HOMEWORK IN JIU JIJTSU?!? That sounds terrible!
That was the first response I got a few years back when a lower belt training partner asked me what he could do to super-charge his progression in jiu jitsu. Admittedly, getting jiu jitsu students to do homework can be a tough sell given most of us are taught to hate homework based off our formal schooling experiences.
I get it. As a long-time high school teacher, I'm intimately familiar with the application (and perception) of homework. It's almost always mundane busy work with minimal connection to the actual knowledge the student is supposed to be learning. and there's sooooo much of it!
But homework can actually be an enjoyable thing in jiu jitsu! And a little bit goes a long way. As jiu jitsu instructors, we can speed our student's progress by giving them small little "assignments" to complete outside class. Before I get to specific examples, here are the "homework rules" best practices you should be following.
1. Homework needs to directly support whatever your students are learning in class. If you're covering a scissor sweep in class, don't have students work on a berimbolo at home.
2. Explain WHY the homework is given. Students need to understand the connection between what they're learning in class and what they're learning on their own at home.
3. Keep the time commitment to a minimum. Our students lead busy lives; they're not going to spend three hours per night working on shrimping in their living room. If homework requires more than a 10-15 minute time commitment, it's probably not getting done.
4. All homework should accomplish one of two things, preferably both - deepens understanding and improves skills. When planning what to give as homework, always focus on one or both of these goals.
5. Make sure the student can actually DO the task. If the student doesn't have the necessary knowledge or physical skills to do the homework, it ain't getting done. As such, homework should reflect stuff they've already learned in class unless what you're asking them to do is within their grasp (refer to Vgotsky's "Zones of Proximal Development.")
6. Make the homework enjoyable. If the homework is tedious or in any way unpleasant, nobody's going to do it. Maximizing compliance with completing homework requires a bit of clever marketing. Don't be afraid to get students excited about the "assignments."
With these points in mind, here are some homework ideas you can give your students:
1. Get in the habit of practicing fundamental movements in your daily life. If you're on the floor, use a technical stand-up to get up. Shrimp your way out of bed. When walking down the hall, practice your footwork for shooting, throws, or trips. When you pick something up and hold it, get used to using the minimum grip strength needed to keep it in your hand. If your heart rate increases for whatever reason, practice slowing your breathing and relaxing your muscles until it returns to normal. If your significant other gives you a hug, dig for the underhook. You get the idea.
2. Find video of the technique or concept we're working on in a black belt competition; share with the rest of the school. Watching high level practitioners executing technique correctly is a sport psychology mainstay for learning motor skills. If we're covering guillotines in class, this one would be a perfect example of a supplemental video that would benefit the entire school.
3. Research the technique we just covered in class by watching three Youtube videos on the same technique; share with the rest of the school. This is sort of related to #2, but has a different application. For any given aspect of jiu jitsu, there are all kinds of opinions on best-practices. How do you do a cross choke? There a probably 1,000 different details taught throughout the bjj world. This particular assignment exposes students to more details than you'd cover as the instructor. Now, this particular one requires you, as an instructor, to put your ego aside and recognize both your students and yourself can benefit from other perspectives. It also requires you to help your students experiment with different details to figure out what works best for them as individuals.
4. Review the material we covered in class and develop three questions related to problems or issues you have with the material. Developing questions is an excellent way to critically think about what you're learning, which helps you learn the material through deep processing. Further, answering the questions in the next class benefits the rest of the students.
5. Use VMBR to practice technique. Visual-Motor Behavior Rehearsal is a fancy term for combining relaxation and mental imagery to develop motor skills. This is an idea I explicitly teach in class, and it makes excellent homework. Research indicates the method is almost as effective as actual physical practice. In jiu jitsu where overtraining and injuries are real problems, this homework can be a game-changer, especially for older practitioners.
6. Do solo drills. Jason Scully of the Grappler's Guide (a phenomenal resource itself) produced this short video demonstrating 33 solo drills for jiu jitsu. Assign your students one or two of these per night; have them do 100 reps each. This will help both new and experienced students learn the gross motor skills of the basic movements that make up the vast majority of movement patterns we use in the sport.
There you have it - some guidelines and examples of homework you can assign to your students to help them process. Have fun!
If you have any other suggestions for homework, share it in the comments section!