybody is a master. We always think, when we think about mastery, we think about stuff like sports and cooking or craftsmanship. But if you think about the stuff you do every day, most of it is intuition. If you, I don’t know, if you cut a cucumber, if you turn the lights on, if you open the door, all that stuff, you don’t think about it, you just do it because you experience the stuff so often and you actually have some sort of, you are emerged in a task, you know, it’s like, this is the stuff, you need to do it for living. So, you naturally, I invested, and I think that’s something which lacks, if you just tried to copy techniques and stuff. Yeah, I don’t know if that was a big tangent.
Sonny: No, no, that explains a lot for me. So, you’re saying that, you know, we don’t necessarily need to explicitly teach concepts to people, like they don’t need to be able to know, to recite the concepts back to us, or the principles, you know, they don’t need to be able to write them down, what they are, but we should be teaching in a way that they just, that they intuitively pick up those concepts and principles through practice, is that?
Andy: Yeah, exactly. And I think like, what’s really important for me, is, I want to get across that, there’s no dogma, it’s, everything is just a tool. I still use techniques; I still use concepts and principles. And so, for example, if you realize some students, they need concepts and principles, then use then for God’s sake. And but also, you realize that many, many, many, many great athletes really, really work with this stuff because they’re just not that kind of a guy, you know? So, what you said is absolutely correct. The goal is to develop intuition through exercises I tried to design. Because like, actually, what intuition really is, that’s up for debate. Many people believe it’s, and that’s something I also wrote, it’s something like an unconscious, heuristic or implicit rule of thumb in our body, which we can use without thinking about them. That’s more like the stuff of 19:12 [inaudible], I talked about the psychologist. And, but there are many people, especially philosophers who actually believe, nah, intuition is something completely different, it’s just, yeah, then stuff gets really complicated if you look at it from a phenomenological, psychological, philosophical side.
But what everybody agrees on is that the only way you get intuition is first in experience, stuff you personally experience yourself. And so, what most coaches do I feel like is a try to teach in a way where they, either try to convey their own experiences and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, they want to help the students obviously. What’s even worse is when coaches try to convey stuff, they didn’t experience themselves, so this is like the Bullshido Mcdojo style, like you have a script Master, he tells you do x and a and b. And so, you just mimic the stuff and teach your students and they mimic you. And so, it’s basically an evolution of mimicry over generations. And I think this is actually the worst thing you could do. And what most coaches do, and I do too, from time to time, because I fail, is they try to convey their own experiences. And I feel like this is actually wrong. You have to realize that in order for your students to really learn, to really get a grip of something, they just have to experience it themselves. I feel like a really good example is, I personally, when I was a child, I really like to play with dangerous stuff like fire knives and so on and my mother always told me, don’t do this, be careful, don’t play with knife and stuff like this. And I always felt like yeah, whatever, I don’t care. Until I once, I cut myself really bad, I still have the scar on my left hand. And from this day on, I really was careful with knives because I experienced something myself and I made an error. And obviously, I don’t say every kid should cut him safe but what I’m saying is if you want to really remember stuff, like really remember stuff, you have to connect it to some perception and action or experience you had yourself at some point in your life. And the more of experiences which resemble similar situations, the better you get those similar situations. Yeah and I feel like many people now could maybe say, oh, yeah, so he’s arguing, just roll all the time. And yeah, I think like, you can actually maximize the amount of experiences you get in a certain timeframe. And that’s basically my method.
Sonny: Okay, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. I think it makes sense. Like, you know, you can tell someone that you know, you better have both arms in or both arms out when you’re in someone’s guard, or you’re going to be at risk of a triangle choke. You can explain that but obviously, they’re going to understand it a lot better if it actually happens to them and they’ll have that that deeper understanding, which makes a lot of sense. So, then what would your ways of conveying that intuition or helping your students build that intuition, how do you go around go about doing that?
Andy: So, for example, there are many ways, I think you could either start by, that’s a bit more, if you give more guidance, for example, let’s take something everybody can relate to. Let’s say you want to work on back control, okay. So, what you could do, you could basically start with the technique, like most coaches do, so you maybe work a certain series of moves, for example, yeah, the guy turtles, you get a seat belt, you insert the first talk, you’re breaking down, you insert the second hook, then you trap his arms and you choke him, right. So, you show them, you explain, maybe, the important concepts and stuff. And then you let them, and actually, I feel like this whole repetition thing is just stupid because either I really work with smart people, but I feel like if I show them a really, a sequence like this, everybody can do it after three times, five times, ten times, but there’s no need to do it like 100 times. So, when I have the feeling like, buddy, gets the technique kind of, or the sequence, I say, alright, let’s move on.
