How to use YouTube to improve your Jiu Jitsu (8 Easy Tips)

How many Jiu Jitsu videos do you think there are on YouTube? (Over 1.4 million is right!)

YouTube houses excellent information to help a grappler improve.  For every one good video, there are a handful of not so good ones.  Faulty instruction ingrains bad habits that could take years to unlearn.  So how can the jiu jitsu player use online videos efficiently?

YouTube As A ToolFirst we have to understand what exactly YouTube is useful for.

Use instructor FIRST, YouTube SECOND!

I pay tuition to an instructor for his expertise and hands on tinkering of techniques.  The movements he shows are the ones he feels the school as a whole needs to add to their tool belt.  He has way more experience than me, so I TRUST HIM.  During class I drill hard, get my repetitions in and make sure I ask questions to understand the moves.  I try to use these moves in live rolling.  YouTube must only be a supplement to this, not a replacement.

There are few things more frustrating to an instructor than showing a move a student executes sloppily a few times and then stops getting their repetitions to ask YouTube questions about a version they saw Rafael Lovato do but they don’t really remember how it goes.

I stay on task, and learn what is in front of me.  YouTube gives me some variety in rolling.  When my opponent’s defense against the “move of the day”  is on high alert during rolling sometimes I pull out that YouTube move.  I don’t let victories distract me.

Here some tips for using Youtube as a tool for growth.

Tip #1-  You don’t know what you don’t know. 

When I was a new grappler I watched a lot of videos with techniques that I wouldn’t be able to apply, but I learned concepts instead.  These concepts helped inform my grappling which actually made learning material on my level which applied to my game much simpler.  If I understand the purpose of what a grip does, it is far easier to remember than if I think of it as choreography.

As a white belt or early stage blue belt, watching videos to discover a new move to beat my training partners in class was an unrealistic goal.  That same time spent working through mental repetitions of what I already know would have produced far greater results.

Recognize that Youtube is a chance to see concepts play out.Don't Get Choked Out By A Ladder

Tip #2: I stuck to the videos by the best guys in the sport talking about moves they execute in competition (especially when I was new).

When I first began training Jiu Jitsu a majority of the YouTube videos were not produced by legit practitioners.  It became a joke that “you must have got that off of YouTube” whenever someone’s submission or sweep attempt fell apart.

Times have changed though.  With money to be made with online instruction, top names like Caio Terra, Keenan Cornelius, Marcelo Garcia, Rafael Mendez and others have tons of free content to entice new users to sign up for their sites.Caio Terra On YouTube

A huge value in winning Worlds or Pans is in having the credibility to be seen as an expert to book seminars and drive online subscriptions.

Grapplers who execute well in competition aren’t necessarily  masterful teachers.  They do know the material well enough to have success at the highest levels though and should be paid attention to.  If I see a video of Roger Gracie teaching the cross collar choke from mount, I watch it.  Marcelo Garcia teaching guillotines?  I watch it.  If I see two guys in a basement with the washer and dryer in the background I don’t watch it until I’ve seen all the high level videos out there.

(This isn’t to say that someone has to be a world class competitor to be a great teacher.  This is a simple filter for the new practitioner to use until he knows enough to identify good technique on his own)

Tip #3: Pick a move.  Any move.  Be specific!

pick a move any moveThe problem isn’t just finding a quality video that shows the correct details, but which one to watch.  A minute scrolling my Facebook feed leads down a rabbit hole of “half guard sweeps you have to know”, “the grip that makes passing the spider guard a breeze”, “the secret wrestlers use to finish the takedown” and so on.

YouTube videos all compete for my attention at the same time to capture those views and in the end it makes me feel very ADD.  Discipline in searching makes my time usage much more efficient.

As a practitioner you should always know what part of your jiu jitsu game you are working on. The more specific, the better my results will be.  If my search topic is generic “escaping side control” you will see a million varieties of side control positions and getting out of them.  If I focus on “escaping judo side” instead I will get to see a variety of ways people approach the same problem and gain depth solving one problem.

Tip #4: If I’m not studying it, I don’t watch it.

I could easily waste hours watching videos.  If I am working butterfly guard right now Don't watch if it isn't your focusand there are videos in my feed coming up about spider guard, no matter who it is or how much I wish my spider guard was better, I must keep scrolling for now.

Focus on one or two techniques . I usually do an attack and a defense and don’t go off
topic.  If there is a certain position that I feel strongly like I should watch, that usually tells me  that should be on the list as a candidate as the next technique I will work on after I finish with the current one.

Tip #5: Watch for similarities and differences in what individual instructors teach.

One of the huge benefits of YouTube is watching different instructors teaching the same move.  What details does “instructor A” think are the most important for this submission?  What about “instructor B.”  The details that they all agree on are the keys to the submission, and the rules that you better have a good reason to try to break.  The variety about how they perform the move is where their personal style comes into play.  I think of it as a focus group where you get to survey the experts.

Training Jiu JitsuMaybe one instructor likes to finish the position with the underhook and another prefers to frame.  This is where I get to see what matches my game.  Usually these subtle technical preferences are also based on where the grappler plans on going if it the move is unsuccessful.  Sometimes these differences show that one instructor has put in some extra time learning a detail others have overlooked. Rickson Gracie’s name has become synonymous with getting to the core of these overlooked details. (Tip #5.5:  If you don’t know who Rickson is, it would be a good use of your time to find out)

Tip #6:  Rewatch the best videos to really absorb the content.

Remember the best videos are on topic, specific videos taught by a credible instructor. Out of these, there will be a few that really seem to match up with my style and personality.  These are the videos I watch over and over.Watch That YouTube Video Again

I will typically view through completely once or twice without stopping, and then go back through stopping and rewinding as needed.  I try to catch all of the details.  What the is the instructor saying?  What is he is doing but not explaining? I focus on every word.

When I was newer I would underestimate words like “connection” and just thought it meant to hold on to someone.  But there is a very specific meaning of “connection” meaning linking two bodies together like they are one.  The key is to decipher the meaning of the elements of the move and not just learn choreography.
I watch the video an hour or so before class and again after class.  The viewing before is to refocus my mind on the details I am going to be aiming for.  The after class viewing is to match up my successes with what I did right from the video and the failures from the details I missed.

The first few times I try to test a YouTube move I find that getting into the position is the hardest part.  Subtleties of hip placement and pressure are what make it viable on a live opponent.

Tip #7:  Save a very selective playlist of your key videos.

By the time I have watched and rematched and applied the elements of a video I know enough about it I should never forget.  I also like to create a very selective database for quick reference.  My goal isn’t to be a move collector, but to create a reference of the 1-3 best videos for me on a topic with a total collection of 20 or fewer videos.

The biggest way I see others loose track here is by not being selective enough in this process.  Pretty soon there are hundreds of videos to try to sift through to find that one detail that one guy showed about switching his hips.

Tip #8 Don’t get discouraged.

I saw an instructional where one of the best guys in the world shows his best sweep but I can’t execute it as well as him after a month of working on it. Should I feel discouraged? Of course not, that is to be expected!  My goal isn’t to become a clone.  My goal is to extract the elements of a move that work for me.  I build my style, and my strategy out of the best resources out there. ( see my previous post “The Style Is Always Greener On The Other Side” for more on this topic)

Hit me up on in the comments or on my Facebook with any questions.

Check out my 5 favorite YouTube channels and the 2 videos every white belt should see on YouTube.