Well we’re a half of the way through the year. It’s funny how quickly time can fly, and we can find ourselves wondering if we’ve made the most of it. The same goes for our time in class.
I started out in Aikido, a very traditional Japanese martial art. Classes were characterized by strict “ettiquette”. This had advantages and drawbacks.
The advantages were that in that very formal environment everyone was on task 100% of the time. As soon as Sensei said “yamae” (stop) everyone immediately formally thanked their partner and sat in the formal seiza position to watch the next demonstration. This took about 1.5 seconds. There was zero needless chatter. The thought of feeling like you’d done enough reps and stopping never occurred to anyone. You kept going until sensei called yamae and if they decided to let you go on one technique for the entire class you kept going until the end. It was disciplined. It was martial.
The drawbacks were that the formality got in the way of communication. I don’t think I ever saw someone ask the teacher a question mid demonstration (including when I was teaching which I did for 10 years). A particularly brave soul might venture a “mo ichi do kudasai” (one more time please), but that was it. Certainly you were more likely to request Sensei to look at your technique as you were drilling but then the rest of the class missed out on the benefit of the answer (it was in this environment where, as a teacher, I first developed the “two person rule” – i.e. if two people ask me the same question, I answer it for the whole class).
BJJ tends to have a less formal environment. This is great for open communication between coach and student. The danger is that people can get distracted in their training, start playing the “how would I counter this” game, or go into long chats with their partner about the time you used the technique to almost sub a purple belt etc. The cost of that is repetitions.
I think the ideal situation is a blend of the two approaches. Utilising rituals to make sure you are 100% focused whenever your’e on the mat. This is why I ask our students to bow on and off the mat – a formal recognition that the mat is a place of focus and concentration. Why if you’re not a part of the class you shouldn’t be touching the mat. Why when drilling it’s about the number of reps you’re getting in. Why when the coach yells “time”, you stop immediately (mid technique, mid sentence) and direct your focus back to the coach.
And at the same time we encourage taking responsibility for your learning. Move around during a demo to get the best viewing angle. Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Call the coach over to check your technique.
This is how you get the most out of whatever mat time you have every week. If you want to view it as a competitive thing it’s a simple equation. It’s not about who has come to the most classes necessarily. It’s about who has done the most reps, who has been most focused, who has asked the best questions so that you have given every class 100% and in return the class has given you 100%.