Drilling with White Belts

Like many BJJ competitors, I put in a lot of hours live training, which is good as long as its focused, with good technique, and an open mind. But drilling is where it’s at. You have to get it in. It’s the broccoli of a jiu jitsu diet.

I enjoy practicing the same thing over and over and over. I don’t mind doing thousands of reps of something, day after day, month after month. For me, the idea of a good jiu jitsu class is where I don’t say a single word and just get 40-50 reps of a technique or chain of techniques in. I guess I’m introverted in that way, but for me conversation breaks the focus of practice.

Many people far better than I approach jiu jitsu slightly differently. They will occasionally have a conversation about a technique, breaking it down, discussing why it works or why it doesn’t. That’s very useful, but too often it can slow the pace of drilling it. For me, at this stage of my development, the way I “discuss” a technique is by drilling it over and over, and attempting it in training over and over. The jiu jitsu itself is the conversation, as lame as that sounds.

Anyway, given all that, here’s where the topic of this post comes in. I find that I can get more reps in (and less conversation) drilling techniques with a white belt. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps they haven’t seen the technique before so there’s a greater focus on trying to get it right…

Drill on.

0 thoughts on “Drilling with White Belts

  1. Kevin

    I like to speak the steps to myself as I drill. Absolutely loathe when training partners want to ‘teach’/ talk about technique. I save the talking for the instructors, students should remain silent in class, for most part. Talking out steps really helps me mentally record the technique, not that great of a physical learning tool.

    1. Lex Post author

      Yep, it’s a tough balance between learning the technique “mentally” and “physically”. I’m big on “physical” learning, feeling over thinking 😉

  2. Dolph

    Interesting you say that. I also like drilling with newer white belts but for a different reason. I can get my sets in without a lot of chit chat, and I get to help them learn the technique when it’s their turn to drill. By walking them through each step, I better understand the technique and the reason for each step of the technique.

    1. Lex Post author

      Dolph, that’s exactly what I see higher ranks do. It seems to work for them, as it does for you. It doesn’t work for me, because it’s a challenge to explain something without talking too much. Conversations relaxes some people and they get lazy. I like to keep the pace up and go through the steps in my mind.

  3. Jimmy Cerra

    You know I love drilling Lex! We drilled often during open mat. Those reps are so important. It is partly how the world champs got their skills. Mike Fowler had to log in a thousand reps a month to Lloyd, for example.

    But I also found that the longer I trained, the more I “thought” in terms of principles rather than specific body positions. When I rolled I had goals. Like for an armbar from guard, I would be looking to control his arm & posture, make an angle to further block his elbow, climb my hips to his armpit, isolate his arm & move the elbow in the “wrong” way. It is the only way to keep all the different techniques in my head.

    You need both for your development in martial arts. You need reps so it is automatic & you can think about more abstract things. But you also need to start thinking abstractly. Just like when learning math, you start by memorizing tables then eventually learn to prove & derive formulas. IMO Blue is when you have learned how to learn jiu-jitsu, while purple is when you have learned to think about jiu-jitsu.


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