How to Choose Which Techniques to Drill

I’ve recently put together a video documenting my drilling 1000 reps of a single technique:

The natural question is how did I pick this one technique to drill? I use several criteria, listed below.

First and foremost it has to be a technique that serves some kind of purpose in your “game plan” (whether for practice or competition). For some people, that’s the only criteria. They want to develop a good triangle, so they will drill the crap our of that triangle from many different positions, with varying resistance, against many different opponents, regardless of any other factors.

For me, there are many other criteria that are also important in picking a technique to drill:

  • You don’t naturally get to practice it in training. If you find yourself in position to try the technique in training often, then you can essentially “drill” it by going against people that are less skilled than you in that position. That’s the luxury that black belts have, in that they are often good enough to put themselves in whatever position they want, and then work from there. Roberto Cyborg Abreu is a proponent of this method of “drilling” or rather non-drilling.
  • It doesn’t hurt you or your partner (when you do it 10, 100, or 1000 times). For me, it’s important that drilling can be a good productive workout that both people look forward to, instead of dreading it due to a nagging injury. This is where it’s important to have several drilling partners. Some don’t mind drilling takedowns, and some cringe every time their body hits the ground. You have to work on techniques that both people like physically and mentally. Drilling, after all, is not just about getting reps in. It’s about learning and evolving as you explore the details of the technique.
  • Your body is ready for it strength-wise and flexibility-wise. There are a lot of techniques that need your body to get used to it, before you can start doing 100+ reps. For me, an example of that is the inverted guard. I had to get a lot of reps against the wall before I was comfortable practicing attacks against a live opponent from that position.
  • You get to see the benefits of drilling often in training or in competition. This is more of a criteria for lower ranks (such as myself). But I don’t like to drill techniques that I don’t often get to execute as part of my game plan. Basically, no matter how much I try to see the long term picture, my brain still wants some short-term rewards. So the first 10 or so techniques I really put time into was all guard passes or submissions from dominant positions, because I could put myself in the situation in competition where I could use those. Each time I pull off a technique that I’ve drilled extensively, I become a little more like Pavlov’s dog. Positive reinforcement breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success.

And remember: “Whether or not you can never come great at something, you can always become better at it.” Now go and drill!

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