27 December 2012

Learning BJJ–it’s a batch size problem

Have you ever been in a situation where your mind is just overwhelmed with new information.  I have, and it was the first time I stepped into a BJJ class. So many new terms, techniques and behaviours.  You quickly discover that it’s incredibly complex and has so many fine details that it’s almost impossible for your brain to remember everything.  You find out that each technique has like 7+ little moves in it to make it work,  That there are like 7+ major positions,  that there are dozens of sweeps and dozens of submissions.  Then you discover there is 6+ different types of guard and each has it’s own set of techniques. The list goes on.

Suddenly you are in information overload right. How do you train for all of that?  My previous post I mentioned about Effective Training Time (ETT) and I put some math in to support that.  Now let me use some hypothetical numbers.  Let’s make up a number and say there are 13 positions and guards and on average 10 moves in each position.  So we have 130 different types of techniques we want to cover and let’s say that 10 minutes of drilling time is required to learn a move at a basic level. Lets says  you may do 1-2 moves per lesson. That’s 65 lessons or 22 hours of ETT to cover just those moves once each.  I haven’t even talked about strikes and self defence yet.

You are taught a broad range of technique and have insufficient time to absorb and own the technique before moving onto the next one.  All these techniques are “in progress” as none have been mastered yet.  This is a Large batches size problem because you are starting lots of techniques but not sufficiently understanding a technique before moving onto the next.  It’s like making cars and having none come off the assembly line until basically every car is ready.

The more “in progress” stuff we have going on at the same time, the less we actually complete.  The more likely we are to get lost in all that stuff.  That “stuff” is up in the air because you often need more and more technique to deal with problems in live rolling.  This is where too much live rolling can actually hinder your progress because you never finish any of that “stuff”.

What’s the opposite of all of this “in progress” stuff.  It’s called Small batch theory.  You break a problem down into bite size manageable pieces to keep the “in progress” as low as possible.  The more you are “trying” to learn at any one time, the less you have actually mastered because you haven’t completed anything..

So how do we fix the learning for jiu-jitsu so that we can increase our learning speed.  Simple, we have to reduce the batch size of what we learn and master.  Look at DJ Jackson,  black belt world champion in what 4 years, his core game consists of about 5-7 core techniques.  I wonder did he just haphazardly practice every technique under the sun or did he focus predominately on his core and then filled out his BJJ knowledge once he had that.

In my next blog I’ll go through how I’m using this small batch theory to optimize the speed I learn BJJ.


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