6 Tips for Taking Notes in Jiu-Jitsu

My confession: I have a terrible memory.

I carry around a notebook with me at all times. I have a notebook at work and one I keep in my purse. I am constantly writing down tasks I need to complete and errands I need to run. Over the past couple of years, I have started applying this habit in to jiu-jitsu. Admittedly I have not been as consistent with note-taking as I’d like, but when I am diligent, I see the results shine through in my training.

In jiu-jitsu, you learn such a wide range of techniques that it can often be intimidating. For many, recalling a technique immediately after it’s shown is a challenge (where does my foot go again?), but it is a universal challenge to remember everything you learn in class. Taking notes can help. Having experimented with this for some period of time now, I have found the following strategies to be the most helpful:

  1. Don’t try to write down everything your instructor says. If you do this, you’ll primarily be focused on writing and not watching and learning the actual material. Write down the position/sweep/submission and the important details.

  2. Know when to “shelve it for later.” If the technique(s) taught that day don’t make sense to you, make a note of it. You aren’t always going to catch on to everything taught that day. For example, my instructor once went through a full month of single leg X guard, and I was completely lost. This is because I simply wasn’t ready to learn it at the time; my mind was unable to comprehend the position well enough because I wasn’t familiar with it (or the prerequisite material) yet. However, a year later, I am obsessed with single leg X guard and am catching on to the smaller details much better as purple belt than as an intermediate blue belt.

  3. Consider drawing a rough sketch. One of the biggest mistakes I made in taking notes was that I didn’t write them down in a way that made sense when I went back to them. Drawing a quick picture can help you show the position and small details that might not come across with just words.

  4. Have a list of abbreviations you’re used to using. This makes note taking much faster. It’s far easier to write “DLR” than “de la Riva, or “slx” than “single leg x”. Make sure you remember what the abbreviations stand for!

  5. Always remember to put the date. Sometimes I’ll ask my instructor to show me a detail from “that move you showed last week.” Writing the date down makes it easier to ask others in this scenario, especially since some instructors have a structured curriculum that has a specific outline for each day.

  6. Use an app if a notebook isn’t for you. Many smart phones have built in notepad/note taking apps. EverNote is the only app I’ve used, but I prefer pen and paper.

Hopefully you find these helpful in organizing and remembering your thoughts in jiu-jitsu and beyond.

Have you tried taking notes in jiu-jitsu? How did it go? Share your experience!

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