I love BJJ. It's such a deep and difficult art form to learn, and I think that that's part of the grappling art's charm. I am always thinking about new ways to learn (and teach) BJJ techniques and concepts and I often find myself drawing on the knowledge I have outside the mat. One such area is learning languages. I am fluent in three quite different languages (Swedish, English and Arabic) and have a fundamental grasp of both French and Afrikaans and some dialects of both Kurdish and Turkish. One of the best habits I have for learning languages is looking for patterns but also being very relaxed about rules. It is important to recognise why and when a pattern of language (or BJJ) appears but it is also important to accept that there will always be exceptions. In spelling, '"i" before "e"' is good to remember, but so is 'except after "c"'. In BJJ it's handy to remember that you shouldn't extend your arm when escaping, accept with a mount escape to butterfly guard or a armpit escape from the side control.
More about exceptions to the rules of grappling in a later post. I mentioned in my previous post that learning to watch BJJ is an important skill and avenue to learn more grappling. Luckily, my blog is read by some intelligent people and one of them is Megan (check her awesome musings on her blog) and, being a language learner/teacher herself, she had a query:
“I always tell students I'm tutoring in English to spend as little time as possible listening to non-native speakers. It's advice I take myself. I've been wondering lately if the same advice is applicable to BJJ. As much as I love watching my instructor spar with the brown belts, what they're doing is so frequently above my understanding, I find myself favoring watching blues and some purples lately, since I can follow the conversation better. While I'm comfortable though, I believe there may be more latent learning going on when I'm watching higher level grapplers."
While I definitely believe there will be latent learning when watching advanced grapplers, I don't feel that the best use of such an opportunity. If you are lucky enough to have access to black and brown belts rolling, you should utilise the following exercise I use with my brother when I teach him Swedish:
I give him a text in Swedish, usually a dialogue. I tell him to follow the text as I read him the English equivalent (which I have in my hand). I have purposefully filled the Swedish dialogue with names of people and places and also with pronouns. This way, I know he can easily anchor as he's following the text. He can hear me saying "Liam and Sharon" and his eyes easily identify "Liam" and "Sharon" which indicates to him that the Swedish word between them is the word for "and". This has proved very quick in teaching him.
I do the same when train BJJ. After we are done with our session, I sit with him and we watch the Open Mat. I tell him to simply focus on the actions of one player (usually a higher belt) and tell him to specifically focus on every time that player tries to gain an underhook. Soon enough, my brother started to appreciate the importance of underhooks. He told me that he could see that they were "dominant" but didn't quite know why or how. I told him that he's indeed right and that the why and how will come later.
That's my suggestion for watching higher belts roll in BJJ or even No-gi grappling. Focus on one person's side of the conversation. Focus on one singular action and see how often they are doing it. Suggestions of good BJJ anchors are:
3. Framing with the knee
4. Use of the head
These are a good start. Now practice with this awesome match between Marcelo Garcia and Xande Ribeiro from ADCC 2005. First, just watch from Marcelo Garcia's perspective and see how he uses his head. Is he pinning it to the mat? Is he using to push Xande? Don't worry just yet about why, just notice it for the time being. When you've done that for the whole match, I suggest doing it again. Yes, re-watch it from Marcelo's point of view and see if you missed anything the first time around. Once you're happy with that, either switch to another of Marcelo Garcia's actions or switch entirely to Xande Ribeiro's side.
Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi
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