Jiu-Jitsu is the most technical martial art I’ve ever experienced. There is literally an option (usually multiple options) for every way the body moves. Learning, understanding, and retaining those options is important to getting good and an absolute necessity if you want to earn Black Belt. This leads to one of the most commonly asked questions I receive.

“What should I be doing to retain all this information?”

Often, the answer is something along the lines of, “Get to class.” That, however, isn’t a very fair answer. Certainly, the more often you’re exposed to techniques, the more likely you are to retain them. There are other options! Here’s a list 5 great ways to retain the information you’re learning in classes!

  1. Take 5: After classes, my members are always geared up and ready to start rolling during open mat. That’s awesome. However, if you just spent ½ hour to an hour learning new moves, it’s unlikely that you got many repetitions in. Take an extra 5 minutes AFTER each and every class to go through every technique you’ve learned that week. Be sure you’re still remembering every step and every detail. Do this before you roll, while it’s still fresh on your mind. Trust me, you won’t miss that 5 minutes of rolling and the benefits are immeasurable in terms of retention.
  1. Take Notes: I’ve never been a good note taker. It’s just not my jam. But I’ve seen and worked with those who are. Right after you read this go create 5 Files; standing, guard, side control, mount, back mount. Feel free to create sub-folders for things like half guard and technical mount ect. Take meticulous notes in class. Highlight details you feel you may forget. When you get home, type out those notes and maybe even draw pictures if you’re a good artist. Slide them into your folders for quick reference later.
  1. Be Present: Ok, this may sound like “come to class” but it’s not quite the same. What I’m saying is when you are in class, be focused only on what’s going on in class. Let go of your work stress, don’t get drawn into side conversations, and listen to understand, not to respond. Just allow the class to completely consume you for an hour and you’ll be absolutely amazed at how well you remember it.
  1. Video is your friend: Even if your instructor doesn’t let you video them doing the move, learn it and video it after every class. Similar to taking notes, you can store them on a hard drive that’s well organized. Reference it later as needed.
  1. Be there even when you’re not there: This is my biggest secret. Even when I’m not in class, I’m thinking about what we did in class. That evening as I lay down, I try to remember every detail; my body even moves a little as I do. When I wake up, I do the same. Now those techniques get locked in. This is the method I use to remember the stuff that’s most important to me. I drill it in my mind over and over. Because I’ve trained for so long now, my body just follows.

BONUS: Don’t try to figure out how to beat the move right away. Pedro Sauer refers to that as “Anti Jiu-Jitsu.” It’s one of the worst things you can do and it’s 100% the most common mistake people make. I show them a move and they immediately ask, “How do I defeat that?” If you take the time to understand the move, the answer on how to defeat it efficiently will appear as your understanding increases. NO ANTI JIU JITSU!

Now, I’m sure a pedagogy expert can rattle off 20 or 30 more methods. But this last little piece of advice might be the most important yet. Allow yourself to forget things from time to time. Quite often, your instructor will be showing you stuff that your body is just not ready to accept. When that happens, let it wash away like a leaf being washed from the shore.

The crazy thing is, more often than not, those tidbits we allow to drift away will find their way back to us as soon as our minds and bodies are ready for them.

-Bill  Jones is a black belt under Master Pedro Sauer is the owner and Head Instructor of Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. Find him on the web at http://toplevelmartialarts.com.