The (Only) Two Things You Should Be Doing on the Mat

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Sitting

I want to discuss the two positions from which one studies in a traditional martial art school. I’ll explain why they’re so important in a moment.

There are two seated positions: either the informal seated position with the legs crossed, or a more traditional listening or learning position called “seiza“, which is on the knees.

One of the benefits of this kind of position is that if the instructor is demonstrating and your legs are underneath you, you won’t get in the way of the instruction. Another is that you don’t communicate a laissez-faire learning attitude.

You see…our body language often dictates how attentive we are, so establishing this sitting position helps to keep us awake and alert to maximize learning.

But that’s just part of the story.

“How to sit” is an introduction to the larger discussion of the two activities that a practitioner utilizes in the school. You’re either:

1) studying, meaning you’re sitting and watching, or

2) you’re training, meaning you’re physically learning and doing.

Those are the only two activities that ever happen in a traditional Jiu-Jitsu training environment.

It’s not conversing, or thinking about your bills, or picking your toenails. It’s studying or training. Those are the only two dynamics.

Let me explain why that’s so important for you to think about.

In my experience, one of our priorities needs to be “effectiveness as a student”. That is, how we learn is really important to the learning process. It’s not enough to just let the lessons wash over you and hope for the best. What we’re doing is an active, engaged process that asks a lot from us.

That’s why we believe that being a student is an art form in and of itself.

As I’ve said before, most of us were never taught how to learn in school.  For sure I wasn’t. I just showed up and wrote things down on a paper and was basically left to pick my nose for 15 years.

So there is something very specific about the way we sit, our posture, the way we study, the way we process information, that matters for our learning. We gain more, for our own benefit and our classmates’ benefit, when we strengthen the procedures we use to learn.

Think about the value of this. We’re advocating taking on a physical component of practice that usually ignored, but which can have a massive impact on your retention and focus.

Imagine what it means to the longevity of your martial arts study and the results you get. Our hope is that you’ll have more to use, more to share and a deeper experience of practice when you develop your learning style this way.

On top of that, there’s a greater connection to the process of learning as a person overall – it just becomes part of who you are. You become a better student not just for the classroom or the instruction, but for the rest of your life as well, which is what we’re always working on.


For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.

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