Another Nail In the Coffin Of Dead Repetition Drilling

40 plus bjj

If you haven’t heard of him, Kit Dale is an Australian
BJJ Black Belt under team Checkmat, and along with
having a great BJJ game he’s a very funny dude.

In a recent video, however, he’s pretty subdued as he
addresses the topic of drilling. In particular, why he
doesn’t “drill” anymore.



Then he followed up with this post:

If Jiu-Jitsu is supposed to be a “thinking mans” game
or a game of human chess, then why do so many people
spend the majority of their time repetition drilling?
And in favour of strategy, concepts and theory?
I understand a need for both, especially in the early
years, but they are both almost counter intuitive. One
develops set structure and quick reactions without
thought, like a bunch of dance moves strung together –
imposing their will on the opponent. The other develops
quick thinking and problem solving, without structure,
telegraphing and predictability, like a formless object
that learns and adapts during the match.

This concept will sound very familiar to my

It’s very likely that Kit is completely unfamiliar with any-
thing I’ve talked about or written on this subject, or the
principles that form the core of our coaching philosophy
in SBG.

That’s the beautiful thing about material reality… if
you do pay attention and don’t try to change it to fit an
agenda, it will reveal itself independent of outside

My take on some key points Kit addresses is below. As
always, these points are important for everyone. For
those who do not have “youth on their side,” they are

Drilling: by this, he’s referring to the classic
template of high rep static (or dead) drilling of
techniques, or technique sequences to build “muscle
memory,” immediately followed by rolling.

This is the most common, accepted – and very possibly
the worst – method for drilling to develop skill.

Unfortunately, because it is such an accepted method (as
Kit says, so many are stuck in their ways), many commit
an equally common logical fallacy in trying to justify
it: “But so-and-so famous/decorated BJJ competitor or
coach teaches like that, so who are you to argue!”

I’ve addressed this fallacy in the past and answered it,
especially in my Ultimate Guide to High Performance
Drilling, so I won’t repeat it here. But in short:

In our vocabulary, what most call “drilling” we simply
refer to as repetitions, or Intro Stage. Proper
drilling does not occur until the components of
aliveness are introduced – i.e., some level of
resistance, motion and timing.
40 plus bjj success

Adaptability: Kit points out that although there are
benefits to doing static repetitions (and there are),
such as really getting the form and mechanics down so
that they are automatic, there are also limitations if
your partner gives you a different reaction or energy
than how you “drilled” it.

What he’s referring to is adaptability, a key component
of alive training. It is ONLY through the tension, or
pressure, of a real, live training partner or opponent
that we can truly develop functional skill to a high
degree because it is only through such pressure that
our individual adaptations to “solve” it can take

Alive Isolation Training: what does Kit do in lieu of
high rep static drilling?

“I will start with my training partner… we’ll start
in a position, say two sleeve grips, he’s got spider
guard grips on my arms with his feet, so I’ll try to
pass from there, however I see fit, and I always tell
them to react however they would react in a competition
so it gives me a lot of real, live training rather than
just drilling against a dead dummy.”

And when doing this he says: “I try to pick [training
partners] who aren’t quite as good as me” so that he
can slow it down, problem solve, and keep the game more

Kit has essentially worked out a method for alive
Isolation training, where real adaptability and timing
(skill development) takes place. Why prefer to do this
with training partners who are a bit lower in skill?
Because he also realizes the key to isolation drilling:
progressive resistance.
Positional sparring is a form of isolation drilling,
but isolation drilling is not reducible to positional

Parting thought: this is by one of my best friends and
coaches, Matt Thornton:

“I am on a mission to create JIU-JITSU SCIENTISTS.
People who discover not just assorted FACTS (functional
techniques), but THEORY, universal principles that
explain how and why those facts WORK. In that vein, the
SIMPLEST theory will always be the most ELEGANT. The
most elegant theory will always give rise to the most
EFFICIENT techniques. And, efficient techniques are by
definition, intelligent. BEAUTIFUL (perfect) Jiu-Jitsu,
simple, efficient, intelligent, that’s how we advance
the art; and that is what SBG is all about.”

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