Jiu Jitsu techniques are fairly intricate and complex movements chained together to perform a task.

The essence of Jiu Jitsu is for these movements to be performed precisely and to utilize leverage and efficient body mechanics to minimize needing physical attributes.

Learning the motor control for these techniques can be challenging at first. Here are some strategies to improve technique retention:

  • Performance vs. retention: A student can mimic a technique (short-term learning) but may not possess the ability to perform it without guidance or perform it after time has passed (long-term learning). In a study (Sideway et al) compared motor learning with several variables: manually guidance vs verbal feedback of success, and also feedback after every trial and sporadic feedback. The results show that the group that received sporadic feedback of success had the highest retention. The author concluded that “when frequent feedback is provided during acquisition, it is proposed that the availability of such feedback suppresses the learners development of error detection and correction processes.”
  • Trial and error: "The ability to detect performance errors and then to modify motor system output accordingly is vital to the maintenance of accurate performance once informational support has been removed. (Sideway et al)”

How can this be applied to Jiu Jitsu?

  1. Don't overwhelm your students with feedback: Let them develop the intrinsic sense to detect mistakes on their own.
  2. Positional training: This forces a student to practice the technique of the day in a controlled focused manner.
  3. Live training: Who cares if you can drill a move perfectly, Jiu Jitsu is about performing the technique live against a resisting opponent. “[MMA and Jiu Jitsu] is high level problem solving with dire consequences.” -Joe Rogan

Remember the goal of teaching is not for the student to do the technique correctly NOW but to do it correctly TOMORROW.

Sidaway, Ben, et al. "A comparison of manual guidance and knowledge of results in the learning of a weight-bearing skill." Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy 32.1 (2008)


Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Black Belt
Former MMA Fighter