Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Remembering Techniques

Madison is a new addition to our Women's Class. She has been to only a handful of classes, but at 12 years old, she has already become addicted to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Last night, while I was watching her grapple one of the other girls, I saw her try to get a triangle choke several times. She had seen the choke two classes before. She was not able to finish the choke during the grapple but I was proud of her for several reasons.

1. She recognized that she could use the choke from the position she was in.

2. She understood the basics of what the choke looked like and what position she needed to be in to do it.

3. She remembered the first few steps of applying the choke.

4. Most importantly, I was proud of her for TRYING the technique she had learned against a live, resisting partner.

I remember when I first started BJJ how overwhelming all of the techniques were. There were so many steps. So many details. I felt anxiety over the fact that I would go to class, see the techniques and forget most of what I saw after I left and went home.

For a long time, my experience was exactly like Madisons. I would remember that I had seen something I could use from a certain position, I'd remember the basics of what it had looked like, but as I tried to do it, I would realize that I had forgotten most of the steps. I would get through the first few "steps" of the move and then be lost. But, over time, those details were filled in and I was able to go through all the steps.

If you are new to BJJ and you are feeling overwhelmed, try to remember that time is on your side. Your instructor will show the techniques in more than one class. You will see a triangle choke in one class, try it for a few weeks unsuccessfully, and then see the same choke in another class and notice the details you had forgotten. Even now I love it when Fabio goes over basic positions and submissions, because I always notice new details I didn't see before.

But, if you want to maximize your memory and hold onto as much as possible, here are some things you can ask yourself about each of the techniques you see in class. If you can remember the answers to these questions, if will help you on your way to being able to use them during a live grapple.

1. What position is this technique useful from? A common mistake that beginners make is trying to use a submission from the wrong position. For example, they might try to use a gi choke while they are under mount or stuck in someone's guard.

2. What is the goal of the technique? Sometimes people misunderstand what part of the body a submission is aimed at. For example, they might think an americana is meant to break the elbow, when really it is the shoulder joint that is being targeted.

3. Why does the technique work? Here is where you can help yourself to remember the details. If you understand that the reason a triangle choke works is because you are using your opponent's shoulder and your leg to block off the carotid arteries and the blood flow to the brain, then you will be better able to understand the point of those seemingly endless details you are trying to remember.

When your instructor is demonstrating the triangle choke and he/she tells you to squeeze your knees and lift your hips, ask yourself why. Why does that make the move work more effectively? What is that motion doing to my body position and the other person's body position?

4. Make the most of your drilling time. A lot of times, I see beginners trying the technique once or twice and then sit there, looking around as if they have already gotten it. The purpose of drilling is not just about remembering the steps with your mind. Drilling is also about making those details a part of your muscle memory. You are teaching your body how to move. If you practice the techniques over and over again, then when you are grappling, your body will do it automatically. You won't have to stop to remember the steps.

5. Try the techniques you saw during your grappling time. A common mistake people make is to NOT try new things because they don't think they will be successful. The truth is, you probably wont be successful the first time you try a new technique. But you will get closer each time you try. When you try and fail, you will discover the parts of the technique that you need to understand better.

6. Ask your instructor or a higher belt to remind you about the details. If you are grappling and you try a technique and can't remember all the steps, ask someone after class to refresh your memory. Most higher belts will be more than happy to help.

7. Be patient. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu takes time to learn. Legitimate black belts aren't made overnight. Enjoy your training and have fun. Perfect technique will come in time and with practice over years.


Asia Morela said...

Those are great tips! I have learned not to fear trying new techniques, especially on higher belts; the goal isn't for it to work (at best they probably know a counter or an escape), but to test it against some resistance, and hopefully get told what I'm doing right or wrong.

I've also started noting down techniques and details in a book (and partially on my blog). I'm lucky enough to live with a brown belt, but sometimes it's good to be able to consult my own notes exactly when I wish to.

Afrorican said...

I see #4 or a misuse of number 4 all the time. Some people seem to think that after they do the drill 2 or 3 times that its time to talk or that they've mastered the technique. It drives me crazy.

Liam H Wandi said...

Excellent. Very well written Allie.

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