Much of learning jiujitsu is learning how to react in specific scenarios. If he does this, I do this. If he does that, then I do this. After all it is a fighting sport and our actions depend on our opponent’s reactions and vice versa. As a teacher of the gentle art, I have to remember to teach both sides of the coin. I often see my students fail to perform a move successfully due to their training partner not creating the proper scenario. That is a failure on my part to adequately teach each player how to be a super friend. This means I have to teach people that they are BOTH drilling all the time. Often students think that drilling means one person is doing the move and the other person is totally passive and resting. That’s never the case. In jiujitsu both participants are always participating all the time. One must be a superfriend for his or her training partners and actively create the scenario for the moves to work. If you do not take the shot, I cannot adequately learn to sprawl. I do not sprawl, then you cannot learn how to transition to the defense to the sprawl. Everyone must play their part all the time. That is what being a superfriend is about.
Competition in jiujitsu is fun. I mean, I don’t care for it particularly. It makes me nervous and anxious and I never perform my best. However, the need to test our skills regularly whether in day to day training or competition is an essential part of the sport. I encourage people to compete at least to see if they like it and enjoy it. For some people the thrill of competition is everything. And finding that as an adult can be a great vehicle to improve their lives. That being said, I have to put something into perspective.
The real competitions start at Black Belt. I’m not trying to be dismissive or condescending. It is great that there are competitions open to students of all levels. And the only way to improve at competition is to compete regularly. I get super excited over my friends and students competing as anybody would. I cheer them on and I coach them and I watch their matches with great enthusiasm. However, once someone is dominating the field and bringing home gold medals from multiple competitions, it just signals to me that they are ready to be promoted. That is another good thing about competition. It can signal when someone is ready to advance.
I think it is important to remember this if you are competing and losing. Yes, that gives you stuff to work on. Learn from your losses! It also means you are where you should be regarding your belt. And, third, you are probably going against people that are due for a promotion. This is why I often say rather sarcastically that nobody cares if you are the world’s greatest white belt. In my mind the white belt world champion (I can’t believe that’s even a title) is just a blue belt that hasn’t gotten promoted yet. And so on as you go up in ranks. That’s not a bad thing (although I often say it with disgust). It’s just how it is.
If you want to compete, then you have to be willing slog it out in the same division for a couple of years until you start making progress. If you’re competing then it pays to be the world’s best white belt. However that to me just translates to the world’s newest blue belt. Then the process starts all over again as you move your way through the blue belt division for a few years.
Enjoy the process. One day you might be the world’s best white belt and the next day hopefully you’ll be the worst blue belt. That’s the journey.
“At the foundation of all training is the ability to make a better decision. Period.” My friend, Brian Mackenzie said this and it really resonated with me. Making a better decision is all we have. It’s all we can do to grow. Each day we have hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions to make that will direct the course of our lives. They say, “Hard training. Easy life.” To train hard is a decision in and of itself that will steer your life in a better direction. Beyond that, how we train and what we do in the gym are decisions that also will have great repercussions. The devil is in the details.
At its best, training is mental and emotional as well as physical. If in the midst of hard training, I can maintain my emotional composure as well as my physical composure, I will have trained more than merely the muscles. Imagine an intense workout where I am asked to work hard for a given period of time. After a few minutes the physical demand will start to show as I fatigue and need to slow down and take breaks. However, the other struggle is emotional and mental. I will start having feelings about how much my legs are burning. I will need to self-talk. That monologue can be positive or negative. Furthermore, my emotional state might start manifesting as poor mechanics. For example, when people fatigue, they often start looking down and hanging their heads, their expression turns sour, they rest their hands on their hips or thighs, they start sacrificing their form. These are physical manifestations of emotional and mental fatigue. Also how an athlete acts in the last seconds of the workout are indicative of how they act near the end of a contest.
If we believe that “how we do anything is how we do everything,” then we should envision the athlete at the end of the match when they are fatigued and potentially behind on points. We cannot expect them to rise to the occasion, instead we must understand that they will fall to the level of their training. We look for the physical cues of their emotional content, the sour face and downcast eyes, the hands on their hips or thighs. We listen for the self talk. We see if they push through to the end or if they shut down before the clock winds down. Those are not the types of athletes or people we want to develop. We need to take the training room seriously. We need to ask our athletes to make better choices about who they want to be when everything is stacked against them.
