The golden rule of drilling…
Every drill must accomplish it’s goals by resembling as closely as possible the event being trained for.
This sounds obvious. You’d assume that every instructor knows this principle and would do this without question. In truth though very few actually do. This principle has 2 parts. Understanding the implications of these 2 parts is crucial.
This means that every drill must have a goal or objective. Asking in advance “What am I trying to achieve with this drill?” is important. The more specific you get with the answer the more you’ll be able to develop an effective drill. For example if the goal is “get good at BJJ” then it’d be harder to design a specific drill than if you had said “get good at surviving underneath cross sides position using the H and H posture.” The former is too vague and the later gives you more specific things you can use to create a drill.
So, the specificity of the learning objective along with the measurability is important. Specificity means that both instructor and student will be able to recognize the objective more easily when they see it. Measurability means that both will be able to easily determine if the objective is met.
All drills must have specific target learning objectives. These should be objectives that are measurable. You can measure how good someone is at surviving cross sides bottom by observing them in the position and seeing if they are able to improve their position and avoid being put in a worse one. It’s measurable. In 3 minutes you escaped to guard 5 times etc.
Part 2 …by resembling as closely as possible the event being trained for.
This means that the drill will look like the event (delivery system, competition environment etc.) in all cases unless it can’t for some specific reason. What this means for a coach is that you have to start with the event and work backwards when designing a drill. If I were designing a drill for the scenario above (Surviving cross sides bottom using H and H posture) then I’d start with a timed rolling match and work backwards. Let’s do that.
We’ve established that being good at the posture means that you can escape to a better position and/or avoid being put in a worse position. That’s our target.
Timed roll- Here our drill looks exactly like the event. It gives us a lot of part 2. If we use this as our drill we run into the problem of possibly not getting to our target position during the match. If that happens then we obviously can’t achieve our objective. It gives us part 2 but very little if any part 1.
Timed roll starting from position- This works better. You know you’ll at least get some time in the position. It still looks quite a lot like the event with the exception of the starting point. You get time working the position and time to achieve the learning objective. Perhaps not enough though. This gives you a bit of number 1 and a lot of number 2.
Timed roll starting from position with slimmer rule set- Here we have the bottom person trying to escape over and over. The top person is trying to improve their position. If either party achieves their objective then you restart from position and go again. This achieves number 1 because you can observe whether or not the bottom guy is achieving the objective. It’s a bit farther from number 2 than the previous drill but the compromise is worth it for the ability to give more opportunity to achieve the objective. This one is a nice balance of both parts. It looks enough like the event to be recognizable but also gives many opportunities for both student and instructor to observe the learning objective being met.
Timed roll holding posture only- This time the bottom person is only trying to hold posture and the top person is trying to break it down. This is similar to the previous drill except the bottom guy has a more simplified learning objective. Instead of having to work on both holding posture and trying to improve it they only have to hold. This is helpful because it’s a more specific goal. A more specific goal is easier to measure and learn. The more targeted goal makes number 1 easy. It takes us farther away from the number 2 ideal though. For this particular objective though it’s a necessary trade off.
Intro stage- Build posture and test. For this drill type we simply take turns building the posture andhaving our partner test it’s integrity a bit. No real resistance. This is intro stage of the I method. Here our goal is for students to understand how to build the posture. You measure their success by observing to see if students can build the posture. That’s the only goal. This one is far from number 2’s ideal however. It’s necessary to have this trade off for this particular drill.
Which of these drills would I use? All of them. If I were working on teaching students bottom cross sides posture I’d start with the last drill and work my way up. As you see the first drill accomplishes a lot of number 1 and not so much number 2. Then as you work you way up the drills you get a reversal happening so that by the time you get to the last drill you have a lot of number 2 and a tiny bit of number 1.
Progressing in this way scaffolds the learning so that students get to progressively use the material in and environment that gets closer and closer to the event being trained for until you get to the point where you can remove the scaffold altogether and simply let them roll. It sets up observable moments for the instructor to check for understanding and measure progress towards the goals of the lesson. This is crucial for the instructor. The feedback loop will allow him to adjust the lesson in progress and add or subtract a drill as necessary.
Scaffolding is the word to use for this method. It props students up until they are ready to incorporate the skills into their game more fully. It builds in more opportunities for measuring and checking early on for the instructor and less opportunity later as it becomes less necessary. By the end the student is able to check for themselves and they take over from there. By then they are ready…