No – I do not teach STYLE … I am anything but stylish. But I do have my own style of teaching. I am often asked a question; and was asked it the other day by the excellent Travis Browne, at a seminar I took in Auckland – and it was ‘Where do I derive my teaching/coaching style from? And what are the ‘drivers’ that differentiate me from other coaches?”
The full answer would no doubt be overly long and boring – but the highlights might be instructive, so here goes:
- first and foremost, my teaching style stems from a place of passion. I am very passionate about my martial arts training and cannot help but love sharing it with like-minded people.
- I am very analytical and like taking things apart to see how they work; I love sharing this process with other people. I believe deeply in the power of ‘understanding’ – as opposed to the idea of ‘artless mimicry’.
- I derive immense satisfaction from be able to shift people from ‘unable’ to ‘able. I believe anything can be taught if the process is delineated with enough clarity.
- I take risks – all the time. I do teaching experiments, all the time. I turn left, instead of right to see what happens, all the time. I am not content to stay with the tried and true, it doesn’t fulfil my need for adventure.
- I enjoy seeing how the right kind of word-play effects outcomes in performance; hence at times, I come across as a little eccentric in my coaching style and phrasing. But I want results.
- And regarding results; I am very outcome and results driven. My focus is rarely on my own performance levels (or looks) when teaching; I am fully prepared to look foolish if it gets me the results I want.
- Finally, but perhaps most importantly of all; I love to draw the deeper lessons that I have learned in my martial arts training and bring them out and illustrate how they relate to the larger canvas of our lives. Deep learning’s are to be found everywhere and they hold so much more value than the base combative value of what we do as martial artists. And in using those lessons in our lives away from the mat, we are tapping into what true leverage is all about.
So there are a few of the underlying drivers that power my teaching style – I hope they can be of use to you: JBW
I remember when I first began school – the teacher asked if anyone knew the alphabet, and up went my hand. When I was asked to give it a go .. I recited it backwards – because my father had taught it to me that way – a mystery as to why and I was ridiculed by the teacher as a result. I remember not feeling all that embarrassed actually – and so began my defiance of all things authoritarian. It wasn’t long before I had a ribbon tied in my hair (by a teacher) for playing on the girls swings in the playground – yikes!
So in my youth – and I imagine it was this way for many of my readers – looking at things differently than most, or acting a little differently, caused me some amount of difficulty.
Now though, I understand the following truth – if you want to achieve excellence in life you need to carve your own path – you need to think a little differently, you need to behave a little differently, you need to have a different attitude, you need to prepare differently, plan differently, etc.
If you are happy and content to settle for average, then being different may not be the best option. But if you want something else … something other … something exciting … a little difference can make all the difference.
Here in the antipodes, summer is nearly upon us. It's the perfect time of the year to shed the Gi and do some slippery mat-work. But what are the pro's and con's of no-gi training???
Training without the Gi can be frustrating for the beginner and an argument can be made that it can retard their progress. This can be likened to trying to teach a child to ride a bike, and doing so, without training wheels on a wet, steep hillside. The lack of a Gi makes for a much faster fight and therefore makes it more difficult for the beginner to pick up basic strategy ... in much the same way as a novice chess player would find it difficult to play a game of speed-chess.
The other consideration, particularly if a part of our motivation (especially when we start out) is to prepare ourselves for real world confrontation/violence - then we need to understand that clothing plays a very important role in the grappling dynamic (chokes, grips, etc).
But now to the advantages of shedding the Gi ...
A more slippery fight is a faster fight and so providing you are ready for it, the cardio element becomes more challenging. And the fact that the fight is moving more quickly, forces us to calculate more quickly and improve our processing power under duress. Another consideration is that no-gi training provides a slight advantage for the less-skilled of two opponents in most training sessions ... this is because it is a little more difficult to hold/control an opponent in the no-gi scenario and so the 'bottom' grappler have an edge that he or she doesn't usually have. This can be a good 'class leveler', squishing up the 'bell-curve' a little.
No-gi can be a lot of fun and in hot weather, a much welcomed change of pace for the class ... roll on summer: JBW
At the risk of offending some - I'd like to point out that I believe that we, as a species, have been here quite a long time. And for much of that time, we didn't live to 'make money' - we didn't live to 'top up our super' - pay off our mortgage - pay taxes - etc; rather, we hunted for our food, hiked and explored our environments in an effort to gather our food - improvised weapons and tools that made our lives more comfortable - gave extra food that we caught or gathered, to our friends and neighbours - told stories by te light of an evening fire, in an effort to both entertain and educate ....
In times past, life was much simpler - status was bestowed upon us if we were of value to our tribe - if we were of no value, or had nothing to contribute, then our status would be low, and our chances of survival would be drop. The more we brought to the table (often literally) the greater our status in the tribe. For mush of our past history, life would have been tough - but things would have had a certain clarity that they no longer have today.
