A-Game Architecture: Discover Your Current Self

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Oxford defines “Technique” as a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.

Technique expression can be thought of as the proficiency of collective skills we demonstrate, consistently over time and under varying degrees of difficulty, through our ability to absorb, analyze, and automate what we learn (based on the conditions of training or competition).

Routinely referred to as your “A Game”, expressing your technique at the highest levels can be as much art as it is science.

In this article we will focus on what you have the most control over and capturing this information to create a baseline of where you are today.

Note: This article will not focus on external influences (e.g., gym environment, instructor quality, and training partner availability, or your partner/opponent attributes). Those play a role in this process as well, but are outside the scope of this analysis.

What We Control

We all have intrinsic drivers that provide us with core capabilities that we have influence over in our ability to improve at a given skill. Before focusing outward, we should take a good look inward first.

As martial artists, we know that the work in the gym is only art of the equation. We need to put work into ourselves by looking inward outside of the gym to understand what makes us the person we are, what drives us, what skills we currently bring to the mat, and what we perceive to be our current state of capabilities and challenges with them.

To breakthrough what we perceive as challenges, we will leverage a methodical process to learn about ourselves, and leverage two key ingredients throughout: Creativity and Curiosity.

I’m going to share a method with you we call the “A Game Architecture” to help get us answer these questions and develop a road-map for self-improvement.

“A Game” Architecture

In the consulting world, we refer to our comprehensive suite of capabilities (i.e., our people, process and technology blueprint) as the “Enterprise Architecture”.

The enterprise architecture is meant to capture the current state the entity is operating with, while mapping out the vision of those capabilities to a not-too-distant future state.

Then, a transition plan to get from one architecture point to the other is established.

Projects are then invested in to support the development, modernization, enhancement, or maintenance of the architecture capabilities and monitored for performance.

Similarly, we can use this approach to define our “A Game Architecture” by capturing our own self-assessment of our capabilities that align to learning and expressing our Jiujitsu.

We can use 5 steps to capture the overall architecture:

  1. Define your Current-self (i.e., the “as-is” state).
  2. Define your Future-self (i.e., the “to-be” state).
  3. Develop your Transition plan (i.e., how you move from the “as-is” to the “to-be”, or from the current-state to the target-state.
  4. Monitor your mastery towards your plan.
  5. Determine your overall Jiujitsu Capability Maturity.

Define the Current State

We use a tool like a diagnostic questionnaire to capture as much insightful data and information as we can about our current mindset, training, and learning aptitude.

This is where you need to become curious about yourself and be honest. Your answers can reveal many truths about you that you were not even aware of.

Here are example questions that you can answer today to start this assessment:

There could be additional questions or depth-of-questions you may ask yourself depending on your answers.

  • What are my current physical abilities?
    • Am I strong for my size? Where am I most strong?
    • Am I weak? Where am I weak the most?
    • Am I flexible? Where am I flexible the most?
    • Do I gas out frequently? Do I manage my energy or do I get excited?
    • Do I normally get out of spots through some physical means (strength, explosiveness, flexibility)?
    • Rate my overall desirable physical abilities (e.g., strength, explosiveness, endurance, mobility) on the mat on a scale of 1 (not ideal) to 5 (best self) as [X].
  • What are my learning preferences?
    • Rank in order from best to worst, what are your learning style preferences? (i.e., audio, visual, reading, writing, kinesthetic)
    • What % of my time includes: In-person instruction (group class), Private instruction (in-person), Private instruction (virtual), On-line learning (e.g., YouTube, subscription services), instructionals/systems-based content (e.g., BJJ Fanatics)
  • What is my motor learning aptitude?
    • How quickly do I absorb and apply new techniques?
    • When I try a new physical skill, it typically takes me [describe] to learn it.
    • Describe, in detail, a recent technique you learned in class and how you supplemented it with additional study/learning using the learning preferences described above.
      • Notes about motor theory: The Cognitive state is the “drink from a fire hose” time when we are learning the fundamentals, terminology, high level rules or principles, and trying to absorb as much information about the topic as possible (in this case a technique or set of techniques/system). It’s the body of knowledge available and our synthesis of it into beginning practice.
      • The Associative state is the state where we analyze our practice in depth. We start with gross motor patterns of a movement and refine it with more fine motor movements over the technique practice. We begin to associate the “keys to success” in making the technique successful and moving this from the conscious to the unconscious mind through deliberate repetition.
      • The Autonomic state is what it sounds like. It’s internalizing the motor patterns so that the technique is automatic. At this state, it has gone from the conscious mind to the unconscious mind where our senses are being used to execute technique with little or no conscious thought.
  • What are my intrinsic values and goals?
    • Describe my internal motivation for training?
    • What is my overarching goal (the why)?
    • Do I have sub-ordinate goals (the how)?
    • How do my daily habits and behaviors help me with my goals?
    • What keeps me motivated to keep wanting to learn Jiujitsu?
      • Note: This section of questions will drive what you want to ultimately achieve and defines your target state. You should put a significant amount of time thinking about this.
      • Don’t treat it as “get better at Jiujitsu” and be done.
      • Most individuals do not know how to adequately set goals and manage plans to achieve them. We strongly recommend you read this research analysis on Stronger by Science to understand how goal setting and behavior change are intertwined. We will be covering this in a future article.
  • What is my current Jiujitsu “A-Game”?

