How to Consume Content
Guest Post Part 1 of 2
Ricardo is a first degree black belt in BJJ and currently teaches full-time as a co-owner of his school. He has a Masters in Psychology and enjoys getting into the psychology of training. To view some of his content, you can follow him on Instagram and YouTube.
"It's like drinking water through a fire hose"
I remember the first time I heard this expression. I had an incredible visual of a person essentially water-boarding themselves with a firehose, incapable of actually consuming any water but rather, drowning.
The expression came from a jiu-jitsu student of mine who was having problems focusing on jiu-jitsu with all the stuff he had going on in his life. He ended up canceling his membership soon after but the visual stuck with me.
"There's so much information out there, I don't even know where to begin!"
I get this a lot from my students and many similar variations. The fact is, there's so much content out there. Learning jiu-jitsu is no longer just show up to class and go to seminars like it used to be 12-15 years ago. These days, content and learning opportunities are everywhere. But it comes with some costs.
That cost is a lack of focus. Another cost is an algorithm that dictates what you should be learning for engagement’s sake.
These days, you can find content on just about anything. There are many more jiu-jitsu rabbit-holes to get lost in and I think this makes things fun. And if you know how to use it to your advantage, great things can come of it. If not, however, you'll just end up spinning your wheels and not actually making any progress.
I firmly believe that if you’re going to make it in jiu-jitsu, you need to be having fun but you also need to be making progress. Because let’s face it, the second you stop making progress is the second things stop being fun.
So, the question is: How should you consume content?
Number one. Go to class.
Go to class and train. Your instructors and training partners are your best source for information and application of that information. Going to class should be your priority.
But I get it. You want more. You want to supplement your in-class instruction with new concepts and new techniques to help you get an edge over your training partners. So you want to consume more content and you want to learn at a higher rate than your peers.
So how should you consume content above and beyond your in-class instruction and training so that you can optimize your learning?
Now before I answer this question, let's put your goals into context. In this case, you have one of two goals and these will determine your approach.
First goal: You just want to have fun. You don't care about making rapid progress and your goal is just to learn new things, explore the art and get lost in the sauce. IF this is the case, don't worry about strategizing anything. Just keep nurturing your enthusiasm for learning new things. I don't think this is an optimal way to go about your training but if this is your goal, then go for it; it is optimal for YOU and that’s all that matters.
Now, if you're in the second camp (You actually want to make focused, undistracted progress), then here's how I strategize consumption of information.
First principle: "The One Thing"
A student of mine who runs a successful ecommerce business once told me "If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority".
I think this is an incredible way to look at how you consume information. If you focus on too many things, then you are focused on nothing.
When I teach private lessons, I ask my students "How is training?"
My students tend to narrate a list of topics they're working on, and I ask them, "Ok, so what is the ONE THING that will move the needle for you."
In everything you do, there is always "one thing, such by doing it makes everything else easier". It’s a great concept I learned from the book, titled “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. The whole thesis is exactly that [paraphrased]: “What is the one thing, such by doing it makes all other things easier or irrelevant”. It’s a mantra designed to give you ultimate focus in your attention, tasks and behaviors.
In your training, consuming information starts by asking this question for yourself:
What is the ONE THING that by learning and/or applying will make everything else much easier (or irrelevant) for you?
As an example, you spend most of your training time mounted. How much easier would your training go if you solved for this problem and became an expert at mount escapes?
Or, think of the opposite: If you spend all of your time being mounted, what good is it learning arm-bars from side control top? You would be wasting your time because arm-bars from side control don’t move the needle for you.
For the former, ff you could solve for being mounted, the next "one thing" might be how to attack from closed guard (as an example, assuming that escaping the mount gets you to closed guard). But you need to focus on the ONE PROBLEM you have and work from there.
So, before you read any further, ask yourself what this one thing is.
Stop here for a quick second and ask yourself this question because it will help you better understand and apply what I'm going to tell you next.
Principle Two: Jiujitsu is Dynamic, not Static
Want to know the real reason so many people struggle in jiu-jitsu?
It's because jiu-jitsu requires dynamic problem-solving. The parameters of the problems you're trying to solve are always changing.
Beginners tend to attack problems in jiu-jitsu statically (like drilling a technique and hoping it will work in live training). The problem is that people are always going to defend or resist your techniques. So you have to adapt and evolve.
When it comes to strategizing and consuming information, you also have to adapt and evolve.
The "One thing" is always going to be changing. This week it could be that you're having problems in bottom mount. Next week it could be bottom side control. The following week it could be you're having problems finishing arm-bars. Get the picture?
This is why you have to take an inventory and constantly try to see if that "one thing" has changed.
A quick personal example was my focus on float passing. I LOVE passing from the headquarters position and I do it really well against my students. They’ve caught on and now I’m having a much harder time.
Has my passing gotten worse?
No. The environment’s changed. They’ve adapted to my passing and now I have to ask myself what my one thing is. So, you guessed it. Back to bull-fight passing and they cannot stop it.
Since the environment is always changing (ie: Your training partners are always adapting), you have to adapt as well.)
Let's assume it hasn't changed though and get to the meat of this article.
What is the one problem you are having? Focus on solving this problem first and foremost.
Consume content that moves the needle in this problem area and then, when it's no longer a problem, revisit the question.
Back to the mount escapes problem. If this was my problem, here’s what I would do:
I would study someone like Priit Mikhelsen who has amazing defensive jiu-jitsu concepts. Stay focused on these defensive concepts and apply them in training.
If the application doesn’t work, troubleshoot the “why”. If they work, figure out the next “one thing”.
This is the first part of a two-part series. In the next part, I’m going to introduce a “Bottom-Up/Top-Down” approach to learning that I personally use to strategize my learning (as well as my students’). Also, I’ll show you how I personally strategize my consumption of content based on what’s working for me in training as well as problems I’m trying to solve.
For now, I want you to sit down and take an honest inventory of the things you are working on, struggling with, et cetera. If you’re having trouble with this, I like to use the “80/20” principle.
Ask yourself questions like
“What 20% of positions give me 80% of my problems?”
“What 20% of submissions do I find 80% of the time?”
What 20% of my training partners give me 80% of my best results?”
Get the idea?
You’ll find these questions are more like 95/5.
In other words, what 5% of submissions do I use 95% of the time?
These questions will help you dial in what you should be focused on. The answers to to these questions will give you your “One Thing” such by “doing it makes everything else easier or irrelevant”.
Once you identify that one thing, you’ll have what you need to focus on. Before I share with my strategies for consuming content, I want you to GO ALL IN with this one thing and reassess as this one thing continues to change.
Alright, hope you enjoyed!
If you want to check me out, here’s my ebook (free for you with this link). I also write Jiu-Jitsu accelerated on Substack, and you can get a 30-day free trial here.
Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon.