The first time I started teaching jiu jitsu, I covered for someone else. I asked him what I should teach. He said, “Anything you want.” I wanted to do a good job so I picked 3 or 4 techniques that I really liked at the time and taught them all that day. Learning 3 techniques in one class was pretty standard where I trained. So, in order to do a really good job, I thought I would teach 4. I believed that more was better.
Years later, after I opened URSA Academy, I had to miss a class so I had a purple belt teach for me. I called him and asked what he taught. He told me that he taught his FIVE favorite arm bars or submissions that can come from an arm bar. FIVE TECHNIQUES in one class. He wanted to do a great job and blow people away with awesome stuff, so he packed as much as he could into a 90 minute class as possible.
There are two ways to be BETTER. Quantity.. or Quality. When you don’t understand how to improve ‘Quality,’ you err on the side of ‘quantity.’
I didn’t understand ‘quality’ when I first started teaching & neither did my guest instructor. In an average week, I did what I had always seen & heard. I threw a ton of techniques at people, roughly 3 per day, or 18 per week! If you’re training right now in an academy that teaches 3+ techniques per class, this scenario is probably pretty common. Warm up, learn a technique, break off into pairs, rep 2-3 times then sit & talk about it. Get back into the group, learn a new technique.. Then break off into pairs, ask your partner if they know the technique because neither of you were paying attention. Maybe rep 2-3 times, sit & talk, and wish you were rolling.. And then repeat the whole thing one more time for technique #3.. After that. You roll and NOBODY does ANY the techniques you just learned.
That’s the quantity approach. And it’s the most common BY FAR. Almost everyone does this. But in jiu jitsu, (and in most things,) knowing a little bit about everything will leave you coming up short really quickly. The phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind here.
The QUALITY approach is the best way to be successful. Period. There are examples of this at the highest level of any sport. Miguel Cabrera is a hitter. Steve Nash was a shooter, Dennis Rodman was a rebounder. We see the same thing in jiu jitsu. Roger Gracie takes people’s backs & chokes them out. Saulo Ribeiro takes mount & x chokes everyone. Rafa & Gui Mendes have their unique guard games. Of course, they know all styles, but they have perfected their own. That decision to focus one element and become the best at that thing has led all of them to the top of their respective sports.
When I began to understand the Quality Approach, I completely changed my teaching style. Over time, I went from teaching 18-20 technique to 2. In my most advanced class, which is offered 6 times per week, I teach 2 techniques per week. My goal is to set my students on the path to becoming experts on the techniques I teach. In private lessons, we niche this down even more. I work with each individual student to help them develop their own unique game. For example, if I’m working on more of a ‘smash’/power technique in our advanced class, and I’m giving a private lesson to a woman who is 103 pounds, our lesson is going to be about how to avoid getting smashed and getting back to positions that are more in her wheelhouse.
In our kids classes, I want them to be experts on self defense. I want them to be able to defend themselves in any position on the mat, or off. After that, one technique we like to work on is the simple arm bar. I want them to understand arm bars forwards, backwards, and upside down. We call them our little “arm bar hunters.” They should be so good at arm bars that they can spot them from everywhere, from the mount, the guard, the back, razors, etc. They may not know the latest Youtube submission, but they will be experts on a highly effective submission that they can apply from almost anywhere.
I always say that Saulo could teach a tutorial on his x choke and how to defend it. He could show it to his opponents, and still hit it on them in a tournament. He wins with simple techniques, not because it’s tricky, sneaky, or because people don’t know what’s coming. He wins because he’s the best in the world at what he does. How many hours do you think he’s practiced that top game in his life? I have no idea.. But from my personal experience training with him for years, I can tell you he’s practiced that game a lot.. I can’t count the number of times he’s x choked me.. But I can say it’s a heck of lot more than he ever trained inverted guard. QUALITY over Quantity.
At URSA Academy, and in my online curriculum The BJJ Teaching Pro, I developed a mind map that outlines the core techniques that jiu jitsu students need to be successful. People are often shocked when they see it because the number of techniques is pretty small. It seems like it couldn’t possibly be enough. When I first designed it, I wanted to outline the journey from white belt to blue belt. But by looking at the specialties of the greats like Roger Gracie and Saulo Ribeiro, I changed my mind. They used WHITE to BLUE belt techniques at the highest level and they won.
When you recognize the Quality Approach’s superiority over the Quantity Approach, you’ll understand that this mind map isn’t a beginner’s tool to be discarded when you get promoted to purple belt. Its the nucleus of your game that you’ll use for the entire length of your jiu jitsu career. And it’s the foundation for all of our curriculum for every program at URSA Academy.