    • Describe your best techniques from each position
      • Look at your Offensive capabilities in the Standing exchange to Takedown; the Grappling exchange with pins (i.e., Mount, Side Mount, Rear Mount, Knee on Belly, North South) and the Guard (pick your top guard to start), and Submissions from all positions.
      • Now look at your overall Defensive capabilities for the same lens.
      • Lastly look at your ability to Transition/Escape/Sweep from Defense to Offense.
      • We recommend using a Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat or SWOT Analysis for this exercise. This will be covered in a separate article.

    • Rate the effectiveness and efficiency with which you are able to apply these techniques in live training or competition (not routine drilling or casual efforts).
  • Effectiveness can be viewed as your success rate in executing your training.
    • We recommend using data or information from your training with individuals at your own belt level or higher.
    • The quantity or # of times the technique was successfully applied in training or competition can also be used as a data point, however this will vary depending on the amount of training you perform (partner availability, days of training, and rounds of sparring). The other limiting factor is assessing your effectiveness without worrying about the quality or efficiency of the technique. This is why it is only one part of the picture.
    • We recommend using a binary of “successful” or “unsuccessful” for each training session or competition, to simplify the information used for your success rate.
    • A number can be used to guide your progress. Output/Input where the amount of useful output (successfully applied techniques) can be divided by the number of training sessions or competitions completed.
    • For example, if you complete 20 training sessions in one month where you spar with individuals that are the same skill level or higher than you, and you were successful at executing your technique 5 times in those 20 sessions, this is a 25% effectiveness score.
  • Efficiency is where you focus on improving the ease with which your technique is displayed. In standard operational calculations, This is about your technique quality.
    • We recommend using a perceived effort (in strength training it is called the Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE) in applying a technique that was successfully executed.
    • RPE is a scale that is self regulated. You perceive the amount of effort you needed to achieve success.
    • Your guide will be to ask yourself questions such as:
      • Did I use optimal mechanics to execute that technique?
      • Did I reduce my opponents ability to defend significantly?
      • Did I use a lot of force or minimal force to execute the technique?
      • Did I exert significant effort to finish the technique? Did the technique stay crisp and precise throughout?
    • To simplify, use a scale (1 – minimum effort needed and 10 – maximum effort exerted).
    • Now, if those same techniques were applied at an RPE of 9 (it was physically challenging to execute those techniques), then you have room to improve both your success rate and your exertion levels.
    • Using a reliable data set such as one training partner you have routine access to train with can help provide more accurate results. We suggest having at least one training partner below you in rank, and at least one above you to work your offense focused techniques and defense focused techniques.
  • Your goal over time is to consistently increase your effectiveness % against higher skilled and ranked opposition and reduce your RPE in the efficiency with which you execute your focused techniques.
  • For example, once you are executing a technique at 90% or more of your training sessions against black belt opposition, with low perceived effort (less than 5), you are approaching mastery levels of that technique.
  • Optimizing technique will be a topic of a future article.

The great thing is, you have complete control over all of this.

What’s Next?

Your answers will provide several key aspects about your “A-Game” Architecture current state. You’ll learn:

  1. A baseline of where we believe our current Jiujitsu capabilities are.
  2. Focus areas to improve your “A-Game”.
  3. Insight into your study and training preferences.
  4. Your current ability to absorb, analyze, and automate the techniques you are focusing on. This is the apex of the A-Game.
  5. Your goals for Jiujitsu (this is the input to your next phase or target state).

More in depth content about developing your “A-Game” Architecture will include:

  • A-Game Architecture: Define Your Future State
  • A-Game Architecture: The SWOT Analysis
  • A-Game Architecture: Monitor Your Mastery
  • A-Game Architecture: Optimizing Your Jiujitsu

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If you need any help developing your through your Jiujitsu A-Game, send us an email at heavyweightbjj@bjj.com.


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