3 Simple Tips for Taking Notes in BJJ (and Life!)

3 Simple Tips for Taking Notes in BJJ (and Life!)

Effective Note Taking Accelerates Learning:

This week, I am going to share a couple tips for taking notes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. By taking your outside-of-class progress into your own hands, you can rapidly accelerate how fast you learn! These ideas can be applied to combat sports or other endeavors that require the transcription of a movement you imagine to an automatic physical response.  I will also share some tips for studying in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a later date. Used in tandem, you will have a basic toolkit necessary to be an Android Autodidact!

1) Notepad / Pen vs. Digital

Most people will have a personal preference towards “old-school” pen-and-paper notes or typing into their laptop / mobile device / etc. Both have pros and cons! Digital methods of note-taking tend to be easier to organize and search through while pen-and-paper gives the flexibility to write in the margin, use illustrations quickly, etc. In an ideal scenario, students will utilize both: create a digital archive from your notepad but carry the notepad onto the mat so it is readily available.

There are times when blue belts and under are required to bring note-taking materials to class, so be ready. ;]

Go ahead and stay ahead of the curve by starting your notebook (whether digital or not) today! :]

2) Language in Notes

It is important that your notes provide enough information to be useful at a later time. It is useful to take notes as if you were preparing to teach another student. With that said, make sure you use language that is useful to you. Just because another instructor or I tend to phrase things in a certain way does not mean it should appear that way in your notes. I might refer to a sweep as “Roger’s Half-Guard Sweep” but that is only because it evokes a very specific movement for me. If “Silly Half-Guard Sweep That Coach Tim Showed When He Really Needed a Haircut” is more memorable for you, then use that phrasing (and come on, please stop being so critical of my haircut, I’m just trying to fit in and be cool).

While making your notes personal will make them more useful later, there are still a couple of universal points that everyone should record when they take notes. Always record the starting position as well as the end position. Make sure to include what all four-limbs are doing as well as what your head is doing, both at the beginning and end of the technique. When you record the individual steps of a technique, be sure to note why each step occurs and what potential follow-up techniques are available if your opponent foils your first technique attempt. Lastly, keep track in your notes of any moment you felt a) weak, b) slow, or c) off-balance, because those are always points where we need to correct the technique.

3) Using Mental Repetition for Implementation

Even if you don’t use the first two tips, this last one is powerful on its own. First, keep in mind that the main problem with note-taking is not writing things down accurately, it is taking something from written down on a piece of paper to being automatically performed under the duress of sparring. The easiest way to bridge this gap is with mental repetition. If you can solidly visualize and perform the technique in your mind, then drilling will be much more effective and thus, transference to sparring will be easier.

Here is the method: Pick one or two (maximum) adjustments you want to add to your game. It could be something huge like, “Break grips from spider guard -> Step back while controlling the pants -> Bullfighter pass only after these first two steps” to something more minute like, “Triangle from spider guard -> Hips up until pelvis is flush and knees are level and past my opponent’s neck.” Either way, write the note on a post-it / sticky note (like Twitter, etc. the limited amount of space will hopefully limit the informational noise)  and stick that note somewhere you spend a lot of time. I tend to stick mine to the edge of my computer monitor.

What ends up happening is that you will consistently be reminded of these ideas because you are exposed to them so many times throughout the day. The 30 or 60 seconds you spend thinking about them every time you see them will allow you to transfer these ideas from working-memory to long-term storage. After you do this enough, drilling / integrating the technique into your game will come quickly. After you no longer need the reminder, take the sticky note and transfer it to your note-archive (whether that’s digital or a notepad) and replace it with another sticky note.

This is a great way to learn Jiu Jitsu or anytime you want to implement a new skill / habit into your life. I know people that have a sticky note reminding them to drink a glass of water, definitions of words they want to remember, etc. Happy Studying! :]

-Coach T


P.S. I thought I had independently come to this method of implementing new information, then my dad let me know John Coltrane had been using a very similar method to retain new musical concepts!

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