Lost in the Specifics: Seeing the Big Picture In Training

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber


I want to push this person over so I can be on top. Let’s try a scissor sweep.

Component : Why
Cross-collar grip, high : Pull the person down towards the side you want to throw them, control them so you can pull them off their base
Sleeve grip : Take out a post (eliminate something they could hold themselves up with)
Shin across body, knee bent : Keep person at a controlled distance away, in a position your leg can extend from to push them over
Hook foot around body : The better to shove them with in the direction you want
Knee bent around their leg, on the ground : Block or knock out another thing they can post with/hold themselves up with
Arch back while pulling with sleeve grips : Use all of your muscles to pull as much of their body as you can in the direction you took their posts away
Scissor legs : Knock out or control their post, push em over.

When you understand why you’re doing something, you can forget a specific or two and still get to your destination. I have to take out someone’s ability to post and then knock them over in that direction. Great. Here’s 542 ways to do that where every millimeter counts. When I teach I try to prioritize why each thing is happening.

Collaborative Learning and Mini-Tests
If I move here, I hold them down better. Try it. How does that feel? Can you hold them down better with a high grip or a low grip? Try and see what happens. Tiny positional tests like that can be amazingly instructive to a student trying to remember even one piece of what you’re showing. They can feel the difference, so it registers in more than one database in the brain. Kinesthetic learners can get the point better. It sets up a bit of teamwork and camaraderie as they ask each other, “which feels worse?” (Jiu-Jitsu is so weird like that.)

Remembering the Point
In teaching self-defense classes, oftentimes things will happen where the partner “doesn’t do the move right” and either lets go or falls down “too early” and the person practicing can’t get the move right. To some extent the dummy needs instruction to create a realistic set of circumstances and the instructor needs to know enough to know what realistic looks like. But the point of the whole thing was to get away. You don’t want to have to do any of the move, much less all of the move. If you get away, it’s like winning early. You walked in and were the instant winner there. Run away and stay out of danger.

This applies to sport Jiu-Jitsu as well.

Joe knows a 16-step sweep in every detail. Congratulations, Joe. Joe tries to sweep Mary with it, and gets step number 6a wrong. He gets flustered, and Mary escapes to remain on top, eventually choking Joe, who is still caught up in his brain wondering what detail he left out. ‘Foot shoulda been a millimeter to the left…how could I have been so stupid…’
Chris knows he wants to knock Mary over. He also knows the same 16 step sweep that Joe learned, but not even as well as Joe. He also gets step 6a wrong. Their instructor must not be as good at showing that part as the other ones. Mary begins to escape.

Chris remembers all he cares about is knocking her over, immediately stops caring about steps 6a-16 zed and knocks her the hell over. Chris wins by 2 points. Mary is sad. None of it matters, and we spiral into existential crises. Just kidding!

Know what you’re trying to accomplish. For me, this helps me stay emotionally distant from whatever is happening in the train because I’m always trying to get back to whatever my point was and don’t have time for anything else. It makes me more voracious to knock out a post and push the person in that direction. Or get chest to chest. Or keep their arm away from their body. Or pull their elbow to my chest. Don’t get so lost in trying to remember every detail that you forget the point. Once you have the point front and center, all those details can help you get there. But without it, you’re driving on an unmapped road with no destination.

Remember what you’re actually trying to do and you can keep your eyes better on those things no matter what happens along the way.