Sunday, November 20, 2011

Keep my mind limber

"Of course! My thinking about this case had become so uptight."

Here's some light reading: the 3 P's

And here's some heavy shit: the Fallacy of Technique

I earnestly and respectfully suggest that if you teach one of the disciplines we are always talking about here (BJJ, Judo, MMA, Weightlifting, Crossfit) that you give the two articles above an open-minded read.

If you have followed my blog for 2-3 years, you probably know that I have been preaching a similar idea: Has to be real
Rhadi Ferguson: The technical Myth

So, Matt Thornton, Cane Prevost, Rhadi Ferguson and I are all saying closely aligned things, and I think the most important thing to take away from this is that it's probably about 90 to 180 degrees out of step with the way Judo and BJJ are taught. In a previous post I commented on how most 'drills' in martial arts classes are ill-suited to the ability they intend to improve. Well, I think Cane's posts above really put a great framework around 'ne waza' to help folks look at their training another way.

I think I am a pretty intelligent guy, but my go to 'conflict deference' technique at most of the BJJ schools I frequent is to show up late so I don't have to 'learn techniques', and if that's not possible or practical then I feign the mental incapacity to possibly learn new techniques because they are too hard or too technical or something. This might sound totally ass backwards, but the truth is, as a super duper 10 stripe white belt, I don't need to know how to set up a heel hook from deep half. In fact, with my Judo background, I received my first real introduction to plain old half guard posture/pressure just a few months ago.

So, that's what's wrong. I don't really belong to one school; I have a standing invitation to train at a few whenever I want, which is a WONDERFUL BLESSING. This means that one night a week, I train at one place. Another 2-3 nights I train at another. And then once a week I take privates from a black belt. So, attending classes, about 3 times a week, what I observe is a constant stream of random, overly technical shit that is highly specific. Seriously. ALL THE TIME I see BJJ instructors do 20 minutes of exhausting warm ups (post for another time) and then the first thing they say is something like "So,OK. When you are doing de la Riva and the guy pops off your heel in the hip, this is what I want you to do."

Seriously? Who the fuck is this instructor talking to? Odds are, there's 1-2 blue belts that are working there way through that type of guard game, but even they are only going to get so much out of it... I mean if you read what Cane and Rhadi are saying it should be clear that you don't need ANOTHER technique. What you need to ask is 'why does my opponent always succeed in popping my heel off their hip?'. Everyone skips right to technique or 'possibilities' as Cane would put it without discussing what is going on at the posture or pressure levels. In all likelihood, some live drills that helped ALL the students to understand what the posture issues are for the top and bottom guy would probably clear up the problem well. The reason you are losing one aspect of your posture is probably because you aren't applying enough pressure. The reason you are having to counter your loss of de la Riva is because your de la Riva is weak, not because you need to know more techniques!

In all likelihood, less techniques and more purposeful practice will probably go a very long way. In Chinese martial arts there is a saying, "I don't fear the fighter who has practiced 1000 techniques, I fear the fighter that has practiced one technique 1000 times".

One thing that I like about Judo is that some of the underlying culture of the art helps to reinforce my way of thinking somewhat. There are between 40 and 60 something techniques in judo officially, depending on who you ask. It's assumed that you can reproduce most of them by the time you get to black belt, and it's frequently argued that you need maybe 1000-1500 hours on the mat to make that happen (5 hours a week for 4 years should do it). Given this assumption, most new judoka will learn 20-30 of the techniques in their first 6 months of judo, and the remainder will show themselves eventually. However, in many Judo clubs, there's not much discussion outside of possibly a dozen throws that represent probably 90% of all scoring techniques in the IJF. Thusly, white belts and black belts BOTH assume that when they go to judo practice that night, they will practice seoi nage and harai goshi and o uchi gari for instance. And even though every white belt knows o uchi gari, rarely will a black belt complain about practicing o uchi gari again.
In spite of all this, I see Judo teachers say to a room full of yellow belts "This one is for you more advanced guys" every time I see them teach. Who is this guy talking to?

My case in a way is a 'Galapagos' case study. I began judo in 2005, and I trained my ass off as best I could for two years, barring a few injuries and what not. I'd say I wracked up about 70-80 weeks of 6-10 hours per week type training in 50/50 stand up and ne waza. Then I moved to Richmond Va, where my options for Judo training were severely limited. I would say at this point that my reception of outside instruction all but stopped entirely. Especially as pertains to stand up. On the ground, I have had no formal instruction for quite some time outside of occasional interludes of intense private instruction, which have been major breakthrough points for me, but have been tailored to my own game and my own way of learning (I force my instructors to teach me as little as possible in one session). I say 'galapagos' to refer to Darwin's discovery of isolated species of birds that had widely diverse characteristics. So, in a way, I learned Judo ground work up to about the Gokyu or Yonkyu level as far as techniques are concerned. Then I mostly stopped adding techniques to this except where some private BJJ instruction intervened. My understanding of posture and pressure in the basics that Judo and BJJ share have grown nicely over the last 5 years. I think I perform at a BJJ blue belt level when it comes to kesa gatame, side control and reverse kesa. However, I perform at a very low beginner level in butterfly guard, half guard etc. If someone starts butt scooting, I am pretty bad at dealing with it. No one has ever explained to me the strengths and weaknesses of this posture, or what objectives I should have in acting against it. It's only been in the last few months that an instructor has begun to spell some of this stuff out for me, and it's been in a private training instruction setting where I bring it up.

So that is what is wrong. If I were waiting, I can't tell you how long I might continue to wait to simply get lucky and have an instructor go over the vary basics of the positions that I am unfamiliar with. The irony however is I have observed instructors berate their students for not executing X or Y action that the instructor has never really taught.

I sense that grappling instructors feel as though they are under considerable pressure to teach fancy shit and teach new shit as frequently as possible. This could be for a number of reasons. I do say that I see most instructors pride themselves on how they 'teach technique', but I can't help but think that this simply perpetuates the 'encyclopedic technique collection' approach to grappling, which in my mind is just shit. I mean I am a rank amateur, but I have had plenty of experiences where I was doing the one or two things that I was good at (the positions that I have a firm grasp of posture, pressure) and submissions I have never done before simply revealed themselves to me because I was in total control.

The best things about these arts are that at the end of the day, most of what the best guys in the world are doing is the shit you learn before your first rank test. True in Judo, true in BJJ. Hell, it's true in Crossfit; you are going to learn to squat and do pull ups early on, and frankly, if you want to be a bad ass, just keep practicing those. Do them well, do them heavy, and you can do whatever you want. If you can escape from most pins, sweep to a dominant position, and put pressure on someone until they do retarded shit to escape, than submitting them will likely take care of itself mostly. I think it's more important to understand how a sliding collar choke actually works than it is to learn a bazillion variations of it. You can make up your own crazy variations on the fly if you get the principles. But if you are just mimicking or replaying techniques from the library then you are probably screwed when some little thing is different from the script.

We should talk some other time about how coaching (objectives, goal setting) and teaching (3 P's) interact to facilitate learning, retention and performance.

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