Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Salad Bar

The way most people teach Jiu Jitsu or martial arts is pretty similar. That's because they teach it the way they've been taught and/or with their natural tendencies. There is no BJJ education class for you to take so you know how to teach it, you kind of just do it and learn as you go.

So this is how most people do it. And I don't mean just your instructor, I mean you, or your higher belt friend, or a buddy who shows you some moves. It can be a seminar or as personal as trading moves on a mat in your garage.

What will happen is, the person teaching will string a few moves together. Like let's say 5 moves back to back, practicing each one as you go. Or 5 random moves. But either way there is no unifying theme. Maybe the theme is 5 different armbars. or 5 moves that you can hit one after the other. But just because you can eloquently string some moves together, people get easily awed and think, wow, this guy is so detailed or technical or knows so much or, what a great teacher he is. But anyone can string moves together. And anyone can speak clearly if they've they've ever had a sales job or went to college, or they just naturally can.

And when its all shown, and because there really is no theme unifying the moves, they will say, pick a few moves you like or can add to your game. You don't have to remember them all (and how can you when they are all so random or disjointed), just remember the ones you like. Like a salad bar. A BJJ salad bar.

And then what happens to the person learning? They too have a game like a salad bar, where they have an unorganized game based on all the moves they like, and they force it to flow together. Pass on the left side heavy, on the right they speed passs. On the bottom they will try to play closed guard or invert upside down. Nothing is related. Their game becomes confused. It may work, but that's because your confused game is better than your opponents confused game.

Imagine you went to math class and every day it was a new topic. Today algebra, tomorrow geometry, the next day arithmetic, with no order. The unifying theme? I guess they are all math? Well with BJJ sometimes its more like, one move is algebra, next move geometry, next calculus, etc. all in the same lesson and same day. Even more confusing. You wouldn't do that in higher education and as bad as our education system is, even our public education system wouldn't do that. Because that would confuse you. Confusing someone, especially in as complicated and delicate art of details as this is not a topic that is discussed nearly enough. They always assume the reason someone doesn't get it is because they are new or they need to drill it or it's not their game or whatever. The delivery method of the teaching is never questioned. Instructors who have been around for ages who keep losing student after student and keep trying to make their school survive never question that their own teaching method may be the problem. Why would they? They won so much, so just do like what they did. It must be the student's fault. A rule of all businesses, never fault the customer.

Instead of stringing moves, the unifying theme or the lesson should not even be based on any move. Learning a whole series of moves just makes you a disorganized catalog of moves and you will never be able to pull a move out fast enough because you will have to go through your memory to remember it.

So my contention is, they should be based let's say on a position. Like cross side. Everything cross side. How it works, what makes it work, how to balance on it, the inner workings of that position. Forget the submissions, that's more of the expression of understanding cross side. How many submissions do people know, without even knowing anything about cross side or how to hold someone down? The whole d'arce is based on your inability to hold someone down so submit them as they come up. Actually most submissions are now based on your inability to hold someone down. It's strengthening your weakness, now eliminating your weakness.

Or the unifying theme could be "heavy hips" and all the positions and places you can use it from. Or the hip escape and how that relates to every submission.

Now something like a half guard is not always a unifying theme. Why? Because there are so many random moves that are nothing like one another that we still call half guard. So just because they all share the same name, people may think it's all unified. For instance, a deep half guard is closer to a single leg than it is a traditional half guard. Jeff Glover actually calls it a BJJ single. So you have to look at what idea is in common, what are all the principles, what are you trying to accomplish. I hate also when the theme is leg locks, and all the crazy angles you can hit it from. So random. All that there is in common is that, a leg joint is being attacked. But how it gets attacked, the set up, the angle, the principles change from move to move, it's just strung together on a flimsy line. A better theme would be, using the hips on submissions and how the armbar and knee bar both use the same principles.

We get so easily impressed by the, "look how many moves this guy can remember and regurgitate" style of teaching. BJJ and true intelligence are both related to creativity and the ability to improvise.  The more you try to learn every move or every scenario or possibility is when you get too close to the problem to see the solution.


  1. You did not enjoy todays class?

  2. I agree this is a better way to teach and learn BJJ.

  3. The problem is that BJJ is available at our fingertips 24/7. Thanks to Youtube and other sources we can take a free lesson anytime any place. Then you have to mix in the "wow" factor of the person watching the move. "Wow that move is cool I'm going to teach or try it tomorrow". I teach three days a week, granted I teach kids from 7-17, yet I have a certain philosophy. My goal is to show the basics and stick to the details of those basics. It's the attention to the details that separates us as BJJ practitioners. Where to hold when controlling, when to defend, when to attack, how to control the head and legs, when to transition to the next position, and how to set-up your submission. I stick to teaching the same 20-30 moves and that all. I've taught the same moves more then once in the same month, I don't care. I truly believe that it is quality over quantity when it comes to BJJ moves.



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