Tag Archives: instructional dvd

Technique Beats Strength, Conditioning, Experience, and Heart

A Culture of Heroic Grit

There is a romantic belief in sports in America (and everywhere really) that the “fighting spirit” or the will to win can overcome any obstacle. Heart and grit are the stuff that great sports movies are made of. And indeed, to me, that’s why I love sports, and that’s why I participate in sports. It’s a chance to test your ability to overcome the mental blocks of fear and exhaustion. Athletes like Frank Molinaro are the perfect representatives of grit like that, willing to take their body and mind to places most people, even top athletes, are not willing to go:

Technique is King

Still, I believe that technique is king, and will overcome that kind of grit in the long term. I think the more productive “heart” and “spirit” come out in the relentless dedication you show to the development of technique over a period of years. It’s the willingness to put in thousands of reps in drilling each small part of a technique, the transition from one part to another, under various resistance levels, alone or with a partner. You have to engage your mind by learning from your coaches, from instructionals, from books, from YouTube. The result is a constant evolution of your drilling and your training.

The Goal is Effortless Domination

The goal is not to work harder than everyone else. The goal is discover the timing and mechanics at the core of the sport by relaxing and keeping your mind open to change and learning. I personally don’t like the term “flow rolling” that’s often used to describe the kind of training where you move from position to position without using much force in resisting the positional progression of your training partner. I think it’s extremely valuable to roll at 100% while moving exactly as you do when you “flow roll”. That might sound contradictory, but to me it’s not. My goal is to effortlessly trick my training partner into being defenseless for a split second. I fail often of course, but the point is that I’m constantly moving and learning the precise timing of when I can fake a movement that will create an opening for an easy guard pass, back take, sweep, submission, etc.

I want to learn to be always a split second ahead of my opponent without having too use strength, quickness, or flexibility.

The Sage of Drilling

johnsmithIn wrestling, I think many people idolize Dan Gable for the relentless nature of his spirit. His mental breaking point is far above almost any other athlete in history. Like everyone else, I look up to him, but I can’t see his obsession as prescriptive for others to follow, perhaps because nobody else has that kind of superhuman mental fortitude. For me, the person I study and try to imitate in training and in life much more than Gable is another wrestling legend: John Smith. He is a 4-time World champion and a 2-time Olympic champion. He is a big proponent of drilling for two reasons: (1) fastest way to improve and (2) longevity. Here is a long quote from him that I like to re-read often:

“Drilling is the key to wrestling success and to longevity in the sport. Drilling has to become habit forming. Drilling wasn’t natural for more, I’d rather just go in a room and spar hard. I just wanted to shake hands and go! But drilling has to take place for you to get better. I couldn’t do a better leg lace or gut wrench without breaking down the move, seeing how it works, studying it and drilling it, over and over and over.

That’s when you improve your techniques. Someone who doesn’t spend time doing that and drilling isn’t going to improve. For longevity, drilling is very important, if you want to stay in the sport for many years, then you have to stay healthy. Constant sparring and live goes can beat your body up pretty bad. After the world championships, I would drill for three months, with very little sparring. That’s when I got better, and I also stayed injury free.”

Review: Ryan Hall’s Instructional on Arm Triangles

Ryan Hall has released a new 3-dvd set on just arm triangles. Everything I’ve seen of it so far reminds exactly why his instructionals are (in my humble opinion) the best out there today. I’ve been praising his backtake dvd ever since I started jiu jitsu, and it’s probably had more influence on my game than any other instructional.

He presents all the techniques in the context of a unifying system of principles. So he essentially gives you the tools with which to go drill / train to figure out the details that make the techniques work for your body type.

The bottom line is that he can verbally explain in detail all the things that make the technique work. I think a lot of instructionals are more “show” and less “tell”. That’s okay for in-person instruction when the teacher can walk over and fix the stuff you’re doing. But for “one-way” instructionals, the more detail about the principles behind the technique is provided the better. While, in class, I usually like it when the instructor is brief and then walks around fixing stuff. I want the opposite from the instructional.

