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Strategies for Success: Part 3 of 3

Posted Jul 09 2010 9:00am

In reading through the last two installments, I regret not being a little more succinct.  So, in this, the last of three installments, I’ll try to cut to the chase a little better.  In the first article , I outlined the structure within which we learn, describing how short-term memory, long-term memory and metacognition work together to allow information to be absorbed, stored and then recalled to be used at a later time.  In chapter 2 , I talked in more depth about how and why this happens.

In this article, I’m going to go through some tips I share with people in a professional setting who are learning complex processes.  I believe that they are as relevant to BJJ as they are to an employee learning a new job. 

This is directly related to the concept of cognitive load.  If you can only manage a handful of concepts or details at a time and expect to retain them, don’t waste your brain power on things that aren’t critical.   In our hyper active, short attention span times, this is easier said than done, but irrelevance also includes things that may be interesting but aren’t informative.   Overloading short-term memory can lead to losing everything.  This is that phenomenon I talked about yesterday where you go to a seminar and learn all sorts of really good technical information, but find a few months later that not one thing made it into your game.

BJJ instruction is great for most learning types.  At my school, our instruction is usually explained aurally and visually, followed by drills that are great for kinetic learners.  Keeping a training log is a great way to reinforce details.  It allows you to visualize the entire process and then articulate it in writing.  Another way to accomplish the same thing is to simply teach the technique to someone else as best you can.  

My general rule of thumb is, if I learn something I think is useful, I’ll try to teach it to at least two people.  The act of teaching shares the information, but I’m really being selfish in that teaching others helps me as much as it helps them.

If you’re learning something completely new, pick a few key details to walk away with.   Focus on what I called near-transfer.  In other words, focus on trying to replicate that exact technique in that exact way.  Innovation is almost impossible without a strong, fundamental understanding of how things work.

If you’ve got experience with a particular technique, don’t get caught up too much in the details.  I’m not saying ignore them, but at some point begin to focus on what I called “far transfer,” which is thinking more generally about how the concepts and techniques can be applied in different situations.  This emphasis helps lead to Adaptive Expertise.

You really can’t learn anything in a vacuum.  If you don’t have a frame of reference, that’s what you should be focusing on learning.   Once again, if you’re new to BJJ, I highly recommend Stephan Kesting’s Roadmap for BJJ .  It is specifically designed to give you a working model within which you can organize information.  Without it, you’ll be left to do it yourself. 

The point is, if you learn something in a vacuum, it will be very difficult to recall it when you need it. 

For example, Coach showed us a sweep sequence from Deep Half Guard.  I’d never really played at all with DHG before, but fortunately, the first thing he did was to show us a transition from a position that I’m very comfortable with.  I use that entry all the time now as a direct result of this connection.

This means essentially that you need to own your progress.  You should continually be assessing your progress, deciding what you need to learn and what can be let go for now.  You can’t learn everything at once.

Set goals for yourself.  Make them specific and measurable.   When setting goals, avoid goals that involve “understanding” or “identifying.”   Focus instead on application or execution of concepts and techniques. 

Ultimately, you have to own your own training.    Jeff Bourgeois, a brown belt at my school, said one time (paraphrasing from memory), “If you’re a white belt, you can’t help but learn.  You know so little, it’s impossible not to pick something up.  But if you want to keep learning after blue belt, you’ll have to do some work.”  There’s a point where just showing up, while more than most people do, isn’t going to be enough. 

This is so important.  Do what you need to do to stay healthy.  While I really can’t offer specific advice on HOW to stay healthy beyond the obvious things we all know, but don’t all do, it’s so critical. 

For me, BJJ is part of how I stay healthy mentally.   So, I try to do what I need to do to be physically able to train.

I hope that these simple tips help someone out.  It may seem like common sense, but as I said before, sometimes just writing things down helps.

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