BJJ / Grappling Learning: Rolling Reflections & Becoming a More Rounded Martial Artist

How much of your BJJ mat time do you spend listening and watching? How much do you spend executing or repeating shown grappling techniques against an opponent (cooperative and progressively resisting)?

I remember when I was studying to become a TESOL (Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages) the following table of how much time an average student will spend training communication skills was introduced:

Listening: 45%

Speaking: 30%
Reading: 16% 
Writing: 9%

The percentages indicate how much of our communication time we spend training in each skill. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules but they do paint a picture. We spend far more time listening than, for instance, writing. This blog is partly my way to become more rounded as a communicator and a human being.

At the same time, I always see direct links between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and communication. A roll is very much a physical dialogue, the more honest and candid the better it feels. If I was to take the above table of skills and relate it to grappling skills I think it would roughly translate to something like this:

Watching (instruction, dvds, online media, matches...etc.)
Executing (performing techniques and movement drills against partners)
Analysing (trying to understand not just what happened during a BJJ roll but why and how it could apply in other situations)
Experimenting (scientific play, doing things no one has shown you before)

The question becomes, how much time do you spend in each area? How much time do you spend watching, really watching, your instructor or coach? How much time do you spend executing and drilling shown grappling techniques against a variety of partners with progressive resistance? How much time do you spend analysing grappling matches or BJJ moves? How much time do you spend experimenting with logical solutions to grappling challenges (framing with the elbow instead of the hand, what is the best way to shrimp? where should your head be when you bridge?...etc.)

This is one of the reasons I love Rolling Reflections type videos like the ones Roy Harris put at the end of his instructional DVDs and the ones often put on YouTube by BJJWeekly such as this one here.

How do you distribute your BJJ time? What can you do today to become a more rounded grappler and martial artist?

Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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A.D. McClish said...

I can see with myself how easy it is to get into a rut of doing the same thing all the time. The different ways of learning that you mentioned here could all feasibly break you out of a rut. I especially like what you mentioned about experimenting during grappling.

Megan said...

I can honestly say I don't spend enough time watching, and a lot of that is because of my school's new schedule. The beginner's class used to be after the advanced, so I would come in early and watch them spar. Now, it's before and I don't get to see that anymore. I noticed an almost immediate difference in my training.

I love the comparison to language studies. Since day 1 I've been using what I know about myself from studying foreign languages to help me navigate the massive sea of BJJ principles, concepts and application.

On that note, I have a question for you. 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.

The Part Time Grappler said...

@Allie, thanks for the comment. I'm quite sure it's a human thing. We practically seek routines and ruts in training, work, heck even relationships. However, it's those who seek to "keep it fresh" that succeed in all those fields :)

I like playing around with the different methods of learning. I genuinly feel that is the essence of life: Learning and experiencing. I teach my brother BJJ and Swedish on Fridays and I use methods from one field in the other all the time.

As for experimenting during grappling, it's fun but it's most productive when it's directed and driven. Here is something I am focusing on at the moment:

when inside someone's closed guard, what happens when I put my right hand in their left armpit then but my right knee up. So far, most people have gone for an armbar on that arm, but I feel the pre-positioning allows me a little time to use my left forearm to stop the armbar and hence pass or at least break out of the closed guard. It's just a game, but it's driven and directed :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

@Megan, Thanks for commenting. I knew you'd have something valuable to share with regards to the language parallel :)

Your question about black/brown vs blue/purple watching has inspired a new post! It's a great question.

Stay tuned.