My friend Jack Taufer is a now not-so-secret source of the fabled “invisible” jiu-jitsu that Rickson Gracie and his lineage of black belts are renown for. You should remember Jack from my recent video about finding simpler solutions to problems. Budo Jake had Jack in the Budovideos studios to film five instructional videos to help promote BJJ vs Cancer, Jack’s effort to raise funds for his sister and her family as she fights stage 4 breast cancer. You can contribute to the fundraising at gofundme.com/bjjvscancer. He is just over halfway toward the goal. I am sharing all five of Jack’s recent technique videos below.
Do you love retro RPGs?
Do you love BJJ?
If you answered YES! to either or both of those questions, boy do I have exciting news to you. Super Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dojo Storm smashes your loves together into pixelated goodness. My buddy Marshal D. Carper from Artechoke Media is on the verge of giving birth to this digital brainchild, but he’s asking for your help pushing it out. Head over to the Indiegogo fundraising page to support the most creative project in BJJ and snag a perk.
Optional Question #3: Have you always wished you were in a video game where you can fight a giant baby in a wrestling singlet?
Why do I even bother asking rhetorical questions like this? Of course you do. Even better news: there’s a perk that can make your dream come true!
Marshal teamed up with Trevor Ragan of TrainUgly.com to apply modern research into motor skill development and skill acquisition from other sports to our art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Give it a read if you haven’t already.
Now let’s talk about ugly practice. In studying the fields of motor learning and sports training, you run into common themes:
- Create a rich sensory environment that pushes the student up to the edge of their ability.
- Students learn best through trial and error that allows for self-correction and timely coaching cues.
- Small failures or confusions may be frustrating in the short term, but they teach valuable lessons.
- Meaningful practice requires full focus on the present moment.
You may recognize many of these concepts from a few years back when I reviewed The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. His follow-up work, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, condensed his thesis into chewy self-help nuggets. Most of his tips are good, though a few raise a skeptical eyebrow, especially those that hold up myelin as a holy grail. (Read my review of The Talent Code if you want my criticisms.) But overall it’s full of good ideas.
In Benedict Carey’s book How We Learn, the author talks about block versus random practice, the same topic Marshal and Trevor cover in their JJM article. I will review How We Learn soon, but its explanation of block and random practice was my favorite section, so let’s talk about it now.
Carey gives the example of women learning badminton serves. The women were split into two groups to practice three serves–short, medium and long. One group practiced each serve 20 times before moving to the next type (block practice). The other group practiced by performing serves called out by the researcher, but still performed the same total number of each serve (random practice).
The initial results were what you might expect: when tested shortly after practice, the women who did block practice performed better. This would be a terrible story for proving my point if it ended there. It doesn’t, of course.
When tested again later, once the initial practice had a chance to wear off, the random practice group performed better, retaining their skills.
Many more studies have shown this same pattern: block practice gives the illusion of faster improvement in the short term, but skills gained through random practice last longer.
The explanation is that block practice quickly devolves into rote repetitions that fail to develop the other skills needed for spontaneous performance. Block practice becomes “practicing to be better at practice” or simply “practicing for practice.”
One interesting quirk to know is that, per Carey’s book, when surveyed on which type of practice they preferred, people choose block practice. They like block practice because it’s less confusing and they can see a clear improvement from the first rep to the last. Unfortunately for them, the brain prioritizes learning how to deal with the problems caused by random practice. That sense of frustration is good for driving improvement, but not necessarily for going home full of self-satisfaction.
So how do you incorporate random practice into your training?
The good news is that “random” practice is baked right into BJJ with our daily sparring. We also love our “king of the mat” games and positional sparring. Matt Thornton has explained this as aliveness in martial arts for a long time now, and his organization Straight Blast Gym has a wealth of smart coaching/training methods that stem from this understanding of what makes good or bad practice.
The downside of using only sparring as our random practice method is that it can be difficult to get in enough “reps” of a technique, especially beginners who can’t dictate the positions of the match very well.
