This article is by Jiu Jitsu Black belt Liam Resnekov from the VT1 Academy in Australia.
“Liam has potential, but needs to apply himself” – said my school reports from 1985-1998
Look familiar? It seems jiu-jitsu attracts my kind.
It’s not that I was stupid, though it may have been suggested, it’s that I really didn’t understand how to learn. Flash forward a few years and learning has become one of the most enjoyable aspects of my life. What changed? Simple; I discovered how I learn.
At my Academy, one of the first things we pass on to new students is this: It is the student’s job is to figure out how THEY learn as soon as they can. (and the coaches job to help them!)
This, along with the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu, is the key to their future in the art. In a broader perspective, it is one of the keys to their life too. (and mine) So I want to offer you something so simple that it has been sitting under your nose, it’s a formula used by many champions and innovators and has had a huge impact on my life. I can confidentially say that it is a 'game-changer' when it comes to learning jiu-jitsu.
But first the problem
Humans are tragic creatures, suckers for punishment. At an early age, many of us develop a dislike for school and the rote-learning methods it employs. We don't like being forced to do things we don’t enjoy.
Jiu-jitsu is no different. We sign up to an Academy, we experience the magic on the first day, then we endure the suffering of rote learning and experience the same helplessness of our childhood (in addition to regular ass-kickings). We look at the champions for help, we try and copy them and often we fail miserably.
The sad thing is that we have a choice - and it doesn’t involve quitting.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, everybody learns differently and finding YOUR way of learning is key to your success in anything.
The majority of coaches and schools are not equipped to offer this because simply, jiu-jitsu in its current form is a relatively new art. Coaches tend to focus on technical progress, expecting their students to learn by osmosis and mat time.
Unlike in other, more-established sports, very little emphasis is placed on the student's individual learning processes and the development of quality coaching-skills.
The other problem is that these outdated methods still produce champions, in spite of (not because of) the training. Coaches often look to their champions for validation, not realizing that the best tool for evaluating your program is the progress of the weakest student. And thus the problem is perpetuated for generations.
There are many different learning methods out there, and this is just one of them, and it is YOUR job to learn how YOU learn above everything else.
I present you the 'Plus, Minus, Equals' formula. Implementing it will allow you to learn any new skill-set more quickly, especially jiu-jitsu.
The formula states that for the acquisition of any new skill-set you need the following:
1. A coach or a guide to assist you. (+)
2. Someone to teach the material to. (-)
3. Someone to discuss, argue, debate or work with to develop it. (=)
Having a mentor, a student and a partner will give you a well-rounded and deep approach to learning any new skill-set, including bjj. Applying this formula to your jiu-jitsu specifically means that you will require 3 kinds of training partners to ensure you learn in a balanced manner:
1. Someone that kicks your ass. (+) This is someone that can keep you in check, gives you something to aim for and also let you know that you have someplace to go.
2. Someone you can beat (–) A weaker or less-experienced training partner. This allows you to experiment, do live repetitions during rolling and allows you to make adjustments in your game.
3. Someone close to your level. (=) This is one of your most important training partners, somebody who you can best some weeks, but they best you others. Together you will push each other to develop counters to your counters, scratch your head at night and have you dreaming about your next roll.
A Better Way
Generally, most people focus too much on one type of partner, usually someone that will kick their ass or someone they can have an easy victory over. Think of the standard jiu-jitsu class format: It involves a warmup, learning, repetition and then rolling. Your average person, unless athletically gifted, will then found themselves in a cycle of ass-kickings while they struggle to make their technique work. Slowly their confidence wanes and they start saying "I'm struggling” or “Jiu-jitsu is not for me”.
Now picture this:
(-) You warm-up and learn your technique. Next, you grab a partner, your (-), and you roll. You guide the roll to the position you are working on and then you try to pull off the technique. It doesn’t work as planned, so you bring the roll back there and try it again and again with adjustments until it begins to work. Over the weeks you can hit hundreds of LIVE repetitions of the position.
(=) For the next spar you grab your (=) and try and make the position work on them. You almost pull it off a few times are some issues with it, so you go back to the drawing board. You grab your (-) again and you roll, experimenting with the position until its successful. Next roll you move back to your (=) and try it again. Success! This process may take hours, days, weeks or sometimes even months to reach success, but it’s genuinely fun and you can clearly see your progress.
(+) When you are ready it’s time to step up to your (+). Perhaps they whoop your ass, but if you do manage to direct the roll to the area you have been working on, there is a strong chance you will have developed the confidence to use the position. After you pick yourself up off the ground, you can evaluate where you need some work and next roll you can grab your (-) again, or ask the coach, and get working.
This formula has allowed champions like Marcelo Garcia to progress rapidly even when he is not training with a room full of world champions. And if you want further proof, here are words from the amazing Andre Galvao:
So what is YOUR learning method?
Liam runs the successful VT1 Academy in Australia, as well as the popular self-help website, Peek-at-You.