After my clean desk post, Murphy's Law struck again. Jason Scully puts out a great service called Grappling Tips that come right to your email inbox for free. Today's email was the first in a series of two about how to take notes and be effective in remembering your jiu jitsu techniques. You can be added to this list if you email him at Grapplers Guide: email@example.com
Without further ado, I shamelessly repost!
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***Those of you who are used to my writing know that sometimes my
tips and articles can be long but they are fully of information I
truly believe can help. So always make sure you read the whole
People take notes for many different reasons. You take notes in
school so you can study, you jot down notes when you need to
remember what to pick up at the store, and you may take notes when
you have an idea that you want to try out or check on. I know I do
in these situations, so I have some questions for you.
-- Do you bring a notebook into class with you when you train?
If so, what do you do with it in class?
-- Do you have a notebook that you write in at home after
training? If so, what kind of notes do you write down when you get
-- Do you have a specific way you take notes? Is there a system?
-- Do you review your notes that you take? Does it help you
remember techniques or make you better? Do you even do anything
For the first 2 years of my training I wrote down every single
technique that I learned. I would go home and then type out every
single detail that I could remember. I would categorize the
movements, date them, and I even made a color key so I knew right
away what type of category each technique fell under. Around the 2
year mark I compiled about 400 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques that
I learned in class. I was a true collector of techniques. I wanted
to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Now am I saying you should do what I did? Definitely not! Why?
Because I took all of that time to write down all of these
techniques and I must have only reviewed them only 10 times max. I
realized that just because I wrote down everything I learned didn't
mean that I was going to remember everything. Another thing I
realized was that the task was very monotonous and didn't have any
real significance in regards to what I needed to get better at in
It turned into the equivalence of collecting baseball cards but
instead I was just collecting techniques. Once I realized that this
approach wasn't really benefiting me, I didn't stop taking notes
but I decided to change my approach so that if I was going to take
notes it was going to be in a way that would actually help me get
Here is what I did:
-- I stopped writing down every technique that I learned
-- I only focused on things I was having trouble with. If you
focus on actual problems you are facing then it will be more likely
that you'll remember what you learned and it will help you improve
your actual game right away.
-- Everything I wrote down in training was in the form of a
question or I would have a question at least related to everything
I wrote down. Why? Because if I wrote it down in question form,
then I would be well prepared to ask that question to someone who
may know the answer and it will help them relay the information
easier back to me.
-- I realized that the one important aspect of my training that
I wasn't taking notes on was my rolling. So after each training
session I would go home and I would write down questions that
related to that nights rolling. The reason I started doing this was
because during rolling you experience issues that you really are
having trouble with. These are areas that affect what you are
actually trying to do, so these are the things you should focus on
more then anything. Examples of the types of things I would write
down after rolling would be.
----- How can I stop my opponent from turning their hip down on
me in half guard?
----- What can I do to open my opponent's closed guard if I'm
----- When I'm in the guard I keep getting caught in a triangle
choke. How can I prevent this?
----- How can I stop my partner from getting the guard back
when I have them in side control position?
----- I went for a hug choke but for some reason I couldn't get
it. What was I doing wrong?
----- How can I stop from getting mounted?
-- After I would write down the question, I would reflect on
what happened in regards to that question I asked. The reason I
would do this is for a couple of reasons actually. It will help me
try to figure out what I might have been doing wrong myself and it
will also help me tell my instructor what I felt happening during
the situation so he can better assist me in fixing the problem.
For example if I had the question "What can I do to open my
opponent's closed guard?" I would write down what I remembered
happening such as:
----- He kept pulling down on my head.
----- I couldn't open my training partners guard by using my
----- When I tried to put my knee under my partner's butt I
would lose my balance.
To make this even better you should take advantage of your breaks
between rolling. When you are done rolling each time go straight to
your notebook and jot down one issue you want to address that
happened during that rolling session. Whether it was a problem you
had that your opponent was causing or a problem you had that you
couldn't quite figure out to do yourself. If you roll four times
during one training session then you should have four different
issues to address. Or you can mark off a particular issue if it
happens again in a different rolling session with an asterisk,
which is noting that particular issue as a primary focus that you
need to address. You don't have to think of a question to write
during this time. Just write down something to help you remember
Then when you go home take each issue that you wrote down and
create a question for each one. You now should have four questions
related to your training in regards to what happened during your
live rolling sessions. These questions will be more important then
any technique that you decide to write down because they are issues
that you really had trouble with. They happened while you were
going against a resisting opponent.
The goal is to improve upon your current game as much as possible.
Expand it and make it better.
As you train more and more you should have a list of questions in
your notebook related to your current issues. Some questions may
come up frequently and those particular questions you should mark
down as "very important". Those should be the areas you address
more then others because you want to prevent yourself from
experiencing the same problems over and over again.
Remember also to note your experiences in regards to the situation
you created the question about so you have some information to feed
to your instructor when you approach him. If you have readily
prepared questions and experiences corresponding to that question
you will help your instructor a lot in regards to them being able
to help you even more.
Now that you are building a list of questions in regards to your
game, what can you do with those questions?
-- After class pull out your notebook then look at the your
questions (along with your experiences related to the questions)
and ask your instructor at least one question. This question is
very important because it's a real problem you had. Usually one or
two questions max (mostly one) is good because other students may
have questions also.
-- Use these question so you can be prepared if you decide to
take a private lesson with someone. To have a set list of questions
when you attend a private lesson is a great courtesy to both you
and your instructor you're meeting with. It will make the lesson
much more productive, it will run smoother, and you'll get a lot
more out of it.
-- You can even use these questions to ask fellow grapplers on
the internet and see what they can come up with or what experiences
they have in relation to your issue.
The main point is to have actual questions that related to real
problems you're having in your training. Don't waste your rolling
time. That is the time where you should actually be taking notes.
After each training session you should have a minimum of two
questions created related to what happened when you were rolling
with your partners. You may not get a chance to address each
question right away and your list of questions my build up faster
then they are checked off as "addressed" but at least you know
exactly what it is that you need to work on and what it is you
should ask for help on.
Be on the lookout for a Part 2 on taking notes which will talk
about how to effectively take notes of techniques you learn in
class without becoming just a "collector"!
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to reply to
Jason Scully a.k.a The Grapplers Guide
BJJ Black Belt