The Dark Side of Drilling
Among the elements of a typical class or training schedule, the notion of drilling seems to be the most contentious or controversial. From the average practitioner who has just learned a technique who is performing repetitions to begin to build muscle, to the highest level competitor you can think of who performs hundreds and hundreds of repetitions of specific techniques or set ups to prepare for competition, the vast majority of BJJ students are using drilling in some way, shape or form.
But is drilling an effective strategy for learning and perfecting techniques? Is it a valuable use of one's time? The answer may not be as cut and dried as one might desire, but then again no one ever said anything about BJJ is necessarily easy.
One of the most controversial BJJ athletes, personalities, and anti-drillers is Kit Dale who caused quite a stir over the last few years with his anti-drilling approach to BJJ. Kit Dale was one of the first high level athletes to burst from the Australian BJJ scene and to make an impact more globally. His tongue in cheek humor and philosophical approach has brought him a great deal of followers who have begun to look at their own approach to BJJ and learning in general differently.
In the video below, Kit Dale responds to an internet question as to why he doesn't spend time drilling like many of his fellow jiu jitsu athletes. Take a look and we'll break down some keypoints after the video.
Let's make it perfectly clear, Kit Dale is not completely anti-drilling. Drilling serves an important place in helping to build muscle memory when performing techniques. What Kit is against is that the belief in endless drilling and repetitions is a good use of one's training time.
The downsides for Kit range from becoming too predictable with how techniques are executed. At the highest level, the gap between competitor skill levels begins to narrow and if a competitor notices and understands a specific pattern or series of techniques coming from their competition, they will do everything they can to disrupt this chain and derail the technique.
You may have done hundreds or thousands of repetitions of a certain sequence, in which your opponent offered up the same reaction each time and if we lived in a computer program and you were competing against someone that perfectly replicated this scenario, you would destroy and be victorious. But the reality is that our opponents may react in ways that we never expected, nor planned for, causing us a great deal of trouble.
Instead of this approach, Kit recommends an approach in which you may practice repetitions of a technique in a more organic way. Instead of working to replicate reps of the same guard pass over and over ad nauseum, Kit will work with partners with the goal of "passing the guard" and allow the training partner to react any way they wish. In this version of drilling, the moves are repeated but in a more realistic way that builds not only muscle memory, but also allows for the development of strategy and game plan which makes the time much more valuably spent.
Another interesting element that Kit mentions in this approach is the importance of training as much as possible with less experienced grapplers. Using the guard pass example, if we are practicing with someone of equal or greater skill than us, their reactions may cause us more problems and not allow us to effectively work the technique over and over, removing all of the value of the exercise. Instead, if we perform this type of situational training with less experienced practitioners, we are able to perform more and more successful repetitions and keep them highly technical. This is not to say we should avoid training with the most skilled partners we can, but in this particular exercise, using the newer students, we can get as many successful repetitions of guard passes and be able to build muscle memory for a number of reactions.
Kit Dale is a competitive athlete who earned his black belt in around 4 years. He did this by training smarter, as well as harder. We all have only 24 hours in a day. Depending on our lifestyle and training schedule, we may be limited to the amount of time we can spend improving our technique. Kit would argue that endless repetitions of the exact same movements, against the exact same reactions might not be the best use of our time. Why not give his approach a try and see if you can fast track your progress a bit like Kit.
Now that you've seen some of the concepts and ideas behind Kit Dale's approach to drilling, check out the 2 volume "Art of Learning" available in a convenient On Demand format available here! Get all of the secrets to how Kit was able to fast track his jiu jitsu learning and understanding and achieve his black belt in an incredible 4 year period!