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Devil
12/27/2018 1:40pm,
18029

How long do you think it’s been since Kayla Harrison sat through a typical Judo class wide-eyed alongside mere mortals and watched a Judo instructor teach a class on some random series of Judo techniques?

Let’s talk about training at a high level and what it takes to become elite at your chosen martial art. Excellence has always been a fascinating topic to me. I love studying people who are at the highest level in any worthwhile pursuit, but especially combat sports. For the sake of discussion, let’s just assume that we’re talking about someone training in an effective martial arts system. We’ll leave Krav Maga and other bullshit out of the discussion.

I’m interested in discussing what the ideal training format is once you reach a high level of proficiency. I’ll use BJJ as an example. The most common training format at your typical commercial school is probably something like warmups, the instructor teaches a couple techniques, you break off and practice them slowly with a partner, then you do some positional drilling and finally you roll. There are variations, but that’s rather typical.

But the more I think about it, the more apparent it becomes to me that this training format is only very useful for beginners. And I’m not evaluating beginner/intermediate/expert/elite based on belt rank. I think belt rank is only loosely related to objective skill level, even in a martial art that takes longer to rank up. I’m not talking about skill level between white and black belt. I’m talking about skill level between white belt and Gordon Ryan, or Buchecha, or the Mendes brothers, or whoever you say the fucking man is.

In most endeavors, if people have some experience but they’re still learning some fundamental aspects of that endeavor, or if they have a good understanding, but their skill set is still in the process of gelling, then they’re viewed as a beginner, or maybe slightly more than a beginner. In BJJ, those people are called purple belts, or brown belts, or even black belts, depending on their overall commitment and genuine proficiency.

But I digress. Let’s go back to the class format discussion. If you’re a new brown belt and you’ve been training at a single school for 7 or 8 years, how long has it been since you learned a new technique in class? I bet for most, it’s been a long fucking time. Maybe you’ll learn something new occasionally, but it’ll be the exception rather than the rule.

So, why does almost every school still have brown belts attending classes? It doesn’t make sense to me, at least not if you’re looking to maximize performance. Yes, you can still benefit from drilling the fundamentals and being reminded of some of the nuances. But a one size fits all classroom format is inefficient for any purpose other than teaching beginners. Actually, it does make sense to me. I just don’t like the answer, because the answer has to do with money and logistics, rather than building great martial artists.

High level training should be individual, personalized, focused and it should be overseen by a mentor if possible. It should be less like going to class and more like doing homework, or more like working with a tutor. After you know the basics, you need to begin focusing on your own game. Every minute of training should be focused on a well thought out curriculum that is designed to improve your specific game. Furthermore, if you’re a black belt who spent his entire developmental period training in this sort of classroom format, you’re probably going to get beaten regularly by purple belts your size who have embraced more efficient training practices. Or as Keenan Cornelius calls them....purple belts who are actually good.

“Advanced classes” aren’t the solution either. If you’re a brown belt who is 5’5”, 250 lbs. and has a game built around closed guard, Kimuras and pressure passing, why the **** are you going to spend class time training spider guard and triangles? It’s illogical. Advanced class is usually just the same shitty beginner format with a more complex technique or series of techniques thrown in. It’s still one size fits all.

Training intensity is a huge factor as well, of course. There are obviously high level BJJ gyms that focus on competition training and their competitors train very hard. But I wonder if they attend classes. And if so, why? If they do, my suspicion is that they’re great despite the fact that they waste training time on classes, not because of it.

If they’re still actually learning many things in class 8 years into their training, why does it take their instructors so long to impart that knowledge? BJJ has a multitude of techniques and strategies, but in 8 years you can learn how to operate on people’s brains. BJJ is complex, but it ain’t brain surgery.

Everybody thinks John Danaher is fucking Yoda or something. And he is a technical master, no doubt. But there are lots of technical masters. I suspect the real reason for his students’ consistent success has less to do with the technical knowledge he’s so revered for and more to do with the fact that he has established a proper training environment for his team.

Talk to me. What do you guys say?

