Improve Your Bjj Using Paper

My job as an instructor is not just to share my knowledge and experiences with you, it’s to help you to manage the wealth of information you are dealing with. In addition to class, you have free YouTube videos, paid cutting edge instructionals, seminars, private lessons, etc. But if you’re trying to do everything, you’re not doing anything. You need to understand where you’re at, and decide what to add from there. A lot of people can keep track in their heads, which I think is amazing. I like to use paper instead. In fact, I hand out a worksheet to new people. I also offer private lessons to help put your game on a flow chart. This is a basic rundown of my preferred methods.

The position worksheet is a great tool for beginners to figure out where they’re at. Learn what a position is, and learn what to do. I will usually teach one position per week, and no more than three things per position. Getting time in the position and repetition with specific movements helps to understand the position better, even if it’s not going to be part of your game. You will want to have a guard you like to play, and a method of guard passing that works for you. I will recommend different things to different people based on body type and how you move. About 75% of your time should be spent passing or playing guard. You will also find yourself in the shit positions. Learn how to keep safe and escape these positions, but don’t fixate too much. You want to understand how you’re getting into trouble, and avoid being there! Tapping quickly is also an important time management method that I will bring up every chance I get.

Write down a list of techniques you feel competent implementing for each position. This is a quick way to identify holes in your game, or areas that are cluttered with too many options. You always want to be adding to your game, but you also want it to fit with everything else you do. That leads us into the next subject, flow charts.

I was originally inspired by Eddie Bravo to try this. In the beginning of his books, he would have flowchart mapping out the way that is rubber guard and his twister game worked. Now, they have apps and websites dedicated to the idea. I kind of muddled my way through using paper, but I can appreciate the end results. What I learned quickly was not to put too many things on the chart, because it clutters the paper and just looks like a mess. Originally, I thought that I needed to put everything that I thought I knew or thought I could do on the flow chart. An old black belt told me to stop at three things per position. I found that to be a pretty good rule, although I tried four for a while. It got cluttered, and I found myself spending too much time in the same position. It ends up being a lot of wear and tear on the body. I could keep up with three things, but I found that two things actually streamlined my game much quicker. I had a simple cue of what to do instead of stopping to think about each step on the on the way .

This is a template I like to use to help people map out their games. You can use anything, but I prefer to go into half guard from almost any kind of trouble. I write my leglock flowcharts on black paper in secret code.

Consider using environmentally friendly hemp paper.


One of the important things I learned about building a flowchart was that you need to be honest with yourself. It’s really easy to chart out the things you think you can do. That’s an important step. I had to make a secondary flow chart with the things that I actually do, or the things that I tend to do. Once I accomplished that, I could begin to control the exact path I was going on.

Finally, we want to learn how to understand where we get stuck. I have kept a journal for several years to track my progress. Sometimes there is an alternate method, other situations are best tried again with better timing. Concepts explain why we are doing what we do. Personally, I like studying weight distribution. Different grips and movements affect the placement of the head, thus the way we feel our balance. We looked earlier at understanding the position we are in, and our preferred techniques like we mapped on the flow chart. The techniques are littered with details of varying importance that affect the outcome. Make sure you have the details in correct sequence. You will find me with a pen and paper at most seminars, furiously scribbling details to test out later. This is an example of myself attempting to put it all together from last week.

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