How to Evaluate a New Technique

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has hundreds of techniques, if not thousands, and new variations are being developed all the time. Especially in the internet age, we are all struggling to keep up with the hot new moves, let alone refine the classic ones. Instructors usually adopt a “monkey see, monkey do” approach, hoping just copying the moves enough times will give the students proficiency in them.

As BJJ students, you can benefit from developing your ability to evaluate new techniques, determining if they are even worth learning, and troubleshooting the problems you run into.

Let’s start by defining a “good technique.” Most will agree on this criteria:

Hallmarks of a good technique:

  • All fours limbs are always in use.
  • Hips and core doing a lot of the work.
  • Good body mechanics and alignment create leverage.
  • Does not rely on extreme physical attributes like strength, endurance, flexibility, etc.
  • Uses good timing and momentum in its set up.
  • Transitions to something else instead of failing completely.
  • Useful in many situations, or works extremely well in specific situations.
  • Built on one or more solid core concepts.

With those key points to guide us, we can evaluate a technique using the following questions:

Grips

What is each hand doing at each step in the sequence?

When do you let go to switch to a different grip?

Are you ever leaving a hand dangling without a job to do? (That’s usually bad.)

Does the technique fall apart if you change grips out of order?

Feet

What are your feet doing and when do you change their placement?

Are your feet ever dangling or doing nothing helpful? (This is bad.)

Hips, Posture and Body Mechanics

How do your hips and core move throughout the move?

How does it feel when you fail to move your hips to the right angle?

Timing and Momentum

What moment is most critical to get right?

If that moment would fail, can you switch to something else easily?

What do you need to do to get the reaction that triggers this technique?

Concepts

What are the core principles that make this move work?

Can you visualize the movement in simple patterns, e.g. a hook sweep is a ball sticking to someone and rolling under their base?

Does this technique work like any similar techniques you already know?

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Obviously, you are not going to ask yourself every one of these questions every time you see a move, but having a familiarity with these will help you evaluate new techniques. You can also use these for troubleshooting a troublesome technique you cannot get the knack for.

Start with the hands, feet, hips and posture the first time through.Then think about the timing and underlying concepts. When you cannot answer a question or are unsatisfied with the answer you came up with, you know what to work on next.

Try asking yourself a few of these questions the next time you learn a new technique or go to write about it in your journal. Come up with your own questions. Learning is about taking something and making it your own, and I hope I’ve helped you become better at doing that.

Matt Kirtley

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