So, the next goal would be to say, okay, now everybody has like, an idea what to do. They don’t, they cannot do it perfectly, and they aren’t masters at it at all, but they have a goal in mind, and that’s really important. So, now we start with little mini bearings or games, like you break it down, so you work certain skills. For example, you tell, you say, listen, okay now, you know what the goal is, let’s start with the seatbelt and we do a little game, just try to get both hooks in. So, then the people can play with it, a person gets a seat belt, then they play around. I also tell my students, kind of regulate the intensity, if you know the guy doesn’t get it at all, maybe do a little bit of less resistance. If you feel like he gets the hooks in too easy, do a little more resistance. So, it’s not so much sparing in the sense of fighting, it’s more like playing. I want people to play around with a certain situation. And maybe they do it like five minutes. One guy, five minutes, the other guy and I feel like it’s always really, really interesting if you try that yourself, how fast people learn small little details, if they just repeat the task again and again and again and they fail, they fail again and they try something else. They come up with little details, if I would have shown them all these details in the technique before, they would have been overwhelmed, but this way, they just do it intuitively because they try.
So, for example, after that, I would do another game and say, okay, and now the stuff from back control, and one guy tries to escape and you just try to hold him there, so no chokes, nothing. So, you just work on the control for example. And then one guy tries to escape and then what I often tell students, so for example, if you want to work your, keeping him in bear control, I say, okay 20 seconds, you go hard on him, don’t let him escape. And then after that, give, the other person a chance to work his escapes. So, then you lower the resistance a little bit so he can get out, but with a lot of struggle, so it shouldn’t be easy. And so, and then you can progress like you train sub-skills of a certain skill, you develop game for it. And at some point, if you feel like people get competent in these parts in the sub skills, not in the whole sequence, but in a certain sequence. For example, then use start adding the sequences together, sorry. The easiest thing would be, okay, goal, you start with seatbelts, your goal is to get a rear naked choke, right? So, that would be another game. So, you don’t start in back control but with a seatbelt. And you can get, develop games, however you want, if you know what you’re doing, it’s basically simple. You just define a goal, you define certain constraints like, yeah, don’t do this, don’t do that. And, but the important thing is, I will always want to work with a task. So, it’s not like I tell my students, do this. I don’t tell them at all what they should do, I tell them, solve this problem. And how you solve this problem, actually, I don’t care. But the trick is, the constraints of the of the task or the game are set so they will do the right stuff, right?
So, that’s a bit trickier. It’s like the goal is to get them somewhere, to do something, but you don’t, you’re not allowed to tell them how. So, you have to design games and stuff, which forces a certain behavior after some time, but the point is, they themselves felt acted and they made decisions and they gained experiences because they acted and perceived and it’s not like, the coach showed me, right. And that’s more like a guided approach when I have something in mind, like, a control, for example. But actually, you can also do, sometimes you don’t even need that. So, for example, how I teach the wrestling stance, right, is I felt like if you want somebody to teach him footwork or stance, and you say, tell them, yeah, you stand with this foot in front and with this width and you bend a little bit, but not too much, and then your arms should be like this. And a thing like stands can get really, really, really complicated really, really quickly. Because a new student has to think about all this stuff. So, what I like to do, I like to let them play a game. And the game is really simple. It’s like, you have to touch the knees of the other guy, so if you would do that, only this rule, and this goal, so touching the knees of the other guy and defending. Then obviously people would stand really, really bend forward and that’s actually what happens. If you try that, if you play this game, people will stand really bent forward.
So, I introduced another rule. And I said, okay, so if the hands or anything, but the soles of your feet touch the ground, you lose the point. So, if you make the other guy touch the ground with anything but his feet, you get a point. So, what, and when you have these two rules, you actually realize people will automatically have a certain stance, which give them mobility because they have to defend people tapping their knees, but it also fixes the bent posture because if they’re been too much, well, people just snap you down and your hands touch the floor, right, or your knees. And what I really realized is that with this game, I can teach a beginner who never did martial arts, maybe not a perfect, but a decent and functional stance in like two minutes. And they don’t have to think about it. It’s just like, they had a task, they had a goal and they self-regulated themselves to achieve that goal. without much thought, it’s just like, oh, fuck, he tapped my knee, I better do this now, oh fuck, I touched the floor, I better don’t stand that bend forward and stuff like this. So, it’s nestled in experiences, right? And I’m always amazed how far, how fast I can teach a stance like this, it’s mind boggling.