For those familiar with The Talent Code‘s chapter on soccer, this would be like trying to learning ball handling and passing skills only by playing full games. Yes, you may learn it eventually, but you also spend a lot of time waiting for the ball to make it to you. But games or drills that speed up the time between reps and put players’ feet in contact with the ball more often can do a better, faster job.
Try this at your next open mat:
- Pick three or so related techniques you want to learn. Perform the techniques a few times to make sure you’re doing them right.
- Now have your training partner call out any of the techniques at random. Perform the rep and reset back to the starting position. Do this for reps or for time.
- Your partner doesn’t even need to call out anything if you’re working on a main technique and counters to its counters–they just need to do the counter (e.g. cross knee guard pass, cross knee to backstep, cross knee to long step).
This can be a great warm-up before free-for-all guard passing games or sparring. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!
My next post on this topic will go over games you can run as a BJJ coach to incorporate more random practice into your classes.
Over a year ago, I set out to review Kelly Starrett‘s book Becoming a Supple Leopard and its claims to “improve your athletic performance, extend your athletic career, treat stiffness and achy joints, and prevent and rehabilitate injuries.”
This is not that review. (Sorry to disappoint.)
Starrett came to my attention as the CrossFit coach on Youtube with good videos about stretching against resistance bands, smashing your butt with lacrosse balls, and the importance of deep squatting like you’re pooping in the woods. Supple Leopard is Starrett’s attempt to collect up all these tips and tricks into a systematic framework. My opinion on how well he did that will come at a later date.
What has delayed my review so long is the twisting rabbit hole I fell down once I began researching the science (and pseudoscience) of sports performance, physical therapy and especially pain neurology. Every time I think I finally had a handle on the topic, I find another study, another expert, another methodology that makes sense but contradicts the others.
The purpose of this post is not to try to sort out what is right or wrong (as if I could) but to share the most interesting talks and articles on pain science I’ve run across. These will be referenced when the real review comes out, but I’d like to get this out first.
Studying the material below, you’ll learn how our understanding of pain is very different than how it was traditionally taught, especially the neurological aspects of chronic or persistent pain. These forms the basis for the main criticisms I’ve seen of Starrett’s methods, or more accurately, all physical therapy that focuses solely on the body’s mechanical and tissue problems without addressing the neurological, psychological, and even social/cultural aspects of pain.
If you find some of the pain science hard to swallow–like how bad MRI’s are at predicting if a patient reports pain, the effectiveness of “fake” knee surgery, and how the biggest predictor of a back injury causing chronic pain is not severity of tissue damage–I don’t blame you. It is weird. Any time I learn more about the brain–and the brain is the key to understanding pain–the weirder it seems to get.
For a good explanation of how the understanding of pain and its treatment have evolved–and how much of what we were taught as “common knowledge” is wrong–I highly recommend Pain Education by BBoyScience.com.
Here are many of the videos, articles and podcasts about the neurology and psychology of pain that I found most educational:
The Science of Pain podcast by Scientific American
- How sports psychology can be used to treat sports injuries
- Biopsychosocial Pain : Pain and brain – the biopsychosocial method of chronic injury rehabilitation
In this video, we go over two ways to deal with the annoying “1/4 guard,” or whatever you call it when you’re almost in mount but your foot is still stuck. The first method is the rolling back take or twister roll, as made popular by the likes of Eddie Bravo and Ryan Hall. The second technique is a decidedly simpler solution.
The friend I talk about in the second half is Jack Taufer, a black belt under Dave Kama in the Rickson Gracie lineage. You may have seen Jack on Budovideos.com’s TWIBJJ series or his video threads on the UG (links below).
Jack is raising funds to support his nephew’s mother as she fights cancer. Please consider sending a PayPal donation to email@example.com.
You can learn more about Jack on the Kama Jiu-Jitsu website. He is available for private lessons at Rickson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Laguna Niguel and seminars anywhere you want to fly him. Georgette Oden wrote a glowing review of one such seminar.
