How to Drill BJJ Transitions

Learning jiujitsu is like learning a language. You don’t do it all at once. You learn the smallest, most base elements of a new tongue (an alphabet, words) before you dive in to the whole grand structure.

As you get more building blocks — more movements, a larger vocabulary of techniques — your understanding of the physical grammar expands. This is an exciting, albeit frustrating, process. I still remember the first time I hit the basic rear naked choke, and I also remember the months it took me to get there.

But you can’t say the same words forever unless you’re Hodor. You also can’t rear naked choke everyone either. If you want to become fluent, you have to acknowledge that what you’re aiming for is a long process.

That’s where transitions come in. Learning a technique well is powerful, but learning to flow between the techniques amplifies that power manifold. It’s the difference between knowing words and being able to have a conversation.

In this analogy, drilling complete transitions — chaining moves together — represents sentences and phrases, the core components of dialogue. When someone defends our attack, we want to be able to understand the language of that defense — and have our responsive phrase flow from us immediately and effortlessly.

We’ve talked about the power of drilling before. It helps us solidify our core of knowledge. Other people have knowledge, too, though. To stay ahead of them, we have to drill, and to drill chains of moves. I had a great response to my earlier post about how I drill and learn moves, so I thought it might be helpful to do a follow-up on my method for drilling transitions.

I divide the types of chain drills I do into two categories in my mind: static (or simple) and dynamic (or active). These aren’t cut-and-dried distinctions, but it’s how I think about them. We’ll start with the most simplistic versions of these and advance to the most complex.

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How To Get Better At Learning Jiujitsu (With Notes & Drilling)

As my future father-in-law says: you pay for everything with either money or time, and sometimes both. Ideally, you should maximize your return on all investments.

If you go to class three times a week, you’re probably spending at least 7 hours of your life (and your monthly gym dues) trying to learn jiujitsu. Maybe you’ve had the experience of learning a move, being interested in it, playing around with it … and then two months later, you have no clue what happened, and six months later when your instructor shows you the move again you slap your forehead because you forgot you’d even seen it.

Or take going to a jiujitsu seminar, for another example. If you spend $65 and two or three hours of your life to learn from Dave Camarillo, for example, you probably learned a lot. You’ve invested time and money. What if someone told you just a little more effort could cement that knowledge in your mind, expanding your repertoire over the long term?

Well, that someone is me. Continue reading