Sonny: Very interesting. So, that’s, I mean, it sounds like it’s, you know, a form of say, just positional sparring, but not really. Because, like, I think sometimes I myself, will, you know, if I teach a half guard pass, I’ll make sure students you know, do some starting rounds in, you know, from half guard. But I know even in that case, that’s like a simplified version because, you know, sometimes they’ll start there and then they won’t ever be able to use the past that we’ve shown. So, you’re kind of focusing on, like setting the right constraints and you know, making the right set of rules that the students will have that level of failure to enable them to learn the moves, or the techniques, enough, in a faster way. Is that kind of close?
Andy: Yes. Yes, that’s close. I think like, if you don’t think so much about sparring or rolling, think about it like games, right? A game has rules and goals. And so, that’s all you need. You need rules. You need goals. If you actually use the term game, for some reason people automatically are more flowy, they aren’t that tense, right? If you tell them guys, we’ll play a game, they just play. But if you tell them we do position of sparring now, people for some reason, you can do the same stuff, but if you tell them, it’s sparring now, they will be a lot more tense, and it will be more ego and stuff. So, I feel like it’s a little bit of gamification, right. And I think that’s a really important part because then people think like, yeah, I’m not working a competition situation, no, I’m just playing a game. If I don’t get a point, who cares, right?
Sonny: Yeah, that makes sense in just to, you know, the gamification making it enjoyable and playful, because I’m thinking, say we show, passing or just opening close guard, it’s one thing to, just put people in someone’s guard, say we’ll open their closed guard, that’s the role of the sport and open the guard pass. But we know that’s very difficult for anyone to pull off against a completely hundred percent resisting opponent, it’s going to be hard whereas at certain times it might take minutes at least to actually pull that off. So, I think that makes sense what you’re saying to figure out ways that we can reduce that bigger action, open guard and pass it down into smaller little chunks. Would you say like–?
Andy: Yeah, absolutely.
Sonny: To work out the smaller parts of that and then make games out of those.
Andy: Yeah, I think the important thing is like, I mean, we are coaches. So, hopefully we know which stuff works and which doesn’t. So, it’s not like I’m sitting there and I’m just like, trying to. It’s not like, I just see what comes up. I always have stuff in mind prior, right? So, I know what the behavior I want to see is, but I have to find ways to kind of trick people into that behavior. I don’t tell them; I want you to do this. But I set the constraints in a way that they will automatically do it after some time, because there’s only two- or three-ways stuff actually works. So, for example, one thing you can achieve that is by like you said, making the tasks smaller and smaller. So, if it’s too abstract, it’s like, for example, you start and have no grips or anything and you tell them people sweep the other guy. That’s like, a fairly complex problem right there, maybe 1000.
Sonny: That’s a pretty common way currently of doing it, right?
Andy: Yeah, absolutely. But if you want people and that’s fine for advanced students, if you know half guard, that’s fine, right? But if you want to teach half guard, let’s say something I really focus on in half guard is I tell people, okay, for example, you start with an under hook. You already have your hooks switched, like in the Quota Guard from Lucas Lake right. And now the goal is to build up to a dogfight. No, it’s not a sweep, it’s just almost too easy, it’s like, I mean, you haven’t known the neat twist, or the hooks switched. So, you just have to build up to a dogfight. And that’s the goal is to build up to the dock, find the roots, well, you start in this position and then people will actually succeed at it because it’s not that complex anymore, and that’s really important. People have to succeed a lot of times, but they also have to experience some failures. So, it’s a balance of the tasks shouldn’t be too easy, but it shouldn’t also be too hard.
So, for example, if people get that, I can get them to building up to a dogfight I do another game where they start in the dogfight and I tell them okay, now you guys are both stuck in a dogfight now. Sweep the other guy and take his back and the other person should defend or escape, then we can do another game. For example, you start in half guards, and the game is, the top and the bottom guy, it should pump the floor under hooks. So, it’s just if you get to on-hook, you get a point start again, you get an on-hook, you get a point start again. So, it’s like you can, this way they can fight for a certain goal in one minute. I don’t know how many times you can come in and pump in one minute, maybe five times each, depending on how good you are.
