Has YouTube killed the coach?
By Liam Resnekov
Gracie Humaita Blackbelt
VT1 CORE MMA Head Coach
On reading the title and checking who wrote it (Ol’ Coachy Coach Resnekov) you are probably expecting a cruel dismantling of the video learner.
The good news is that you are not going to have to put up with an old Mr Cranky-Pants “Back in my day, the youth didn’t (insert gripe)” speech.
The bad news is that it’s complicated.
I was shocked the day I found out that one of my esteemed coaches bought Instructional DVD’s and studied them. It just never occurred to me in all the time I had been hiding my dirty habit, that my teacher might be looking for answers himself. On asking him he looked at me like I was crazy, “Every industry in the world has continued textbook and video learning, why would Jiu Jitsu be any different?”.
If a basketballer could have a 6 hour lecture series by Michael Jordan on DVD, they would be snapped up like hotcakes. Want to sit and watch Damien Maia discuss mount for an hour? Sure you would. Perhaps you’d enjoy Xande Ribeiro walking you through his favourite passing principles. In an industry flooded with DVDs its easy to forget how lucky we are that this information is available.
Although you might not be able to learn a whole guard from a DVD, they certainly can get you playing with it and make you more familiar with the principles. They may even offer the final touches you were lacking in some of your favourite positions.
Youtube even allows you to ask questions to various instructors and receive expert answers for little to no cost. Ten years ago called and is green with envy.
Sites like MGinaction.com allow you to dissect Marcelo Garcia’s whole game, watch his classes and have him teach you his favourite positions, all while you live in a different continent. Blows my mind.
With all of these great benefits, there is no doubt in my mind that a video can still never replace a good instructor. Why?
1. Jiu Jitsu is a tactile art that requires many other aspects other than simply learning a technique in order to be proficient. Timing, strategy, pressure and posture are all things that are hard to learn from a video.
2. Correction from a good coach with a keen eye is also very important. If you are below a purple belt level, it will be unlikely that you have formed a deep enough understanding of the principles in order to be able to correct yourself.
3. Often details are excluded by the instructors so that they can keep them for their own students or seminars. It’s hard to believe this happens, but I can’t count the number of times I have watched a video and later trained with an instructor, only to get countless details that they didn’t release online.
4. Instructional videos by champions often means that instructors with little experience are going to be delivering the material. Champions have to be selfish to reach the top and it is unusual to see a young world medallist that has a decade of coaching experience. So the details that will make the technique work may be missing which renders it next useless to a white-belt. There are of course exceptions, Andre Galvao and Marcelo Garcia being two obvious examples.
5. There are different learning styles and an instructor needs to cater to these in every class. Often video instructionals will only be effective to those who can learn visually. That leaves another four basic learning styles flapping in the wind.
The verdict (The UGLY?)
Before this sounds like I’m condemning instructional DVDs, I want to make it clear that I think they are not just useful, but an absolute must for the burgeoning BJJ practitioner. It’s just vital to remember that BJJ is all about balance. Make sure you invest enough time on the mat exploring the wonderful art and then supplement your learning with the pearls of wisdom from such legends as Galvao, Garcia, Ribeiro and the Mendes Brothers.
On a final note, I tell my students this all the time, remember that in anything creative, duplicating someone else will never be as effective as forging your own path by standing on the shoulders of giants. If you try to be someone else, they will always be better than you.
They simply have more practice at being themselves.
See you on the mat,