There are some pretty funny memes out there in the internet world suggesting that getting better at Jiu-Jitsu involves doing Jiu-Jitsu.
Jokes aside, it is true that getting better at Jiu-Jitsu involves doing more Jiu-Jitsu, but at the heart of the matter is how we can improve our learning from other sources. Also, how do we improve certain aspects of our game while we play?
Within our discipline, there is plenty of debate about how we learn. Are drills more important? Is live training more important? Should I compete? Should I YouTube? What about meditation?
It is obvious that we learn through a variety of mechanisms. Trial and error, demonstrations, repetition, experience, etc., are all important in how we acquire and store information. Practicing various skills in different contexts helps improve those skills by transferring your learning.
What is Transfer of Learning?
The transfer of learning is essentially how we carry over information from task to task, from context to context. In more technical terms, it is the development or loss of skill proficiency in a task as the result of experience. For us in Jiu-Jitsu, this is how we transfer our knowledge from different contexts of training and application: live training, positional sparring, demonstration, teaching, etc.
There are many times of transfer, however we’ll talk about these two:
Far Transfer: How we transfer learning from two completely different tasks or contexts.
Near Transfer: How we transfer learning between two very similar tasks or contexts.
Using Learning Transfer
The best way to learn is by near transfer. In other words, if you want to learn Jiu-Jitsu, focus your time on learning concepts and techniques that are directly relevant to the application of your game.
Say for example, if you want to become proficient with takedowns. Wrestling will probably be a great resource. If you want to learn open guard, probably not so much.
Research shows that the more closely related two tasks are, the more likely we are to learn.
Here are a few tips to improve your transfer of learning:
- Cross-training is great and can really help your game. I’d recommend taking Judo or wrestling classes. Wrestling and Judo are similar in terms of movements so you’ll probably transfer your learning well since the tasks and contexts are not too different.
- If you want to improve your top game, use a stability ball to learn how to use your core to keep you stabilized and upright. The stability ball will mimic the person on bottom trying to sweep you and keeping your base will be just as challenging.
- If you’re trying to learn something specific like an arm-bar, try it in a bunch of different contexts like closed guard, open guard, mount, side control, etc. Learning the technique in each context will translate to the next very well and you’ll gain proficiency much quicker.