Coach your athletes to make better choices not just physically but also emotionally. Have them stop and listen to themselves. Reframe their self-talk. Make better decisions about their posture and their demeanor. Train your athletes to push through to the end and not to give up prematurely. Mental toughness is a trained skill as is emotional stability as is physical fitness. Use that precious time in the gym to make better decisions about how you will be outside the gym.
Sometimes the hardest thing is figuring out what is important and what is unimportant. Once you figure that out, you can spend your time focusing on the important things and ignoring the unimportant things. Too often we get caught up in shit that doesn’t matter. The sooner we catch ourselves doing that, the sooner we can stop and get back on track. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of HIghly Effective People says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
One of the keys to mastering something is deliberate practice. One of the hallmarks of deliberate practice is instant feedback and error correction. If I’m coaching you on back squats and I cheer you on for the session and then while you are cooling down and stretching, I mention that you weren’t squatting deep enough and that your weight was too far forward in your toes, that information is of little value to you. It’s feedback but it is delivered far too late for you to act on it. You will have to wait until the next session and will likely forget. Immediate feedback is what I need to give you as a coach. I need to tell you during your set of squats to go deeper and to shift your weight back into your heels. Somewhere during our session you should be making these corrections if you want to eventually improve at the squat.
If I’m learning a new piece of music, what I do not do is start at the beginning and just try to play the piece of music from start to finish over and over again trying to get it right. Waiting until I get all the way to the end before going back and fixing mistakes is ineffective. I need to break the piece into chunks–I learn a phrase or measure at a time. By chunking it into small pieces, it is manageable and I can repeat each phrase over and over until I get it right before moving on to the next phrase. The time between recognizing errors, also known as feedback, and correcting errors is crucial to efficient, quick progress.
In jiujitsu, like music, there is instantaneous feedback when you make a mistake. However, most of us do not practice rapid and immediate error correction. We make a mistake and suddenly our partner has a good position on us and is on the attack. We have a constant stream of problems coming at us that we have to solve for better or worse. And by the time we get to the end of a match, we can hardly remember all the mistakes that we made. If we do roll again, the nature of live training is that we might not ever end up in the same situation again for an extended period of time so there is no guaranty of being able to correct any of the errors from past matches.
What we should be striving for is more drilling that allows for rapid error correction through chunking. One way that we do this already is positional drilling. If you start in the juji-gatami or spider web position, you are effectively chunking your training into one small aspect of the game and you can work on that repeatedly and make corrections each time. I suspect we could even do better than relying just on positional drilling for our chunking. We work cooperatively to develop the discipline to train with our partners and agree to have the discipline to stop and redo parts of the roll. Imagine if you could replay the moment right before you got swept and you could practice the defense. You want to create a Groundhogs Day situation like the movie where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again for the whole movie until he finally gets it right.
You should find a Super Friend and roll with them for a while with an understanding that at some point during the roll you can call a “do-over.” When that happens you rewind and start over from before the mistake and you try to fix it. You might go over it for a couple of minutes until you feel you have a handle on it and then you continue rolling live until one of you calls “do-over” again. Make up the rules you want but come to an agreement with your Super Friend that you will help each other get better and clean up your mistakes.
Some of you are saying, “I don’t want to have to stop in the middle of every roll.” You do not have to do this every roll. I recommend trying to do this once in a while in order to clean up some of your common errors.
Combat sports differ from many other sports in that proper training and development is based on working with live, resisting training partners. Thus it is important to learn how to be a good training partner and how to help teach others to be good training partners. A great training partner is a Super Friend and your ultimate success and the success of your team is based on creating a league of Super Friends that help and support each other.
If grappling dummies were the best way to practice and drill, the elite BJJ academies would have 20 or 30 grappling dummies and classes would be taught on dummies and everyone would drill with their own grappling dummy. There is a reason why that doesn’t happen. It’s because BJJ is based on real sparring with a live opponent that is trying to negate what you are doing while simultaneously imposing their own will on you. Thus an inanimate grappling dummy is limited in what it can offer with respect to real time feedback and live, human partners continue be the best choice for training.
Have you ever noticed that a lot of higher belts will only want to train with certain people? There could be many reasons for this but I often find that myself and other higher belts have a short list of Super Friends: training partners that know how to drill and roll and can help them improve. When left to our own devices, we seek out our Super Friends to train with and try to find nice ways to avoid training with partners that do not act like Super Friends. Our long-term success and enjoyment in the sport of jiujitsu is going to depend heavily on our ability to find people to roll with that will challenge us and help us learn, grow, and improve. The job of the instructor is not only to teach how to perform techniques, but also to teach people how to be good partners and, ultimately, to create a culture of Super Friends. Imagine if we could create a culture where everyone was a good and conscientious Super Friend? Then we could have many more good training partners and create more opportunities to roll with different people. A league of Super Friends is a team committed to helping each other improve.