TLDR: Your martial arts class sucks and you’re “training” for mediocrity.

BKR
12/27/2018 2:17pm,
18029

How long do you think itís been since Kayla Harrison sat through a typical Judo class wide-eyed alongside mere mortals and watched a Judo instructor teach a class on some random series of Judo techniques?

Letís talk about training at a high level and what it takes to become elite at your chosen martial art. Excellence has always been a fascinating topic to me. I love studying people who are at the highest level in any worthwhile pursuit, but especially combat sports. For the sake of discussion, letís just assume that weíre talking about someone training in an effective martial arts system. Weíll leave Krav Maga and other bullshit out of the discussion.

Iím interested in discussing what the ideal training format is once you reach a high level of proficiency. Iíll use BJJ as an example. The most common training format at your typical commercial school is probably something like warmups, the instructor teaches a couple techniques, you break off and practice them slowly with a partner, then you do some positional drilling and finally you roll. There are variations, but thatís rather typical.

But the more I think about it, the more apparent it becomes to me that this training format is only very useful for beginners. And Iím not evaluating beginner/intermediate/expert/elite based on belt rank. I think belt rank is only loosely related to objective skill level, even in a martial art that takes longer to rank up. Iím not talking about skill level between white and black belt. Iím talking about skill level between white belt and Gordon Ryan, or Buchecha, or the Mendes brothers, or whoever you say the fucking man is.

In most endeavors, if people have some experience but theyíre still learning some fundamental aspects of that endeavor, or if they have a good understanding, but their skill set is still in the process of gelling, then theyíre viewed as a beginner, or maybe slightly more than a beginner. In BJJ, those people are called purple belts, or brown belts, or even black belts, depending on their overall commitment and genuine proficiency.

But I digress. Letís go back to the class format discussion. If youíre a new brown belt and youíve been training at a single school for 7 or 8 years, how long has it been since you learned a new technique in class? I bet for most, itís been a long fucking time. Maybe youíll learn something new occasionally, but itíll be the exception rather than the rule.

So, why does almost every school still have brown belts attending classes? It doesnít make sense to me, at least not if youíre looking to maximize performance. Yes, you can still benefit from drilling the fundamentals and being reminded of some of the nuances. But a one size fits all classroom format is inefficient for any purpose other than teaching beginners. Actually, it does make sense to me. I just donít like the answer, because the answer has to do with money and logistics, rather than building great martial artists.

High level training should be individual, personalized, focused and it should be overseen by a mentor if possible. It should be less like going to class and more like doing homework, or more like working with a tutor. After you know the basics, you need to begin focusing on your own game. Every minute of training should be focused on a well thought out curriculum that is designed to improve your specific game. Furthermore, if youíre a black belt who spent his entire developmental period training in this sort of classroom format, youíre probably going to get beaten regularly by purple belts your size who have embraced more efficient training practices. Or as Keenan Cornelius calls them....purple belts who are actually good.

ďAdvanced classesĒ arenít the solution either. If youíre a brown belt who is 5í5Ē, 250 lbs. and has a game built around closed guard, Kimuras and pressure passing, why the **** are you going to spend class time training spider guard and triangles? Itís illogical. Advanced class is usually just the same shitty beginner format with a more complex technique or series of techniques thrown in. Itís still one size fits all.

Training intensity is a huge factor as well, of course. There are obviously high level BJJ gyms that focus on competition training and their competitors train very hard. But I wonder if they attend classes. And if so, why? If they do, my suspicion is that theyíre great despite the fact that they waste training time on classes, not because of it.

If theyíre still actually learning many things in class 8 years into their training, why does it take their instructors so long to impart that knowledge? BJJ has a multitude of techniques and strategies, but in 8 years you can learn how to operate on peopleís brains. BJJ is complex, but it ainít brain surgery.

Everybody thinks John Danaher is fucking Yoda or something. And he is a technical master, no doubt. But there are lots of technical masters. I suspect the real reason for his studentsí consistent success has less to do with the technical knowledge heís so revered for and more to do with the fact that he has established a proper training environment for his team.

