This generation of Jiu Jitsu players has unprecedented access to countless hours of BJJ instruction. Just 20 years ago, the acquisition of technique was whatever your academy taught, or a VHS instructional that everyone passed around. YouTube alone is a major source of free BJJ instructional videos.
But, as the adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” That is not to say that there is nothing of value to be found. However, while you’re sifting through the endless amount of content it can be hard to know what is most valuable to watch.
Being good at Jiu Jitsu doesn’t mean someone is a good teacher. Being a good teacher doesn’t mean someone has a good camera presence. It’s important for you to discern what style of video suits you. Maybe it’s the A-list grapplers, or maybe it’s content from a small academy.
Whatever the case may be, below are a few elements you can look for in a BJJ instructional video to ensure you spend less time scrolling and more time learning.
One of the benefits of learning a technique in person is the ability to view the action from every angle. If you don’t understand the mechanics of the technique, moving to the other side of the mat may provide you more clarity.
However, in a technique video, you are at the mercy of the cameraman. For the most part, instructors understand this. However, while focusing on teaching, it can be easy for small details to be obscured from view.
Make sure the technique you are viewing is demonstrated from multiple angles and depths. Otherwise, you may be forced to find another video just to address that single detail you missed.
Being the most articulate orator and the absolute best instructor will mean nothing if you can’t hear the instruction. Having a good microphone is not the only consideration for an instructional video. You also have to understand the makeup of the space the video takes place in.
The structure of an academy is usually a large open space that can cause the sound to bounce and echo to the point of being indistinguishable. Are there other people still training on the mats? Their sound can make the atmosphere feel authentic, but it can also interrupt otherwise quality audio. Lastly, the idea of adding music to make a video more engaging is understandable, but you’ll be fighting an uphill battle against your dwindling attention span and differing musical tastes.
Any passionate instructor will want to give you all of their knowledge in the most efficient fashion. At times, that passion can turn into distractions. In other words, a simple armbar can quickly turn into, “well, you can also get a triangle from here.” Or, “actually, here’s a cool variation.”
Although these tangents are generally well-meaning, they can be overwhelming for newcomers and veterans alike. A good way to spot focused teaching in an instructional video is ignoring the title of the video. If you watch the video and think to yourself, “Wait. Which part of that do they want us to do?”, you may want to find another video.
You should not be confused as to what technique you are actually learning. That is not to say, one video can only have one technique, but try to choose instructionals that have a clear goal and sequence on display.
Knowing the Audience
In most academies classes are most likely divided so that beginners and veterans are learning material that is appropriate for their respective levels.
Similarly, Jiu Jitsu video instructionals should be structured, or at least labeled, to meet the level of the viewer. Admittedly, this falls more on the viewer.
An instructor can show all manner of techniques that cater to all levels. But, as Jiu Jitsu law dictates, there will always be ambitious white and blue belts trying to learn how to berimbolo as soon as possible.
Even so, a good instructor should either label their videos accordingly or advise their viewers to learn the fundamentals before tackling the complicated stuff.
Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk
A Jiu Jitsu video instructional should be paced like your favorite superhero movie. You love to hear their famous quips and experience an engaging story. But, if there was no action, you might leave the theater feeling underwhelmed.
On the other hand, if the movie was just explosions and no dialogue, you might be at a loss for what actually happened.
When an instructor shows a move, the explanation of its mechanics is just as important as its visual demonstration. Unless you are John Danaher, no one will want to endure a long-winded explanation as they wonder when the technique will be shown.
Conversely, demonstrating the technique without providing the proper context for its use will generally leave an audience confused.
A good trick you can use to discern if an instructional video is effective is to remove either the audio or visual components. For example, first try turning down the audio for the video. Are you still able to learn and apply the technique with just a visual demonstration?
If yes, then repeat this for the visual component. Just listen to the audio this time. If you can create a clear image of the technique from just the verbal cues, this is another good sign that there is a balanced ratio of explanation to demonstration.
Jiu Jitsu players today have endless opportunities to learn techniques from countless sources. Unfortunately, as with any content on the internet, not all of it is of good quality.
For the sake of your time and your Jiu Jitsu progression, it is important that you learn how to discern what video instruction works for you. While everyone has their own preferences of instruction, be sure to look out for these key components that make a quality BJJ instructional video.