What I’ve Been Teaching These Days (2021)

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I teach no-gi on Saturdays.

(I’m the first person to wish it was gi, but never mind…)

This is my only teaching slot, and I decided to run these Saturday classes the way I want to run classes.

So, we hardly do standard warmups, like running around and all those things that will improve your running and warmups, but may or may not improve your jiu jitsu skills.

I’m not entirely against those standard warmups, though. I think it depends on how much space your mat area has and how much time you have in your session. I also think typical movement drills like shrimping and crocodile walk can be beneficial.

Being excellent at shrimping doesn’t mean your BJJ is excellent, but I can see there’s often a correlation between how well people do their standard warmup moves and how well they move when they do actual BJJ moves.

Instead of these warmups that students do at every other class, I’ve been incorporating some games and pair drills to help students improve their balance, timing, and pressure, etc.

Also, in one hour session, I cover a number of different moves and relevant drills… probably way too many if it’s a one-off class.

But the thing is, I’m experimenting with this approach where I present a somewhat-minimal-and-complete system to students. This system covers from the initial contact in the standing position to the ground. (“System” may sound scary, but basically, it means a bunch of instructions based on scenarios that are super likely to happen. It can be as simple or complex as you wish it to be.)

I don’t expect them to master (or even get) any of its components in one go. And we go over the same sequence every week, with a few key details or new moves added to the system from time to time.

I have some rough ideas about what I want to include in the system, but I haven’t connected all the pieces yet. So, it’s still in progress!

So far, some of the students commented that they enjoy this approach… and I can see them getting better, too.

I feel that regular BJJ classes are structured like a grammar lesson or a vocabulary lesson for a foreign language. It’s great if these classes are well organized, but I suppose many aren’t.

And for beginners, it may feel like instructors are shoving grammatical concepts or new vocabs to students without providing a context of how these grammatical concepts or words are used in a live conversation. As a consequence, the students have to figure out on their own… in the case of BJJ, they might have to make a lot of trials and errors in live sparring.

My approach is more like giving students some concrete phrases they can use in a specific context.

Like, when you meet new people in a social context, most of them are probably going to ask you similar questions (e.g. What’s your name? Where are you from? Why did you come here?).

Or when you go to a supermarket in any developed country, cashiers are almost always going to ask you if you want/need a bag and sometimes whether you have a membership card for that supermarket.

If you can understand what people are asking and respond to them accordingly, you will look as if you have a good grasp of the language even if you don’t understand the language much.

They will still have to practice using these concrete responses in a real conversation (or using particular moves in sparring rounds).

But I think it’s a better start than knowing 5,000 words without actually knowing how to put them together in a coherent sentence.

Will they be able to “speak” BJJ fluently after going over the same stuff every week for a few months?

It depends on what exactly you mean by fluency, but I bet they will be able to have moderate success against other folks and get a better overview of what BJJ is like as well as how each move can be connected.

Let’s see how this experiment goes… and I will report it to you again in the future.