BJJ: Finding the Purpose in the Movement

I’ve noticed a sort of a funny phenomenon when watching lower belts drill certain techniques: you can sort of tell when someone understands why they are doing something, versus someone who is going through the motions, because they don’t quite understand the purpose of their actions.

It’s like an actor who doesn’t quite understand the meaning behind their lines. Sure, they understand the general principle of what they are saying due to a knowledge of language and know there will be some sort of immediate reaction to what is said, but there is a lack of knowledge pertaining to the why. What prompts those particular words to be said, those actions to be taken?

The same thing happens in jiu jitsu: by and large we know our bodies are suppose to bend and flex a certain way, and putting your hand here and your foot there will create a certain result, but when it comes to the why-which in turns prompts the technique- some students, particularly in the beginning, are a bit mystified. It’s a disconnect that I am sure many, if not all of us have experienced at least once in our jiu jitsu careers. We don’t understand the purpose or principle behind the specific details of our actions, so we go through the motions until there comes a time when we eventually get the particulars:  You place your hand here to keep the person from breaking your posture, place your foot here to prevent them from sweeping you or upsetting your balance, so on and so forth.

Some ways, in my opinion, to bridge this gap or disconnect is to practice and train more, even if it’s just training in that particular position. And more importantly ask your instructor. Someone came up with this pass, sweep, etc. most likely because they were put into a particular position and thought this might work, and it did- quite well in fact, and enough times to be considered a technique worthy of being taught. And if you still are having trouble understanding, ask your instructor, or higher ranked teammate: chances are they have been in that situation plenty of times, and have come to understand the reason behind the technique and its details.

Have any of you noticed this, or have you experienced this personally? Not understanding the purpose behind a technique? Let me know- otherwise, have a great day everyone!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “BJJ: Finding the Purpose in the Movement

  1. Definitely!! I am not good at taking someone’s word for it and remembering techniques because someone “told me so” – it wasn’t until I connected with a coach who was willing to take the time to explain the concepts behind the details that jiu jitsu started to make sense and come more naturally for me. I now recognize that this is my best learning style and always try to understand the reasons behind what I’m doing before I start to apply it

  2. Oh very much so! I tend to think of learning a move as first tracing the shape. Someone has drawn the shape for me, and I trace over it. Then you move towards copying, and then later, an understanding of how the shape is formed, and then being able to improvise within the shape. Finally, being able to create your own shapes.

    I practice Hapkido and the thing that shows me I don’t understand part of a movement is when I forget to apply it. If I don’t know the value of the little turn, it stops becoming habit. Problems come to the technique until I realize what I’m missing and why it’s important.

    Going slow and really paying attention to each part in practice helps me know and value each piece so that when things speed up, all the pieces are there working together.

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