And then after people made all these games, so they made many experiences, getting an under hook, switching the hook, building up to a dogfight. What do I do when I’m at a dogfight? If people have succeeded in the small tasks, then we can do positional sparring from half guard, because people actually, they already had some complexity and some resistance but in a way, where they could handle the resistance and complexity because it wasn’t overwhelming, right. And you can do that step by step, you don’t have to go from I get an under-hook to half guard sparring. So, you can, what I like to do is, I do many small parts. And then I take two parts together, for example, getting an under hook and switching the hooks for the neat with for example after Lucas Lake Guard, then I do build to the dogfight and sweeping from the bug dog fight is a new sparring again. So, you kind of chunk things together again until the big picture arises. I don’t know if you get what I mean.
Sonny: Yeah, that does make a lot of sense. So, I’m looking at it from the perspective of, we could have, positional sparring being common, already, but this is, figuring out the ways, what you’re suggesting is more than just positional sparring. And it seems like it’s, the ways to break it down. So, there’s even, the micro positions or the little micro battles and building out a way up from there.
Andy: Yeah, and the point is, for example, it’s always still a task, right. I don’t tell them, okay, I show you know how I build up from half guard to get to the dogfight and I put my hand here and then I make space. I push it forward so I can get my bottom knee out and stuff like that. I don’t, yeah, maybe I give cues for some people who need some help. But it’s not like I tell them mimic me, it’s like, that’s your start, that’s your end. Figure it out, right. And people will figure it out. If the task is small enough, people will figure it out, I can guarantee you, if they don’t figure it out, it just means the task is still too complex. So, you have to make it smaller.
Sonny: That makes sense. So, it’s interesting. It really links with that building then of concepts, just through this chunking it down, this gamification and making it smaller, because, I mean, there has been discussion in the Grappling community for a while, like what’s better, you know, technique or drilling or concepts? And it seems like you’re putting forward the idea of it’s not a binary choice. It’s not it’s not drilling or concepts. It’s another option of gamification that kind of combines both of those elements together where you’re doing the reps over, but you’re doing the reps of the concepts in time.
Andy: Yes, I feel like this is like some buzzwords or sayings like this repetition without repetition, right. Or like another really smart saying, I forgot who said it right now, it’s, don’t repeat the same solution again and again, but solve the same problem again and again. That’s basically it. I feel like it is reading in jujitsu. It’s more like, okay, here is the perfect form, right? It’s like, some guy with a black belt shows you the perfect technique, the perfect form of something and then you try to mimic it and mimic it until it looks exactly like that. And I think that’s catastrophic. And also, that’s not how wrestlers drill, drilling in wrestling for some reason, probably because it’s a bit more dynamic on the feet. It’s not that rigid, that’s this rarely. If wrestler drills, it’s always a little bit more playfulness, a little bit more activity from your partner. It’s not that fixed, I feel like, at least that’s my experience. Yeah.
Sonny: Okay. Yeah. So yeah, that importance of you making it playful and making it fun while getting those repetitions in of the repetitions is just solving the same problem, not a set way to actually solve it. And that’s interesting, because that I think people will like when you say it, kind of understand, that makes a lot of sense. But I don’t think there’s many people out there who, explicitly have come up with a set of games for Grappling, that is like the okay, these are all the little games that can be played. I think that’s a very unique way of looking at things with a lot of avenues to explore.
Andy: Yeah, that’s the point because I actually want to encourage people not to mimic myself, because that’s actually the thing I’m fighting against. Right.
Sonny: Okay. Yeah.
Andy: I want to give people a sense, like, okay, that’s how I do stuff because I have a different goal. And if you understand what I’m saying, you can come up with all kinds of games, yourself, and even depending on the XX want you to write if you’ve trained for IBJJF it would be different games, if you’ve trained for MMA it would be different games, but the point is, nest your learning in tasks and in games and not in the wrong sense of perfection of a certain form, because I feel like this literally does not exist at all. And that’s just what much martial arts lead into, I feel like it’s like this real Zen like or Eastern notion of the perfect form and practicing the one kick 1000 times and all this just kind of romantic view about martial arts. And if you take a look at a real fight at a real match, the whole stuff is dirty, the stuff is messy, but it’s functional, it just works. And if you try to get perfect at one move, what I argue is that means you invest too much time in getting really good at a really specific time thing, which means you probably suck at many things.
