5 Ways to Ask The Right Questions In Jiu-Jitsu

Your BJJ instructor will help correct your technique and answer your questions in class.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question (well, sort of.)  However, beginners seem to have a hard time getting the answers that they are seeking, and of course answers are what allow questions to give us information that we can then use.  Here are five things you can do to improve the quality of your questions on the mat so that you can get better answers:

  1. Be specific.  When you ask a question in training, don’t ask a general question; rather focus on the minute details that you don’t understand. If you understand none of the technique, ask to be shown again.  Far too often I hear general questions, which won’t help you understand a specific technique.
  2. Ask “Why” more often.  Obviously it is important to be respectful, but when you understand why a move works, understanding how it works and how to do it becomes far easier.  Any time you don’t know why a detail is relevant to a technique you should ask why it is relevant to that technique. As you learn the “why,” you automatically improve your understanding of the “how.”
  3. Focus on concepts.  As you learn a new technique, try to learn what concept drives that technique.  Many instructors show concepts without fully explaining them because more advanced students tend to understand concepts intuitively.  Asking directly about what concepts make a certain technique work may be a tough question to ask, but it can also help a student gain a deeper understanding.
  4. Ask how to do this technique to larger and smaller opponents.  Sometimes understanding the mechanisms that make a technique work against opponents and training partners of different sizes will actually provide clarity as to how a technique works.
  5. Find ways to ask “what if?”  If you’re a beginner you should ONLY focus on the technique being taught. However for more advanced practitioners, deconstructing a technique, learning counters to it (and how to negate those counters), can actually help you learn the technique better.  The key is to NOT ask “what if” because it will set red flags off in your instructor’s mind.  I like pose my “what if” questions as a statement, like “I’m finding that when my training partner  ____ the technique becomes more difficult. Can you offer some advice to make ____ not work?”  Or something like that.  Know your audience with this sort of question; some instructors don’t take kindly to it.  However there’s a way to ask any question…

Asking questions can be tough but it is crucial to development on the mat.  A closed mouth won’t get fed, and for me it wasn’t until I found instructors that welcomed my questions and made real efforts to answer them that I was able to truly grow.  The ability to ask intelligent, concise questions is a skill in and of itself that some of us develop in jiu-jitsu.

If you’ve found yourself becoming more adept at asking questions, what are some things you have been able to do to improve your questions?


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