Wednesday, February 22, 2012

None Dare Call Them Cadre

One of the smartest people I know when it comes to conditioning, Joel Jamison of 8 Weeks Out makes an exceptionally provocative case against group training when it comes to conditioning, or at least when it comes to elite conditioning.

But what is most compelling to me about this charge is not so much what it says about conditioning, but what it says, potentially, about any kind of instruction, including fundamental jiu-jitsu instruction. In other words, is the "group instruction" model of teaching BJJ simply a stage in the evolution of the art? The "mass" or "pop" stage of BJJ?

I don't so much envision a return to the "private lesson" based teaching that defined much of the initial BJJ instruction in the States. But in thinking about it - and after spending several days thinking about some of the conversations from a recent instructor's meeting led by Prof Rodrigo - I can't help but envision some synthesis in the future in which higher belts are more frequently and regularly used as assistant instructors as part of the regular course of instruction (maybe in exchange for reduced training fees, access to private lessons, or even something far more informal)

I say this also because I think that the biggest obstacle to learning jiu-jitsu is the critical role of muscle memory, and that when it comes to muscle memory, the most important aspect is the "perfect rep". And the only way to ensure that the reps of students learning new material are as close to "perfect " as they can be (and so to build correct, effective "muscle memory") is to make sure that someone is watching to make sure that bad habits aren't being ingrained from the very beginning.

And therein lies the rub: can one professor, regardless of his or her talent as a teacher, ensure the perfect reps of 10 students in a given class? How about 15 students? 30?

Not to put too fine a point to it, but there is nothing more long-term damaging than sloppy training. And the definition of "sloppy training" is any time you are not completing a "perfect rep." In other words, you are either doing it poorly or you are doing it perfectly.

It's a high bar. As Griff reminded us all last year when talking about jiu-jitsu and kids: "this stuff is pretty hard." But there is a way of making it easier, in the long-term if not the immediate, and it's never too late to pursue that change. And that's as true for those of us working on our own games as it is for those instances when we are primarily focused on helping others work on theirs.