Ask A Black Belt

Q.  I Have A Lot Of Difficulty Learning Moves In Jiu-Jitsu. How can I pick up these moves a little easier?

A.  I find this to be a very good question. The reason why is because jiu-jitsu tends to be a unique experience for each individual. What may be easy for one person, may be close to impossible for another. Vice versa and so on and so on. One primary method that I like to use whenever I teach fundamental movements of jiu-jitsu, is to highlight a significant moment within the movement and apply it to some form of everyday movement or position that I frequently perform in my everyday existence. For instance, if I want to communicate to my student to grab an opponent’s wrist and secure it close to their hip, I will present it as “holster your weapon” to imply holstering a firearm. Or if I want them to crank their

Gabriel Sousa Teaches Technique

opponent’s arm through a chain of movement, I will tell them to “slot machine” the arm, referencing the way a slot machine lever gets pulled (I know, I just aged myself. That’s an old school slot machine reference in this day and age of the push button variety). It was this small internal voice that really helped me retain many techniques, movements, and positions. By associating it with common movements that I have performed pretty much my entire life (except for the slot machine part. That wasn’t until I was 21). Hopefully, you can apply this technique of “occupational association” for yourself and enhance the joy of learning new tricks on the mat to expand your arsenal. Oh, one other benefit about this method is that you get to have fun creating names and secret codes to your moves in the event you ever decide to compete and/or coach teammates. Good luck!


Q.  Anyone else have a problem with thinking too much while on the mat? My coach says I’m way to slow getting to positions and in scrambles because I’m thinking too much. It’s not from lack of drilling. I drill a lot. But it seems I’m getting slower and slower in the transitions. Almost 3 years in and my jiu-jitsu is hot garbage right now. I’m demonstrably worse than I was a year ago without a doubt. Any suggestions?

A.  Let go of any worries of “tapping out” or making mistakes. As my father would tell me since I was a kid in competitions “you’re trying too hard”. This kind of applies. I think you may be feeling too much anxiety in the outcome of a roll. Simply spend more time reacting. Whether it advances your position or not, just focus on your reaction. From there, by slowly assessing your reactions, you can begin to visualize (in your off-mat time) your next move whenever you feel similar sequences presenting themselves. Another method is to “simulate stress”. Include in your drill sessions moments of stress by having a teammate or a coach create stress by “aggressively coaching you” in certain scenarios. Now that’s not a green light to get mid-evil on each other, but instead, frame up some scenarios that put an emphasis on urgency. In essence, you are training your central nervous system to react to the various stimuli. High-level trainer Mike Saffaie actually has a system of training his professional fighters in this manner. He calls it “Training the Go”. Just roll baby!


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