A Game Architecture: Monitoring Skill Mastery

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Oxford defined “optimum” (adj.) as “best or most favorable; optimum.”

What does that mean for your Jiujitsu?

This is Article 4 of 5 in a series about developing your A-Game. Previous articles referenced below.

Article 1: Define Your Current State

Article 2: Define Your Future State

Article 3: The SWOT Analysis

The Quest for Optimal Technique

The term optimal is thrown around a lot to describe technique expression for a broad audience.

The challenge we face is that “optimal technique” become truths.

Instructors will teach using vocabulary that would lead you to believe that the way they show the technique “is the way” it should be done. That it is “optimal” for everyone.

Optimizing jiujitsu is about individualizing jiujitsu for everyone.

Instructors and practitioners know that not every technique works the same for everyone and against everyone the exact same way.

Our individual physical attributes, personality traits, age, and intrinsic drivers for training all influence our capabilities on the mat.

The quest is to constantly optimize YOUR jiujitsu. To find your sweet spot.

So how do we evolve this idea? This is where it gets fun.

Master Efficiency and Effectiveness

Optimize with Art & Science

All of our techniques are bound by the mind and the body.

We use our mind to explore creative and artistic ways to execute techniques and our body to physically execute them as precisely as possible, ideally with mechanical advantages on our side by exploiting weaknesses in our opponents body.

The study of physics, biomechanics, and artistic principles give us the raw material to understand how to blend SCIENCE and ART to express our technique.

Your “jiujitsu algorithms” to solve problems become better versions with continuous absorption of information, analysis and hands on experience, and persistent and consistent practice. [See the article Jiujitsu Algorithmics for more on the problem solving aspects of jiujitsu].

As the jiujitsu “equation” to solve problems changes and evolves over time (you wont be the same person forever, and your opponents will continue to change), having the primary partners of technique (SCIENCE and ART) on your side will benefit you in the long run.

So how can we measure our grasp of optimal technique over time?

Let’s start by using two measures: Technique Efficiency and Technique Effectiveness.

Measuring Effectiveness

Effectiveness through Artistry

What is it? Oxford defines “Effectiveness” as the degree to which something is successful in producing the desired result; success.

How to measure: We can measure Effectiveness as our % success completing a technique during live sparring or a competitive setting.

The more times we achieve the technique under consistent conditions, the greater our effectiveness becomes.

Example: If you work on your Kimura trap system, deliberately train this with the intention of increasing your rate of success using tactics and techniques with consistent training partners over a period of training (e.g., 1 month or more).

Key Opportunity: You should also be mindful of the tactics you use (see figure above). This includes primarily:

  • Setups (eg., traps & tricks) through hand fighting and base monitoring
  • Entries & Escapes (eg., transitions, scrambles, reversals) that lead to control
  • Pins & Positions (eg., control & pressure) that create exhaustion and openings
  • Submission Skill (eg., ability to finish)

Tactics line up well with the mental and artistic part of your game. Are you a proactive or reactive fighter? Your personality goes well with your tactics and is worth exploring and refining like any other part of your jiujitsu.

The Goal: You can track your % success from dedicated training. If your % increases over time, you are becoming more effective. Create a training target and a competition target for success. Note that your competition success is expected to be less than your training success as the quality of your opposition increases.

Measuring Efficiency

Efficiency through Science

What is it? Oxford defines “Efficiency” as the ratio of useful work performed to the total energy expended.

While you are increasing the effectiveness of your technique percentages, your efficiency will measure how much effort it takes you to achieve your desired effectiveness.

How to measure: The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is commonly used to measure physical activity intensity levels.

The value of the RPE system is in helping you develop an understanding of and appreciation for different levels of intensity needed to work against an external resistance and/or overall effort.

There is extensive content on the use of RPE in strength training and hypertrophy training and even programs and products that contain this guide for training intensity. For deep dive recommendations check out Dr. Mike at Renaissance Periodization (RP), Greg Nuckols and Eric Trexler of Stronger by Science, and Chad Wesley Smith at Juggernaut Training Systems.

Side note: We will be reviewing the Juggernaut BJJ app in the near future!

Think of RPE 10 as a 100% all out maximal effort. This is easy to understand if you have done any level of strength training, muscle building, or high intensity exercise. It’s the equivalent of a 1RM or a set performed to exhaustion or mechanical failure.

On the opposite end, think of RPE 1 as the first time your instructor shows you the intricate details of a new technique. There is no speed or strength; only a focus on body mechanics and information absorption.

You can use this scale in 2 meaningful ways:

  1. To organize your training program and intensity in a more meaningful way
  2. To develop a sense of awareness about your technique execution.

As a training guide:

  • RPE 1-3: Minimum effort. Learning new techniques. Very minimal intensity and resistance. Understand major muscle movements and mechanics. Ideal for repetitive drilling.
  • RPE 4-6: Moderate effort. Analyzing movement, position integration and pattern recognition. Moderate intensity and resistance. Ideal for Flow rolling.
  • RPE 7-9: Sub-maximal effort. Sustainable high intensity and resistance. Ideal for position drilling and competition round sparring.
  • RPE 10: Maximal effort. All out effort and intensity. Reserved for competitions. Reaching and sustaining this intensity is not ideal for training due to injury risk and mental and physical burnout.

You can dedicate portions of your training to varying levels of intensity using this scale for different purposes to guide your training intensity and your overall quest for optimal technique efficiency.

If your instructor creates the training program, you can create opportunities to train at the different intensities before and after class or during open mats.

You’ll spend time all over the RPE scale to learn new techniques, develop and refine systems, build competition ready work capacity and smooth out and polish technique execution. Use the scale to your advantage to keep the right intensity for the level of learning you are attempting to absorb, analyze, or automate.

The reality is that, depending on your goals, you will need to spend training time at all different levels of intensity. The greater your skill acquisition speed, the quicker you can automate your techniques against higher levels of resistance and refine the effort needed to win.

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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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