Note taking in BJJ – Moving beyond passive record keeping

0715181330

Some of my BJJ notebooks from the past few years

For most people, note taking in BJJ is a list of techniques and drills that were covered that day, or subs and passes performed successfully while rolling.

 

Note taking in this way is a logical way to start, especially if you’re brand new to BJJ. Not only does the act of writing help with knowledge retainment, it’s also a good way to keep yourself accountable and make sure you come to class regularly, which is arguably the most important element of progressing at all.

 

Passive to Proactive

 

However, I think note taking becomes more useful after you have a bunch of notes already accumulated. My recommendation is twofold – first, set aside time at a regular cadence (ex. every weekend, end of month) to sift through these records and find patterns in your performance.

 

These patterns can be things that show areas of weakness (subs you keep getting caught in, guards you’re having trouble passing, etc.) or they can be patterns of opportunity (positions you’re hitting sweeps from, positions you’re able to get to in general, etc.).

 

From here, you’ll likely take some sort of step to strengthen your weaknesses or dig into whatever curiosity you’ve unearthed. For example, a fairly recent pattern I noticed was that I was getting to North South but was getting swept from there. After identifying that weakness, I immediately went to Youtube for videos on maintaining and attacking from North South.

 

But regardless of what research you do, the second part of my recommendation is to go back to your notebook – and this time, write down proactive notes, things you want to try for the next couple of classes.

 

This is where I believe note taking can be transformed from a memory aid to a training aid. It builds self-awareness about your own training, helps you set goals to strive for, and provides a private feedback loop which is necessary as you move into higher belts and have to take more ownership over your training.

 

For me, since adding this reflection/feedback cycle into my routine, I’ve found that not only do I feel like I’ve learned more in the last few months than I have in the past couple years, I’m even more excited to go to class, and more convinced that BJJ is something I’ll be doing for a long time to come.

 

An addendum: What to note

 

I’m not going to lie: I’m an obsessive notetaker.  You may find the below to be excessive, and I’m certainly not saying that you should follow all of this.  Rather, I’m sharing the below to help give some ideas on what you could take notes on and highly encourage that you experiment by adding/removing things specific to you.

 

Post-class notes format:

  • Drills drilled
  • Techniques learned
    • Tip: When writing steps/directions, try to use terms like “inside/outside” or “top/bottom” for limbs because “left/right” is only going to screw things up if you switch sides
  • Who I rolled with and any notes about the roll
  • General thoughts
    • Tip: Write at least 1 positive thing!
    • Note: This is also where I talk about whether or not I hit the proactive notes/goals that I had set for the week

 

My weekly reflection is much looser and more of a journal entry in a separate notebook and is usually spawned by a series of questions that I ask myself.

 

For example, if I identify a pattern of weakness:

  • What’s happening before this?
    • i.e. Am I giving up something/creating this situation by doing something unconsciously?
  • What’s one thing I can try?
    • Note: This is usually after I’ve binge-watched Youtube videos, so I force myself to focus and choose just one thing to try that week
  • How can I break down this thing into small bits?
    • ex. If I’m trying for a new sweep, I break things down into the position, the grips, the reaction, the timing, and will focus on one portion for a couple classes/weeks 

 

Or if I’m reflecting on the proactive notes/goals that I set for myself that week:

  • Was this the right answer to the problem?
  • Is there a movement I need to drill to be more successful?
  • Did I break it down small enough?
Advertisements

Weekly Video – Technique Analysis: Sickle Sweep

Lately I’ve been finding myself trying the sickle sweep but was finding it very awkward. When I reviewed Emily Kwok’s video, however, it became clear that the biggest problems were understanding which leg I was attacking and adjusting my hips to that leg.

(Note that she goes into a variation and drills after 1:43 but I won’t be talking about those in this post)

The part that I wanted to point out is 1:35 because it gives a good angle of how you have to focus on one leg.  It’s very clear at 1:35 that Emily is attacking her partner’s right leg (left from the viewer’s point of view) – most of her body is on that side, and actually, she’s almost outside of her partner’s leg.

