Monday, March 22, 2021

Chains and Candy


One of my old instructors used to teach in chains.  For instance, he'd teach us the Upa Mount Escape which lands you on top in closed guard. We'd practice it for a few reps. Then he'd show us a guard pass. But we wouldn't just rep the guard pass. We'd do the mount escape followed by the guard pass so it flowed together like one big technique. Then he might add a transition to mount. Then a submission, say straight arm lock from the mount. Then the arm lock escape. These chains would be anywhere from 4 to 7 moves long depending on how quickly everyone was getting each move. 

I always enjoyed learning this way. It helped me see connections. It also helped me to establish an overall sense of flow, and get a better overall picture of the game as a whole. 

One day a buddy of mine (we'll call him Joe) made a comment to our instructor after class. Joe told our instructor he enjoyed the chains, but by the time he got home sometimes the only move he could remember was that first one in the sequence. 

Our instructor smiled. "That is okay Joseph. I will tell you a little secret. The first technique I show you is the only one I really want you learn." 

"But what about all of the other ones? Why would you show them to us if you didn't want us to learn them? I mean, isn't that just a big waste of time? Wouldn't it be better to just focus on the techniques you actually want us to learn?" 

"Ahh, yes. In Brazil it was not uncommon to practice a technique over 50 times. But nobody has the patience for that anymore. You see, if I asked you to drill the move even 20 times you might do it, but you would get bored. After a while, you might even quit my school and go train somewhere else." 

"So instead I have to trick you. I ask you to do the first move a few times. Then after I teach you the second move, you do the first one a few more times because they connect in a chain. Then a few more times with the third, and so on. If someone asks a question and I take a little time to answer it, maybe you get a few more repetitions on top of that."

"All the moves after the first one are like candy.   By the end of the lesson you don't even realize how many times you've practiced that first technique!  You've been so focused on the candy!  If all you remember when you get home is the first move, then I'm happy.  Eventually, when you see that lesson again you'll already know the first move, and maybe then you'll remember the second when you get home."


And he was right.  All the benefits of training those sequences were real.  But until he spelled it out for me, I never realized how many reps of that first technique I was getting in.  I was completely distracted by the candy!

Makes me wonder what other little psychological tricks were being played on me by my instructors over the years...

What's your favorite instructional technique?