The New Online Paradigm

Instructors are fallible. The entire pretense of a seminar is that a different instructor will likely be able to show you something different, and probably better, than what your instructor has shown you. Sometimes there’s a thing your instructor doesn’t know well, or there are deeper details that a more experienced instructor could/would show you. In most cases it’s pretty likely that a student’s growth will be limited by their instructor’s ability to help them. Instructors know that and every one I know works actively to keep learning themselves so they can keep helping their students improve too.

We’ve always had videos. The old Vale Tudo tapes that Justin used to talk about. The DVDs Marcello would sell at around $200 per series ($800-900 for all four series white to black). The Reilly Bodycomb videos to try to learn leg locks. These things were super important ways to get knowledge at a time where a lot of schools were against training multiple places and getting a seminar for a topic your coach wasn’t interested in would be a hard sell. The thing is, as the community has opened up way more and seminars have become way more prevalent, the importance of videos hasn’t decreased. If anything, they’re even more valuable today.

Videos tend to come in two flavors – series on specific positions/techniques and series designed to be more holistic. If I’m being honest, most of the holistic series I’ve seen are rough. They show super basic techniques, with minimal details and they blow through them pretty quickly. A lot of them feel like scattershot of techniques too. They present a bunch of good techniques, but with little to no discussion about when to attempt which or how to chain them. It’s the drilling without rolling model where you’ll figure it out with experience. Some of them probably took an attempt at it, but with so much content it’s hard to recall any given one that did so really well. Even Saulo Ribeiro’s Jiu-Jitsu Revolution, one of my all-time favorites to go back to for details, feels like a collection of techniques rather than a system. As I think back, I feel like that’s how jiu-jitsu has been taught to me for years too – here’s a technique of the week, maybe with some reference to the previous week’s technique, and maybe a context where it happens and 1-2 other things that pair with it, but making a full game out of that is left to the student to pick and choose their favorite techniques and link them. Specific videos are better because of the expectations – you already know where you’re working from – and most of them present chains explicitly for the one thing you’re watching them to get better at. But then you’re still cherry picking your favorite ones to build your own game, and not all of them pair well, some will even be contradictory.

John Danaher’s Enter The System and especially his Go Further Faster series feel different. He talks a lot about theory and philosophy to set you up (maybe even too much). He’s repetitive to the point of it becoming a meme. He talks incredibly slowly to the point that everyone I know watches his videos on 1.5-2x speed. But those things help retention. I can barely tell you what details Bernardo Faria shows in his Foundations Of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I remember feeling like he was showing the basics, he was showing good details for them, but I don’t have anything I really walked away from it with. Danaher’s system is different. He’ll show a minor thing that feels revolutionary, and he’ll hit on it again and again and again, progressively adding in details and showing it from various angles so you can really see what’s going on. The funny thing is, other than resolution increasing, video production quality hasn’t seem to come that far. Voices still sound echo-y and shadows can be a bit wonky on a lot of instructionals. The first release of Danaher’s leg lock series was riddled with audio problems that led to a reshoot. I don’t think he makes better videos in terms of quality than anyone else’s videos on Fanatics, Digitsu, or BudoVideos. But there’s something different about the pedagogy. He shows chains for each position in the GFF series and each submission in the ETS series. He talks about how the positions relate so if you had all of GFF you wouldn’t just have scattershot, you’d have a true system for positional advancement. His details are memorable because of how they’re presented. It is somehow a better video series than most of those that came before it. It feels like a polished, more updated version of the old Ryan Hall videos in a lot of ways.

None of that is to not to knock the value of the old videos, or downplay how essential it is to have an experienced coach who can give you in person help and correction, or even the benefit of position/submissions-specific instructionals. But I do think we’re in a new period for BJJ after the release of these series though. Everyone now has access to levels of detail to a degree that, for a lot of the techniques, I never learned in over a decade of practice. There’s a presentation of pedagogy that will likely change the way a lot of us teach as we become more savvy to it. There’s content from a coach who’s training top-level athletes that shows details a lot of us are going to need to know to be able to even keep up with our students as they buy these. I don’t want to fanboy out all over videos that have been out for awhile, but the amount of attention they get is warranted. Maybe as an advanced practitioner you’ll see them and just be annoyed by the repetition and how even at 2x speed you’re watching 5 hours on a position, and maybe they honestly have nothing to offer you personally; however, as I’m delving into them and trudging through the hours of content, I’m finding a lot of the details that I’ve been missing to make things work, and a lot of the “black belt details” to steal Justin’s phrasing that I feel like are what I’ve been missing to really have a mastery of these techniques.

We’re seeing an explosion in video content. It’s not just Danaher, and I’m sure other coaches will be putting out insanely good content. Ryan Hall is always teasing his “Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money” and I’d love to see updated versions of his content after seeing his updated 50/50 series. As students, picking the right instructionals will probably be the secret to faster advancement in jiu-jitsu. As instructors, we’re going to have to up our game and keep up with at least the best of the new stuff, since we’ll never be able to keep up with all of it. There’s a new paradigm for how to see techniques, and we’re going to have to adapt.

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