Thursday, July 29, 2010


Making Connections = remembering

A question I am often asked by novice Jiu Jitsu athletes (and sometimes by Black Belts as well) is how do I remember so many techniques when from their perspective it all seems like a huge ever-expanding jumble of ideas and concepts …
I usually answer by admitting that when I began my own BJJ training back in the 80’s, it seemed that way to me also. When we start out, the whole thing looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with most of the pieces missing – this can make our initial BJJ learning experience somewhat of a frustrating time. Things do though, get a lot better as we progress … but why do they? And perhaps more importantly, is there any way we can make sense of things a little earlier?
In my own case, things began to make more sense, and I became better at remembering techniques, once I had a ‘base’ or ‘core game’ to pin newly learned techniques to. When we are exposed to a new technique (sweep, attack, etc) it is easy to commit it to memory if we ‘connect’ it to other techniques/moves that we already own/know. My own personal trick for remembering techniques, is to connect ‘new’ moves/techniques to as many ‘familiar’ moves that I know. Simply, the more connections we make, the more likely we are to remember the new move/idea/technique.
The secret to remembering new things is to make strong associations between the new thing and things we already know. The stronger the associations/connections we make, the more powerful and easy the remembering.
The better and more well-rounded our ‘core’ game becomes, the easier it becomes to find ways of ‘connecting’ new techniques to it. This is why the remembering and ‘making sense’ of things becomes easier after we become a blue or purple belt.
When you learn something new – immediately try to make a connection between it and something you already know – or even better still, make several connections/combinations between the newly learned thing and things you already know. This will greatly improve the likelihood of taking ownership of the ‘new stuff’.
Best wishes

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Great article. I read a while back that the mind groups associations in sevens, and that's about all it can handle (for ex: most people can only remember seven brands of cars easily).

I wonder how that applies to bjj?

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David Meyer 1:24 pm

I think you have only scratched the surface here. What you say is true, but your level of detail and number of techniques goes way beyond this.

If I had to guess how you do it beyond any natural attributes you might have, I'd say that:
1. You really think through moves in fact, you actually teach them to yourself better than they have often been presented to you (if you didn't just work them out on your own).
2. You teach them to others which gives you a chance to really imprint them in your brain, explain them, and further develop them. Most people are taught a move or see it, play with it a bit, and are done. You work and work a specific area again and again as you teach it and think about it. I think that is more to the point of how you have so much detailed knowledge in your head.

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that goes a long way to explaining why my head aches.

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