So you've survived your first few weeks of jiu jitsu. You probably still don't know what to do with your hands, you may or may not have mastered how to tie your belt, you've discovered that you need more than one jiu jitsu gi, and you're starting to recognize some of the standard jiu jitsu lingo.
Now you're wondering what all this "drilling" stuff is about. Don't worry, we got you...
As I've mentioned before, drilling is the part of jiu jitsu training that consists of many, many... many repetitions of a technique or set of techniques. The idea is that if you do something often enough, it becomes "muscle memory" and it takes less conscious effort to do it in the future.
Now this may sound pretty self-explanatory... "Just do it a bunch of times, right?" Well, yes, but there are some subtleties that you should be aware of that may not always be vocalized:
For the Love of God, Start Slow
The worst thing you can do is try to drill a technique as fast as your professor or coach showed it to you. The only reason they can do it so fast and smooth is because they've done it a thousand times already. Until you've spent as many untold hours on the mat - and have developed the same jiu jitsu acumen - you're not going to look that good. Worse, if you try to go full speed, you're bound to skip some key steps, and you ultimately won't learn how to properly execute the technique. So start slow, go step-by-step. Nobody's going to think less of you for it... we've all been there. Once you begin to get the hang of it, then pick up the tempo.
No, XX Times Each is Not Enough
My biggest pet peeve is when someone - anyone - does a technique a few times and then sits there with his/her partner until the professor calls time. It's said that you have to practice something "between 500 and 5,000 times" before it becomes reflex. If you're there on the mat already, use that time wisely. Make some progress toward that first 500. Otherwise, you'll give the impression that you don't really care enough to put in the work. Few things are more insulting to the person who took his/her time to show you that technique.
Drilling Outside of Class
Drilling isn't just an activity reserved for that 30 or so minutes during class between warm-ups and sparring. You can drill anytime, anywhere. In fact, it's highly encouraged that you drill outside of class. You can't possibly get your 500-5,000 reps in entirely during class hours. So find a buddy and schedule in some time - an hour at the very least - during the week to work on some of the techniques that you've learned recently and/or those you would like to improve upon. In fact, you might even get lucky and some upper belt will happen by and give you some additional pointers.
Levels of Drilling
There's no single way to drill. Indeed, there are "levels" of drilling:
- Single Technique - Just as it sounds, this involves doing a single technique (one sweep, one pass, one takedown, one guard pull, one submission, etc.) over and over again.
- Sequential - This involves linking two or more techniques together, and doing that over and over again. For example: start standing, pull guard, go straight into a sweep, right into a pass, finish with a choke. Then doing that series over and over again.
- Responsive - This takes sequential drilling to the next level, whereby your partner changes the scenarios a little bit. For example, if the sequence is to go from pass to back take, your partner may give you a different guard to pass each time. This kind of drilling is especially useful for the days leading up to tournaments.
- R&D - This is a more relaxed, open-ended kind of drilling, where you and your partner may do a combination of all of the above, working on a specific technique and exploring any and all scenarios that might arise. This involves a lot of discussion, and you may or may not break a sweat.
Now that you have a better understanding of the world of drilling, we hope you can see how incredibly beneficial it is to your jiu jitsu journey.
Train... and drill... on. Oss.