Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Online: The Dark Side of Technology

When used properly, technology is a great addition to the BJJ learning process. When abused, it will lead to holes in your game that will show up down the road.

Have you ever rolled with a beginner student who tries to hit an advanced sweep on you, while cannot perform a basic guard pass? With the amount of information available to Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners, it is increasingly common for students to learn techniques from the Internet. Techniques they have no business learning. Years ago the only way to learn a technique was from your instructor. Now you can search YouTube or buy the latest DVD from your favorite athlete. Instant access to information on BJJ is a great tool – if you know how to use it right. If used in the wrong way, it can actually slow down your learning.

The Dark Side of Technology

Every big name in the Brazilian jiu jitsu community has an instructional DVD available. Some have paid websites where they show a different technique every day like a class. A beginner student might log on to one of those sites and see a crazy, rolling, back-take and think, “I am going to try this.” But this person can’t even tie his or her belt correctly.

The information overload has led to some students learning BJJ in reverse order. Meaning, they try to learn an advanced sweep they saw on the Internet when they should be focusing on the fundamentals. There needs to be an order to learning. In every sport there is a natural progression to mastering the skills involved. In baseball, kids start by hitting off a tee. Jumping into advanced techniques in BJJ is like having a six-year-old try to hit a ball thrown by a high school kid. The child is not ready yet.

Everyone who wears a black belt was a white belt at first. Some of the most successful competitors still rely on the basics they learned as white belts to win the worlds. For example Roger Gracie. He is a multiple time world champion finishing the majority of this opponents with a cross choke from the mount or back.

Not to mention, not all of the BJJ videos on the Internet are even of good quality. You can find almost any technique online, but just because it’s on YouTube does not mean it’s being demonstrated properly. There is nothing stopping someone from posting a video of a technique done completely wrong. A more experienced student will spot the difference right away. The beginner student is not going to be able to tell the difference between the two. So now, not only is the student skipping the fundamentals, but he or she is spending time mimicking bad technique.

Using Technology to Your Advantage

Let’s take a look at how to use technology to your advantage. Below are some tips to help every BJJ practitioner get the most out of online resources:

1. Choose the Right Resource

Everyone has a different style. An athlete’s style can be a result of his or her body type or academy. Most of the time it’s a combination of both. Choose one or two athletes who have a similar body type or style as yours. That way the techniques are in line with your game.

2. Do Not Skip the Natural Learning Progression

This means do not focus on techniques that are above your skill level. Instead, use online resources or DVDs to clean up techniques. For example, during class you learned an arm bar. When you get home you can look and see how your favorite athlete does his or her arm bar.

3. Use Online Resources and DVDs as Review

There will be times when you just can’t remember a technique you learned or you need a refresher. When this happens, search through your resources and see if you can find the technique on one of your DVDs.

4. Pay Attention to the Little Details

DVDs and online video allow you to watch a technique over and over again. Pay attention to the little details – things like grips and how the athletes are distributing their weight. In class you may only see a technique one or two times, but you can review the same video clip as many times as you need until you get it. Better yet, bring your laptop or tablet to the academy and practice the technique with a partner. You can then go back and watch the video as many times as you need to make sure all the little details are covered.


Technology has allowed Brazilian jiu jitsu to grow. When used properly, technology is a great addition to the learning process. When abused, it will lead to holes in your game that will show up down the road. Focus on the fundamentals before the advanced techniques. The famous powerlifter Louie Simmons said it best, “A pyramid is only as tall as its base.” Build a big base of basic techniques and you can eventually go much higher.

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo 3 courtesy of Samuel Spiegelman.

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