I once saw a new student who was astonished at how, once the roll started, he completely forgot the techniques he had been drilling in class.
He is not alone. I have observed many new students drill a technique smoothly and competently during the instructional portion of class only to forget it once they start rolling.
When I roll with students, I will steer them into the position that we studied in class and pause to give them time to react.
The students go blank.
I point out to them, “This is the position that we just did in class. Do the move we just learned!”
The light suddenly comes on in their eyes and they try the move.
But why is it that students frequently forget what they just learned in class?
Answer: a combination of adrenaline, heightened psychological arousal, and fatigue. These impede our ability to recognize and recall our techniques.
Heightened emotional states negatively affect our ability to mentally process information and react smoothly and quickly. Studies have shown that people lose control over their finer motor skills when they are stressed.
Critics of some self-defense techniques involving intricate wrist locks point out that in an adrenaline-filled, self-defense situation, we have limited ability to effectively execute movements requiring dexterity.
Gross motor movements (larger movements) involving the entire body – like a double leg takedown – are easier for the body to do than an Aikido wrist lock requiring precise timing and accurate grips.
You might know 100 techniques, but when the adrenaline courses through your blood stream, you develop tunnel vision. Your focus narrows and your ability to recall your techniques is cut in half.
You will only to be able to use a small subset of the total techniques that you have trained.
Another major factor is physical fatigue. Observe the contrast between the crisp techniques executed by MMA fighters in the first round in comparison to the sloppy, slow, and limited punches in the later rounds. Being tired severely limits both our mental and physical capacity.
What can we do about this?
Three major things:
First, put your hours in on the mats. Mat time and experience in training those techniques into your muscle memory will gradually increase your ability to recall those techniques during rolling.
Second, breath. Meditation and other methods of relaxation involve controlling the breath and breathing slowly and deeply. The amazing Kron Gracie has spoken in interviews about the importance of relaxed breathing in fighting.
When we tense up in rolling, we are also unconsciously holding our breath. This rapidly tires us and closes our minds.
Finally, compete. Many instructors emphasize competition in order to expose students to conditions that test their ability to use jiu-jitsu in a stressful situation.
Practice these three things and you will be much likely to forget your techniques.
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