Book review- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

BJJ coaches should read this

Anyone in a leadership role in the gym should consider reading this book. The cover of the book sums up what the topic very well: “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how.” I hear people talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers regularly in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community. People like to talk about the 10,000 hours of practice is what it takes to truly master something. This book definitely challenges the 10,000 hours of practice that is discussed in Outliers. Consider the athlete that quickly rises to top in a short amount of time (BJ Penn, got his black belt in a little over 3 years). The Talent Code has nothing to say about BJJ, but the topics discussed will transfer over to BJJ coaches easily.

This book focuses on “talent hotbeds”, places that produce a disproportional amount of talent. An example of a talent hotbed in the book is a rundown tennis club in Russia. This particular club is in a freezing climate and only has one indoor tennis court. This tennis club has produced more top 20 women players than the entire United States. How can this happen? What is going on there? Daniel Coyle travels to this small tennis club and shares what he finds. He travels to many talent hotbeds, and discovers what they have in common.

Talent Code Video- It does a great job explaining what is in the book

Drilling is a big concept in BJJ. Coyle discusses how it actually changes our brains to function differently (faster and with less effort). You need to be drilling with different levels of resistance. During drilling you should occasionally stop and think about what is happening when you fail, then try again. Any time you are rolling and you get tapped out, take a few seconds to think about what happened leading up to the submission.

This book also gives a lot of advice to coaches about how to explain things. It will help you communicate more effectively and give your students a better way to remember the techniques.

There are many different aspects of this book that translate into any sport. It will get a second read from me, and I am sure that I will learn even more the second time around. I recommend this book to any coach of any sport.

Check out the Talent Code Blog

Other articles you might like:

Drill one handed

Slow down while you are rolling to improve your Jiu-Jitsu

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Running a marathon and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

At the time I ran my marathon I was a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and had ran two half marathons.  This is an article about accomplishing my goal of running a marathon and not sacrificing my BJJ training.  Like most people who train BJJ, missing a day can be tough and taking several months off to get ready for a marathon was not an option.  I love that BJJ keeps me in shape but I would need to spend a lot of time running to prepare my body for running 26.2 miles.

My sister and me before the run

Having ran two half marathons and training BJJ 2 to 4 times a week, I felt good starting with short distances of 2 to 6 miles.  I think that my conditioning from BJJ was a big help getting me started.  Once I started to run more than 6 miles I really felt like my legs where getting pushed passed their typical BJJ endurance.I thought that my BJJ endurance would skyrocket and I would be able to be on the mat all day.  I was wrong about this.  My endurance was better, but my legs would be tired from the first moment I stepped on the mat.  It seemed like once I started to run more than 15 miles, I was not as strong on the mats due to my legs never being able to fully recover.  Some days my body would feel like it was too sore from running to train BJJ, but I would go anyway.  I would tell myself that I was sore not injured, and training on the mats was a great way for me to stretch my muscles.  The day after BJJ training, I would feel really good.  Training BJJ definitely helped me recover from my long runs.  It was a good way for me to cross train.

My marathon experience.  My main goal was to finish the marathon, no mater what the time.  Living in Kansas I was fortunate to run in one of the flattest marathons in the country.  I decided that this would likely be the only marathon that I would run so I should give 100%.  I ended up finishing in 4 hours and 3 minutes, which is about a 9 minutes 16 seconds per mile pace.

I really believe that most people who can run a few miles are capable of completing a full marathon.  You simply add distance gradually and don’t worry about your time.  I would recommend running a half marathon before doing the full, if you have the discipline and ability to run a half marathon you can run the full marathon.  Training to run a full marathon is a big time commitment.  I found myself running 6 to 8 hours a week, and due to the heat I was forced to run in the early morning.  If you are a student of BJJ and you want to run a marathon, I would recommend that you continue training BJJ during your marathon training.  I would not recommend competing in BJJ tournaments while you are running long distances, your body will not be at full competition strength.  It is also smart to tap out to foot locks a little quicker than usual if you are like me and like to try to fight out of them. Completing a marathon may not improve your Jiu-Jitsu skills, but it certainly will add to your mental toughness.

not a scenic run, but it is flat

If completing a marathon is a goal of yours go for it!  If you have any questions that I can help you with your training email me (put “marathon” in the subject).

Check out this website for more marathon training advice

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2013 Goals

1) Personal- More time with family, strengthening relationships.
2) BJJ- Build a solid defense against most Black Belts (I am a Brown).
3) Work- Take two relevant classes to develop my firefighting abilities.


I feel that all of these goals are attainable and worth doing.

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Check out this article on getting passed a plateau