Properly Responding to Feedback to Get Better At BJJ

It happens all the time on the mats. One person gives the other person a bit of feedback, some information that they can use to help develop their game. If the person receiving the feedback is you I have a couple of things you should consider.

In my example the feedback is coming from a person who is qualified to give you help.

Let’s step on the mat for some nogi. I am working to pass your guard and you have one hand on my neck to help control posture. I tell you this bit of feedback “try moving your hand up a little bit closer to my head”. This grip sounds odd to you. When playing gi you control the posture with a collar grip. Your hand naturally slides a bit further back and to control the neck. In addition you are satisfied with your collar grip conversion to nogi and you do a pretty good job of controlling the posture. This feedback is probably ignored, and you keep on doing what you are doing.

When you get feedback apply it first, then consider if it is good advice. If it was intuitive for you to play your grip on the lower part of the head you would have already been doing it. Often times good feedback will seem counterintuitive. You might find that gripping on the back of the head gives you much more leverage. You are not just pulling the person down from their neck. Your energy is first pulling the head down, then the neck therefore the posture is broken much easier.

The point of this article is not to help you break your opponent’s posture more effectively. I want you to try the feedback you get and then judge its effectiveness.

Thank the person that took the time to give you the feedback. Your development on the mat will be more efficient if you continue to get more feedback and you should do all you can to encourage more. Using the feedback and thanking the person go a long way to helping you be a joy to coach.

Ideas for this article were inspired from the book Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

Can a Coach roll too much with the Students??

It is great to have a coach that will get on the mat with the students and train. It is often a badge of honor, a way to lead by example, and proof that the coach is a legitimate source of instruction.

This article is not an aid to help determine if your instructor is a sham. I simply want to invite coaches to consider an important tool for teaching jiu-jitsu.

If you are a coach and you roll every round, you might consider a different option. Try rolling most of the rounds with the students. Use the rounds that you sit out, to watch the students roll. This is a great opportunity to look for areas of improvement and discover strengths of your students. I know that you can do this when you roll with your students, but students roll differently with their coach.  By watching your students roll, your lesson plans can be adjusted to the needs of the room. Simply guessing what technique to work next is unlikely the most beneficial way to plan future lessons.

Observing students roll is also a good way to correct poor mat behavior. Someone may not be a mat bully to you or even able to put you in unsafe positions. But when you take a step back you can better identify a mat bully, and request that a change in behavior is made (something the rolling partner may not be willing to do for themselves).

Look across the spectrum of sports- coaches don’t typically take the role of participating to the degree of a BJJ coach. Why is that? I have two main reasons. The first, is most coaches in BJJ are actively trying to get better at the sport so their participation is benefiting themselves. The other reason speaks volumes about jiu-jitsu. In many cases coaches can outperform the students (even if they are significantly older or not as athletic). Therefore by being an “on the mat rolling coach” is providing the students with competitive and technical training sessions.

I am not advocating that coaches stop rolling with students. I am saying that it may be beneficial to take a step back and make observations and corrections from the sidelines. After all how many football coaches do you see putting pads on? How many basketball coaches are blocking shots? How many baseball coaches do you see hitting home runs? How many boxing coaches do you see land a knockdown punch?

Watch the video below to learn more about rolling too much with your students.

Great coaches may not always be doing the sport, but they are great at transferring knowledge and changing habits.

A wise coach will spend some time observing students and making changes.

 

Drilling: How To Get the Most Out Of It

Drilling is a common method for learning and refining techniques in jiu jitsu. While drilling is not complicated, there are a few concepts and fundamental aspects that once understood, will help you get the most out of it. Here are a few suggestions I would make based on my own experience.

When you are the one drilling the technique:

Ask questions and make sure you’re getting it right. The way you drill a move is the way you will execute it when rolling. Don’t drill bad technique. If you’re confused about a move or sequence, ask your coach for clarification. Ask your training partner for feedback.

Use proper positional fundamentals when setting the move up. If your drilling a back take starting from half guard knee shield position. Make sure your knee shield is strong and you’re using good frames so as not to get flattened out. In live rolling you’ll never pull the move off if you’re constantly smashed and flattened out every time you’re in bottom half guard.

Finish the move. If you are drilling a sweep, don’t settle for just knocking your training partner off his base, follow through until you are in a dominant position. If you’re drilling a pass continue until you’ve secured side control or knee on belly and are setting up the next transition or submission. If finishing the move is not a part of your drilling, you will find yourself constantly in live rolling “almost” getting the sweep or pass.

Experiment and pay attention to detail. Let’s look at the scissor sweep. Will gripping the sleeve at the wrist or elbow work best for you? When gripping the sleeve at the wrist, does a pistol grip, or a pocket grip work best for you? Does it work best for you to have you shin across your partner’s torso parallel to the floor, at a 45-degree angle, or something in between? These are just some of the details of one move that need to be looked at and experimented with. Drilling gives you the best opportunity to do this.

When playing the role of Uke, or, “the one who receives the technique”

Apply the appropriate amount of resistance. The only thing worse than having a training partner simply fall over before you’re even half way through setting up a sweep is when they go into full lockdown “you’ll never sweep me” mode. Initially you should apply enough resistance that your partner must do the technique correctly but no more. As you progress and train with more experience training partners the level of resistance will increase slightly.

Think about your defense and counters. The key here is think about your defense and counters. You are not actually trying to prevent your partner from completing the move or counter them. At a bare minimum, when your training partner drills a sweep or pass, assume the correct defensive posture including frames and hand positions as they complete the move.

Provide some feedback for your training partner. I never presume I’m qualified to tell others (especially those at, or above, my rank) how to do jiu jitsu, but I’m more than comfortable providing simple feedback like “when you gripped behind my elbow I felt like the technique was stronger than when you grabbed my sleeve at the wrist”.

This is not an exhaustive list or a list of the most important…. It’s just a list of things worth considering to help you get more out of drilling.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better. 

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here