What is the point of drilling and training and sparring? The goal is always improvement. Biologically and physiologically we improve via adaptation to stimulus. A stimulus has to be sufficient to drive adaptation; it has to be hard enough to cause organism to begin the adaptation process. When training with a barbell the load is the stimulus. We adapt in proportion to the load on the bar. If I never add load to the bar, I will never get stronger. If I add too much to the bar and cannot lift it, then I will never get stronger. The way barbell training generally works is that I perform a number of reps and sets at a challenging load. That’s the stimulus. I go home and recover and adapt–get stronger. The next time I go to the gym, I have to increase the stimulus. I add more weight or do more sets and reps. I continue in this manner over time and I get stronger. Our BJJ training should also follow a similar process of gradually increasing the stimulus.
The problem is that people are not like barbells. It is natural to throttle up our intensity when our ego is threatened. It is natural to be too polite and not give enough constructive feedback. It is easy to forget our job as Super Friend and just do what makes us look good or to just roll without focus on helping myself and others really improve. The problem that faces most jiujiteiros is that during class, you spend half the class drilling with minimal resistance and the other half of class rolling with maximal resistance. Essentially you go from no weight on the bar to more weight than you can lift. Neither of those scenarios is a an appropriate stimulus. Thus, unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to improve than it should.
Most seasoned practitioners solve this problem in one way, they seek out partners that are at different levels. A purple belt might warm up with a white belt and then have progressively more difficult rolls with blue belts of various levels and finish with some rolls with other purple (or higher) belts. The problem there is that the seasoned purple belt is getting a lot of out of this process but the white and blue belts are not. This is creates a system that rewards those that stay in the system long enough to rise to a certain level, but slows the process of the white and blue belts that are used as grappling dummies for the higher belts. What we should strive for is a system where everyone learns and progresses quickly from the white belt level all the way through black belt.
The answer is learning how to drill progressively. It is becoming more and more clear to me as an instructor, that I have to take responsibility for creating the culture of Super Friends. I have to teach people how to drill and be better partners for each other. It’s not something that comes naturally. Before I can do that, I need to at least define what the characteristics of a Super Friend are.
In the dojo, your partner’s job is to provide the stimulus. If your partner does not provide enough stimulus, you will not improve. If your partner provides too much stimulus you will not improve. A true Super Friend provides enough stimulus to challenge you but allows you to succeed.
The job of the Super Friend:
- Provide the appropriate stimulus
- Allow you to be successful
- Give important and timely feedback
- Keep you safe
The appropriate stimulus is a moving target but let’s look at our barbell analogy again. If your training session requires squatting 3 sets of 5 reps at 225lbs. You would need to warm up before putting 225lbs on your back. You do a couple of sets with the empty bar. Then you would probably do 3 or 4 warm up sets progressively going up in weight from the empty bar. Your warmup sets might be at 95lbs, 135lbs, and 185lbs before loading up 225 and starting your work sets.
If I was to draw a parallel to drilling in BJJ, let’s take the example of move like the step-around armbar from side control where I underhook the far-side arm and walk around my partner and sit down into juji-gatami on the other side from where I started. It’s a fairly basic move, but let’s say that’s the move of the day in class. If I really wanted to train it and improve it to jgj, I would need enough repetitions to get a stimulus and I would also need enough resistance to force me to adapt and get better. In an ideal world, me and my Super Friend would take turns drilling the move. Let’s use the same rep scheme as our barbell example. Maybe my Super Friend and I do two sets of five reps of the walk around armbar with minimal resistance. We basically just go through the movement without any resistance just to get our bodies familiar with it and to warm up. Then we perform three more sets of five reps each with increasing resistance. Now being a Super Friend I gradually increase how hard I resist. I also take these reps to point out where my partner is maybe missing some details or feels loose or off balance. This gives each of a chance to make some adjustments while gradually increasing the resistance. Finally, we might finish with three more sets of five reps but these sets and reps are performed at closer to full speed and resistance, but not so much that my partner can’t be successful. Think back to the barbell example, if I loaded 315lbs on the barbell instead of 225, I might only get 1 rep or maybe no reps, or get injured. That’s not a good training session. When drilling I have to learn how to give enough resistance to make it hard for my partner but not impossible. I have to learn to fight hard, but not too hard. To move faster, but not too fast.
