There is a commonly heard phrase in BJJ: “Learn from everyone”.
There are two ideas here:
1) One must always keep an open mind in jiu-jitsu.
2) We can learn much from other students, even from some seemingly unlikely sources.
That dreaded ego can get in the way of some valuable learning. If you are most concerned with proving how much you know to others, you will not be listening; you will be talking.
If you refuse to believe that you can learn from a lower belt, that is the ego getting in the way.
Let’s take a look at a specific example of how I have learned many great techniques and details from others.
We frequently have out-of-town visitors at my academy. From various BJJ academies around the world, they come in carrying the knowledge of their instructors and show some nice rolling. I like to observe them while they’re rolling and spot certain patterns and positions that they are especially sharp at.
A guest brown belt named Rama was sweeping everyone with a strong butterfly guard. After the roll I asked him, “I notice that you like to use the butterfly guard with an overhook. I’d like to ask what grips are you fighting for? What is your best sweep?”
Then I set aside what I know on the position and open my ears.
He gave me some tips that I never thought of before:
A) Get the head position. Place your head underneath the opponent so he can not flatten you out.
B) Create an angle
C) Grip fight for the free hand
“Gold Jerry! Gold!” (Seinfeld reference).
I then asked clarifying questions. I asked if I can feel them do it on me. I asked if I can perform the move of them to see if they can correct a mistake.
So many times I have gotten a diamond detail from a visiting student on a position that I am interested in. I call this “skimming the cream off the top”. You have already done the thousands of hours of training the position to sharpness, and all of that knowledge is mine for the asking!
The next time someone visits your academy and shows a solid position, pick their brain and see what you can learn for your own jiu-jitsu!
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