Talk to me. What do you guys say?

TLDR: Your martial arts class sucks and youíre ďtrainingĒ for mediocrity.

I think you have got it about figured out, really. Not in the sense that you know how to run an elite level, individualized program.

I don't either.

But in the sense of what is happening in such programs, and, really, what is necessary to be truly excellent, in terms of technical ability/proficiency, and especially at elite levels of competition, or laying the groundwork for transition to elite level competition.

I think that in reality if one wants to get into higher/high level competition, then that has to start when the athlete is quite young, not so much technical training (that's important, too, obviously, especially at a foundational level), but to develop and maximize the core athleticism at the correct stages of physical/emotional/mental development of the athlete in question.

As you point out, vast majority of commercial MA programs to not do that a all, being "one size fits all".

Most folks/kids who attend those sorts of MA schools, even in a decently "alive", will not train enough (frequency/intensity, etc.) to really make the best progress (your purple/brown belts examples).

And THAT will have to be individualized as well.

This is what I believe the old Soviet/Eastern European sport programs were doing, as well as talent recognition and classification and placement of the athlete into the sport that is a best-fit for success.

Here, I had found this article years ago, it pertains somewhat to what you have brought up.
http://www.judo-voj.com/contents/reiho.html

As a final thought, I'll pass on something that I got from listening to Travis S. in person, and watching video blog/interviews with him.
His prep for his final Olympics, I believe, was that his coach (Jimmy Pedro) would handle technical training plan for him, and I believe travel, and scouting of opponents, and individualized game and planning for run-up to the Games.

Travis's only job was to get in shape, physically, and make weight. So Travis basically did what Pedro told him to do, otherwise, that was how they divided it up.

That level of expertise in a coach has to be pretty close to "been there done that" for that level of coaching.

DdlR
12/27/2018 2:20pm,
IMO the best training for seriously advanced folk emphasizes technical/tactical challenges and improvisation under pressure.

BKR
12/27/2018 2:28pm,
IMO the best training for seriously advanced folk emphasizes technical/tactical challenges and improvisation under pressure.

For high level combat sport athletes, the planning goes way beyond that. At that level, they can do what you mention pretty much already, or they would not be there. As they know who their possible opponents will be, and the competition schedule well in advance, the level of detail for "what if" scenarios versus different opponents is mind boggling. It includes long-term planning and deception, at times, for a specific, potential, future match-up, in which basically the athlete will get one shot in a single match to beat his/her opponent.

In terms of self-defense, which I think is more what you are involved in, it's still scenario-based training, and I imagine would go into the various sorts of hooded/surprise scenario types of training.

Devil
12/27/2018 2:43pm,
I think you have got it about figured out, really. Not in the sense that you know how to run an elite level, individualized program.

I don't either.

But in the sense of what is happening in such programs, and, really, what is necessary to be truly excellent, in terms of technical ability/proficiency, and especially at elite levels of competition, or laying the groundwork for transition to elite level competition.

I think that in reality if one wants to get into higher/high level competition, then that has to start when the athlete is quite young, not so much technical training (that's important, too, obviously, especially at a foundational level), but to develop and maximize the core athleticism at the correct stages of physical/emotional/mental development of the athlete in question.

As you point out, vast majority of commercial MA programs to not do that a all, being "one size fits all".

Most folks/kids who attend those sorts of MA schools, even in a decently "alive", will not train enough (frequency/intensity, etc.) to really make the best progress (your purple/brown belts examples).

And THAT will have to be individualized as well.

This is what I believe the old Soviet/Eastern European sport programs were doing, as well as talent recognition and classification and placement of the athlete into the sport that is a best-fit for success.

Here, I had found this article years ago, it pertains somewhat to what you have brought up.
http://www.judo-voj.com/contents/reiho.html

As a final thought, I'll pass on something that I got from listening to Travis S. in person, and watching video blog/interviews with him.
His prep for his final Olympics, I believe, was that his coach (Jimmy Pedro) would handle technical training plan for him, and I believe travel, and scouting of opponents, and individualized game and planning for run-up to the Games.

