A first year student came to BJJ class last week and was very excited about an awesome move that he had seen on YouTube.
Now, I’m not one of those cynical types who think that new students should avoid YouTube completely and restrict themselves to only the techniques that are taught in class. In fact, I sometimes give BJJ “homework” to students to check out online videos as a study aid for whatever position they are trying to master.
It can be very useful to stand back and view the techniques from a distance when you are trying to wrap your brain around a complex movement.
The downside of YouTube BJJ is less experienced students studying the wrong stuff for their level.
Firstly, one must have solid fundamentals — e.g., posture, base, and mobility — to be able to pull off many of the more advanced sports BJJ positions. You will get there eventually, but it is a wiser progression to get the basic techniques down.
The second reason is that the newer student is not able to distinguish between high percentage techniques and low percentage techniques.
What is the difference? High percentage techniques are those basics that everyone knows but have been effective since the days when Carlson Gracie was fighting to defend the Gracie family name in Brazil.
The low percentage moves can be spectacular (“Wow! Check this out!!” as you show your training buddy) and leave you wanting to rewatch the video several times to understand what the guy did.
However, as the name implies, they are not particularly effective.
There is nothing wrong with being creative and exploring the possibilities of movement and having fun, but you should be able to identify the difference between a high and low percentage technique and understand the risks in trying to pull it off in live rolling.
Here is how to identify low percentage movies:
First, they will work only against a training partner who is much less experienced than you, much smaller, or who is caught completely by surprise by the move.
After being caught once, they will easily be able to defend subsequent attempts. Good luck pulling it off against an opponent of similar level to your own.
Second, they involve huge movements and complicated transitions that an opponent who is equal in skill to you can counter by making a swift, technical defense.
Many of the low percentage moves that are seen in Instagram videos are fun to watch, but rewatch them and see how the training “dummy” is frozen in movement or his arms are lying limply at his side as the fancy move is executed.
In real matches, your opponent doesn’t just lie there like a limp noodle as you perform a complicated transition with several steps.
You might pull these low percentage moves off once in a while, but the basics are much higher percentage.