Learning How You Learn Jiu-Jitsu

If you’re reading this article, you most likely do jiu-jitsu or are thinking about joining. A piece of advice to keep in mind is to be aware of learning how you learn and using several methods to learn jiu-jitsu. I competed in gymnastics and track when I was a kid, so those are the only sports references I can personally use. I often tell students that everyone knows how to run, yet they will be taught techniques on track to improve their running. As for gymnastics, it is not typical to join and automatically know how to flip without plenty of learning (although those people do exist). I use gymnastics as the analogy to jiu-jitsu. It needs to be broken down in detail to grasp the techniques and takes time to learn. 

In all of my years of teaching, I have learned that paying attention is half the battle. It is extremely common for your mind to drift for a moment or to be distracted by something in your life and simply miss what is being said. Once you are fully paying attention, you need to know how you learn best. Since there are four limbs involved with the technique, you can’t be focusing on both arms and legs at the same time. I remember being so focused on the arms and then we are about to drill and I wouldn’t have any idea what happened with the legs or vice versa. Now when I’m teaching, I show the arms first, then the legs, then repeat the technique with both. 

I’m big on asking questions. If your instructor asks if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Most of the time others are thinking the same. It will give you the clarity you need. If your instructor asks if you need to see the technique again, say yes if you do even if you are the only one. 

Being that there are so many movements and each with a name, the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic are all involved. You’ll be able to assess which one helps the most. I know people who can watch videos and easily learn that way and others who don’t. I’ve realized that when I’m learning something new, certain moves feel more natural than others. How they feel is how I choose which techniques I want to add to my game. Some feel as though I can pull them off live with much fewer reps than other moves. Many times, it is because of former sports and similar movements. I use that to my advantage when adding to my game.

Using a jiu-jitsu journal can help you learn by committing it to memory. When you write something down, you tend to remember it more than if you didn’t. You can also go back and reread to memorize it especially if it is challenging to remember the names. The same can be done with videos to help remember. A combination of both is ideal to reinforce the visual movement with the names of the techniques. Of course, drilling is most important and required to solidify the technique into your muscle memory. When you don’t have the option to drill, then utilize your journal and videos to do mental drills. Learning what works best for you will only enhance your game and help you grasp new techniques quicker.


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