I visited BJJ Lab in Busan last week, and I had a marvelous time! Young-Am Noh 노영암 graciously let me visit while I was on vacation. I took my friend, who had never done jiu jitsu before.

As long-time readers know, my background is both in teaching English as well as teacher training. As such, I tend to carefully observe and note teaching techniques, as BJJ is simply a foreign language for the body. When I teach something in an English class, I do not simply have my students memorize it and practice it. First, I show context. I give it in a sentence before having them try it, and I try to give them scenarios in which they can see it in action. It was terribly exciting to see a new-to-me BJJ teaching technique that did just this: adding context.

Adding Context to Drills

Jiu Jiu and Noh Young-Am

Jiu Jiu with Young-Am Noh, the black belt at BJJ Lab in Busan

When Young-Am was showing the drills in the class, he first demonstrated how to do it, step-by-step. We were doing a technical standup in a manner I’d never seen before. After explaining that it is an alternative to the standard, he then told why he preferred it to the standard. He then grabbed a student and demonstrated the technique, showing it in context – why we moved the leg and arm the way we did. He did this for each technique.

Adding this context allows the student to understand greater nuance – why an elbow is raised, when we use it, and what it looks like in action. For me, it solidifies it in my brain. It takes it from abstract to concrete.

Adding Real-Life Context to Techniques

Watching video in BJJ

You can see that he had 9 clips ready – we watched 4 of them.

The very exciting part of the class, though, was near the end of the technique portion. He had everyone gather around a computer monitor, and he had readied 4-6 clips of the techniques we had practiced – all used in MMA fights. He paused it to remind us of the steps. Step one, he grabs the waist. Step two, … It was really cool to see it in action and see that it is practical and used by people. It provided a larger, real-life context in a way I had not seen before in class. I know that for beginners, it can be tough to actually recognize and pick out a technique in a match, so to have this queued up and point it out step-by-step was helpful.

I think one of the things that impressed me was how prepared he was. He even had on the board a diagram marked:

  • 1
  • 1 -> 1
  • 1 -> 2
  • 1 -> 2 -> 3

In other words, our techniques were all closely related, and he demonstrated without many words how they were related. This was the closest to a lesson plan as I’ve ever witnessed in jiu jitsu, and that he was ready to show us diagrams and videos showed excellent planning. I was really impressed.

The Importance of Visual Technique.

Explanations are great – IF the person can understand. As a foreigner training in bjj gyms, verbal explanations are not always terribly useful or even understood. Adding that visual element helps even those with limited or poor understanding of the language. It’s also terribly simple and easier to understand, even for beginners.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: Does your coach (or you – if you teach) regularly provide visual context for your techniques? Have you seen video used in this manner for teaching BJJ (or any other type of sport) during a lesson?