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Using Media To Improve Your Jiu-Jitsu


I have been involved with jiu-jitsu for what can now be considered a long time. My first exposure to the art was in 1998. At that time information was hard to come by. The only material one could find was the occasional article in Black Belt Magazine, the Gracie Academy tapes, and Ken Shamrock’s book “Inside the Lion’s Den” (I know it’s not BJJ but it’s all we had).

Now things are the complete opposite. Qualified jiu-jitsu schools and instructors are everywhere, and the amount of information is mind blowing. In fact, it can be too much. The purpose of this article is to serve as a guide to using media in a way that improves your BJJ.

Foundational Instruction

If you are new to BJJ, this is where you start. Before running to YouTube and learning the newest sweeps, you need to build a foundation. You should focus on material that gives you insight into the fundamental techniques of BJJ. A good instructional in this category will give you overall concepts of individual positions, fundamental techniques, and tips for success. Many BJJ associations have a blue belt requirement instructional. These are a great place to start.

If you’re looking for a more expansive guide, there are many long term subscription-based websites. A unique option is Nic Gregoriades’ BJJ Building Blocks. For a onetime fee, Nic gives you weekly instructional videos to help you through your first year of training. These types of instructional are an amazing resource for students and instructors.

Specific Game Instruction

Media related to specific aspects of BJJ make up the majority of the instructional market. Unlike the old days, when you couldn’t find any information on BJJ, you can see all of the best techniques from the best competitors and the best instructors. It is better to not jump in to these instructionals too early. You should build a solid foundation first.

For more advanced students, choosing where to spend your money and time can be a tough choice. First evaluate your body type and where your game naturally takes you. Once you make these assessments, you can find the specific instructional that will best suits you.

You can easily find the best guys showing their best game: Marcelo Garcia showing X-guard, Raphael “Formiga” showing butterfly guard, and Lucas Lepri’s guard passing. These instructional products are step-by-step guides to championship games. Choose wisely and pick a game you have a natural inclination to play by a guy with a similar body type.

Another way to go is to seek out media made by great instructors. These guys may not be as well-known, but they might convey content better than the champs. They are also more likely to cover modifications for different body types.

A new development in the instructional market is prominent instructors offering bundle packages of their products. Roy Dean is now marketing his Collection and Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood has created an All Access Pass to their products. Many companies may soon follow suit. These packages offer a wide range of instruction at a bargain.

Watching Competitions

Watching competition video is an enjoyable and often overlooked form of improving your game. Viewing competitions is a great way to get the feel for the speed, pressure, and timing of techniques when you can’t be on the mats. You can get instructional videos of all the champs showing their game, but it is different seeing the timing used in a real match.

Also, often missed in instructional material is the micro-transitions. These are the moves made in between techniques that allow guys to transition from one move to the next. A lot of these nuances will be lost on junior practitioners, but watch anyways. Regardless of your skill level watching the best guys and gals is inspirational.

Philosophical and Conceptual Products

Outside of instructional videos and books lies other more philosophical and conceptual products. This category contains videos, documentaries, books, magazines, podcasts, and blog articles (like this one).  There is something for everyone. Find content which gives you insights to make your BJJ journey easier. Starting BJJ can be a daunting task. There are many experienced practitioners who are giving out tips to a new generation of students. You can find sage words of wisdom for both competitors and hobbyists alike.

The YouTube Trap

It’s free! Remember free doesn’t mean good, although there is a lot of really good content on YouTube. Unfortunately, there is a lot of really bad content, too. But the bad content isn’t the “YouTube Trap”; it’s actually the good stuff.

The trap is set like this: I hop on to do a quick search for the technique I want to learn. I am greeted with a variety of options, so I pick the best looking video and go for it. But as I watch this great content, I see in my feed a new video that promises to be even better than last. So, I watch that one and now I see a new video in the feed of a variation on the move, and … well you probably see where this going. I spend the next few hours watching numerous videos on a variety of techniques. At the end, I am worse off than when I started. Chances are I remember nothing. Worse than nothing, I remember half of a technique and smash it together with other barely related techniques.

Don’t fall for the YouTube trap. Use this resource wisely. Go to YouTube to get a preview of that instructional you have been thinking about buying or use it to find the answer to a specific question. You will find multiple answers to your question but only watch a couple of videos that answer your question. Go to the mat and try out the answer. If it doesn’t work, go back to YouTube for more research.

Use to Improve

Keep this guide in mind as you wade through the plethora of BJJ content out there. From books, DVD’s, magazines, blogs, and membership websites there is something for everyone. Don’t overload yourself with information. BJJ is a lifelong journey. You have years to study and learn, but keep in mind you can’t learn it all. Wherever you are along your journey, choose the products that will be most beneficial to you.

Chris Bumgarner is a BJJ black belt and trains out of First State Martial Arts in Delaware.

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