One of the many differences we notice between high level jiu jitsu practitioners and ourselves is that perhaps our reaction time is incredibly slower and our muscle memory isn’t quite as developed. A British psychologist, William Edmund Hick with his partner Ray Hyman, developed an equation for studying reaction time. Essentially, what was established was a formula called Hick’s Law,   that supposed reaction time increases logarithmically (linearly) as the number of stimulus-response options increases.


In order to break this down, a simple stimulus-response test for reaction time is one stimulus that can only elicit one response. If you add another response choice, then the reaction time will increase logarithmically. For Jiu Jitsu practitioners, this can be a huge, overwhelming problem because for every stimulus (position, transition, escape, bait, movement, etc), there is a seemingly infinite amount of choices that can take place.

There is one major behavior that can decrease reaction time regardless of the amount of response options. That is PRACTICE. Putting in lots of practice time on the mats will lower reaction times even when there are many response options. In addition, skills become more and more automatic. Automaticity is especially true when you begin to establish a high success rate with certain techniques in certain positions. You may have experienced this phenomenon if your training partners have ever told you something like “wow, every time I pass your guard, you keep catching me in that baseball bat choke.” What this statement implies is that if you are continually hitting a certain movement in response to a certain stimulus, you are developing automaticity which greatly reduces the amount of time it will take to catch said choke. The same will ring true for everything else you do on the mats. Put in your hours, practice hard and you will see how quickly (so to speak) you will begin to develop. You have to put in the practice, first.


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