In an anecdotal psychological study on memory, a psychologist by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus memorized the poem Don Juan by Lord Byron. After forgetting the material, he attempted to relearn the poem, word for word. He realized that it took less effort to relearn the information than the initial time, and less subsequent effort each time thereafter. This is what has become known as the “method of savings”.
Is there such a thing as forgetting?
This study suggested that memory does not decay and become completely lost, but rather the associations in the brain are just not accessible. Accessibility is availability of information in your working memory at any given time.
As a matter of fact, the more often you try and relearn the material, the easier it becomes and the likelihood of it being retained is much more increased per this chart:
Each line (From red to green) illustrates a subsequent attempt to relearn information.
Short term versus Long Term memory
The dual-model of memory system is the widely accepted model that postulates two types of memory systems: Working memory (also known as “short-term” memory) and long term memory. Long-term memory is differentiated from working memory in that it is stored in the nether-regions of your brain for use at other points in time.
What this has to do with your retention of Jiu-Jitsu techniques
Every time you learn a technique, Ebbinghaus’s method of savings suggests you will never lose it permanently but rather it remains stored somewhere in your brain with the likelihood of retrieval being higher if you are able to practice it.
Practicing techniques or movements after learning them will make the neural associations stronger and make all of this information a lot more accessible for future use. Other mental techniques can help facilitate accessibility. Next time you learn a technique you are particularly fond of, rather than leave it on the mats until the next time you train, try mentally rehearsing the technique over and over.
Use mental imagery to work through the situation or position in your head. The rehearsal of information in your working memory will create stronger associations making the information more accessible in the future and less likely to be stored in the areas of your long term memory system that are harder to bring back.
There are actually studies that show when you mentally rehearse movements, the brain is actually sending information to your muscles although the actual movement is inhibited by other brain functions.