Tum Energia Voorn

I talk to Tum Voorn who is a Jiu-Jitsu Practitioner with a Capoeria background and who also trained as a school teacher. We discuss inquiry-based learning, an instructional strategy that he describes as “Teaching Without Telling” and how he applies it in a grappling context. Also, what obstacles it may have in its implementation, how to overcome them and the benefits of its use in a Jiu-Jitsu class. We also relate this to forming a positive club culture by encouraging student feedback and, finally how leg locks can play into this pedagogy.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is actually ask the right questions at the right time, and have people find their own solutions to the problem.”

– Tum Voorn

Listen To Tum Voorn






[00:00] – Introduction to Episode 41
[02:58] – Tum’s Background Story
[08:05] – Why Did He Start Teaching
[09:53] – Applying the “Teaching Without Telling” Method to Grappling Setting
[13:12] – How to Teach Grappling to a Beginner
[15:03] – Teaching Submission Step by Step
[17:53] – Let Them Solve the Problem by Starting off With the Why
[19:00] – How to Self Evolve?
[23:59] – The Idea of Not Correcting Students Too Much
[27:38] – Ask Questions to Let the Students Know About Their Fault
[33:58] – Making Things Easy Isn’t Necessarily the Best Way to Improve
[34:48] – How Tum Gives Small Guidelines to His Students to Make Them Improve
[36:18] – Belt Promotions With Demo
[40:18] – The Situation of Asking an Obscure Question on a Particular Move
[42:20] – Facilitating and Creating an Environment That Benefits Growth
[44:29] – Where Do YouTube Jiu-Jitsu Videos Lack
[49:07] – Fun and Competition Approach of Jiu-Jitsu
[51:50] – About Capoeira
[56:37] – Creating a Culture of the Ability to Fail
[58:00] – Giving Proper Feedback to People
[1:03:33] – Create an Environment Where It’s Okay to Ask Questions
[1:07:43] – The Artistic, Creative, and Problem-Solving Side of Jiu-Jitsu
[1:14:48] – Being Open to Improvement
[1:18:09] – Answering a Problem With a New Problem
[1:24:00] – Relate Different Techniques, Positions or Guards to Make It a System
[1:29:47] – His Approach of Making Jiu-Jitsu Videos


Applying teaching without telling into grappling

Tum says he likes Teaching without telling. Instead of just giving the instructions or monkey see monkey do, what he does is divide the class into groups and subgroups which has both fast learners and slow learners. He teaches by looking at the individuals eventually, and trying to make them better at the sport and having them understand what it is that they are doing, and what it is that they’re trying to achieve by asking more questions and less telling.

He explains that by giving an example, “what I did in the classroom from an early age with elementary school is when kids ask you questions like, teacher where can I find this? Or where can I find the scissors? Then it’s super convenient to just give them the answers like it’s over here or I’ll get it or just take it over there. But it’s way better to just ask the questions like, okay, where did you last put it? What’s the usual place? Where would you expect them to be? And through those small ways of answering questions with questions, instead of just giving the answer, I try to improve them.

Sometimes the best thing to do is actually ask the right questions at the right time, and have people find their own solutions to the problem. So instead of just giving all the answers to the hundreds of 1000s techniques, I would rather give some a point of view and a method of thinking to how to solve these problems, which can be then applied to several position situations and techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.”

Intuition Learning

Let the people come up with their own rewards, values and answers. In this way, they’re much more likely to grow and learn. Because it’s pretty impossible to come up with all the answers as one person, no matter how much you know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or another given subject. And also, if you combine all the problems solving minds of all the people in the room, then together, you get so much more information and so much more possibilities of the outcome.

Recreational training

Tum tells, “last week, I had my students come up with a winning technique. They really like the small techniques where the instructions are not more than a minute, and they teach it to one of the other students. Then they switch around.

For example, you choose to explain to me an Ezekiel choke.  And I choose to explain a Triangle choke. So you teach me your way of doing Ezekiel. And I teach you my way of doing the triangle, and then we switch. You get to another student, but you still teach this same Ezekiel, like 5, 10 or 20 times. And every time you explain this to someone, you evolve yourself by thinking about the steps.

