If you are looking to improve your skills in Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, then you need to become a self-reliant learner. Typically we only spend a few hours each week in class, which is not enough to progress in the sport! You need to spend time outside of class learning!

Prepare your mind to learn

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

http://www.wikihow.com/Enhance-Your-Learning-Ability

Establish an emotional connection

Why do we want to do better?

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

Phases of learning process

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

Block Vs Random Training

Block Training

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

Random Training

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

Block Vs RandoM In Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

We already do this!

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

Block Training

  • Technique Learning
  • Situational Drilling with no variables

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

Random Training

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

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

So what are you saying?

During the ‘extra’ batting practice sessions:

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

http://championshipbasketballschool.com/2013/10/08/block-vs-random-practice

I don’t believe you! Show me stats!

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

http://championshipbasketballschool.com/2013/10/08/block-vs-random-practice

blockvsrandom

I need more!

During the ‘extra’ batting practice sessions:

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

http://championshipbasketballschool.com/2013/10/08/block-vs-random-practice

blockvsrandom2

Lizard Brain – Amygdala

The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.   

― Seth Godin

The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this affect mE learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ?

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

Watch all of this guys stuff! They are outstanding!! Watch Trevor Ragan

How do I fix it?

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

Learned Helplessness

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

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

http://psychology.about.com/od/lindex/f/earned-helplessness.htm

Learned Helplessness in BJJ

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

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

Three stages of learning

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

http://starfishtherapies.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/motor-learning-stages-of-motor-learning-and-strategies-to-improve-acquisition-of-motor-skills/

Over Researching

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

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

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

Failing to get better – Do’s

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

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

Failures, Screw-ups, and Unknowns | Dyan Williams

Failing to get better – Don’ts

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

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

Failures, Screw-ups, and Unknowns | Dyan Williams

Mistakes are feedback

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

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

Ask Why.. then why, how & what.

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

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

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

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

Becoming a self reliant learner

Use additional resources like:

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

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

Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu On Youtube

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

Tips:

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

Jiu-Jitsu Books

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

Tips:

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

Instructionals

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

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

Magazines and Podcasts

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

Learning Brazlian Jiu-Jitsu at Seminars

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

Tips:

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

Attitudes

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

Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets

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

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

Randomness

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

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

Boost your learning outside of BJJ

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

Become a teacher

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

Don’t recreate the wheel

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

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

20 hours not 10,000

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

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

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

Mind maps

Use them!

Have two mind maps

1) Techniques that you know

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

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

Types of sparring partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flow rolling with a purpose

In my eyes, there are two types of flow rolling.

Flow rolling

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

Flow rolling with a purpose

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

Final thoughts On Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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

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

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