The terrible partner archetype. There are a couple of classic examples of terrible training partners. Do your best to not fall into either of these categories and then see if you can gradually become a Super Friend. The Ragdoll. This is the partner that just lays there limp and doesn’t resist at all and doesn’t even try to hold their body in position. These partners are extremely frustrating because they offer no resistance and you cannot even perform the most basic move on them.
The Ragdoll is most often seen in very young kids and young women as they may have no prior experience wrestling with people and, thus, have no idea how to behave or hold themselves in positions. It is more frustrating when adult males can’t seem to sit up straight in your guard, regardless, the Ragdoll results from an extreme lack of physical confidence, strength, and experience. Thus very rudimentary prerequisite strength and confidence must be build so that they can just hold themselves in basic positions. No amount of yelling is going to get people there. Extreme patience is required to develop that strength, confidence, and experience and get these Ragdolls to be effective training partners. These people will often undergo extreme changes off the mat as they acquire physical strength and capacity that they have never known before.
The Immovable Object. The Yang to the Ragdoll’s Yin is the Immovable Object. This is the guy that no matter what you tell him, will not let you drill on him. Every thing you try is countered with brute force. This person has no concept of how drilling is supposed to work. They come in and are all ego and refuse to let anything happen to them. The immovable object must be educated on the job of a training partner and you must explain to them that in order to fully learn the techniques they need to experience them from both sides. Some of these Immovable Objects respond well to a good ass-kicking, especially by someone smaller and weaker than them. It quickly opens their eyes to the effectiveness of jiujitsu. However, often that usually just drives them and their big egos out the door. Creating a team culture where people understand that although this is an individual sport, we train as a team and we need the team in order to be our best. Once they realize where they fit into the team, they can start to let go of the ego and start being an asset to the team.
Actions are better than words. Most people in BJJ understand the team dynamic and understand the need for Super Friends. What they do not understand is the most effective way to be a Super Friend is through your actions not through your words. Here’s the classic example, a lot of guys in BJJ will gladly show you a move, or show you a defense to a move, or stop and tell you what you’re doing wrong after you roll. That is almost always done with the best of intentions. It’s a sign of gratitude and friendship when, after we roll, I leave you with some good tips on how to train better next time. If we took that same intention and applied it to our drilling and rolling and being a Super Friend we could make even faster progress as a team. The best Super Friends are the ones that meet you where you are and push you just past your comfort zone.
How to be a Super Friend:
- Be conscious and aware when you are applying the moves and, especially, when they are being applied to you. Pay attention to the details.
- Work cooperatively to learn how to do the moves correctly. Try to figure out where you are struggling and ask questions. If you feel where your partner is struggling help them.
- Meet your partner where they are. If they are new, do not resist too much. Let them learn. If they make a mistake, point it out and let them repeat the move until they stop making the mistake.
- Try not to spaz out. Be mindful of what you are doing and what your goal is when rolling. Do not try to kill your partner. Try to implement moves that you know without trying to muscle everything.
- Perform the correct reactions. For example, post when your partner tries to sweep you or react by lifting your head after they try to snap your head down.
- Coach your partner as you are performing the drill and let her know what she is doing right and wrong. When they are making mistakes help them fix it. Slow down and do more reps. When they seem to have it, that’s when you gradually increase your resistance.
- Learn to modulate resistance and speed gradually. Most people only have two gears: no resistance and all the resistance. Super Friends play at different speeds to meet their partner’s needs. It’s so hard to go from easy drilling to full-out rolling. Learn to roll at a moderate intensity to allow both of you to improve.
- Learn how to stop in the middle of a roll and rewind and do it over. Super Friends will tap you and then show you the mistake you made and rewind the roll back to before the tap and let you practice the escape. That way common mistakes do not become permanent habits.
Start to view training as a cooperative process, as a learning process more than just a competition. One of the keys to effective training and improving lies in finding the appropriate stimulus. Find ways to improve those around you and they will improve you as well. Create a league of Super Friends to train with and become the best you can be.
Here’s something interesting to chew on. Cardio respiratory endurance is sport (modal) specific. You take someone that is an elite (or even above average) endurance athlete in one sport (modality) and place them into a different sport and their dominance or competitive edge largely disappears. Take Lance Armstrong at his peak all doped up on EPO and drop him into the NYC Marathon and his formidable cardio respiratory endurance is above average but not elite and he was certainly not a threat to any of the top runners. When he ran many people speculated that since he was arguably the best endurance athlete in the world, he would crush the NYC Marathon. His best time was a 2:46 which is respectable but not dominant.
