How I Learned Most Of My Jiu-Jitsu

Professor Tom DeBlass addresses a question at a seminar at Steel City Martial Arts--photo courtesy of Todd Shaffer

How did I learn most of my jiu-jitsu?

No, not from YouTube, although it is a valuable resource! Nor did I learn it from watching Renato Laranja videos.

I learned the majority of my BJJ by asking questions about positions and situations that came up in my rolls. It was either about what happened to me while rolling that day or sometime in the past.

There are different ways to learn within the class. Direct learning, where your instructor is directly teaching you something; and indirect learning, where you notice something in your own mind while training.

Your instructor usually shows two to three techniques per class in a set structure. Then, in most classes, everyone rolls.

This is not the end of your opportunity to learn from your instructor, though!

My instructors have always been open and generous with their knowledge. All I had to do was ask a question.

I would wait until the end of class and ask the instructor another of my innumerable questions, and I would get a targeted answer that solved one of my personal rolling difficulties. Brick by brick I built my jiu-jitsu game.

Don’t know what to ask? Did you roll this week? Did you not get swept or easily submitted by all of your training partners? If your jiu-jitsu was not flawless, you have some questions!

Here are three questions that you can ask your instructor at the end of class:

1) “I tried that move we learned in class, but my opponent stopped me by doing this. How can I prevent them from doing that?”

2) “I got tapped three times by that purple belt yesterday. He got me with the Kimura from half guard. How can I stop it next time?”

3) “I am having some success with the butterfly guard hook sweep that you showed. What variations might I also try? What else can I try from that position?”

I would wait until the instructor calls for rolling to start or at the end of rolling when people were catching their breath before hitting the locker room and heading home.

I would not wait until your instructor is changing out of his kimono and is turning the lights off in the academy. That’s lousy timing. You will find your instructor very open if you approach at the right time.

There is little need to feel shy about asking questions. Bear in mind that your instructor loves jiu-jitsu and really wants to share his knowledge with you. Asking questions shows your instructor that your head is in the class and that you are genuinely interested in your own learning.

However, I probably would not ask about the double reverse lapel berimbolo, though.

After your first year of jiu-jitsu, BJJ students should be taking a larger role in their own learning by asking questions about their own game.


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