Tips to Help You Focus & Retain BJJ Technique

Especially for newcomers to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it can be difficult to absorb and retain knowledge during class. Whether you’re tired from work or just overwhelmed about the bombardment of new information, these tips will help you stay focused and remember what you learned.

Can’t Stay Focused During BJJ Class?

Tip #1: Don’t just use your ears; use your eyes

BJJ instructors will often talk students through the steps of the technique as they display it, but sometimes the verbal instruction can be confusing to newcomers. As a student, make sure you are analyzing what your instructor is doing visually, as well as listening to their verbal cues. Additionally, sometimes what they are saying and what they are doing don’t perfectly line up, or maybe they just aren’t doing a good job of explaining it. Regardless, make sure you are both listening and watching to what they are doing.

Tip #2: Get up, walk around, and get the right view

If you’re new to BJJ and the warmups are still gassing you out, you may be relishing the opportunity to take a breather when it comes time to learn technique. It can be tempting to take a seat, but you’re probably missing out on key details. Get up, walk around, and pay attention to what the instructor is doing. Where are their hands doing? What are their feet doing? In order to answer these questions, you will likely need to walk around and get multiple viewpoints.

Tip #3: Mimic the movement while it’s being taught

If the technique involves a lot of moving around, it can be helpful to shadow the motion while the instructor is showing it. You don’t need a partner for this, simply try to mimic their movements by yourself. Additionally, you can drill these movements later if you want to work on technique by yourself.

Tip #4: Ask questions before you try the technique

If the instructor asks if anyone has questions once they are done showing the technique, don’t be afraid to contribute constructively.

Can’t Remember the Technique Steps During Class?

Tip #1: Break it down into simple steps (i.e. summarization)

If you are having trouble remembering the technique from start to finish, try to break it down into 4 simple steps. Come up with a 4-step overview of the technique in your mind, and then you can worry about remembering the nitty gritty details later.

Tip #2: Use memorable words for each step (i.e. mnemonics)

Once you have your 4-step overview, assign a memorable word to each step. Try to keep it as simple as possible. If the first step involves grabbing the collar, assign the word “grab” or “collar” to the step. Once you have the 4-step process and have assigned a word to each step, it will be easier to remember all of the smaller details associated with each step at a later time.

Tip #3: Understand the context of the technique

Sometimes, your instructor may teach multiple techniques that chain together in a series. Other than, they may teach individual techniques. When learning an individual technique, it can be helpful to understand the context. When is this technique used? How do I set it up? Where do I go from there? As a newcomer, these can be helpful questions to ask your instructor, and they will apply to almost every technique when taught individually.

Can’t Remember the Technique Steps After Class?

Tip #1: Take at least one thing away from every class

Even if you are completely overwhelmed by the information, focus on taking one key detail away from every class. It will add up over time.

Tip #2: Write everything you learned down in a book

It doesn’t matter whether you write it down directly after class, when you get home, or the next day--just make sure you write it down. The earlier the better, but later is better than nothing.

Tip #3: Talk about what you learned on the ride home

Even if you are talking to yourself, discuss what you worked on during drilling and sparring. Walk yourself through the steps of the technique you learned. Pretend that you are teaching someone who doesn’t know the technique. Can you clearly and concisely relay the information?

Tip #4: Replay what you learned in your head (i.e. visualization)

See if you can visualize every step of the technique in your mind. Try to recall as many details as possible. Where are your hands and your feet? Are you on your side or on your back? How is your opponent positioned? Imagine every little movement as you walk your way through the technique. Just be careful not to do this one the drive home, you might end up in the ditch.

General Tips for Retaining BJJ Techniques

Tip #1: Read books to study known and new techniques

There are many great books that break down various BJJ techniques. While books are limited in conveying the dynamic nature of BJJ, they are a great reference tool that is portable and easy to search through. Additionally, books allow the unique opportunity to learn about the thought processes and philosophies of many BJJ legends.

Tip #2: Record your sparring sessions and watch them

Ask your instructor and/or training partners if you can set up your phone or camera to record your sparring sessions. This can be a great way to learn both from your mistakes and your opponent’s successes.

Tip #3: Watch the professionals and what they do

You can learn a lot by viewing professional BJJ competitions, tournaments, and super fights. It can be insightful to see what techniques work at the highest level of competition, as well as pick out any new advancements or meta shifts.

Tip #4: Listen to interviews with the professionals

You can find tons of great interviews with BJJ legends and/or professionals, often times for free through podcasts, YouTube videos, or new websites. This provides a great opportunity to get inside the mind of the best grapplers in the world. Listen to their experiences, heed their advice, and see if you can incorporate any of it into your training.

Tip #5: Diversify your training with other gyms

It’s amazing how a fresh perspective can change the way you think about your game. There have been many situations where I had trouble learning a particular technique, but when a new instructor taught it to me, I instantly got it. Everyone has a slightly different take, view, or approach to BJJ. The more diversity you can experience, the better you will be. That being said, you don’t have to take every piece of advice. You can still be critical and open to new views at the same time.

Justin Murphybjj, techniques, retain, focus