By Jason Scully


People take notes for many different reasons.  You take notes in school  so you can study, you jot down notes when you need to remember what to  pick up at the store, and you may take notes when you have an idea that  you want to try out or check on.  I know I do in these situations, so I  have some questions for you.

  • Do you bring a notebook into class with you when you train?  If  so, what do you do with it in class?
  • Do you have a notebook that you write in at home after training?  If  so, what kind of notes do you write down when you get home?
  • Do you have a specific way you take notes?  Is there a system?
  • Do you review your notes that you take?  Does it help you remember  techniques or make you better? Do you even do anything with them?

For the first 2 years of my training I wrote down every single  technique that I learned.  I would go home and then type out every  single detail that I could remember.  I would categorize the movements,  date them, and I even made a color key so I knew right away what type of  category each technique fell under.  Around the 2 year mark I compiled  about 400 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques that I learned in class.  I was  a true collector of techniques.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss  anything.

Now am I saying you should do what I did?  Definitely not!  Why?   Because I took all of that time to write down all of these techniques  and I must have only reviewed them only 10 times max.  I realized that  just because I wrote down everything I learned didn’t mean that I was  going to remember everything.  Another thing I realized was that the  task was very monotonous and didn’t have any real significance in  regards to what I needed to get better at in my grappling.

It turned into the equivalence of collecting baseball cards but instead I  was just collecting techniques.  Once I realized that this approach  wasn’t really benefiting me, I didn’t stop taking notes but I decided to  change my approach so that if I was going to take notes it was going to  be in a way that would actually help me get better.

Here is what I did:

  • I stopped writing down every technique that I learned
  • I only focused on things I was having trouble with.  If you  focus on actual problems you are facing then it will be more likely  that you’ll remember what you learned and it will help you improve your  actual game right away.
  • Everything I wrote down in training was in the form of a  question or I would have a question at least related to everything I  wrote down. Why?  Because if I wrote it down in question form, then I  would be well prepared to ask that question to someone who may know the  answer and it will help them relay the information easier back to me.
  • I realized that the one important aspect of my training  that I wasn’t taking notes on was my rolling.  So after each training  session I would go home and I would write down questions that related to  that nights rolling.  The reason I started doing this was because  during rolling you experience issues that you really are having trouble  with.  These are areas that affect what you are actually trying to do,  so these are the things you should focus on more then anything. Examples  of the types of things I would write down after rolling would be.
  • How can I stop my opponent from turning their  hip down on me in half guard?
  • What can I do to open my opponent’s closed guard if I’m having  trouble?
  • When I’m in the guard I keep getting caught in a triangle choke.   How can I prevent this?
  • How can I stop my partner from getting the guard back when I have  them in side control position?
  • I went for a hug choke but for some reason I couldn’t get it.  What  was I doing wrong?
  • How can I stop from getting mounted?
  • After I would write down the question, I would  reflect on what happened in regards to that question I asked.  The  reason I would do this is for a couple of reasons actually.  It will  help me try to figure out what I might have been doing wrong myself and  it will also help me tell my instructor what I felt happening during the  situation so he can better assist me in fixing the problem.

For example if I had the question “What can I do to  open my opponent’s closed guard?”  I would write down what I remembered  happening such as:

  • He kept pulling down on my head.
  • I couldn’t open my training partners guard by using my elbows.
  • When I tried to put my knee under my partner’s butt I would lose my  balance.

Additional Tips

To make this even better you should take advantage of your breaks  between rolling. When you are done rolling each time go straight to your  notebook and jot down one issue you want to address that happened  during that rolling session.  Whether it was a problem you had that your  opponent was causing or a problem you had that you couldn’t quite  figure out to do yourself.  If you roll four times during one training  session then you should have four different issues to address. Or you  can mark off a particular issue if it happens again in a different  rolling session with an asterisk, which is noting that particular issue  as a primary focus that you need to address.  You don’t have to think of  a question to write during this time.  Just write down something to  help you remember the issue.

Then when you go home take each issue that you wrote down and create a  question for each one.  You now should have four questions related to  your training in regards to what happened during your live rolling  sessions.  These questions will be more important then any technique  that you decide to write down because they are issues that you really  had trouble with. They happened while you were going against a resisting  opponent.

The goal is to improve upon your current game as much as possible.   Expand it and make it better.

As you train more and more you should have a list of questions in your  notebook related to your current issues.  Some questions may come up  frequently and those particular questions you should mark down as “very  important”.  Those should be the areas you address more then others  because you want to prevent yourself from experiencing the same problems  over and over again.

Remember also to note your experiences in regards to the situation you  created the question about so you have some information to feed to your  instructor when you approach him.  If you have readily prepared  questions and experiences corresponding to that question you will help  your instructor a lot in regards to them being able to help you even  more.

Now that you are building a list of questions in regards to your  game, what can you do with those questions?

  • After class pull out your notebook then look at the your  questions (along with your experiences related to the questions) and ask  your instructor at least one question.  This question is very important  because it’s a real problem you had. Usually one or two questions  max (mostly one) is good because other students may have questions also.
  • Use these question so you can be prepared if you decide to  take a private lesson with someone.  To have a set list of questions  when you attend a private lesson is a great courtesy to both you and  your instructor you’re meeting with. It will make the lesson much more  productive, it will run smoother, and you’ll get a lot more out of it.
  • You can even use these questions to ask fellow grapplers on  the internet and see what they can come up with or what experiences  they have in relation to your issue.

The main point is to have actual questions that related to real  problems you’re having in your training.  Don’t waste your rolling time.   That is the time where you should actually be taking notes.  After  each training session you should have a minimum of two questions created  related to what happened when you were rolling with your partners.  You  may not get a chance to address each question right away and your list  of questions my build up faster then they are checked off as “addressed”  but at least you know exactly what it is that you need to work on and  what it is you should ask for help on.

Be on the lookout for a Part 2 in the Grapplers Guide Newsletter.  You   can sign up here: The Grapplers Guide – 100% Guaranteed to Improve Your Grappling Performance! Grappling System | Facebook

Thanks for reading,
Jason Scully
The Grapplers Guide