Mt. Hood’s Declarative yet Conceptual immersion of Jiu Jitsu

So I’ve done a video blog a bit on my new strategy of teach/learning here at the academy. To preface the break down and where it all began was with a simple question that I failed to have a adequate answer for. “What is Jiu Jitsu?” I mean I know what it is and what it looks like and an easy answer would have been “grappling”, “kinda like wrestling” or do a historical account of how it came about from Judo/Japanese Jiu Jitsu.

These strategies are what we jiujitsuers use to tell those we know who ask. In my 16 years around BJJ and MMA I’ve never heard someone give the true literal definition. Jiu means gentle. Jitsu mean skill. We often hear within practice our coaches refer to Jiu Jitsu as the “general art” so I as I often do, began to dwell on these words and phrases. I use to visualize the words Martial Art as “martial law= law of physics” and “art =making something my own”

If I asked you to draw me a picture of the “Western Fly Back monkey” you’d likely have no idea where to begin Or you’d pick out the one declarative world “monkey” and I’d get your version of something that resembles a monkey. Well relax they don’t exist to my knowledge but often this is how BJJ is taught and also why it’s quality from academy to academy varies. Probably one of the reasons why it’s also has fakes popping up trying to front as a black belt and such.

Now I’m not trying to discredit other academies and specifically not my own coaches but we’re all guilty to a degree of this. You’ve heard of the “what do you get when you get a copy of a copy of a copy?” Or essentially how far removed is your Jiu Jitsu from its origin. Now the other side of the coin is to say that doesn’t mean it’s bad just different from the person your coach learned it from. Your coach most certainly evolved it and put say 20% spin on it. Good or bad spin that is.

This is certainly a reason why there’s less consistency between academies and belt levels, but that’s a few other arguments. As a coach I’d personally take it as a compliment when others are believed that my student should be promoted, more so when the “typical time” spent at the belt would suggest otherwise. Now almost as a claim to fame BJJ boast its takes the longest to get a black belt vs any other art that incorporates the belt. I’ve certainly done so. Perhaps to personally justify why it’s taken me so long (16ys and waiting).

Now, I’m not trying to say it shouldn’t but rather explain my coaching method and how it won’t change the speed in which one gets a black belt but rather the speed In which they acquire black belt skills from a technique stand point. As I have learned through my own journey (thanks to my many talks with Chapman) that there’s more to being a black under him than just technical skill and the results of that skill. A black belt should in all cases have a full bag of Jiu Jitsu skills and recall and demonstrate all traditional techniques. But should also be just as, if not more skilled at handing those techniques down to the next. Yet in a way they can retain them not just be familiar with them. A purple should competitively keep up and match technique to technique with any first degree black belt.

My strategy is to make my students not learn each technique but to learn and recognize where and when to apply said technique. Traditional was is like the old school way of learning a language. You first learn mainly vocabulary and small sentences, but after a two years of Spanish in school, who could truly hold a conversation? Yet I had several friends study aboard without previous classes in Spanish and in 6 months were pretty efficient.

So why do we continue to teach this archaic procedural method? Because that’s simply how we learned and you’re so focused on the task at hand (teaching) you don’t pull your head out and take a deep breath and question “Is this the best way”? Well my student’s mom’s question made me do that, or at least got the ball rolling. For a whole weekend it had me questioning everything about how I learned Jiu Jitsu. Some great some meh…

Now I’m a one strip brown belt but I’ve had plenty of competitive success and would say was competitive with black belts (even some big names) as a blue. But this isn’t about turning out high level of competitors but to teach Jiu Jitsu in a way that students can call or recall upon it when needed.

Now have I gone away from the procedural method all together? No, it is still ideal in spots. Remember the monkey picture? They need some frame of reference. So we spend time to demonstrate a technique, to familiarize with the basics movement but where we truly spend our effort and time is on WHY and HOW. Why would I chose this sweep and what is it about that sweep that makes it work? Vs. Let’s practice this sweep +10 times each side then try and pull it off in live rolls while everyone is mindful of it?

Let’s take Take Downs for example. An area Jiu Jitsu lacks (sorry another argument). Their are physical parameters that make ALL takedowns work. Think of it like architecture and a building. Your opponent being that building. Where is it’s foundation in the stance? Where are the directional weaknesses? Where is the focal point? Where’s my leverage arm to apply force etc…. it’s my belief if we spent more time on this, if even on a specific technique then a student will not necessarily need to master a bunch of take downs give the specific environment in which he learned them in, but rather adjust to any environment and any throw.

So we spend more time on the overall art of the take down while using a specific takedowns and gaining a greater understanding of how it works. The students then with a stronger understanding of the technique, has added more of an association to this takedown and there for has a better ability to not only recall it but adapt it as needed.

We often give ourselves the criticism on a technique of “timing is off” and are usually referring to reaction time or how fast we attempted it or when. When the reality timing refers to the processing/deciphering “did we chose the wrong technique or were unable to modify it to the scenario in front of us”. So yes I’m JUST a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu and ten years of MMA experience, 7 years wrestling and 10 years boxing experience. BUT I do hold a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology (art and science of human movement) and a Masters in human services that split my curriculum between human biomechanics and behavioral health. So you might say I’m closer to a black belt in how we learn motor and behavioral skills. Why not lead with this? Because I’d rather have you read it because you’re interested in learning from someone vs needing their credentials to get you to buy in.

There’s more to come as I’m still evolving this and applying it and smoothing our the edges but our practices are now more 80% declarative conceptualizing and 20% traditional procedural method. This was just to get the ball rolling and more so get me mentally stimulated.

Now I’m in my infancy of this and though I have tons of scientific evidence this method for motor learning and development is best for all its not been applied to Jiu Jitsu. I see fragments of it where great coaches I’ve had do it at least partially without likely being conscious of it. So yes in years to pass we’ll see and I’m not as articulate as say John Danaher who does show fragments of this as he breaks down the techniques to their minute points this isn’t about the techniques but rather how we go about teaching and learning them! I APOLOGIZE for my spelling and grammar as the certainty isn’t my strength 😬 but appreciate your time!!

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