6 Strategies to Make the Most of your Next Seminar
It’s a great time to practice jiu-jitsu. We have access to thousands of hours of free and for-sale video content from some of the world’s most influential competitors, coaches, and instructors. And from time to time, we have the opportunity to learn first-hand from those figures as they make their rounds on seminar tours.
Seminars can have a big impact on the way you approach a certain aspect of your game if you’re adequately prepared to learn. If you take a few minutes to prepare, you can ensure that your getting the most value out of your next special guest appearance. Otherwise, your experience may end up nothing more than an expensive photo-op.
1. Pick your partner in advance
Every once in a while, we’re inevitably paired up with a chatty training partner, or with the smelly guy, or the person who finds every new technique impossible.
Part of our duty to our jiu-jitsu community is to suck it up now and then and to work with the white-knuckle gripper or the perpetually limp-bodied uke. But when you’re paying top dollar for a seminar, you don’t want to be hindered by your training partner’s quirks.
Nothing ruins a Romulo Barral spider guard seminar quite like being paired up with the guy who wants to show you his favorite spider guard sweep.
So if you want to get the most out of your seminar, pick your partner in advance. Think of who you’d like to work with, make sure they’re attending, and get them to commit to working with you beforehand.
A degree of self-awareness is pertinent here. If you’re held together by tape and braces, try and work with someone who is equally limited. If you like to apply every technique as if you’re 30 seconds away from a World Championship gold, find a partner who’s willing to take a beating every rep and who will want to give one in return.
2. Ask the instructor, if, how and when you can film
For most high-caliber competitors and coaches, seminars constitute a large portion of their income. It’s taken them years, even decades, to perfect their favorite techniques, and to be able to teach those techniques to a group of students they don’t know. So they have every right to treat their technique, details and teaching styles as intellectual property.
Most seminar instructors will ask you not to record as they are teaching, although each has different guidelines.
Whatever those guidelines are, make sure you understand and abide by them. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to be called out for breaking the rules, and it’s even more uncomfortable for your guest to have to reprimand you.
3. Record yourself doing the technique
Even if they don’t want you recording their demonstration or instruction, most seminar instructors will allow you to record yourself during the drilling portions of the seminar.
If you’re not allowed to record at all, take good notes, and make sure to record yourself doing the technique as soon as the seminar is over. The longer you wait, the foggier your memory of the techniques will become. Your new tricks will start to blend with your old habits.
Once you have the videos, remember to watch them often, drill them with a partner, and try to apply them in live training until you can integrate them into your game.
4. Take notes strategically
Taking notes can be beneficial, but it can also become a distraction if you don’t have the right approach. The more time you spend writing, the less time you’ll have to focus on the nuances. If you’re going to take notes, don’t waste your time writing down information you’re already confident with. Instead, focus on key details, buzz words, and the deviations from the way you’re used to doing the techniques.
It’s even more effective if you can take photos or videos of yourself in the appropriate position, and use your notes to draw attention to the specifics. Something as simple as “pay attention to head position” can do as much to bolster your memory of the instruction as an entire paragraph on head placement, and it gives you time to focus while the instructor is explaining where all of the other limbs are supposed to be.
5. Ask to experience the technique first-hand
The most unpleasant experience of your jiu-jitsu life may also be the most valuable one. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to put your weight in that guard pass that doesn’t feel quite right, ask the instructor if he or she will demonstrate it on you. There’s nothing like world-class shoulder pressure to show you the finer points you’ve been missing. And hopefully, by the time you’ve gotten the feeling back in your jaw, you’ll have the technique down.
6. Prepare questions ahead of time
Most seminar guests will leave time — whether it’s five minutes or an hour — for Q&A. You have an opportunity to see jiu-jitsu from a new perspective, so have something meaningful to ask.
You don’t have to know your guest’s entire body of work. But you should take an opportunity to watch some of their matches or their free online instructionals. Make note of something that they do that you find interesting or unusual. You’d be surprised how much you can learn by asking about the angle of their feet or why they grab the near collar rather than the cross collar in their scissor sweep.
Top-level competitors and coaches sometimes take these details for granted, but they’re often the difference between a highly effective technique and one that works only some of the time.
What tips would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Corey Stockton is a brown belt at East Coast United BJJ in White Plains, NY under Jojo Guarin. He competes more often than is healthy, and spends the rest of his free time writing about other, far superior competitors for FloGrappling.
Visit his Instagram @cstsocktonbjj.