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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Breaking Down the Notebook

In my initial post for my school (Goal Setting, available here) I touched on starting a notebook to write down everything you learned in class. Everyone that spoke with me about the blog post on my school's page ultimately said something about the notebook idea and how they started using one. So to build off of that, in this post I'm going to break down the notebook, how I use it, why I think it's helpful, and some newer--more digital--takes on this idea of keeping track of your techniques.

I started with that exact notebook. You'll notice that it's a 3 Subject notebook, I picked that on purpose because a notebook without those dividers will undoubtedly become a mess--unless, of course, you're some superhero of using tabs, homemade dividers, or are super crafty, then by all means. But I'm, more or less, an ape in clothes and if I can get something already tailored for my needs, then that's my best bet. Now I chose "3 subject" specifically because at the onset of my white belt phase I was basically always in Full Guard (in mine or my opponents), in Side Control (mostly on the bottom (you know)), or in Mount (again, mostly on the bottom), so I dedicated each section of the notebook to each of those positions. Of course, Jiu Jitsu has other positions, but as a white belt you're typically not going to be getting a lot of classes on the Deep Half, X-Guard, or really even normal Half Guard. While you might get some classes/lessons on those, as a white belt it's important to remember to focus your efforts on the basics. But if you do get something from those classes/lessons that you really want to remember, jot them down on those subject separators, or a 3x5 index card--and if you feel like that's 'just too much effort' for that technique, then it's really not worth remember for you right now at this stage of the game.

'Why write it down, though?' you might be wondering, because, yes, it is a lot of effort and can be time consuming. Besides the fact the writing things down helps you remember them better, when you apply that to Jiu Jitsu, you're forced to recall every step of every move/technique down to the most subtle movement for the technique to work. How many times has your instructor reminded you to "Put your head on the mat" when you're applying a triangle or an arm bar--a lot I bet. When you write down your techniques you're replaying everything you learned in your head and forcing yourself to recall every detail; and when you do that, you remember things better.
Once you learn something new in class, I highly suggest writing it down as soon as you get home (after you shower, of course) while it's still fresh in your memory. If you're not 'a writer', or don't know how to write something like a technique down, don't get discouraged. There's a couple of things you need to remember:
  1. Write it clearly, both in penmanship and thought-expression. Don't muddy the waters or skip over words thinking you'll know what you mean later, because you won't. Trust me.
  2. You're probably the only one that's going to be reading it, so don't be afraid to do it how you want to do it, or how you think will work best for you.
In the example above, you can see it's my first note from the Side Control position. I made a point to circle the word "IN" to the left, because to me, that told me that I was on bottom and that particular technique was to be applied from the bottom position in Side Control. Next you'll see I used arrows to show direction, and possibilities of where the move could take me. You might not want to use arrows, you might have a better idea--again, use what works best for you. I used arrows because there's usually an 'If Scenario' where if your opponent does this, then you do that, so arrows were just a way that I could help myself remember 'the routes' I could take if...

The old school method is great. The new school method is cool. Recently I was made aware of a new website that comes with an app for smartphones called . This website is basically your online notebook where instead of writing out your techniques longhand, you can type them in and then tag them with what position they apply to, whether the move is a submission, sweep, transition, and every other possible Jiu Jitsu term--really neat stuff. You can even embed YouTube videos to be recalled later (Huge bonus). The website also has some other cool features like logging your training time so that you have an average of how many hours you're spending on the at 30/60/90+ days. Additionally it has a "Tap Tracker" where you can keep track of your submissions (both giving and receiving)--though, it's got some bugs, but nothing heartbreaking. You can find friends online (I'm on there), share techniques, and break them down to them being in your "Complete Game", "Practice Game", or your "A-Game"; it's a really neat website that, like I said, comes with an app so that you can recall those techniques at the gym or on the go. By the way: It's all For Free. Beautiful, right?

In closing: I like to use both of the methods I mentioned because they both work for me in their own respective ways. I need to be able to write techniques down longhand to help me remember, but I really love having that online access via the app to techniques in the gym. Play around with both of them, see what works best for you, and in doing so you'll be taking that extra step to getting better.

Now, go get your learn on.


  1. Great post. I also recommend that you get a large hardback journal (I use a 14x11 hard back sketch book) to transfer your notes once you have it refined.

    Learning how to do some simple sketches actually go a long way.

  2. Nice stuff, Joe. If you ever want to send us some of those sketches, we'd be grateful to use them. Or hang them on the wall!
    -jesse, WBS