Jiu Jitsu Training The Lab Class

The Lab Class: Open Your Mind

This article revolves around what I like to call the “Lab” class. It was brought about by something I heard Eddie Bravo say several years ago. Eddie was explaining that his students were mad scientists on the mat and they were constantly pushing the limits of the 10th Planet system. His students were coming up with new transitions, moves and theories around jiu jitsu and grappling in general.

Any teacher will tell you that we learn from our students. It’s not just our own teachers that are pushing us along the path-it is our very own students that help us redefine how we look at grappling. If you truly want to have an open mind about jiu jitsu, you may want to implement the Lab class once a month at your school.

What is it?

The Lab class is a specific class designed to let students get their creative juices flowing. If you have open mat at your school, you can BET that your students are trying things that you DON’T teach them. They are bringing in ideas that they saw on You Tube or read in a book and trying them on their own time. Why not benefit from this and have the whole class participate. The Lab will help you rediscover moves that you have forgotten about and also help the students realize where dead ends occur and what is actually viable.

In the Lab, you are a guide (not so much a teacher). You let your students play around with techniques and YOU ask a lot of WHY questions. You need to use this Socratic Method to help them break down all the avenues in their own minds. You also may have legit question yourself and need another perspective to help you understand.

Lab classes are totally free flowing and they may wander down paths that you had no idea existed. You may start at one topic and end up somewhere totally different. Just go with it. I can ASSURE you that your students, no matter what level they are, will feel empowered hugely by these classes. The reason is that they are using their mental powers to break down walls and discovering things for themselves and having other people in the lab make or break their techniques.

I typically will introduce something to get them started. Let’s say you are working off options in the crucifix or crack head control (10th Planet Jiu Jitsu) positions. You tell your students to break up in pairs and see what they can come up with from those positions. You let them drill and play around with stuff for about 15 minutes. Then, you call everyone back to the circle. You go through each pair and say “what do you have?”
Now, what you will find is one of 3 things.

The first is that they have discovered something that is legit. So legit, that someone else has already discovered it. It could be a way to take the back or a choke from catch wrestling that they aren’t aware of. As a teacher (or a GUIDE), you tell them that this is a LEGIT move and that they indeed rediscovered something. Tell them of your own experiences of thinking that you too had thought you had invented something only to find out that it did indeed exist. While it can be argued that this is the case with all techniques (I don’t necessary believe this), you must praise your students for being open and having self discovery. They will feel a sense of pride in knowing that they put the puzzle together and found a neat solution to a problem by themselves. Just because someone else ‘invented’ the move, having discovered it for oneself is a milestone. Don’t understate this.

The second point is that they have invented something that SEEMS to work but in actually fact doesn’t. Last night, one of my guys thought he invented a choke of a high guard (from crack head control). I watched him do it and saw his partner tap. He did it again and his partner tapped AGAIN. I explained to him “in order to make this move legit and have it named after you (use humor to help guide your students...remember, you are having fun in the LAB), the move must survive resistance and living rolling. If you can pull it off in live rolling, then we’ll take a real closer look at it.

I knew the move had flaws but I also knew it would get a different reaction when just looking at it from the outside in. I had these guys demonstrate the move in front of everyone. The class went “oooooooh”, “wow” “ cool” and “I like that”. What looks good from the outside doesn’t always mean it works. I simply had my guy put the move on me and sat there. No tap and thumbs up. I had him try on a few other guys. Same result.
It is at this point that you ask the students in the lab why isn’t it working? They begin to re think their initial thoughts and help break down the process of getting out of the move or how to stifle it. Again, the lab is about having your students BREAK things down.

The last thing you will find in the Lab is that your students actually discover something new (or that you have never seen). While this COULD fall into the first category of rediscovery (we must admit as teachers that we don’t know everything), it is possible that they are onto something totally cool and new. One of my students saw an opening in a 10th Planet technique to get up a gogoplata. I hadn’t seen it nor had Eddie or anyone else. It was right there in front of our eyes and no one saw it. But guess what? It is legit and works in LIVE rolling. Chalk one up for youth and exuberance!

So, once a month, see what your students are up to. Check in with them in a LAB class. You’ll see that they are doing stuff like the rubber guard, 50/50, inverted guard, crushes and more. They may have been working on stuff that you were not aware of. This is a good time to check in and either guide them back on the path or realize that you need to be looking down theirs.

If you have any further questions on how I run a Lab class, just drop me a line at ari@submissions101.com

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