Are we all created equal? A BJJ / MMA Perspective

Learning styles are often grouped into visual (show me), auditory/verbal (tell me) and kinaesthetic (let me have a go). You often hear that no one learning style is better or worse than the other and there is a lot of truth in that, but I believe the operative word here is "learning".

Last Friday I had another training session with my brother and he brought along two friends. One of them has been training at a DIY kinda place (training on carpet, instructor had learnt submissions off YouTube…you get the picture!) for a couple of months and to say the least he had a huge thirst for the sport. He asked me about armbars from the guard so I spent a few minutes showing him the basics. It took me 10 seconds to figure out he was a kinaesthetic learner: He looked at me with a big question mark on his face when I was trying to explain what he needed to do on his training partner (he kind of looked like a puppy trying to understand algebra). When I demonstrated the armbar on my brother he got much more excited but it didn't translate into any better performance (if anything, I think it confused him a little)

When I offered to demonstrate on him he jumped (literally) at the opportunity but he immediately pulled guard. He wanted to try it. He had had enough watching and listening. It was his turn and sure enough after a few gos and a few manual corrections from me he was doing alright armbars. All's well that ends well. But I couldn't stop thinking about two things:

1. If your instructor only has one styles of teaching and doesn't happen to match yours, you're screwed.
2. If you are a pure kinaesthetic learner, there's a strong probability you'll be a lousy instructor, at no real fault of your own.

Think about learning / teaching as a process of exchange and transfer. If words (verbal) and/or images (visual) are your currency you can exchange much more easily than if you need to feel something to truly understand it. Sure, you can learn the art and become excellent, maybe even the best at it. But to teach a verbal/visual learner something in words/images when your real forte is “feeling” is a difficult thing to say the least.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting article. I train teachers and we always teach about Learning Styles (or VAKT as we call it--Visual Audio Kinesthetic/Tactile), but recently I found out that the popular wisdom may very well be wrong:


But, let's assume that this is true and there are 3 learning styles. For me, I find that almost anything physical I MUST try out. I have very little body awareness. I need to feel it, experience it, try it.

Music-wise, though, I can be verbally told. When I played cello, you could use metaphors and similes and I could incorporate them into my playing style.

I would disagree with this sentiment as it relates to VAKT:
1. If your instructor only has one styles of teaching and doesn't happen to match yours, you're screwed.

But I do believe that it's very possible for your teacher to have a style of teaching that doesn't mesh well with how you learn. For me that is not just related to VAKT, but so many more things.

You've inspired me to write my own article about BJJ + VAKT. It will go along nicely with my SMART goals ;)

I love educational theories + BJJ.

Good article! (he kind of looked like a puppy trying to understand algebra) = me :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Haha excellent. Many thanks for the kind words. My basic idea has always been: if what you do on the mat doesn't influence how you think outside the mat and vice versa then it's wasted time (or at least of limited value).

VAKT means guard person in Swedish. What a funny coincidence.

I can't wait to read your article!