In addition, she’s almost completely on her right side, so that her hips are facing the leg that she’s attacking.

Why is the direction of her hips so important?

Because that’s where her power comes from. Particularly for this sweep (and perhaps the argument can be extended to all sweeps), Emily needs to have both mobility, since she’s moving each of her legs in opposite directions, and power, which comes from driving up with her hips – which is what allows her to come up so smoothly as well.

It’s a very subtle thing, but I’m finding it to be a concept that keeps popping up. So again main takeaway: focus on one leg, then aim your hips in that direction.

Hope that helps!  Try it out the next time you train :)

Fenom Kimonos Gi Review: When it’s time to upgrade your gi game to a womens gi that fits (and isn’t pink)

One of my training partners graciously gifted me her old Fenom Crystal Weave and I have been wearing it nearly every practice.  Though I still love my Fuji All Around gi, I’ve become a big fan of Fenom.  

I had always been a bit wary of gis that were marketed for women as they seemed to be the same as the mens gi, only pink.  But when I put on the Fenom Crystal Weave, I felt a marked difference in fit and comfort.  Plus, it helps that it’s in black, so I get to feel a little badass :)

Fenom Crystal Weave Gi Review

According to Fenom’s blog, the Crystal Weave is their most popular gi.  And for good reason – it’s a lightweight gi that’s strong yet soft, keeping you comfortable and fast.  

Durable and lightweight

I’ve rolled in gis made of a variety of weaves, but the Crystal Weave definitely has a unique softness that doesn’t compromise its durability.  It’s gentle on the skin, which means you’ll never have to worry about gi burns but also infinitely durable, so you also don’t have to worry about it falling apart after just two training sessions.  Case in point – I was given this gi after it had been used for 2 years; I’m now 3 months into using it twice a week and it has no hint of damage. 

Phenomenal fit

The slim tailoring of the shoulders and torso provides a wonderful fit without being bulky.  The pants were definitely cut with the female form in mind, giving room for certain assets without adding length, allowing you full range of movement without worrying about tripping over your own pants (which I may or may not have done while wearing other gis…)

Mix and match

And probably the most unique about Fenom Kimonos is that you can shop gi tops and pants separately, so you can have the combination that’s right for you.

Here’s their size chart from the Crystal Weave:

  • A0 4’10” – 5’1” 85-115 lbs
  • A1 5’2” – 5’5” 115-130 lbs
  • A1 Curvy 5’3” – 5’5” up to 155 lbs
  • A1 Tall 5’6”- 5’9” 115-130 lbs
  • A2 5’6” – 5’9” 130-165 lbs
  • A2 Tall 5’9” – 5’11” 140-160 lbs
  • A2 Curvy 5’6” – 5’9” up to 180 lbs
  • A3 5’10” – 6’1” 165-190 lbs
  • A4 5’6″ – 5’9″ 190-220 lbs

 

More details:

  • Single Piece 550 grams Crystal Weave Top
  • 100% Cotton Rip Stop Pants with Flat Drawstring
  • Embroidered logos

 

So there you have it!  I’ll try to do more product reviews like this in the future – if you have a certain product you’d like me to take a look at, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

Weekly roundup 1/21/17 – 1/27/17

Here are some videos and articles that I thought were interesting this week:

Articles

Which New Techniques Can You Learn the Fastest? @ Grapplearts.com

Stephan always has a practical mindset when it comes to training and this article was exactly what I needed as I’ve been flitting around from technique to technique.  Focusing on one certain style and going for depth is a much better way to go when you’ve been training for a bit.

(If you don’t have a style, just pick one!  If after a couple months it doesn’t feel right, you can branch off into something else.)

