Game changing details hide in plain sight. It’s as simple as that. How many times have you watched an instructor teach a basic technique that you had seen many times before and suddenly notice a crucial hand placement detail that changes how you do the technique entirely? Better yet, how many times have you rolled with someone who has become exceptionally adept at hitting a specific move and suddenly figured out a key detail that either makes defending that move easier or allow you to adopt that move into your repertoire?
A common fallacy that I see is that people want to learn more moves rather than learning the same move from multiple sources or explained in different ways. Bruce Lee famously said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” And this is especially true in grappling where muscle memory and details make such a huge difference.
It is for this reason that I try to learn my favorite moves and techniques from as many different instructors and sources as possible. I try these moves and techniques out on training partners and opponents ranging from beginners to famous practitioners way above my pay grade. And I use the information I receive to sharpen the tool.
There’s also a reality that any tool that is used often may get dulled. Your technique may get sloppy the better you get at timing it. Because of this, I try to find ways to revitalize each of my favorite techniques so that it’s a bit better each time I compete. I want to be able to hit the exact same arm lock on the exact same opponent every time I compete against them, each time being slightly better, so that the opponent’s improvements don’t matter as much.
This of course isn’t easy. The more basic a technique, the harder it is to improve upon it and to undo subtle bad habits. The more “natural” and innate a technique becomes to your game, the more you have to consciously work on affecting how you do it at all.
Another interesting thought about re-learning well established, basic techniques is that it can give you a look at what a practitioner’s level is. Everyone knows how to hit an arm-bar from guard, right? But what makes practitioners who hit them frequently in tournaments is that they have minor details that make their arm bar effective.
The next time your instructor is teaching a basic technique, the more basic the better, pay close attention and try to learn a new detail. It can be something as minor as how they take a specific grip, which way their toes are pointing, or something else that may seem unimportant. See if you can improve upon techniques in your existing repertoire.