Given the depth of his explanations, it’s hard to believe that Ryan is relatively young, and also started jiu jitsu relatively late in life. He is truly one of the best teachers of the art that I’ve encountered (never in person). Anyway, check it out, and buy it if you can afford it, so that he keeps making more of them.

Review of Operation Knee on Belly

Jared Weiner has come out with a new dvd set Operation Knee on Belly.

I’m a big believer that a good instructional dvd or book can take your game to another level. For me, for example, Marcelo Garcia’s x guard book opened up my game to where I could be dangerous (against people at my lowly level of blue belt) off my back.

But at the end of the day I’m a top player, and that’s where my favorite top game instructional comes in: Operation Knee on Belly. The following are some of the things I particularly like about it (off the top of my head).

Emphasis on Control

Jared emphasizes the kind of knee on belly position control that people often associate with  controlling the back mount. For him, it’s not a quick transitional position. It’s a place where you stick around and can finish the match. He discusses that extensively throughout, but especially in the “Principles” part of the set.

Impose and Finish

A lot of the techniques on the dvd set aren’t responses to something the opponent does. Instead you’re imposing the dominant position and going after the submission that you want. Just the way I like it! That includes triangles, chokes, kimuras, armbars, omoplatas, etc. Jiu jitsu is very much about the push-pull reactions, but sometimes you can really impose your game on the opponent to the point where their options are very limited. This makes the task of controlling position and submitting the opponent much more manageable.

Live Speed and Common Mistakes

Two extra things that I particularly like is that for each technique Jared shows the technique at live speed a bunch of times with entries into knee on belly from both sweeps and guard passes. After showing all that, he describes some of the common mistakes people make for each of the techniques.

Complete System

The same fundamental concepts run throughout the instructional, so taken together Jared presents a complete system of attacks from knee on belly (in both gi and no-gi).

Teaching Style

While perhaps not essential, one of the most memorable parts of the instructional is the style of Jared’s teaching. There’s a certain mix of intensity and humor that makes watching the set both entertaining and motivating. Words like crush, smash, drive, torque, twist set the “mood” perfectly. And of course, there’s the frequent mention of “grinding the sternum”.

While jotting down the above few comments I came across a picture of Jared that I had from the first time I saw him in person (competing and winning a superfight in the summer of 2010). I remember being very impressed at his guard passing style. He was relentless.

And above all I think that’s what makes his instruction great. He uses the techniques he teaches to consistently score on and beat other top black belts in his division.  Of course, a great instructor doesn’t have to be a great competitor, but it sure doesn’t hurt 😉

Training Around an Injury

I got a small tear in my right rotator cuff. There’s pain, there’s weakness. It’s a mess.

So instead of training twice a day, hard, with and eye for the New York Open in 2 months and Worlds in 4 months, I’m forced into the state of limbo that most of us know from having been injured: trying to recover, but not taking too much time off.

A reasonable doctor will recommend to stop all training until complete recovery. I honestly would IF I knew when complete recovery would happen. The problem is that you never really know.

My new program is BJJ for an hour every other day. Then I also do treadmill work every day: one day crazy intense, one day jog.

I hate running, truly, especially the hard interval training on the treadmill. But I don’t have much choice.

So, how am I surviving on just 1 hour of BJJ every other day as compared to 2-3 hours every day before the injury? Watching lots of video, both instructional and competition footage. For example, right now I’m watching the Back Attack DVD from JT Torres. It’s an example of the type of instructional DVD that I can learn from while sitting at home. He doesn’t show anything flashy, just the fundamentals of attacking the back. So I’m watching it second time through and trying to catch the little details, especially of the moves I’ve seen many times before. I find that instructional DVDs help most with moves that I’ve already practiced a lot. So I look for new little details that work for the particular instructor.

That’s the thing about guys like JT Torres. How does he pull off these very techniques on some of the best people in the world? There are two component I think. The first can be taught: solid technique (the details). The other cannot be taught with a DVD and that’s the timing, pressure, speed, etc of the move. So step one is to understand the details that make the technique work, and THAT I can sit at home and visualize after watching instructional DVDs. But then I have to take those ideas to the mat and get thousands of repetitions in. With an injury only the first part is possible, but since this part is often neglected, it’s good to give it some much needed focus.