This post is simply a continuation of my “Debunking Jiu-Jitsu” series.
I’ve been told time and time again that drilling is the key to success in Jiu-Jitsu. “If you don’t get it now, drill it a hundred more times. And if you don’t get it then, drill it a hundred more.” There’s a mantra out there that says the way to Jiu-Jitsu enlightenment is through repetition. “Muscle memory” they call it and on the surface, it makes sense.
Let’s scratch that surface though. Let’s talk about drilling techniques for just a moment and see if we can flesh out a bit about what so many instructors have decidedly put in their instructional bag of goodies. What they’ve come to rely on as class content as opposed to a more academic view of things.
Let’s say you had a guy walk in off the street. He wanted to start training Jiu-Jitsu and you agreed to be his coach.
On this guy’s first day of class, you decided that it would be a good idea to lead by example and demonstrate to him how to do an armbar from guard. Simple enough, right? We’ve all done the armbar and it’s fairly entry level.
So you demonstrated the move and then asked him to drill it 50 times with a partner. He obliged as you sat beside him and watched. You asked him if he felt comfortable with the Jiu-Jitsu you already taught him and he kind of shrugged his shoulders. Since you sensed some hesitancy, you told him to drill the armbar 100 more times and that he should really put some effort into it because directly afterwards, he was going to spar. He did the 100 more and feeling happy with your work, you sent him to the mat with a sparring partner.
They went at it and you watched. You watched this guy get torn to pieces and after he was finished being destroyed, you approached him and suggested he drill another 100 armbars.
Does that sound weird? Yes? Well why not compound that one technique with a bunch of other techniques and call it a curriculum? I mean, that’s all a curriculum is, isn’t it? Just a collection of techniques?
Let’s go back to the chess example I was talking about earlier. And I’ll admit, yes, Jiu-Jitsu has many, many parallels to chess. Parallels we’ll perhaps discuss later on in this post. But for now, let’s just talk about an absurd occurrence that would never happen during chess instruction.
Let’s say, for instance, that a small child wanted to learn how to play chess. Now say that the same child had a father who was a world champion at chess. Say that the father took on the task of teaching the child not only how to play chess, but how to become a world champion just like him – the father.
They began the instruction and after the father explained the board and the pieces, the father directs the son to move his bishop three spaces diagonally. And then back three spaces. And then forth three spaces. And to continue that 100 times.
I’m willing to bet the child looks up at his father and asks why in the world he would do that. Imagine you were a fly on the wall and heard the father reply, “Because it’ll build muscle memory.”
Again, how does chess compare to Jiu-Jitsu? Certainly not through the repetition of technique.