The Difference Between Knowing and Doing

Team Ironside / Flickr Creative Commons

I made a significant mistake when I first started teaching BJJ.

In an effort to share as much technical knowledge as I could, I would show three to five new techniques each class.

Sounds great, right? A whole bunch of new moves every class!

I also felt I was proving to the students that I possessed a lot of knowledge.  What can I say? I wanted to impress them.

They may have been entertained and possibly even a little impressed, but I soon found out that I was making a classic teacher’s mistake: the best way to teach someone NOTHING is to try to teach them EVERYTHING.

The students were simply not retaining the techniques from each class. Just seeing a move once and performing ten reps and saying “Got it!” is not effective in learning a move.

There is a HUGE difference between “knowing” or being able to describe a technique
AND doing a move enough times to commit it to muscle memory.

Many BJJ students can show you numerous sweeps, but the number who can actually execute those sweeps while sparring is much lower.

A technique understood at a superficial level will not likely work against a fully resisting opponent – that is, if you can even recognize the opportunity and use it!

In contrast, I did a training trip to the original Carlson Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was surprised to discover that we worked on a single position all week and usually two techniques at most in a class.

Instead of getting ten reps before the instructor started the next technique, we busted out many reps, almost to the point of boredom.

However, I could do that sweep with my eyes closed by the week’s end, and after those endless repetitions, you can bet I never forgot that half guard sweep!

I understood that this was key to actually being able to DO the move instead of “just kind of knowing” multiple moves.

Read also: Jiu-jitsu Times – Don’t Skip The Details!