How Does Memory Guide Your Jiu-Jitsu?

Yesterday, I posted an anecdotal story of a psychologist that demonstrated that once information is in the memory, it is never really lost. Memory is comprised of a series of mental processes where the brain acquires and stores perceptual information from experience and eventually uses it to guide our behaviors. In Jiu-Jitsu, most of our learning comes from hands-on tasks and application of knowledge. Trial and error facilitates a lot of our learning in sparring and competition and what we learn eventually gets stored into our memory system. We later use this information to guide our behaviors on the mats, assuming we haven’t “lost” the information from a lack of use.

There are basically three types of memory as described by the Modal Model of Memory. First, the brain takes in sensory information and this type of memory is short (about 1 second) and is used briefly to go into a sensory store. If it is paid any attention, it enters the “short-term memory” or “working memory” as it is now known as. Working memory lasts about 15-30 seconds and consists of the information you’re currently using. If your brain encodes it, it enters the long-term memory where it is stored indefinitely for future use.

I’ve written a few posts about drilling and repetition and ways to help out with your memory and facilitate your learning. I wanted to touch base on different memory systems and how they work in order to show the implications our memory systems have in Jiu-Jitsu.

First off, it is important that we keep our mind’s open so that we can take in all of the sensory information that is coming at us, particularly in sparring sessions. Since we only have so many cognitive resources to use, having mental clutter will only make the retention of information harder. Once we begin to take in the sensory information, a clearer head can help us to manipulate the information given to us in our working memory. For example, if you are relying solely on automatic movements, keeping your mind engaged will become difficult. This consciousness provides a necessary tool for long-term retention. Keep in mind, long-term that retention is strengthened by what you are using the most, so make sure you are not focused on repetition for the sake of repetition —you sacrifice too many response alternatives by staying one-dimensional. 

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