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You're a beginner and show up day after day to have your mind crammed with "a slight hip out, to grip here, then use your hooks to elevate, then switch base, then secure the underhook..."

I get it.

I've been there and most of us all have.

There's a hot debate in grappling about what is the "best way" to learn however there's a scientifically backed way to memorise the steps needed in a given technique.


Ever heard of "chunking"?

It's not going out all weekend and getting on the kebabs. 

Essentially, it's taking larger pieces of information and making them into a process of pieces or situations to make them clearer and more readily absorbed and recalled.

Lapel grip on a bjj gi

You should be able to learn just about every technique in its base form in a maximum of 3 chunks.

That might sound impossible to a new player, but there are some tricky ways to go about this.

Firstly, designate a starting position that is specifically not the first step.


Think of it like this;

If I go the confusing route to perform a typical scissor sweep, I'd look at it like:

  1. Start in closed guard
  2. Secure sleeve grips.
  3. Hip out
  4. Slide knee across hip to opposing shoulder.
  5. Grip lapel.
  6. Slide leg down to opponents base knee.
  7. Scissor motion.
  8. Come up into mount/side control.
  9. Consolidate position with underhook etc.

You should think of it like this:

Initial position = closed guard, sleeve grips.

  1. Hip out + Secure lapel
  2. Knee slides across + leg drops to base knee.
  3. Sweep motion + secure side control.

Simpler right?

Too often grapplers fresh to the game get bogged down with the details when you can't even nail the bare bones.

If you start an artistic painting class, you start with the lines of the picture before learning to add depth and colour. 

Another way to think of this is the Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) applied to grappling, which I've conveniently added above and with the same technique mind you. 

You can then think of the flesh stacking onto the bones as the meaty details - pun intended - and organs learning the actual game of grappling.

The next step in learning any technique is to drill...

Not just drill the technique but drill it perfectly.

Really hunker down on each chunk and start to refine it. 

An added bonus of chunking is that you can isolate a chunk that is the problem, rather than having 7 convoluted steps and wondering where the actual issue with your ineffective technique is coming from. 

Too often instructors hear "my *insert technique name here* sucks..."

And then what happens?

"Show me," says your coach.

Instead, take your chunks and get to know them very well through repetitious drilling. 

You should be able to define at what point the sweep in breaking down, or at least jump to that part and then some magic happens...

You get greater and more fulfilling answers from your coach who realises you are taking responsibility for your learning and understanding. 

This should be enough for you to turn your learning style on its head and make some real progress in smashing out some serious techniques you can weave into a grappling gameplan. 

Stay tuned for more info on for beginners to stay in the roll as you #WriteYourOwnHistory

Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life.

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