Principles over Techniques

Memorize the principles behind techniques, rather than obsessing over step-by-step details.

When learning a new technique, it’s tempting to try memorizing it at the most detailed, step-by-step level.  This isn’t an effective method for learning techniques because:

  • In order for techniques to be effective, you need to be able to execute them instantly.  You can’t do this if you are trying to recall the move step-by-step during actual sparring.
  • Most techniques have numerous variations.  It isn’t feasible to memorize every single variation.  In reality, you’re going to have to focus on principles and alter your techniques on the fly.
  • Successful grappling involves rapidly alternating between different techniques, and variations of techniques, to exploit holes left by your opponent.  If you’re thinking at a technique level and not a principle level, it will be harder for you to chain techniques together.

Additionally, if you understand the principles behind techniques, it’ll be easier for you to see these principles in other techniques and learn them faster.

Understanding the principles behind techniques allows you to focus on what is truly effective.  As an example, a common beginner mistake is getting overly ambituous in attempting to secure back mount.  Many beginners dive onto their opponent’s back and frantically try to secure hooks, and are often confused as to why this doesn’t work on more experienced opponents.  The reason is simple: in order for back mount to be effective, your chest needs to be glued to your opponent’s back.  This is the primary principle behind back mount.  Establishing hooks helps, but this in itself is not the primary mechanism of control.  So a principle-based grappler would instead focus on securing chest-to-back control before worrying about hooks.