Tim Ferriss Podcast ep. 2 Transcript – Tim Ferriss & Josh Waitzkin @ JoelAlain.com

I’ve been having some technical trouble listening to podcasts lately, but I knew I couldn’t let that stop me from finding out about this episode since I’d heard that it was super helpful for BJJ.  I’m now really glad for the transcript because it’s saved me from writing all of my notes!

There’s a lot of great nuggets of wisdom that can be applied to training, especially being more in tune with your internal self and practicing quality.  There’s really a ton in there so highly recommend reading (and re-reading!) or listening at the fourhourworkweek.com/podcast

Videos

The Proper Way to Knee Cut @ Great Grappling

Absolutely mindblowing concept of driving the hips instead of the knee down to the floor.

 

Mount escape – Bridge and roll when your opponent has a deep collar grip @ DraculinoTeam

Basic, yes, but Draculino’s way of explaining is amazing here!

Promotion

Been a while!  I’m thinking of changing the format for this into shorter “thought posts,” hopefully to be published every week or so.  Feel free to give feedback in the comments!

Promotion is a curious word.  I wonder if it was a conscious choice to use the word in regards to going up in the ranks.

A quick Google search gives two definitions.  The second definition is the raising to a higher position, but it’s the first definition that makes me curious.

Google definitions

Google definitions “promotion”

BJJ is a community, and I’ve always been of the mindset that you can’t roll alone. So if we take this first definition of “promotion,” it’s not just for the sake of the person being promoted – it’s also for the sake of others not getting promoted (giving them encouragement and goals), for the community within the school (to bring people together in recognizing each other’s efforts), and the community outside the school as well (giving others a glimpse into life within the school and even encourage others to join).  

Regardless of whether or not “promotion” was a conscious or unconscious choice of words, I think its continued use speaks volumes about the intricacies of the art…

Google image search, "BJJ Gi"

The Best Starter BJJ Gi

Buying Your First BJJ Gi

So you want to start BJJ.  Or maybe you’ve already been training no-gi grappling and you want to start practicing in the gi.

You do a simple Google search and suddenly realize, holy crap, there are a ton of gis to choose from.  Single weave, pearl weave, honey-comb — Are we buying bedsheets? Cereal?!  — not to mention the prices.

With some gis clocking it at an insane $500, all sorts of doubts start to crop up.  “Is it really worth it to buy a gi? What if I decide I only want to practice gi once a week?  What if I decide BJJ isn’t for me altogether?”  After all, you don’t want to invest a couple hundred bucks on a pile of useless fabric.

Continue reading

3 Best Youtube Channels for Small BJJ Practitioners

There are a ton of instructional videos you can find online, but I wanted to share the 3 channels that I regularly turn to when I have a problem. As a small BJJ player, there are some things that simply don’t work when you’re up against a larger opponent. So here are 3 channels that can help you change that:

How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent

Stephen Kesting at Grapplearts has an amazing amount of videos that are not only amusing (Zombies + BJJ?!) but also extremely informative (what-aplata?). But it was his series with Emily Kwok, “How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent,” that really started to change how I approached BJJ.  They also offer free excerpts from the DVD series on Youtube such as the one below.

ConnectionRio

I have to admit, at first I thought ConnectionRio was gonna be full of promo vids for training in Brazil, but after I started looking through their instructional videos, I started watching those promo vids too. What I really like about their instructionals is that they’re short and to the point, and repeat the technique many times at the beginning from several different angles, which is perfect for when you’ve already watched the video and just want to refresh your memory. The triangle tweak below is one of my favorites:

BJJ Scout

So technically neither BJJ Scout nor ConnectionRio above are centered around small BJJ practitioners, but you simply cannot ignore BJJ Scout’s breakdowns — even Sara McMann acknowledged BJJ Scout’s analyses (part 1, part 2) prior to her fight with Ronda Rousey in this article. Watching BJJ Scout’s videos has been a complete game changer for me.  I challenge you to watch their videos and not learn something new.  Their latest video on “funk rolling” below.