Sonny: That could be positive could be possible too. So, I mean, that idea of the perfect form if we want to, you know, if we look at the top people in the sport or, sometimes in MMA as well, like the names that come to mind for me is, like a George St. Pierre, Marcella Garcia or any of John Danaher students really is these guys at the moment would probably, say like, my gut feeling is that their technique is just, they’re getting by with superior technique or, their techniques are that much better I still, you know, maybe that’s just the way that you know, with the conventional way of thinking, but when we look at the results that they’re currently getting, they’re still the ones winning. So, I guess the traditional way of thinking would be that, okay, well, they’re the ones winning, we should copy their techniques that they’re doing. If we still get a lot of success with that, what’s the harm you think in, in taking that route?
Andy: So, what you’re saying is like, this guy’s master certain techniques, so why shouldn’t we just focus on these techniques right?
Sonny: Yeah, well, you know, just copy the–
Andy: I mean, there’s some point to it. Actually, yeah, I don’t, like I said, it’s all tools. It’s not like I say, I don’t teach techniques, because I only want to intuition, that that’s not right. Because I feel like it really depends on many, things. For example, that’s a really big criticism I have for the community, how they think about learning and coaching. For some reason, they always think that competitors are really good learners or teachers. Because I personally feel like because intuition, and if you train twice a day, six times a week, you will get this intuition no matter what you do. Let’s take a look at some of these guys. They train obsessively for years and decades. Of course, they will be fucking awesome, great loss fighters. Of course, that’s not the point, the point is, like me, I have a lot of people, they work full time, they are lawyers, they are engineers, they train twice a week for one and a half hour. They cannot get to that level of GSP or Marcello Garcia. Well, they don’t get there anyways, but they don’t get there with the same way people learned it right, because of the sheer amount of sacrifice they made, the sheer amount of work they put in. What I’m arguing is, if you train twice a day, every day for five years and you are not great at what you are doing, you must really suck.
Andy: So, that’s not my standard. My standard is like, I teach people who train twice a week for two hours. Because that’s actually the hard problem of coaching in my opinion
Sonny: Yeah, well the majority of people are going to be in that situation, which is a good point, most people don’t end up competing, most people are training for fun so that I can see how that will then cater, if we’re making those games, and the smaller game making, and those smaller games and making it fun, that’s actually going to cater to a wider audience and then the competitors if they want can, you tailor it more to them if they have to go down a different path.
Andy: And the other thing is like, I speak out of my ass. And maybe that’s a bit arrogant to say, but somebody buy DVDs, or instructions I watch of high-level competitors. And I feel like, dude, you don’t understand what you’re talking about. And obviously this guy would wreck me. I mean, I’m a hobbyist also, this guy would kill me on the mat. But not because he understands the biomechanics, the concepts, the principles better, not because he’s a better teacher, not because he’s a better learner. Because he made a sacrifice I did not make, the sacrifice was training full time every day, and sacrificing a lot of things. Many people are not willing to sacrifice, and I think we always have to keep that in mind, that’s a big part of getting good at anything. That’s what I was arguing with the intuition anyways, it’s just you experience, right.
Sonny: Yeah, that makes sense. So, like, I’ve had the thoughts before that, you know, obviously the people training, at Danaher would probably if they are training full time, they’d probably be just as good if they go on any of the other top coaches if they’re that committed. And I mean, there’s probably some people I think in everyone’s gym where you just think, well, okay, this, person will probably be good no matter where they go, because they’ve got that commitment to training and they’re putting in the hours and, they’re going to be good no matter who they’re training under. And I guess then that that makes sense that they’ve learnt not so much how to be able to repeat those techniques or concepts or principles, but they’ve just learned through hours and just that repetition of solving problems and failing to solve it.
Andy: Just think about it, if the average class, let’s say, just to simplify stuff is one-hour technique, drills and repetition, one hour rolling, okay? So, if we just assume that these guys learn nothing in the first part of technical training, if they train twice a day, six times a week, they still have 12 hours of rolling every week. That’s the amount of rolling that hobbyist maybe gets in a month or so. Right. So, we should not over value the way these guys train. Obviously, not all of them, I know for a fact that many coaches out there are doing good work, right. I’m not saying, I have figured it out and the community sucks. I’m saying, what I see is that many people who do it kind of wrong, but some still do a good job, obviously. For example, I listened to a lot of podcasts of Damien Maya lately, and actually seems like he’s doing stuff fairly common to how I do it. And he actually said, in a podcast, I think it was, I don’t remember when the podcast was, but he actually said, the way he teaches now is completely different from how he learned and he uses a lot more of the stuff I’m talking about a little bit more of many positional sparring, playful, aiming stuff like this. And that I felt like was really interesting, like the guy who many argue is the greatest grappling, MMA and who obviously achieved this point. By the way, he trends argues that he doesn’t teach the way he learned in the beginning. Right.
