Friday, July 26, 2013

A Guide to BJJ Seminars

When I first started training Jiu-Jitsu I felt that training with a variety of high level guys would no doubt enhance my progression in the sport.  As a white belt I managed to attend a few seminars and even though the amount of knowledge I gained was minimal it was definitely a fun experience. After five years of experience I can honestly say that the average person probably doesn't stand to gain as much from seminars until you've reached an intermediate level (blue belt).  I don't think that should discourage newer grapplers from attending seminars but one should keep things in perspective.  In my experience seminars are usually three hours and tend to be a little overwhelming on the amount of information.

List of high level grapplers I have trained with (in no particular order):

1. Marcelo Garcia
2. Robson Moura
3. Bruno Bastos
4. Rico Bastos
5. Romero Jacare Cavlacanti
6. Jamil Kelly
7. Robert Drysdale
8. Reilly Bodycomb
9. Caio Terra (next month)

How can you get the most out of a seminar?
I can't stress the importance to take notes either during the seminar or immediately afterwards.  Most seminars cover a lot (sometimes too much) and details will get lost if you don't take notes.  Recently after a Robson Moura seminar a training partner and myself recorded ourselves drilling all of the techniques so that we could go back and review it.  This is far better than just taking notes.

Something else to consider regarding seminars is scheduling a private lesson with the instructor. One on one instruction is really hard to beat and one of the best way to take your grappling to the next level.  Seminars are often packed with over thirty students on the mat and it's hard to replicate the kind of individualized attention you can get during a private lesson.

Another consideration is will they allow video?  In my experience, most do not want video taken during seminars but it never hurts to ask.  Don't be a jerk and just assume they won't care and create an awkward situation.  Politely ask the host of the seminar ahead of time and/or the person giving the seminar.  They may allow it but ask that you not make it public.

Which ones should I attend?
Early on during my training in Jiu-Jitsu I would attend every seminar I possibly could with a high level superstar.  I didn't necessarily know what the content would be and just tried to absorb whatever it was that they were teaching.  Through my progression I've learned that as you become more advanced it is much easier to learn new concepts or find ways to implement them into your game.  I am fairly picky about what seminars I will attend these days.  I ask myself will they offer something that fits my game?  Do they offer something that is lacking in my game?  If the answer is yes then that is a great motivator to attend and gain new knowledge.  Would I be better off just scheduling a private with the individual?

Another type of seminar that isn't typical but can be very beneficial are training camps.  Many high level schools will hold training camps that may last a few days or even a week.  These are often put together prior to a major event such as the IBJJF Pan or Worlds tournaments.  This is not only a great opportunity to work with multiple high level black belts but can also help you get ready if you plan to compete at those tournaments.  This can go a long way to teach you how to prepare for tournaments in general if your gym doesn't have a program dedicated to tournament preparation.

In the Spring we had Bruno and Rico Bastos at our gym for a seminar leading up to the Pan 2013 tournament.  It was the first of that type I attended and it was a great experience.  The techniques focused on passing the open guard and how to deal with the dreaded 50/50 guard that so many competitors like to use these days.  The training was grueling compared to most seminars as the repetitions were very high paced and focused on developing muscle memory under tough situations. There was lots of rolling at the end of the seminar to end the day.  This was one of the best seminars I have attended to date.

Here are a couple clips from the Bruno & Rico Bastos Pan Camp seminar.

50/50 Guard Pass

Spider Guard Pass

Which ones should I avoid?
One of the first seminars I had the chance to attend when I got into Jiu-Jitsu was an Eddie Bravo/10th Planet seminar.  I didn't know much at this point in time, did some research, and quickly realized that this was a pretty specialized system that I didn't intend to focus on.  I skipped it and certainly glad that I did.  This is a pretty extreme example but you need to consider the content that will be covered during a seminar if at all possible.  Imagine a multiple time World Champion is in town teaching the 50/50 guard and you're not a fan?  Why attend it if you don't want to learn that aspect of Jiu-Jitsu?  Will you learn something?  Most definitely but don't throw your hard earned money somewhere you won't find good value.

I highly recommend researching and looking for reviews from other people that may have attended a particular seminar.  There are plenty of valuable resources such as Sherdog's Grappling forum: to ask questions and receive feedback.  Sometimes we get enamored with the success or style of grappler only to find out that their seminars are lackluster or they simply aren't the greatest instructors.  I've heard plenty of horror stories of instructors that show up, have everyone do cardio for 30 minutes, show some techniques, and just not really show a lot of fire or interest in being there.  These are the type of seminars I try to avoid.

Whatever your training preferences may be I think there are great opportunities to learn from training with a wide range of people.  This can be accomplished by attending seminars, dropping in at other gyms, or even switching up the training schedule at your own gym.  Getting to train with a variety of training partners and even instructors can help elevate your game to another level.