Travis's only job was to get in shape, physically, and make weight. So Travis basically did what Pedro told him to do, otherwise, that was how they divided it up.

That level of expertise in a coach has to be pretty close to "been there done that" for that level of coaching.

From the article you linked to.....

ďBut I was surprised to learn that in Japan, this method is the structure of lessons for children.Ē

Boom! Exactly.

Raycetpfl
12/27/2018 2:46pm,
18029

BJJ has a multitude of techniques and strategies, but in 8 years you can learn how to operate on peopleís brains. BJJ is complex, but it ainít brain surgery..

False.
The refinement of techniques continues in a rather dramatic way. The difference between what Roger Gracie is doing in chokes and what everyone* else is doing and what you think he is doing is likely indistinguishable to your eyes and certainly to your hands.

Also, it takes 15 years to go from high school grad to brain surgeon unless you're a Doogie Howser. (I.e.-Gordon Ryan, Bj Penn, and a lot of lesser known guys)

Devil
12/27/2018 2:54pm,
False.
The refinement of techniques continues in a rather dramatic way. The difference between what Roger Gracie is doing in chokes and what everyone* else is doing and what you think he is doing is likely indistinguishable to your eyes and certainly to your hands.

Also, it takes 15 years to go from high school grad to brain surgeon unless you're a Doogie Howser. (I.e.-Gordon Ryan, Bj Penn, and a lot of lesser known guys)

I know how long medical school takes. I was referring to the process of actually learning to do brain surgery. And it was an example. Don’t be silly.

And I stand by my statement. BJJ ain’t brain surgery.

But my real point is that Roger Gracie probably didn’t become great by sitting through kiddie classes the way most jiu jitsu practitioners train.

BKR
12/27/2018 3:00pm,
From the article you linked to.....

ďBut I was surprised to learn that in Japan, this method is the structure of lessons for children.Ē

Boom! Exactly.

Right, that is why I posted the article. It made quite an impression on me when I first read it.

Devil
12/27/2018 3:03pm,
Right, that is why I posted the article. It made quite an impression on me when I first read it.

It was a great read. Thanks for that.

BJMills
12/27/2018 3:08pm,
Ben Askren talked about much the same thing, with I believe similar conclusions awhile ago...

https://youtu.be/ijAMRqBZgo8

My caveat would be, as someone who has hit his mid 40s, I really like the format of learning something new- or refining something old- then rolling. Because...

1) it’s a great workout and...

2) it’s fun.

I’ve been doing one martial art or another since I was eight years old. I want to train in a way that keeps me physically and mentally engaged year round.

Competition training- which is what Ben describes in the clip above, and the way we train when some has a tournament coming up- really isn’t very fun. If that was consistently my regular work out I’m not sure I’d stick with it for as long.

In short, I agree with what you’re saying but would add that you really have to take personal goals into account. Not all of them are to be world class.

Also, to address a few other points...

Yes, maybe you’re a top control specialist who isn’t going to play a lot (or any) spider guard, but it doesn’t hurt to learn and drill because knowing it helps dealing with it when you’re in the other side. Plus just learning to move your body and react in ways you’re not comfortable with is good for overall coordination and mental dexterity. Learning new stuff keeps your brain sharp.

There are also benefits to having a variety of levels in a class. I personally feel like the best instruction a low level belt can get is rolling with a higher level belt. Especially when the higher belt is moderating their pressure so the lower belt can earn success while learning what doesn’t work or what might put them in a bad or worse position.

On the flip side, if you’re a higher belt that really doesn’t play spider guard or berimbolo or whatever, practice in the lower belts. Your shitty spider guard is still going to be better than their attempts to pass it. But maybe not all that much better.

So the advantage of mixed level classes are that, in the long run they can make the whole school better.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it good to discuss and explore training ideals, just that not all ideals are the same.

BKR
12/27/2018 3:09pm,
False.
The refinement of techniques continues in a rather dramatic way. The difference between what Roger Gracie is doing in chokes and what everyone* else is doing and what you think he is doing is likely indistinguishable to your eyes and certainly to your hands.