Sonny: And I think that’s the area of interest is that, you know, a few people are talking about and is coming to the forefront because, it is this, you know, like a change from how everyone was taught which, my gut feeling is that I guess how the Jujitsu was originally taught, was really people were keeping secrets, and it was still, this secretive arms, I’ll show you this and but don’t show this, this is the secret move. And that’s, from that martial arts background, I think where the idea is you just have to have the secret weapon and they never–
Andy: Yeah, it’s like that, this notion that the master or the Sensei, he knows something you don’t know. And I feel like this is just plain false. Like, if you take a look at great musicians, they just have so much experience that they played so many years. They just act intuitively; they just have the skill. It’s not like they have a trick in their sleeve, right. It’s embodied in their being, it’s like, they care so much, it’s just part of who they are. And I think like, it’s important that we have to realize if we, our students want to achieve this kind of mastery, we all have to learn that it’s not about knowing certain things. It’s just about immersing ourselves in the task, getting familiar with all the situations that arise again and again, experiencing it over and over again until we get a kind of embodied sense of the situation, right.
Sonny: That makes a lot of the comparison with music because I was thinking then it’s kind of like, when people start jamming in a band and you’ve seen when a solo ends or something and the guitarist will just look at the drummer and they have that connection of just putting in the hours being able to sense just know and sense what’s going on.
Andy: Yeah, and the goal basically is, like I said, people like Damon, Maya, Marcel Garcia, Gordon Ryan, all these people, they have the experience because they trained so much, obviously, and probably, I don’t know, but I guess the training at the basement of Ghana is also very good. So, the combination of good training and experience of course, they are really good. 99% of the Jiu-Jitsu community are not people who train all the time. It’s like, how do I get this? How do I increase the experience they get? How do I find a mix? How do I find a way? So, they don’t have to practice for 10 years straight until they are somehow competent. How can I increase all this? And that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not like I’m trying to skip stuff, it’s not like I’m saying, yeah, I just have to teach them the right techniques. No, I’m saying it’s a process, they have to get the experience, they have to develop sense of situations, they have to get intuition. But how can I speed it up a little bit? How can I make these experiences a bit more powerful? Or maybe how can I get more experiences in a certain timeframe? Or maybe how can I give them the right experiences, right? It’s like, I mean, I feel like I’m an experienced dealer. I give them experiences, which help them to get better, and I maybe somehow can guide their learning by designing a practice which gives them more experiences and the right experiences. So, they can learn faster, but there’s no shortcut.
Sonny: Yeah, yes, certainly, still no shortcuts. But, I agree with what you’re saying and if we go to the concepts, verse drilling debate that happened, I was always thinking, Well, you know, if you have someone who trains twice a week, just a regular person, as well as a hobbyist, then drilling might be a more efficient use of time and that, just get some reps in here, some of the basic foundational moves, just rip it out, use your two hours a week in the most efficient time, in the most efficient way, but I think it makes sense that breaking just that drilling down even further to that, not drilling techniques but drilling and repeating those experiences. It makes a lot of sense to how people can pick up.
Andy: And another thing, I think it’s really important, it’s not like a master. And that’s the word I use a lot because that’s what I’m interested in, right, mastery. And of any kind, because you can actually learn a lot of a lot about mastery in combat sports, if you take a look at mastery in music or whatever, it’s like, not everything you do is intuitive, right. There are still situations maybe where you experience something new, while you have to rely on these concepts or principles by your aesthetics. Maybe if you are in a match, or in a fight, there are strategic and tactical elements you have to think about. So, what intuition also does is, it frees up your mind. If you don’t have to think about the stuff you do all the time, then you have more time to think about maybe not more important, but the stuff that is special to the situation, the strategy, the tactics. Maybe a problem arises you’re not familiar with so you can think about your aesthetic or your rule of thumb, but and that’s why I still teach them right.
