The underlying structure
Yes - it's true - I am a self confessed learning junkie. I love learning and I love teaching. The martial arts is really just the subject matter I fell into - but it just as easily could have been something else - ultimately, it wouldn't have mattered - my approach would have been the same.
I look at the structure that lies beneath the technique. The trick is to understand that particular blend of bio-mechanics, leverage and strategical elements that make a thing work. All this is not necessary if you just want to 'do a thing' - but if you really want to understand it, you have to start really looking, really noticing.
With BJJ for example, pick thirty techniques - just thirty - and tear them apart until you really understand each and every element that makes each of them work. Understand the angles, the leverage, the mechanics, the 'firing-order' of those mechanical elements - do this - and you will easily be able to understand any other physical technique you ever see.
I see it all as a kind of language. A language of 'movement'. And like any language, once you understand how the grammatical rules work, then you have it for life. Once the underlying structure of the language is understood, it's just a matter of expanding your vocabulary over time - indeed, over the course of the rest of your life.
When I am teaching BJJ (or MMA for that matter), I always try educate the students in as many elements of the underlying structure as I can. The earlier they acquire the habit of 'understanding' (as opposed to just looking and copying), the better off they will be. It all starts with 'noticing' - 'noticing' and 'thinking'. A part of my job as a teacher of the martial arts is to have my students do just that - notice and think!
Well - I'm of to Vegas early in the morning for the UFAF convention. Time to head into San Fransisco and get a few chores done and buy a few trinkets for my family.
Best wishes all,