This is why triathletes basically train all the time because they are trying to increase their capacity in each modality. If cardio worked like most people think, then a triathlete could basically train one sport to excess and expect it carry over to the other two sports. So if we know that the cardio from biking doesn’t really help our running and the cardio from running doesn’t really help our biking, then why do we believe doing either of those things will help our jiujitsu?
Pretty much everyone that has done jiujitsu has heard their sensei or some higher belt say, “technique beats strength.” However, everyone that has trained jiujitsu has been beaten at some point by someone bigger and stronger than them. I’ve seen plenty of high level wrestlers with no jiujitsu experience give high level jiujiteiros a really hard time. Jiujitsu is a physical practice. Martial artists, including jiujiteiros, love to talk about martial arts as having magical or mystical powers, but all physical practices are still governed by physics and physiology, not magic. So when you want to discuss things like strength, leverage, force, technique and mass (size) you cannot separate those things from the laws of physics and physiology.
“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” Socrates
The first thing we need to do is define some of these terms. Technique is the movements or positions used to accomplish a task. Read more here. Whether the task is a sweep or an armbar, there many techniques that will get the job done. The better technique will accomplish the same task while expending less energy. We understand that when we see newbies using 100% effort to perform the simplest move on someone compared to a blackbelt performing the same move with their eyes closed and talking to someone else seemingly expending next to no energy.
We often view strength as mere contractile potential and a factor that is separate and at odds with technique. That is wholly wrong. Strength is not merely the size and force of your muscles. In reality, strength is the productive application of force: applying the right amount of force at the right time and right direction. True strength is inseparable from technique. If strength were merely about size, you would determine the winner of strength competition by the size of their muscles. If strength were purely about how hard you could contract your muscles, you might see the leg press as a contested event. Strength is directly correlated to the task you are trying to complete. Thus the squat, deadlift, bench, clean & jerk are all separately tested events and the winner of one lift does not necessarily win the others.
Here’s another example: when performing a classic juji gatame armbar, you point your opponent’s thumb to the sky as you pull back on the wrist and bridge up with your hips. The same amount of force (contractile potential) applied with the thumb facing sideways will be ineffective at breaking the arm. Similarly the right technique applied with too little force will also be ineffective. For example, a 5-foot tall, 100lb female trying to armbar a 6-foot, 5-inch tall male athlete that ways 250lbs will likely be ineffective no matter how proficient her technique.
To a large degree, mass moves mass. And to deny that would be ridiculous. This is why we have weight classes in sports. Too large a discrepancy in size and strength cannot simply be overcome with technique. If you want to be competitive, you should not neglect the value of getting stronger. Do not conflate increasing strength with becoming slow and inflexible which is a myth that kept many sports lagging behind the curve for years. Gone are the days when skinny Brazilians can enter the octagon wearing a gi and whoop three people in one night. We now have to train like real athletes and increase our speed and power and strength to be competitive.
For years I was guilty of saying things like “that technique sucks” and “this technique is the right way to do this.” I still catch myself doing that from time to time. What I want to impart to you is that you should try to limit that thinking. Thinking of techniques as merely “good or bad” or “right or wrong” is limiting your understanding of techniques. Techniques are merely the moves or positions used to accomplish a task. They should first be evaluated on whether they are getting the job done. Ask: “does it work?”
If you watch people applying the same move at different levels of competition, you’ll see great variance with respect to the how the move is done successfully. Thus given two techniques that both accomplish the same task, the one that does so with less output of energy is the more efficient and therefore “better” technique.
“Methods are many and principles are few. Methods always change, but principles never do.”
Because you are going against a live opponent, within a single jiujitsu technique are a multitude of problems that must be solved along the way to the final outcome. To say something like the armbar from the guard is a single technique belies the truth that a single technique is in reality a multitude of solutions to problems that arise when you undergo a desired task. That means that even a technique that begins and ends the same may look drastically different in the middle as the opponent has provided a different response to the same attack.
As you advance, start to dig deeper into the concepts and context under the techniques and seek to understand how parts of the techniques are solutions to various problems. See problems and solutions in the details. Ask yourself: “why should I put my hand here?”; “what if the opponent does this?”; and “how can I prevent him from doing that?” Open your eyes to the deeper level and try to understand what underlies the techniques.
Read more about methods and principles here.