You are explaining a technique to someone, and you then have a moment like, Hey, I automatically always do this. But why do I put my hand out? And as you are going through the steps, you yourself are thinking about this technique that you do so often in sparring. And now having the time to reflect on what it is exactly what you’re doing.

If people like training, if people like drilling, if people like sparring, then they are more open to learning, and they will grow faster. Tum says, “I’m a strong believer of having people motivated and enthusiastic for the sport and for what it is they’re doing. And then learning will come by itself.”

Creating a culture of the ability to fail

Failure is a necessary process and it’s one of the best teachers out there. Tum says, “don’t overload your students with all the details. Because if you haven’t experienced the problem, then the solution is pointless and worthless. So have them experience these problems, have them experience failure, have them correct themselves and be their own teacher because that’s the best way for drilling and learning.”

The idea of not correcting students too much

Tum says, “Obviously, safety is the number one priority. So someone explained something wrong, and it is a risk for safety or is a risk for injury, then obviously, I will step in and correct them to prevent injuries or other accidents from happening. But besides that, I would just let them go through it and see that they do not get the proper tap.

I would urge the other student to just let them try and solve it themselves. And usually, they come up with the answer. If not, I would step in and ask a question. I wouldn’t say, Hey, you have to get one arm out. I would say okay, why is the choke not working? What exactly is the strangle? What are you trying to strangle what part of your body is strangling his one? And then the students would find out that Oh, okay, the two arms is the problem by just having me ask the question.”

Show them instead of talking

It’s easier to teach them by showing the techniques instead of talking and that’s also a problem with a lot of teachers or especially in schools as well. It’s sometimes so easy to just give the answer. That’s convenient and good for your class, you can work what you thought you will work on that day or that specific week or month. And it just makes everything easier. But easier isn’t necessarily the best way to improve.

Tum says, “sometimes I call the whole group and ask Hey, what are the questions? What are the things you bump into? I call that troubleshooting. So we just did the technique. Before we go on, I first ask them, What did you walk into? What did you bump into? Then if no one can answer my questions then I say okay, this is what I saw, this is what I bumped into.

Then we continue with the technique or the system of that month. If they have any questions, I never answer them just as a question. I always say show me the question, don’t speak to me. Then they answer the question themselves on some occasions, as they start explaining, they just stop mid-sentence to say, oh wait, I forgot I have to take one out. Okay, I answered my own question. Thank you.”

Moving into a facilitator’s role as a teacher

He says, “We’re currently looking way more at teaching methods. Sometimes the mat space is a classroom, where you just listen to the teacher. Sometimes the mat space is a laboratory where you get to experiment with things. And sometimes the classroom is a play garden, we just get to play to spar with some friends. And having these different environments I think is really good because out of your class out of those people, everyone responds differently. Everyone has different learning methods, some people react really good to visual explanations.

I’m just a facilitator, and maybe a form of guideline. But I’m not a master, by any means on anything in life. Because I think facilitating and creating an environment that benefits and stimulates learning and growth is way more important than being the central person and telling everyone what and how to do it.”

There’s no interaction in instructional videos

There’s a great benefit of YouTube and instructionals videos. But one thing that’s clearly missing is, we cannot ask the why and we cannot interact with the group. I think one of the most important things in teaching is interacting with the group, watching their interest, watching if they get bored, watching how they react, having them ask questions, having them see the problem from different angles, etc. That’s almost impossible to do in an instructional. YouTube, for example, is a perfect way where you can show the monkey see monkey do. You can explain the why behind the technique and you can answer it yourself or you can ask it in the comments. But it’s more so of a demonstration.”

Tum Voorn Resources

Tum Voorn Quotes

“Patience is a big part of teaching.”

– Tum Voorn

“Failure is a necessary teacher and is one of the best teachers.”

– Tum Voorn

“There’s never normally black and white, it’s always the shades of grey.”

– Tum Voorn

Tum Voorn Links

Inquiry-Based Instructional Strategy & Inquiry-Based Learning For Jiu-Jitsu - Tum Voorn