I’m back in Paris with a full notebook after a great weekend in Cologne, and it’s time to get some thoughts in order.
I’ve only been involved in BJJ on a regular basis for a short time and I feel very aware of my lack of experience. However I’ve also trained with several teachers over the years and have spent time talking with more experienced people who had the chance to learn with Tim either in Cologne or Paris, which adds some weight to my sense of what and how Tim teaches.
I want to start with some contrast. If you go on YouTube you will find a huge number of BJJ technique tutorials. They have varying degrees of quality, and usually do not go further than where to put various body parts in relation to an opponent. The same is essentially true of most classes. You turn up, you do a warmup, you do some techniques and you roll. The teacher may have some system behind the choice of techniques, but that is often a mystery to the beginning student. The choice of warm-ups can also be a mystery – they are often random calisthenics.
Tim teaches differently, firstly any warm-ups that he shows are more than fitness exercises. He has analysed grappling (and stand-up) techniques so that they can be explained as a small number of movement patterns. His choice of warm-ups are these patterns, which he teaches with an emphasis on how to do them with a maximum of internal body connection and physical efficiency. Tim describes the movements as forms or kata rather than calisthenics. His idea is that once your body is familiar with these basic movements learning any technique gets much easier.
The next step for Tim is teach drills that help the student get clear about what drives techniques. These drills are about body use, weight, pressure and connection. All good grapplers get a sense of this over time, but these are rarely taught clearly and this makes the time it takes to learn much longer than necessary.
In an ideal world Tim would just teach these solo exercises and drills to students for a few months before teaching techniques or sparring – however commercially this is a no go.
For the students of internal arts you can consider these drills a bit like pushing hands. For students of internal arts I can also imagine a scenario where these drills become the main goal of practice, and other essential parts of learning like sparring and realistic techniques are sidelined.
Which brings me to Tim’s choices of technique. These are very logical too. In Paris where very few of the participants had ground fighting experience he showed ground proofing techniques. These are ways to escape the most common positions you are likely to find yourself in on the ground.
In both seminars throws were taught from common clinch positions, with methods and reasons for transitioning to superior positions explained.
Throughout all of this you benefit from the breadth of Tim’s knowledge, that encompasses both sport fighting and self defense and makes use of the the key similarities and differences between various Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian and European styles of grappling.
A few more things to put out. What I’ve written so far may be positive, but it’s also pretty dry. Tim is not just technical and well organised he is funny, and training with him is fun. Another thing to find out for yourself.
For my personal learning I have answers to a lot of questions I have about how to grapple. There’s a physical understanding I’ve been reaching for these past months and falling short. I think that I understand what to do now, but thinking is only enough for armchair martial artists. The only way to make it real is to roll.
I also had some answers to questions that I did not know I was asking, which relate back to how Tim starts most of his seminars, the three ingredients that make winning a combat possible, mindset, physicality and technique. Mindset is the most important, and I can see where it’s been lacking. I’m not just talking about grappling, but I can see how it has shown up there.
Before I conclude I want to thank Carsten and Simone for their hospitality in Cologne, not to mention Tim’s amazing breakfast recipes. It was a good group of people in both places, with the chance to train with people I’ve not seen for years (thanks Markus) and the unexpected pleasure of getting rolled up by Tom Weksler, and also being asked about when my next book will come out.
It’s always a risk training in a domain which is new, or with a teacher you do not know, I’m really glad that people took a chance with Tim. From Taiji players to BJJ veterans they were not disappointed. very teacher has their style, their strengths, their weaknesses. What Tim does so well is communicate principles so that beginners can understand and apply them as fast as possible, while providing a wealth of training methods, details, tactics and techniques for more advanced martial artists.
PS you may have seen the video below – show a little encouragement and the dvd will be finished. I’m sure it’ll be worth investing in.