Martial arts training, in my view, gives us back some of these things - things we have lost, as we have become more 'civilised'. BJJ offers a 'right of passage', it offers opportunities to be 'of value' to the tribe (other students at the school) - it offers an environment where 'earned knowledge' affords respect and is valued by others - it offers 'growth through physical challenge', etc.
Life is today's society has us distracted at every turn, stressed, badly prioritised and often unhealthy (both physically and mentally) as a result - martial arts training is a great way to bring some badly needed balance back into our 21st century lives: JBW
Whenever we undertake something - learning a new technique/skill, deciding on a particular course of action - we do so, usually because there is an OBVIOUS VALUE in doing so. I write a new book, sell it, and I get a few thousand dollars in income from it (if all goes well) - that's an obvious value. I learn a new sweep, and make it work in sparring - that's an obvious value. You get te idea ...
What is really worth considering though, is the less obvious or OBLIQUE VALUE thta we get from learning new things, or taking new courses of action. To re-visit the two former examples that I have given: if I write a book and publish it, I might receive a few thousand dollars income from it (obvious value) but I also learn HOW TO write a book, HOW TO get it published, HOW TO promote it (something I don't do well), etc - in short, I have acquired a new set of skills that may be used again and again, perhaps even in novel ways. This is the LESS-THAN-OBVIOUS or OBLIQUE VALUE from undertaking the task. If I learn a new sweep and get to apply it in sparring, I get that OBVIOUS VALUE from it - but I have also learned to use my body in a new way, I have a new way of moving, of thinking about things - these are skills that may serve me well in many other aspects of my game - this is the OBLIQUE VALUE that I receive.
To use a wonderful example of how this works in the natural world, I will use an example that genius extraordinaire Buckminster Fuller used to cite on occasion: consider a bee, zooming from flower to flower, collecting pollen to take back to the hive. The bee's primary purpose in this activity, the OBVIOUS VALUE if you like, is to collect food - but what about the less obvious (but incredibly important) value of the cross-pollination that occurs as a result; flowers get to multiply!
In my view, it often seems that the OBLIQUE VALUE can be greater (and further reaching) than the obvious value whenever we learn a new skill or take an action. Perhaps by weighing up the less obvious, OBLIQUE VALUE of actions, we can better determine whether the action/decision is a good one to undertake. Worth consideration ... JBW
As a follow up on my last blog - I'd like to talk about TAKING OWNERSHIP.
When starting out in BJJ, we may be exposed to only a handful of techniques and therefore we are not all that confused by choice - we either have an answer to a situation and we try to apply the technique we know to that situation, or we don't have an answer - in either case, we either have the tool for the job or we do not - not a lot of confusion.
The real confusion begins to creep in, when we start to collect a lot of techniques, loads of options, for any given situation - this can lead to 'mental log jam' - which of the 40 sweeps do I use .... which omoplata do I try to set up ... which escape, etc.
I am sure ost blue and purple belts can relate to this problem - and even more so nowadays, when we are bombarded with too much information (Youtube, google, etc)
The solution to this problem can be found in 'ORGANISATION'.
If you own one house, and only get one lot of bills (gas, electricity, rates, etc) then you might not need a filing system = you just throw them all in the drawer and deal with them as needed. But what if you owned ten houses - then you need not only a good filing system, but a method of prioritising them, etc.
The more you know - the more you need to organize that information.
One of the first things that is worth doing - is this - to make a clear distinction between 'resource' and 'personal game'. Everything you know and everything you will ever learn, goes into the 'resource' file - whilst those techniques and strategies that you really like to use, they go into the 'personal game' file.
Not everything you will learn, will fit your game - but those many techniques that you do not like/use/find a use for in your game - those techniques are still important to remember, because they may give you some other 'less obvious' benefit - or skill - that you might indeed use in your game. And from a coaches point of view - you need to have both deep and broad knowledge so that you can help or teach all kinds of people, not just those who like your own personal 'game.
I see a lot of very successful competitors trying to force their game on every one of their students - this is a classic mistake. Clearly, people are different.
I have many ways to CATALOGUE techniques and strategies - but one of the most basic methods (one that I have used in more than 25 years of BJJ training) is to catalogue techniques according to POSITION. Eg: If I think SPIDERGUARD - I am immediately clear on what I consider to be the main sweeps from that position, the ways to set up Omoplata from that position, the ways to set up triangle armbars and Kimura's from that position, etc.
This simple method works well, because you can add to it easily, over time - but to help you with your personal game - you should always have clarity on which of that collection of techniques (for each position) you prefer to execute first. You might have 12 or 15 techniques in the SPIDERGUARD file for example - but you are very clear that your favourite technique to try is the TRIANGLE - for example. You then, over time, become clearer on how your opponents will tend to react to your triangle - and you will come up with combinations, by reaching into the rest of your SPIDERGUARD RESOURCE file.
To help with all this - a journal (of some sort) may really help. Don't be too worried about keeping it all need and overly ordered - just do SOMETHING. Even just thinking about organisation the information in your head - really helps. Best wishes: JBW