Thanks to Jeremy for teaching the first half of this video. Jeremy is the owner and head instructor at Zombie BJJ in Allentown, PA, where I train and teach too.
If there’s interest, I can talk in more depth about the topics of simplicity vs complexity, depth vs breadth, individual style vs school/lineage style, refinement vs experimentation, body mechanics, postural alignment, etc. Jack is on a kick of filming requests too, so I’ll see if I can get him to share his thoughts too. Let me know with your comments or by sharing on Facebook!
In the meantine, watch more technique videos by Jack Taufer:
Rear naked choke details with Black Belt Jack Taufer
This Week in BJJ Episode 39 invisible Jiu Jitsu with Jack Taufer
This Week In BJJ Episode 62
Technical Mount Escape Demonstration by Jack Taufer
Flattening From the Back by Jack Taufer
The first and most critical movement of the bermimbolo — knocking them to their butt — caused me problems for a long time. In this video, I talk about how I used to try (and fail) to do the berimbolo, how the berimbolo is different than seemingly similar older De la Riva sweeps, and how to do it right now. Watch on “Berimbolo Knockdown” YouTube.
If you enjoy my teaching style and want to support me, buy a copy of my highly-praised crucifix instructional through Artechoke Media.
Now is your chance to buy Mastering the Crucifix for the cheapest price yet. Today only, BJJHQ is selling it for $25. I really put everything into making this instructional and the feedback has been super positive. You get what could easily have been 3 DVDs worth of content for less than the cost of a Victory Belt book. Buy it here: www.bjjhq.com
WhiteBeltProblems.com is live! WBP is a mega-FAQ for BJJ that I’ve been working on for more than the past year. The site grew out of continually seeing the same questions across BJJ forums and in my inbox. Marshal D. Carper, my partner at Artechoke Media, helped finish up the first big batch of questions. You can pick up a paper copy on Amazon.
Here’s an example Q&A from WBP, answering one of the the first questions almost anyone asks when getting into BJJ:
For all we know, BJJScout could be a disembodied Skynet metamind that’s programmed to analyze BJJ, only to one day terminate all humankind. Is BJJScout really Keenan’s split personality, a jiu-jitsu version of Tyler Durden? Or will we wake one day to find BJJScout has vanished from the world, never truly existing except in our dreams? Your guess is as good as mine.
Whatever robot or mythological creature they may be, in a recent post, BJJScout reviewed my instructional Mastering the Crucifix, calling it “groundbreaking… a bold and different approach to BJJ pedagogy” and praising Artechoke Media by saying “Passion for BJJ belies each effort they put out.” BJJScout gives us credit for not doing the usual “get affiliates to cram pre-order spam down everyone’s throat” routine, and praises our willingness to explore new and different ways to present information (i.e. animated gifs, multiple angles, combining animation/video with text, etc.). Read BJJScout’s full review here.
(You should also read the review because it contains GambleDub’s analysis of Baret Yoshida’s very original and unorthodox crucifix game. GambleDub was our biggest beta tester for Mastering the Crucifix.)
Valerie Worthington just released her first e-book, “How to Love a Grappler”. You can download a free copy here.
For the uninitiated, Val is a black belt in the jiu-jitsu braintrust Groundswell Grappling Concepts, alongside Emily Kwok, Hannette Staack, and Lola Newsom. GGC is well known for its women’s grappling camps.
Val’s story is a remarkable one that really kicks off when she suddenly quits her successful-but-unfulfilling career and sells off her condo to become a road tripping BJJ nomad. She’s got more than enough firsthand experience attempting to explain her obsession with BJJ to her confused loved ones.
“How to Love a Grappler” is Val’s way of helping you talk to your friends and family about “that karate or whatever you do” (as your grandma puts it). I recommend sending a copy to your partner or family member who doesn’t get why you go out of your way to get beat up by sweaty strangers all the time.