Do You Have a Curriculum?

Yes, we do. But it’s not a rigid system. It’s more of a framework that you are learning how to navigate with me. I teach the same position from Sunday to Thursday, and make adjustments for the kids class. I even hand out worksheets with the list of positions so new people can learn where they are in the bigger picture. But Jiu Jitsu is endlessly complicated, and I am constantly making changes and additions. I have 17 classes and open mat every week to get a feel for the path we’re on.

The Positions. This is far from a comprehensive list of all possibilities. There are hundreds of open guards and different correct ways to play them. For the sake of making sure everything is covered, I keep a spreadsheet documenting the last time I taught a position. I train with, talk to, and watch everyone in the room. Based on the results, I plan the week ahead. I’ve been keeping track this way for the last seven years. What I learned is that we tend to spend most of our efforts passing and playing guard, but it’s easy to lose track of trivial positions that some people specialize in. We need everyone to be exposed to these things while having a strong understanding of the fundamentals. Since 2020, I’ve been documenting individual lessons while weighing it against the position worksheet.

Techniques. By now, you’ve probably noticed that we don’t have a beginner class. The fundamentals class will be similar to the regular lesson, with emphasis on basics that everyone should know. This is an important philosophy to me. We don’t hold back information. Everyone learns as much as they can handle, and there will always be more. Beginners will still learn important basic concepts and movements when learning specialized techniques. Upper belts are also expected to understand that there is still more to learn about the basics when it’s time to drill them. Having colored belts in the room serves as a compass for the newer players. Learning tends to be safer and more efficient when you’re training with someone more experienced. On the subject of safety, covering dangerous positions is important for everyone. Most injuries are the result of poorly executed takedowns and leg entanglements. We have clear conversations about what the dangers are and how to navigate the situations. Pretending these things don’t exist would be detrimental to everyone, but we need to balance these things with basics so we don’t overspecialize. Many times, we go through a sequence beginning with a takedown or guard pull and ending in a submission series a few weeks later.

Tournaments. We have both competitors and hobbyists here, but the competitors largely drive the selection of techniques. I still compete several times a year, and need this work myself. Tournament prep consists of going through several positions, often starting from standing. This is a great way for me to locate areas that are lacking. I also hold a superstition that we never work escapes leading up to tournaments. Those are reserved only for the week or two following the competition. I also factor in trends in competition that are constantly changing. I’m not a fan of simply doing what everyone else is doing, that would leave us a step behind. Instead, we want to understand the trends and have the ability to navigate around them and impose our own games. Some people will inevitably decide they want to go with the crowd, and that will benefit us too. If I personally encounter something I like in competition, there is a strong chance everyone will get a look at it in the next few weeks.

If you’re not learning from your competitions, you’re doing it wrong.

Seminars, Studies, and New Information. I get excited about Bjj. Anything could suddenly grab my attention. I will develop it for a few weeks and share what I find. We have some great people coming through town teaching seminars. It’s not possible to cover all the information, but I can share enough to motivate everyone to go to the next one. I’ve been doing this for 16 years, 8 years full time as a job. I am still constantly learning new things and revising old strategies. If something catches my attention that presents a significant change, we will cover it immediately. Being open to new information is an important part of what we do. Don’t mistake excitement with a lack of direction. New information will be quickly folded into our existing framework and we will get back to our usual patterns.

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