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Remembering Techniques

I recently had a blue belt training partner approach me after class one day. He asked me how was I able to remember all of the moves that the instructor taught.

That day in class we covered one major position. But many different complex options that we could utilize depending on our opponent’s reactions.

I offered him a few suggestions that help me personally.

But I didn’t think much of it. Looking back a lot of the students (from blue belt all the way up to black belt) seemed to struggle stringing together the techniques.

As much as I like to think that I have a great memory and am a Jiu Jitsu wiz. There are times when I’m slow to pick up a move or the technique doesn’t seem to “click” at first.

Starting Out

When you first begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu everything is new to you.

Even if you have a background in other sports or martial arts. Jiu Jitsu is unlike anything else out there.

Take for instance the simple act of shrimping. The concept of moving on the ground sounds easy enough. Actual doing it is hard.

I remember being a white belt and seeing my instructor show a technique (multiple times and with lots of details) and by the time it took to walk back to my partner and practice the move. I would completely blank out.

When you start doing Jiu Jitsu, it’s very much like learning to swim all over again.

You’re uncoordinated. Swore all over from using muscles that you didn’t even know you had, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t help that most people’s interaction with the ground is limited to rolling around on their bed or getting off of the ground when they happen to slip and fall.

Even if you do understand the concepts behind the moves. That doesn’t mean that your body is physically prepared to turn your understanding into action.

You will see this a lot when someone takes time off of training. They will know exactly what moves to perform but their timing will be way off. Their body literally cannot keep up with their mind.


A lot of remembering techniques comes from experience.

Experience seeing the movements being done over and over.

The experience of trying the move and having it not work. Then having to troubleshoot the move.

Find Your Learning Style(s)

For new and more seasoned students, I think it’s important for you to understand how you learn best.

Jiu Jitsu is an introspective art form. I know many people use Jiu Jitsu as a cathartic release. A way of relieving strong emotions and stress. But if you really want to improve you will need to put a lot of thought into your practice. There’s no other way.

“The best advice that John Danaher gave me is to continually have intentionality in jiu-jitsu; in the immediate term, intentionality of movement, every grip, every set up must have a clear purpose. In the longer term to always have focused goals for your skill.”

-Ottavia Bourdain

The 7 Jiu Jitsu Learning Styles

Visual (spatial):

  1. You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

  2. Visual learners learn by watching the technique being performed.

  3. They are also great at visualizing moves and outcomes in their mind.

Aural (auditory-musical):

  1. You prefer using sound and music.

  2. Aural learners learn best when there is sound and music.

  3. You will often find that they hum or sing songs while training.

Verbal (linguistic):

  1. You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

  2. Verbal learners work best when being told detailed instructions on how to perform a technique or action.

  3. The more details the better. Often seen carrying around a Jiu Jitsu journal to write down new moves.

Physical (kinesthetic):

  1. You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

  2. Physical learners think while moving their bodies.

  3. They might have trouble picking up a move just from watching it. But will get it down once they get a chance to perform the technique.

Logical (mathematical):

  1. You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

  2. Logical learners work best when taught through the use of concepts and systems. They are the go to when it comes to solving problems and figuring out different positions.

  3. Logical learners love examples and connecting techniques to other movements.

Social (interpersonal):

  1. You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

  2. Social learns work best by bouncing thoughts off of their training partners and listening to their feedback. The more group energy the better.

  3. Social learners enjoy open mats and taking private lessons.

Solitary (intrapersonal):

  1. You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

  2. Solitary learners will often learn through self study of videos and online training programs.

  3. Solitary learners enjoy working independently and figuring out different positions and techniques on their own.

Great Instructors

The best instructors are able to teach to multiple styles of learning all at once. They are able to find a way for every student to understand the techniques that they show.

Student of Jiu Jitsu

As a student of Jiu Jitsu it is your job to understand the way you learn best.

In the ideal world your instructor would be able to cater to your learning style but due to class size and time limits this isn’t always possible.

Regardless, as you progress in your study of Jiu Jitsu. You instructor will go from holding your hand and walking you through techniques to becoming more of mentor.


A lot of the confusion in learning techniques (and remembering them) is that you don’t utilize your dominant style(s) of learning.

There are lots of exercises and tools that you can use:

  1. Visualizing yourself performing the techniques.

  2. Filming moves

  3. Keeping a Jiu Jitsu journal

  4. Watching the technique being done multiple times

  5. Having your instructor physically place you in the right position

There are no shortages of tools that you can use to help yourself retain techniques and moves. But I think the most important step is the first step. You have to make a conscious decision to improve and a conscious effort to take the action.

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