A while back, Jojo approached me after I was finished teaching the fundamentals class and had said to me "Eric I want you to focus more on basic movements and drills for these guys rather than chaining moves together. This was after he had caught the end of the class and I was showing a body-surfing drill into a gi choke.
While this might seem like a very basic move for me, but Jo-Jo and I had a difference of opinion. I always try to analyze whatever Jojo says about Jiu Jitsu to me for several reasons: 1) he has been my Professor for many years and I have learned a tremendous amount from him and have nothing but the highest respect for him and 2) because of #1, he knows a hell of a lot more than I do when it comes to our art.
During this time period I also noticed something as well, the newer white belts felt very weak to me when we were rolling. This was not because I was on some insane workout program and getting stronger as I got older, it was something else.
I quickly decided that I had only one option - in order to go forward we had to take a giant leap back. I decided that the fundamentals class would be the time to build everyone’s BJJ foundations. It was going to be a time where we would do all of those old-school drills that I did when I first started and really start to develop everyone’s core and functional strength.
My starting point had obviously been knowledge and drills that were passed onto me by my instructors. This would consist of lots of guard drills...lifts, squats, arm bar drills, sit-ups, etc... The one lingering question I had in my mind had been this, if Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is supposed to give the little guy the advantage in a fight, how can I sell that strength is important in our martial art?
"Don't overlook the importance of getting your body in shape, your muscles strong, your ligaments flexible, and your equilibrium stable. I purposefully put strength and balance drills ahead of technical ones so that your body will be ready to perform common jiu-jitsu movements in the following months."
This was surely the major difference between those of us who have been training for a long time and the new guys who have yet to develop that core and functional strength needed to train.
Fast forward a couple of months: Fundamentals class has been completely changed. There is no technique, only drilling. Drills that I’ve learned; Drills that I have taken from Andre Galvao's book; and Some new ones that I have come up with on my own.
Picture this, 4 minutes of circuit drilling starting with in-place drills, down-the-mat and concluding with partner drills, all of which being used to push your body in the right direction it needs to go to get better at jiu-jitsu.
An Rickson Gracie black-belt once told me the single most important drill you can do is the hip escape, and there is no shortage of those being done. Your hips and core are responsible for controlling the fight.
I've noticed guys who could not finish a set of 10 squats while their partner is in their guard, are now banging them out with ease. Guys who could not do 10 gi pull-ups can now do them for a minute straight. When sparring in the later class, I notice the guard posture to be a lot stronger than it was and in only 4 weeks ago.
I notice that my guard has gotten a lot stronger because of drilling with my students.I look forward to working with all of Eric's student's in the future.
I thank everyone for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog and hope you've all enjoyed Eric's insight.