Friday, April 8, 2011

Watch And Learn

I had a conversation with a friend who is currently injured. Though he was frustrated he could not train, he didn't see the point of going to class if he couldn't participate. I told him he should come watch anyway. I don't say that just to go through the motions of saying it. I didn't even tell him to come in and take notes. Just come and watch. That's it. Not because it's good to be around BJJ all the time, but because there is a high transfer rate from watching and learning. People in child development and educators already know this.

If you gained nothing from watching, when your instructor shows you a move, there is probably no way you could even closely mimic it when you go drill it on your own with your partner. Yet from just watching you get it pretty close to 85% of exactly what was shown. That is a very high transfer rate. So why would you want to skip that because of an injury?

Sometimes even when we can participate, it is better for both the teacher and student to just shut up and just be shown the move and watch and try it. If there was complete silence, the student would see so many details he wouldn't normally see. When there is instruction and less focus on visual learning, sometimes the information doesn't become personalized. Also a lot of BJJ like any skill is based on feel. You can't instruct feel, you just have to watch it, try it, and feel it.

When I teach people complex moves in BJJ, MMA, or in weight training like a clean or snatch, I find the more I train to explain it, the worse they are. If I just shut up and show it to them over and over and over without saying anything, there are no judgments being passed, no negative inner self talk, and they do better. When they get stuck, I show them the move again allowing the visual and the repetition to do its job. No one told a baby how to walk, it saw it and did it.

So here is the other important thing, how many of us really watch? It's just like listening. There are studies on how people barely listen, they allow the other person to talk, just to have time to give their rebuttal, and their rebuttal will not change based on anything the other person might say. So if we are like that with listening, we are just like that with watching. A bank robbery happens, witnesses can't even figure out what the bandit was wearing. I sometimes notice people rolling, and the guy I'm sitting next to is staring the same direction. Something cool happens. I ask him if he saw that. He says no. Our eyes are open but we don't always see.

I am now reminded of what all parents say. You can't tell someone what to do, you can only set a good example. You might not think they are watching, but they will watch, and they will learn. That's how animals learn, that's how we learn.


  1. Great post man. It's so true that people have a tendency to keep their eyes open, but not really notice the little subtleties. Great post buddy!

  2. Thank you. It's all a social experiment, this thing we call BJJ.



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