Runner’s up

BJJ Hacks produces beautiful videos that go into the minds of some of the most renowned BJJ practitioners — BJJ videos made by BJJ lovers, for BJJ lovers.

Jiu Jitsu Priest houses a ton of videos from competitions around the world, focusing mostly on Japan and Asia. There are also highlights videos that provide commentary on some of the best fights from that particular competition cycle though you have to know Japanese to fully appreciate them.

Post your favorite channels/videos in the comments!

 

The best escapes in BJJ

Yin-yang
Photo Credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via Compfight cc

Aggression and BJJ

Been a bit busy lately as I’m currently in between competitions and been thinking about what direction I’d like to take this blog. As I’ve spoken with more people about BJJ, I’ve noticed that those most dedicated to learning BJJ, not simply for winning competitions or promoting, talk less about particular techniques and more about the inner workings of BJJ. These people also tend to have the chillest personalities, a stark contrast to how aggressive BJJ seems to be, especially noticeable in newcomers and white belts.

In general, aggression is taken as an inseparable part of BJJ. I think part of what causes this aggression is how we’re taught BJJ. We learn the positions – mount, guard, side control, etc. – and the escapes and attacks from those positions. We drill each technique with a partner then learn how to bait and fine tune our timing during sparring sessions. The thing is, we roll how we drill. So if we drill just the positions, we roll focus only on the positions.

The key, however, is not just to master the positions, but to master the transitions as well…

Continue reading

BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — 胸を借りる

柔術

Learning Japanese Through BJJ

胸を借りる

While preparing for a competition, one of my coworkers said the above phrase to me in Japanese (むねをかりる, mune o kariru).  The literal translation is “to borrow one’s chest” – which had me confused to say the least.

The phrase apparently originates from sumo and is said to a superior for having “the honor of training with them.” Further research revealed that it’s only said by a person of lower ranking to one of higher ranking, (後輩) kouhai to (先輩) sempai, and never the other way around.  It’s also used in baseball (野球, yakyuu) and other sports.

To me, I think this phrase is quite appropriate in BJJ.  After all, every BJJ practitioner knows that you can’t learn BJJ by yourself.  We must always “borrow someone’s chest” in order to train.

Let’s look closer at the words in this phrase.  Usually  (むね, mune) is translated as “chest,” a physical source of power and pressure. But 胸 can also refer to one’s “heart” and “feelings.”

In this way, 胸 refers to both the physical and spiritual aspects of a person — those things that makes a person a person and not some piece of driftwood or any old inflatable training dummy.  Your partner, whether they be kouhai or sempai, are physical beings and emotional beings, capable of great strength but also with the capability of becoming injured; full of passion and feelings just like you.

The most important part of this phrase, however, is the verb 借りる. It is usually translated as “to borrow,” which is a very different way of looking at sparring.

Despite what we may say to others, there’s always a part of us that is comparing ourselves to our partners. Often times, we fall into the trap of using our partners for our own ends, as goal posts for our own journey.

This phrase suggests a drastic alternative from this way of thinking. Instead of trying to pit your will, or your “chest” against your partner, this phrase instead recommends borrowing – using that other person’s “chest” with the intention of returning it.

Think of your gym as a library and each person you roll with a book in that library.  In a good library, books are taken care of when they are checked out for a roll and rotate around to as many people as possible.

Because what’s unique about this BJJ library is that each book changes every time they are checked out and read, or rolled with. Ever reread a favorite book from childhood and discovered even more things to love about it since growing up?  That’s the same thing that happens with each book, each person, as they learn more about BJJ.

This brings us back to how you learn BJJ.  We’re on the mats to beat our chests to try and scare off our partners, nor are we trying to beat and crush our partners’ chests as we train. We are borrowing from each other, learning from each other, expanding the library that is BJJ.