Also, it takes 15 years to go from high school grad to brain surgeon unless you're a Doogie Howser. (I.e.-Gordon Ryan, Bj Penn, and a lot of lesser known guys)

And what Roger does is refined specific to his body type, in fact, the exact thickness/strength/configuration of limbs. He of course knows the perfectly technically correct way to proceed, and can pass that on to his students.

I know, because a lot of what I (used to) do was specific to the various, specific, aspects of my physique as well as mental/emotional makeup. When I started teaching/coaching, I soon discovered that what specifically worked for me was not going to work for most of my students, other than foundational stuff. Even then, modifications were necessary.

You have gorilla grip due to a couple of factors, one being genetic (I'm guessing), the other due to the fact that you have done manual labor, very specific to your hands, for your entire adult life, if not before that.

Of course, you know the exact proper methods of strangling people due to your diligence at training and excellent teachers/coaches. That's basic stuff. But your gorilla grip has a lot to do with it as well.

Being a brain surgeon is a very specific skill set, both intellectually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Not everybody can be a successful one, with any amount of the best training, desire, and experience.

BKR
12/27/2018 3:11pm,
I know how long medical school takes. I was referring to the process of actually learning to do brain surgery. And it was an example. Donít be silly.

And I stand by my statement. BJJ ainít brain surgery.

But my real point is that Roger Gracie probably didnít become great by sitting through kiddie classes the way most jiu jitsu practitioners train.

I would guess he basically grew doing BJJ, guided along and mentored by the best experts in the field. So doing BJJ for him is like a fish swimming in water.

Then he developed his own "game" to match his outstanding physical attributes.

Raycetpfl
12/27/2018 3:17pm,
I know how long medical school takes. I was referring to the process of actually learning to do brain surgery. And it was an example. Don’t be silly.

And I stand by my statement. BJJ ain’t brain surgery.

But my real point is that Roger Gracie probably didn’t become great by sitting through kiddie classes the way most jiu jitsu practitioners train.

His father ,Marcio Gomes/Rolls Gracie Black Belt, spent a lot of time with him and so did Carlos Gracie Jr.. Private time with highly skilled teachers, he taught classes early and had white belts and blue belts to smash daily to refine his techniques.
Keys to success in Bjj/fighting: Athletic ability,
Private time with teachers skilled teachers, true understanding of the techniques(teaching helps with this), physical strength,speed and endurance, low-ish level training partners to build new skills on,High level training partners to perfect them on, a good environment where you can remain healthy and continue to learn, about four hours a day of training: Strength and conditioning and skills.

Less than 1% of people are willing to allocate 4 hours a day for 8-15 years towards becoming anything. Even fewer people are willing to allocate that time after being physically manhandled by people for years.
BJJ is not brain surgery. There's more brain surgeons than BJJ Blackbelts I would bet.

Devil
12/27/2018 3:20pm,
Ben Askren talked about much the same thing, with I believe similar conclusions awhile ago...

https://youtu.be/ijAMRqBZgo8

My caveat would be, as someone who has hit his mid 40s, I really like the format of learning something new- or refining something old- then rolling. Because...

1) it’s a great workout and...

2) it’s fun.

I’ve been doing one martial art or another since I was eight years old. I want to train in a way that keeps me physically and mentally engaged year round.

Competition training- which is what Ben describes in the clip above, and the way we train when some has a tournament coming up- really isn’t very fun. If that was consistently my regular work out I’m not sure I’d stick with it for as long.

In short, I agree with what you’re saying but would add that you really have to take personal goals into account. Not all of them are to be world class.

Also, to address a few other points...

Yes, maybe you’re a top control specialist who isn’t going to play a lot (or any) spider guard, but it doesn’t hurt to learn and drill because knowing it helps dealing with it when you’re in the other side. Plus just learning to move your body and react in ways you’re not comfortable with is good for overall coordination and mental dexterity. Learning new stuff keeps your brain sharp.

