Dec 14

The Problem with Most BJJ Instructionals

The Problem with Most BJJ InstructionalsYou look around and you will see many BJJ instructionals put out by renowned Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners. Often, they have high production values and they’re filled with content. Most of the content is even great.

However, there’s generally a focus on quantity over depth and enjoyment.

This has led to hours and hours of content, and it’s actually difficult to absorb it all. You have to work quite hard to reap a significant benefit from the investment, and that’s not even counting the effort that will be required to drill.

No, right now we’re just focusing on the effort required to just sit through those hours upon hours of demonstrations and explanations.

Most of the instructionals follow the same format. There’s a short introduction, then a random set of small sequences is shown. There’s rarely a larger narrative. Instead, it’s just an assortment of marginally connected pieces.

Of course, there are exceptions, but the bulk of the BJJ Instructionals follow that pattern.

What we’re going to do here is compare and contrast. I’m going to highlight a few different formats that I’ve seen. Hopefully, we can find aspects that can be taken from each in order to find a better way to make learning BJJ from video more effective and enjoyable.

A Few Different Formats

  • Caio Terra’s 111 Half Guard Techniques
  • Vince Quitugua’s Lost Secrets of the Half Guard
  • Royler Gracie’s Competition Tested Techniques

These instructionals were chosen because they have significant differences in format. Those differences lie mostly in how technique is taught and reinforced.

Compare and Contrast

111 Half Guard Techniques

This instructional has almost nine hours of content. That’s the main thing that separates it structurally it from most other BJJ Instructionals. I simply can’t think of any other instructional offhand that compares in the sheer amount of content.

Beyond that, it has the basic format. There are sequences shown in specific situations, and the method of teaching is exactly like it would be if you were in a class.

Lost Secrets of the Half Guard

The Lost Secrets is about an hour and half, but the content is highly focused. You can clearly see the larger lesson that is being taught and reinforced.

It starts off with transitions into the positions from multiple situations. Then it has a core lesson that focuses on two techniques and the many adjustments you can used to make it work through resistance.  After that, the focus shifts to alternative options for similar situations.

It’s a contained lesson rather than an assortment of parts.

Competition Tested Techniques

There’s roughly about four hours of content on the whole set. Not all of the material focuses on technique, but that’s where it really shines. It gives you different types of stimulus which makes learning from the set an enjoyable process.

Let’s focus just on the instruction method though.

The explanation is split off from the demonstration, and it’s done by voice-over. So you have a situation where Royler is just focusing on demonstrating the technique from multiple angles, as someone else explains what’s going on. It reinforces the lesson by allowing you to see the same technique performed multiple times within a short timeframe. Then it’s further reinforced by seeing a slow motion demonstration and footage of the technique actually being used in competition.

Major Points of Difference

You look at these three examples and you can point out at least one thing each that can be considered a meaningful difference.

  • Quantity – 111 Half Guard Techniques has a significant quantity of excellent technique.
  • Depth – Lost Secrets of the Half Guard has a great level of focus on a specific situation.
  • Enjoyment Competition Tested Techniques is enjoyable from start to finish because of the instruction style and the bonuses.

Building a Better Mouse Trap

Video has advantages and disadvantages. The first step to figuring out how to improve the process is to realize that.

Alright, so let’s break it down.


  • Repeatable.
  • Not limited by time.
  • Content can include anything.


  • No interaction and feedback.
  • It’s a passive form of learning.

Let’s see if we can think of a solution to those disadvantages real quick. We’ll start with the lack of interaction and feedback. Of course, it’s not possible for an instructor to walk around and suggest small things you can correct when you perform the technique as the video plays.

It would be amazing if it was possible though. A shame it isn’t.

One way to work around that problem would be to attempt to predict common issues. Not only the issues that arise from an opponent’s reactions but also the problems that center around poor understanding of the body mechanics required.

Hmm, here’s a quick idea:

  • What if in addition to the regular instruction there was another video in the set that broke down all the techniques by their core movements? It would be conceptual groupings of techniques based on the movements you have to develop to master them, and it would include drills to help with that endeavor.

Now what about the issue with the passive form of learning? Again, that’s another hard problem to deal with, but what helps is to make it enjoyable by breaking up the pattern.  Competition Tested Techniques did that really well by throwing in biography, slow motion, competition footage, and other bonuses. Also Aurelio Gallegos Jr’s section in Secrets of Our Success was great because he included examples of him applying the techniques against resistance.

Different types of stimulus are great because it makes it easier to keep the attention focused. Another good example of this is Jeff Glover’s Deep Half Instructional. He played it really lighthearted, with jokes and obviously ridiculous techniques. It made it fun to watch and you learned some great technique in the process.

Right now, we have an clear advantage over previous generations because of the sheer amount of information that’s available. One fact remains the same though. It’s still the primary task of all instructors to make knowledge easy to digest and utilize.