This time of year is very interesting if you are a crossfitter. The CrossFit Games Open Competition is five weeks of worldwide, online competition between basically every crossfitter in the world. Each week for five weeks a workout is released on a Thursday evening and by Monday evening everyone must submit their scores and have them validated. People compete against, themselves, their friends at the gym, and against other crossfitters from around the world. The practice of “leaderboarding” becomes a favorite pasttime during the Open as everyone constantly checks the online leaderboard to see where they rank and also follow their favorite athletes to see where they rank. By using different filters on the leaderboard, you can compare yourself to others of the same age, profession, or in the same region, etc. It’s quite an event.
From the gym owner’s perspective it is a complicated time of the year because you try to sign everyone at the gym up for the Open. You have to make sure people take the online judges’ course and make yourself available to judge and validate scores. Most gym’s choose to run the Open workout all day Friday or Saturday and also make themselves available for make ups and do overs. With some people insisting on re doing the workout several times up until the last possible minute on Monday before scores need to be submitted. This can be an incredible opportunity for creating a fun, supportive, competitive environment at your gym and bring members together. Additionally, the Open competition has a magical ability to push athletes to try and succeed at many tasks that they heretofore were unable to do. Social media is often overrun with videos of people performing their first muscle up, double under, handstand pushup, etc. It’s a great time of the year. Many athletes enjoy the fun competitive atmosphere as well as the opportunity to push and hit new personal bests.
There is a downside to the Open as well. Many gym owners complain about this time of year because it forces additional administrative duties on them. The need to register people, judge and validate scores, keep the gym open longer for people to redo the workout. Additionally, many gym owners find it extremely hard to program workouts during the Open because they do not want to overtrain their athletes during the competition or fatigue some body part on Wednesday or Thursday right before they may be needing it on Friday. Gym owners often complain about the logistics of the open. So workouts are difficult to run in certain spaces, they may not have enough equipment. Some athletes will either want to or need to video their workouts and that often requires rearranging of space and resources to accommodate. Also managing people’s expectations during competition season requires a whole other level of empathy above and beyond what is usually required.
From the athlete’s point of view, the Open is a competition and all the stress of competition is in full effect. People stress much more about everything when it’s a competition. Some people shut down in the face of competition and refuse to partake or partake only half-heartedly. While others give in to the dark side of competition and start to obsess about everything. They swear they will only do the workout once and then find themselves repeating a workout two or more times until they are satisfied or out of time. As I said before, some people embrace this stress and it pushes them to breakthrough to new personal bests. Others breakdown. They quit. They cry. They Crumble.
I myself find the impending Open always fills me with a little dread, but once I’m in it, I am glad that I signed up. The Open is possibly the best part of the year in CrossFit despite all the negatives and hassles and here’s why. The Open re-affirms one of CrossFit’s defining characteristics: intensity gets you results. The Open is about intensity. If people treated every training session at the gym every day like it was the CrossFit Open, they would get much fitter much faster. Sadly, most people, coaches, owners spend the other ten and a half months chasing more volume and doing longer workouts, doing multiple workouts, and chasing quantity over quality. Then they have a hard time adjusting to the all-out intensity of the Open.
Here’s what a standard day looks like in an affiliate. There is a brief chat about the workout. There is a general warmup. Then the class will do a lifting session sometimes culminating in an EMOM. After that there is a mad rush to set up equipment for the Met Con and it’s “3,2,1 Go!” Followed by a cool down and class is over. Very little time is spent preparing for the workout, going over the movements and the standards. There is very little coaching or correcting when it comes to range of motion and standards. There is very little time spent on mobility or workout strategies. There is very little time spent on skill development.
Contrast this to how things happen in the Open. Every time a workout is released coaches start posting strategies and tips to their social media. You learn the best ways to mobilize, tutorials for how to do each of the movements, the best way to cycle the barbell, the best strategies for breaking up bigger sets, etc. Suddenly people become aware of things like range of motion and movement standards and no reps. And, maybe most importantly, class isn’t divided into multiple workouts. The whole hour is devoted to getting you to perform your best and be effective tackling one workout.
When you think about it like that, it’s no wonder that so many people set personal records during the Open and get their first muscle up or double under. What if we had one workout per day and just devoted a whole hour to smashing it and getting the best performance possible? Think about how that would affect your long term training and development. This is why if you look at CrossFit.com you will still see only one single workout each day. Each day the intention is to smash one work hard as if you were in competition, as if it was the only thing that mattered.
Every year the Open is a reminder to me to focus on one thing and do it better.