Different Ways to Get Better: If You Don’t Eat Your Meat, You Can’t Have Any Pudding

One of the mistakes that people make (in my opinion) when they go in to drill is to work on new stuff that they don’t quite yet know how to do. At first glance it makes perfect sense: “I already know how to do a knee cut pass, but I saw this great calf slicer on YouTube that I would like to figure out”. Calf slicer is pudding, the knee cut pass is the meat. And if you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding:

Seven Ways To Grow Your Game

When I say “drill” I’m referring to a 1 hour or longer session between two people (or any even number of people) outside of class where you don’t say more than 5-10 words the whole time. I think it’s important to clarify where “drilling” fits into the bigger picture of your training.

  1. Class Session: You practice a technique taught by the instructor with the primary goal being figuring out the details of the technique. Your partner and the instructor are there to help you figure it out. This is important for your growth both when many of the techniques taught take you out of your comfort zone or when they show details you looked over in the past.
  2. Shoot the Shit Session: People that train jiu jitsu (or judo) are interesting people, humble, smart, and almost funny. So when you’re done getting your ass kicked for an hour in training, you’ll often talk for a while about anything and everything usually completely unrelated to jiu jitsu. This is important for your growth because it’s relaxing and inspiring like a shot of vodka with a close friend, and though it can be destructive when taken to excess, in small earned doses, it’s essential.
  3. Technique Psychoanalysis Session: Often after rolling you don’t fall right into the “shoot the shit” mode, but instead grab a zoned-out purple belt or above, and talk about a technique that you’ve been working on or just thinking about. This is the time when you first start figuring out the details. This is what you’ll often (naturally) try to do during a drilling session, but show NEVER do during a drilling session (until perhaps the end).
  4. Watch Instructionals: We live in an age where you have hundreds of world-class black belts at your fingertips waiting to give you advice about the latest technique you’ve been working on. Seriously, if you are not watching instructional videos, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to improve your game.
  5. Watch Competition Footage: This is homework. No question about it. That’s coming from a guy (me) who enjoyed a majority of the homework I was assigned throughout high school and college. But still, it’s homework. You’re not watching matches for fun, you’re watching to pick up details, styles, movements, etc.
  6. Drilling Session: A focused quiet time to get 50 to 1000 reps of a technique that you know how to do well enough to get the details right without pausing to think about it. It should be a good solid hour, or if you have balls of steel, you can do 90 minutes to two hours. My record so far is 70 minutes. Trust me, if you’re doing it right, you should be exhausted (physically and mentally) to death by the 60 minute mark.
  7. Compete: There is no better way to waste (I mean spend) a weekend and a lot of money and risk serious injury than the glorious experience of competition. Seriously, there are a million excuses not to do it, just like marriage, just like pursuing your dreams, just like life in general. But it’s f’ing worth it in a romantic kind of way.

Learn It Before You Drill It

Before a technique graduates to the drilling session it must first go through a few class and/or psychoanalysis sessions (#1 and #3 above). There are some exceptions of course. I think that you can reward yourself with “pudding” after a long session of “meat”. (That’s what she said). Throw in a new technique at the end of a drilling session. Almost flow drill it, slowly ironing out the details as you go. Like I said this is fun stuff, and I wouldn’t call it drilling, but it’s good to do at the end of a drilling session, and if your training partner is a wise higher rank, it’s a nice opportunity to psychoanalyze the new technique.

By the way, when I say that drilling sessions ought to be quiet, I don’t mean it has to have no talking. But the talking can never interfere with the intensity and the flow of the drilling. Sometimes it’s too much to just grind out the reps, and a little joke or comment here and there will help out a bit.

Whenever I write about drilling, I’ll start writing about one thing and end up writing about another. There are so many points to hit. I think writing blog posts about drilling is a kind of drilling in itself


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