A Response To Ben Askren: There’s Nothing Wrong With The Way BJJ Schools Teach

“Funky” Ben Askren has his issues with the way Brazilian jiu-jitsu is taught, in particular its lack of drilling.

“It drives me insane,” the freestyle wrestling Olympian and undefeated former Bellator Welterweight Champion told Joe Rogan a little over a week ago on The Joe Rogan Experience.

He continued:

We know without a shadow of a doubt, just saying “go” for five minutes is not the most effective way to train someone. Does not happen. So in wrestling, there’s a whole bunch of…some days you could do matches, some days you might do a thirty minute go, some days you might do groups of one-minute goes, some days you might do situations…most people if you say “go” for five minutes, they’re not disciplined enough to make themselves do new skills. They revert to whatever they do best.

Rogan, quoting his teacher and friend, Eddie Bravo, said jiu-jitsu schools didn’t drill too much because people want to get to the rolling part, to which Askren exclaimed: “I don’t care what they want!”

“You’re at my school because you want to learn how to be the best, and I’m going to help you be the best,” Askren said.

I think Askren is right. If you plan on being the best — by which he almost certainly means “the best competitor” — then drilling a move for five minutes is not going to give you a fighting chance against competitors like Michelle Nicolini, Andre Galvao, or anyone in the Danaher Death Squad.

The key word, however, is “if.”

The goal of almost all wrestling academies is to create the best competitors. Wresting academies want to train people to win gold at the local, state, national, and even international level. Wrestling schools are usually not there to train people looking for something fun they can do after work; they’re looking to train beasts.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is different, though. While many academies have students whose sole purpose is to be ADCC Champions, the overwhelming majority of students are usually just hobbyists. They have no desire to be the next Marcus Almeida or Mackenzie Dern; they just want to do something interesting and learn a little bit of self-defense in the process.

The instructor, therefore, has no reason to put her students through the “grind” that is a hallmark of so many wrestling schools.  Why push them the extra mile to force them to become something they don’t want to become?

Rather, the instructor should expect hardcore competitors to push themselves. If a student wants to compete at the Worlds, it’s his job to push himself harder. He should take it upon himself to show up a little early or stay a little late and push out an extra 100 or 200 reps of his desired technique. He may also want to find a more competition-oriented school or at least request the school have a competition class, as some do.

But he should also recognize that he represents the minority in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world, and the teacher’s training is obviously going to be geared towards the majority of her students — i.e., the hobbyists and non-competitors.


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