Teaching BJJ - Concepts vs Techniques
For a while now, I've been helping to teach white and new blue belts, so I've had this topic in my mind: should I focus on teaching concepts or techniques?
It seems that some schools enjoy showing and working off concepts, without regard to specific techniques really. For example, SBG has lessons like The Fundamental 5 of Topgame and 5 Point Guard Passing, or the Inquery Method, and so on. Then there are schools that give you some techniques to practice and just hammer them into you with drilling and sparring. I can see the benefits of both.
I was talking to a brown belt about how he picks what to teach. He said he often doesn't have any specific techniques in mind before class, just a central concept, but from this concept, he derives specific techniques.
For example, the night I talked to him about this, all of the moves we learned involved crossing the opponent's arm while he's in your guard. He explained how he met a black belt of 16 years in Gracie Barra Rio whose entire game was built around that single concept. He said that when they sparred, he spent 8 minutes just trying to keep his arm uncrossed. Regardless of specific techniques, the guy was just going to cross your arm somehow.
Here's a brief description of the moves the brown belt then taught with this in mind:
1. Closed guard - Break his grip on your lapel with a figure-four grip, cross his arm, take the back.
2. Closed guard - Underhook a leg and swing your hips out (like a pendulum sweep) and go for an armbar. They stack to defend, but their arm is now crossed. Swing out of the armbar and take their back.
3. Butterfly guard - Break his grip on your knee, cross his arm, grab across the back for the belt and sweep.
He said he may have never learned or seen these techniques in isolation before, because they might be something he "just does" on his own in sparring, or just saw someone else doing.
But he can't go out in front of a bunch of white and blue belts and just say "Work on crossing the arm. Just make up some techniques." He has to show something specific that EVERYONE can understand and drill and do, regardless of skill level.
So while the concept of "Cross their arm in your guard" might be the main point he wants to teach (and he does explain it as a concept), he uses the techniques to give everyone something they can actually DO to illustrate it. Of course, the three moves he showed are not the only three ways to apply "Crossing the arm", but by teaching specific techniques, he gives the student the first pieces to exploring the concept themselves.
He also made an interesting point on how he picks techniques that (while they all share a central concept) are different enough to allow the student to explore the other techniques that exist BETWEEN those positions. From the examples above, you can see how he varies the guards and situations so that you have seperation between the positions to think of other ways to apply the same concept.
From this, I don't think it's so much a case of "concepts versus techniques" but "concepts and techniques". Of course it comes down the the individual, their experience level, the experience level of the class, etc., but I think you know what I mean.
What's your take on this?