Context is Everything

3 min read
Does Context, “the circumstances or interrelated conditions in which something exist or occurs” apply to learning new techniques?

Context is Everything

Does Context, “the circumstances or interrelated conditions in which something exist or occurs” apply to learning new techniques?

Location: New Zealand

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Photo by: Nathan Sowter

In its earliest uses, “context” could mean the weaving together of words in language. A better description might be the environment or setting in which something exists. If you are not aware, context is one of your most valuable tools when it comes to learning BJJ.

“Coach, I watched this move on YouTube…” is a common way to annoy any coach. As long as you follow it up with, “… but I can’t get it to work,” they’ll most likely just be amused. Or, perhaps you have had a submission or sweep in mind that you want to apply in sparring, only to find no opportunities ever arise to apply it. It might be possible that you were lacking the information, such as an entry or baiting position, to bring about such an opportunity.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very calculated, and one of the hardest pieces of knowledge to acquire is not necessarily the techniques, but the when’s and the why’s of situations. There is now a plethora of techniques available to even the most isolated practitioner. But what gets lost in the translation of a well-edited highlight reel or professionally filmed technique tutorial is the context.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to take a stab at online learning here, and if you’ve been able to stay awake through an entire John Danaher “enter the system” tutorial, you will have all the context you can get your hands on. (I’m not bagging John, by the way, he’s brilliant). Rather, I am providing a reminder to find the context. The highlight reel is a classic. Over the years, I have had many a student walk through the door after viewing a highlight reel, feeling pumped and ready to try their hand at the latest finish they just caught a glimpse of. The problem with the highlight reel is it massively reduces the context. What happened before the technique was applied? Was there a massive scramble that left one opponent tired, disorientated, off-balance, and primed for attack? Did one opponent suffer an injury?

If you can take a more nuanced approach to your learning, giving time to understanding the subtle intricacies both within, as well as before and after the technique you are trying to understand, you will find your ability to perform said techniques will significantly improve. Perhaps it will open your eyes to the systems that exist within jiu-jitsu and, more importantly, how to use them. Remember that nothing takes place within BJJ without reason. Give time and energy to understanding the reasoning, and I guarantee you your jiu-jitsu will improve.

Ask yourself questions about the techniques that you currently have in your toolbox. Why do I do this? When is it best to do this? What types of opponents is this technique effective against? Not only will this help improve your timing, but it will also help streamline your game into something efficient and beautiful. This thought process will help you unravel why it is that you get stuck in some of the same scenarios time and time again. Back-tracking through your sparring sessions and competitive bouts, in particular, will massively increase your rate of learning snd thus the speed at which you progress in the art. Remember, context is everything, especially when it comes to a kill or be killed martial art… Understand the context, and you will flourish.

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