Styles Make Techniques: How Learning Styles Help Develop Your Jiu-Jitsu

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Styles Make Techniques: How Learning Styles Help Develop Your Jiu-Jitsu

By: Eugene Tsozik PT, DPT

Everyone has heard of “styles make fights.” Its a saying that encompasses the idea that a certain blend of techniques or speciality versus another type of technique or speciality make for a unique or interesting combination. Striker vs Grappler or Karate vs. Jiu-Jitsu. I feel that this can be compared to the differences in how jiujitsu players learn, develop, perfect, and use certain techniques.

As a graduate student in Physical Therapy school, I realized that I had a certain way that I learned things. For example, I had a classmate who would read the powerpoint presentation as the professor was showing it on the the screen, and she would have it memorized and committed to memory as soon as they got done reading it. For me, it was not that simple or that easy.

I had to follow along, read it myself, take notes, re-write, re-read it, make flash cards…you get the picture. So in my ever evolving quest to learn jiu-jitsu, I would learn a technique, try to throw it in rolling, and then when push comes to shove, I threw it out and played my “A-Game” or went back to my “go-to techniques.” How would I ever develop new techniques, new branches to my tree if I never took the time to develop and grow them.

I have my “A-Game” as a purple belt, now I am trying to develop wrinkles, folds, new branches to my jiu-jitsu tree. I started drilling more. Watching videos. Writing down key positions or points of emphasis. For me, muscle memory is key. Repetition is necessary, visual instruction is a must, and note taking for details is important.

I would learn a new technique, watch it, drill it, read about it, and then write about it. This is all well and good but I had to practice it. This is where positional drilling is key. My jiu-jitsu instructor started getting really heavy on drilling, building techniques on top of another, stringing techniques together, and putting in the numbers (repetitions). Then putting us in situations where getting passed was not a priority, but defending against the move we were trying to perform was the opponent’s goal.

This opened up opportunity, allowed risk taking, and developed technique. I saw what grips worked, what reactions I would get, and I would make adjustments on the fly. This was followed by “King of the Mat” style rolling. Pass and defend purely. When you performed the sweep we were working you stayed in and a fresh body came in against you. Working technique under physical duress and fatigue was key to staying sharp.

I feel I got such an improvement in a position or technique from one class because I was able to drill it, put it into use, and play with it. I followed this up by taking notes in a notebook immediately after class while it was fresh. I re-read my notes, watched videos if needed, and replayed the position in my head.

Drilling is key. Repetition is important. Muscle memory is the only way to develop a technique without hesitation. This is how I feel I will improve. This is how I will continue to grow. Tony Spencer, a jiu-jitsu black belt at our gym who is very technical and innovative in his game said when he got promoted to black belt, “I don’t chase belts, I chase techniques.” This quote stuck out to me. It spoke to me. It is the essence of bettering yourself, and the only way to do that is to grow your technique and chase it. Get new branches. Make new pathways. Chase techniques.