There are also benefits to having a variety of levels in a class. I personally feel like the best instruction a low level belt can get is rolling with a higher level belt. Especially when the higher belt is moderating their pressure so the lower belt can earn success while learning what doesn’t work or what might put them in a bad or worse position.

On the flip side, if you’re a higher belt that really doesn’t play spider guard or berimbolo or whatever, practice in the lower belts. Your shitty spider guard is still going to be better than their attempts to pass it. But maybe not all that much better.

So the advantage of mixed level classes are that, in the long run they can make the whole school better.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it good to discuss and explore training ideals, just that not all ideals are the same.

I’ve seen the Ben Askren clip before and think it’s excellent.

Yes, I understand differing goals. I just value honesty, and so many schools brag about being the best when they really are just using training practices geared for beginners.

I also understand the value of training technique that is outside your comfort zone or your normal skill set. But I think that, like all other training, should be done intentionally once you reach a high level. You or your coach should decide that you need to work against a spider guard player. Then you should seek one out for that purpose. What you should not do is make a habit of working on random ass techniques of the day.

Michael Tzadok
12/27/2018 3:28pm,
Pro tip: Colorado Springs is really a beautiful place and great for a vacation. You can get some skiing, some hiking, some decent restaurants, and you can go watch US Olympic teams train. If you call ahead, with the proper background, they may even let you join in a few sessions. Then you can see how elite level athletes train. Second to that, they don't have highly individualized programs. They follow a specific program of technique and skill development and refinement.

Hell if you really want to learn how to be a coach at that level, at least for wrestling, USAWrestling has a course in how to do it. There is a specific and fairly set programming of teaching and drills. In my personal opinion, I don't think said training should be limited to elite people, as I believe it is the fastest route to mastery. However, it isn't fun, and thus often isn't done at hobbyist gyms.

Since I've wrestled at the international level and now I'm coaching guys who do BJJ at the international level, I can explain, somewhat briefly what a typical "competition" class that I run looks like.

Warm up: These are all attribute developing drills. If guys want cardio from jogging, they can do that in their free time. So it will be rolls, dynamic stretches, and various other attribute development drills.
Technique: I(or a higher belt who happens to be in attendance) will demonstrate and explain a technique. Students will then drill the technique against no resistance to make sure they have it exactly right. We will often teach 2-4 techniques like this.
Muscle Memory Drill: Here the students perform said technique against minimal resistance as fast as they can do it correctly for a 1-2 time period, and will do this several times.
For the remainder of this let's say we are learning guard passes
Shark Bait: A student is the bait, he will have to pass the guard of his opponent, once passed the guard they will reset. Fresh opponent every 2 minutes for a number of rounds.
Short time drill: 20-40 seconds of fighting starting from a position, in this case guard as that is what we were working on.
If there is time remaining(and there isn't always) they may have a 5min free roll at the end of class.

Devil
12/27/2018 3:28pm,
His father ,Marcio Gomes/Rolls Gracie Black Belt, spent a lot of time with him and so did Carlos Gracie Jr.. Private time with highly skilled teachers, he taught classes early and had white belts and blue belts to smash daily to refine his techniques.
Keys to success in Bjj/fighting: Athletic ability,
Private time with teachers skilled teachers, true understanding of the techniques(teaching helps with this), physical strength,speed and endurance, low-ish level training partners to build new skills on,High level training partners to perfect them on, a good environment where you can remain healthy and continue to learn, about four hours a day of training: Strength and conditioning and skills.

Less than 1% of people are willing to allocate 4 hours a day for 8-15 years towards becoming anything. Even fewer people are willing to allocate that time after being physically manhandled by people for years.
BJJ is not brain surgery. There's more brain surgeons than BJJ Blackbelts I would bet.

You need to lay down the crack pipe if you think there are more brain surgeons than BJJ black belts. Look it up. Youíre wrong. Obviously, since itís fucking asinine to compare the difficulty of becoming a black belt with that of becoming a neurosurgeon. Get over yourself.

And I donít see anything in the rest of your post that invalidates anything Iíve said.