How much choice is too much? - BJJ & MMA Auckland | GroundControl

How much choice is too much?



There’s some situations where we want lot’s of choice (like say ice cream flavours). And then there’s others where choice gets in the way, slows things down.  Ever been to a restaurant and found it really hard to choose from a menu?  How about at a wedding, or on a flight where there’s only two choices.  Notice how much more quickly you can make the choice when there’s less to choose from?

More choices = a slower decision.

In a combat situation we are running through the OODA loop constantly.

Making Observations about what’s going on, Orientating what we’re seeing to what we know, Deciding what to based on that knowledge and then taking Action.

It is at the Decide phase where too much choice can be a problem.  The less to choose from the less time it takes to decide – and the quicker our OODA loop runs.  And he or she with the quickest OODA loop wins – all other things being equal.

This is the challenge with BJJ in the modern age.  You’ve got what is potentially the most sophisticated martial art ever in terms of sheer number of techniques, rate of evolution and number of variations.  And that is coupled with the information age where all that knowledge is only a click away. 

Suddenly we are awash with choices.  And while we’re figuring out which of 120 sweeps to execute our partner is passing our guard.   

The challenge in BJJ in many ways is not learning more techniques, but narrowing down our choices. 

Being more algorithmic.  That is to say letting the observation dictate the action with no decision at all.
If the opponent does this, I do that. They put their hand on the mat while in my guard, I kimura.
Run with a set of “A game” options for a while as your first choice for each situation.  As you go into rolling be clear what those A game moves you would like to hit are.  This will provide focus for your roll and an easier way to notice your progress.

And then of course as you get more experienced you can make more distinctions. Their hand is on the mat in my guard but not by my hip, closer to my shoulder. So I execute a cutting armbar. More distinctions = more appropriate responses. But we are still running an algorithm rather than choosing from a buffet.

This is why it’s so important that beginning students have a clear curriculum to learn from. So they can make sense of the myriad of options they see in class and inevitably online. And have a structured way of prioritising those choices, a framework to hang them off.

I love BJJ for it’s richness. There is always something new to learn and techniques to develop and put in your game. But when it matters I want to be clear what my go to moves are – so I am dictating the pace. Not with my athleticism but with the speed of my decision loops.


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