Sonny: Yeah, I like that way of thinking about that intuition. So, you’re not spending that time thinking that’s what another jerk have made in the past, while you’re thinking, say someone’s thinking about a concepts, will it be too late, have I already hit the move that I’ve drilled 1000 times? But if it’s an intuitive thing, then that makes sense that you you’re not thinking about a concept or principle. It’s just when you–
Andy: Yeah, and I mean, I found it somewhat, I read how far Philosophy and Science, and I say that as someone who studied both, drifted away from everyday life, right, people can relate to a lot of these things. And that’s what I’m saying, is just to think about what you do every day. The stuff I’m talking about you experience from the moment you wake up, if you drive in a car, driving a car. I mean, in Germany, everybody drives with gear, right? So, you have to do a lot of stuff. You have to shift the gears, you have to look at the traffic, you do all this stuff, it’s incredibly complex. But you don’t do it by consciously thinking about it. And if you would, you would probably do a crash, because you drive the car you don’t think about it, you do everything right. You listen to music, you talk maybe to your wife who’s sitting next to you, and you do all the stuff without much conscious thought, it’s not like a new thing. This is the natural mode of how most people do most of the things they do in life. And, for example, if I’m a scientist, if I work scientifically, that’s a really small part of my life. It’s a method, it’s a tool, it’s a technique, it’s not what being a human is really about. We’re not robots, we’re not like, yeah, this is my perfect system algorithm. It’s like no, we are mostly actually Intuitively with almost everything we do.
Sonny: And it makes sense that we are changing the train from an arms race or collection of techniques to just that inbuilt experience and more time for intuition. I think that’s a very interesting way of looking at things and I think we can explore that a lot more into the future. I think there’s a lot of room to discuss this even further, but it’s been a fascinating conversation. Is there anything you’d like to finish up on, that we haven’t touched on?
Andy: Yeah. Of course, I feel like what we didn’t touch today, but maybe we’ll do at another time if you like, is the whole notion of systems and system thinking. Because what I don’t want people to think is like, this guy doesn’t teach any systems, this guy doesn’t teach any techniques, and that would be wrong. I just feel like the overall goal for me is not to teach a technique or a certain system, I still use them and actually, systems are some. The other thing I’m really interested about, it’s the one thing, is all this intuition and mastery stuff, the other thing is systems. So yeah, I still use them, I can already say so much. It’s not all intuitive, but a lot of things.
Sonny: Beautiful. That’s, if you’d be happy to come back on we do a part two, I think that’s a perfect lead in to, to have another discussion about the systems, because we’ve had a great discussion here about intuition.
Andy: Yeah, for sure sounds fun.
Sonny: Excellent. So, just finishing up, is there anything you would like to or just mention how people can get in touch with you or how they can follow you. And I know you’ve got a couple of projects in the works you might want to mention.
Andy: Yeah, so obviously, my name is Andy, my tech on Instagram is at School of Grappling. I mostly do stuff there, I have a Twitter account, but I don’t really get Twitter, it’s not for me. So, I basically just use it to share some interesting links, since you cannot share links on Instagram, which is really bad. And I also have a homepage, schoolofgrappling.com, where it’s more like, in addition to the stuff I write on Instagram, where I can maybe get more in depth, write bigger articles, embed some videos and stuff. And I will probably do more in the future on my homepage. And the next projects, yeah, just, you will see,
Sonny: We will see, well hopefully everyone’s interested now after–
Andy: I can already tell you that. I feel like the ADCC studies I have done, right now, I’m not that interested in Jiu-jitsu or doing statistics for jujitsu. So, I’m currently focusing a lot on Grappling and MMA.
Sonny: Okay, yeah, because that was something else that you’ve done a lot of with work on statistics, and maybe we’ll save that discussion for next time.
Andy: God’s willing
Sonny: And maybe we can do a third one as well.
Andy: Yeah. I’d love to. It’s been very insightful, insightful conversation. Because Yeah, I really feel like this is something that it’s pushing boundaries in that there’s a lot more to, to develop because as you said, it’s not the way things have generally been taught in the martial arts as a whole. So, it opens up a lot of room for development. And that’s exciting. So, yeah, thank you very much for having this discussion. And we will make sure that, we will chat again and about systems. And thank you very much.
Sonny: Yeah, thank you guys. Thanks for listening. See you.
Subscribe To My Newsletter
Sign up for my newsletter and receive occasional updates on my articles, podcasts and videos and receive a link to my guide which lists the top 5 habits to start a martial artist's day.