Since one of my coaches, a multiple degree BJJ Black Belt pointed out to me that a famous Jiu Jitsu instructor starts his mount attacks instructionals always against a mount bottom position that is so poor, he could really show any almost any submission and have a really good chance of finishing them, I’ve noticed that more often than not, the posture of the mount bottom player is appalling. If anything, the more famous the instructor or the more glittering their career, the worse the demo partner’s posture is. And I now rarely see Jiu Jitsu instruction from the mount position that shows anything close to the correct defensive posture as defined by someone like Rickson Gracie, when this is the area of focus. Once you have seen Rickson’s approach, its pretty clear why almost everything else seems incorrect. Almost every world class competitor seems to begin against a sitting duck mount defence. Here I show what I believe is the simplest way to deal with such poor posture, and the big lesson really, is don’t ever hold mount bottom as we do above.
Why do all-time greats show moves that are clearly wrong and usually not what they doing in practice?
Criticising the all-time greats of any sport, in any way, can be easily put down by the retort of an appeal to authority “who are you / what have you done compared to Michael Jordan?” However, if you are to model any of the great chess champions in a project to build a chess machine, not even Kasparov gets a pass. The vast majority of JiuJitsu practitioners, like most human beings, allow their critical faculties to be suppressed in the presence of authority. Professor Robert Ciadini who produced the best selling psychology book “Influence” has spent his academic career examining why this happens. A few humans can be incredibly cruel,. What is interesting is how statistically almost all of us can be manipulated into torturing another human being, as long as we are told to do so by an authority figure such as a scientist, and especially someone we perceive as a Medical Doctor, in a white coat, electricuting someone for their own good, no matter how much the victim protests. It is in no doubt, that many all-time greats get little critical feedback.
Secondly, as Polanyi wrote “I know more than I can tell”. Polanyi was fascinated with why experts often cannot explain what they actually do for example think about a brain surgeon trying to explain their mastery while they operate or even afterwards. The difference between what they say they do, and what they actually do is often separated by a huge chasm. This discussion has now been framed within the tacit vs explicit argument and is frequently citied in debates over how far artificial intelligence will replace humans. However this process is far more useful if defined as steps from tacit knowledge; all that we know regardless of whether we even know that we know it; through to the explicit; where everything can be explained and codified in binary such that it’s completely replicable by another human or machine.
What steps can we take to begin this process in practice?
Secondly, we can ask “were I to make these instructions fail, where would I start?” In the above example, my coach started at the posture of the ‘victim’ on mount bottom. The whole video was predicated on a clueless defensive posture. By continually asking where the champion is failing to explain the most important defence, at each step, we begin to unpick the entire position for our own learning and our student’s benefit.
Thirdly, invoking Einstein, we reduce our word count, our verbiage if you will, down to the minimum required, but no less. This dramatically improves both our understanding, our focus, and our student’s ability to digest our explanations and transfer the most vital knowledge. It is commonly quoted that humans can remember about 8% of any presentation. After 24 hours, they can recall about 0.8%. This goes some way to explaining why most coaches have quite broken learning environments. Video is a vital component to reflecting on our coaching, practise, and performance.