How to get the most from a Jiu Jitsu instructional.

This is pretty timely, right?

With so many members of the jiu jitsu community releasing free content, in response to the old pandemic, now seems like a good time to watch a tonne of jiu jitsu.

Cheers for the freebies Bernardo you big beautiful bastard.

While having a wealth of easily accessible information is great, its not hard to get swamped by it. I will outline a method I have used to internalise the information found in these resources. This is by no means definitive. It is merely a system I stumbled upon that works for me. The overarching concept of any information retention system like this is to find ways to force yourself to fully attend to the material you are viewing.

Obviously, to truly get the most from the instructionals would involve a detailed breakdown on drilling, positional sparring and the like. But we will leave that for another time when its a bit safer to be smearing yourself on other people.

So you have your shiny new instructional series what now.

Step 1) The Binge Watch

“Breaking Bad?”. Never seen it. “Did you see how GOT ended?” Nope. “You should get into Vikings”. Probably not going to happen.

I think I treat my first run through of a instructional series kind of like most people watch real TV shows. Its interesting, a bit relaxing and I will get a feel for the initial lay out and ultimately whether or not I think it is worth investing time in. This is the fun bit everything thereafter involves attention and effort so kick back and enjoy it.

Probably the best advice I can give in this stage is be liberal with speeding up the playback. When I watch something at 2-2.5x speed I don’t feel I miss a lot.

Step 2) Rough Note Taking

Instructionals are packed with jiu jitsu wizardry. This usually means you will be hit with a belt feed machine gun of information. It is up to you to decide what you record. Personally I only record new information that I have yet to internalise or have forgotten. If its a position I am particularly new too I will record everything in a step by step Ikea instruction manual style. If you are new to jiu jitsu this approach may be helpful.

The simple act of writing information down has a way of making it stick, even if you never review your notes again. What you are producing at each of these steps is not as important as the process involved in creating it. If you just looked at someone else’s notes you probably wouldn’t get a lot from the experience.

The way in which you record your notes will be very individual. Over time you will develop your own nomenclature and systems for doing it. The John Danaher instructionals have been great for introducing a standard system for describing positions, concepts and grips which fall outside the common positional parlance.

My rough notes. Basically Gibberish.

I particularly like “if your opponent is naive…”, versus “if your opponent is shite”.

Step 3) Systemising

Many instructionals these days are incredibly well thought out and structured.

The DDS guys, Lovato, Lachlan Giles and more and more coaches are putting their stuff together in a logical way which is super helpful for those trying to make sense of a particular aspect of the sport. You use the rough notes you created and try to build some sort of coherent structure.

Here is an overview of how I do it when watching guard based instructional.

  1. Guard Maintenance-
    • How do I hold the guard and use it to maintain distance?
    • Which directions can I off balance the opponent.
    • What base positions can my opponent put themselves in while I maintain the guard. These will usually be kneeling, combat base, standing (head low) and standing (head high).
  2. Primary Attacks from base positions.
    • What are the high percentage technique from each base position? You should try and have at least two techniques to switch back and forth for each base position.
  3. Troubleshooting-
    • how will you deal with your opponent attempts to dismantle your guard and the subsequent guard passes? You must be aware of what your opponent may try and do from the guard structure and have appropriate options to maintain or capitalise on their actions. This is a hall mark of a good quality guard instructional.
  4. Entries and engagement phase-
    • . You will want to have guard pulls and transitions from other positions.
    • Getting to guard becomes easier when you are confident you can be effective from that position.

With Guard passing instructionals I do pretty much the same thing. If you replace the word guard with checkpoint you will get the idea. A checkpoint is a position where you can launch a variety of guard passes and your opponents ability to sweep, submit, get up or off balance you is limited. Think Knee slides, head quarters, double unders, flattened half etc. If you are in a guard you are losing, but if you are in a checkpoint position you are winning.

Step 4) Video Editing

I am not even sure this is legal but I find it super useful. I can take an 8hr instructional and turn it into a 30min visual reminder. I already have my notes so all I need is to see the main movements performed in a couple of different angles.

Over the course of video editing you will probably watch the whole series through a few more times. By engaging with the material actively in this way I feel that I retain information better as its really hard to zone out. And now If you cant recall something you now have a delightful video reference.

Stage 5) Match Footage

If the guy who is virtually instructing you is a competitor watch their footage and see how they apply their stuff on high quality opposition. With so many resources out there, one of the filters I often use is, whether or not the guy releasing the video series does what he is actually coaching. If Rudson Mateus releases a closed guard instructional I want to see it, did I buy Lachlan Giles Leglock anthology after ADCC? Yep.

Step 6) Flow Charts

This the final thing I do and takes the least amount of time as by now you know the material inside out. I take the systematised notes and redo them in an abridged mind mappy format. Its just another method to ram the information into your brain. Its also the first thing I look at if I feel I need to review.

And Done…now I can move onto Lapel Guard JOOOYYYY!!

So that’s what I do to get the most out of the instructionals I own. I have found it massively beneficial to my development, its time consuming but after all that effort its pretty hard to forget the most important parts. A year ago I did this approach with Gordon Ryan’s Systematically Attacking the Guard series and if I was given a test on it today, I am pretty sure I would ace it. That is despite the fact that I haven’t looked at any of the material I created in that time.

I hope this is helpful in some way and if you have any other techniques you use to get the most out of your instructionals please let me know. Hopefully we can all get back to sweating and breathing on each other while simulating murder soon.

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