Should You Emulate Your Heroes?

<p> By Joshua Rozenboom </p>

There is an interesting duplicity to the amount of information available at our fingertips. On one side, we can follow any curiosity to its absolute end on devices that fit in the palm of our hands. We can start a new hobby, take up a new sport, or pursue any interest, and the amount of information available on that subject is nearly endless. On the other side, we often suffer from information overload, and an inability to distinguish information that is truly useful from information thrown around by unqualified sources.

This phenomenon is approaching a cross-roads with Jiu Jitsu. As little as ten years ago, the availability of information on heroes of the sport was mostly limited to grainy videos of competition footage and very expensive instructional DVDs. If someone wanted to learn from the best, their options were limited. Instructional videos and books were hot commodities – the only other option was to train under people from a similar lineage. Certain icons of the sport became known for their unique style, and those who trained under them may have a similar arsenal of techniques. However, it is important to note that learning a particular aesthetic from your instructor is very different from emulating that person’s style.

Let’s take the ubiquitous Danaher Death Squad. The famous team of elite-level competitors who train under John Danaher all have a particular approach and methodology which many believe to be the key to their success. Now that we have a steady flow of instructional information from each of these competitors, Jiu Jitsu students anywhere can learn the techniques and philosophies of this team. The same can be said for Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, the Mendes Brothers, and others. It becomes easy to believe that the fountain of knowledge flows to us through the Internet, and this is the danger. Students who place too much stock in learning from all of these different sources at once risk having unfair expectations of the results, or a lack of focus that hinders progress.

The intent is not to put down instructional videos or learning from your heroes. It’s fun to learn techniques that you see are successful, and it’s always helpful to hear a different perspective on Jiu Jitsu from a high-level practitioner. No one on Earth can argue with instruction from Marcelo or Saulo or Xande – they are kings of the sport, and their unique approach may resonate for you differently than someone else. Also, instructional videos, private lessons and seminars are part of the economy of Jiu Jitsu that allows your heroes to earn a living from Jiu Jitsu, thereby allowing them to keep their academies open, and continue to share their experience with the Jiu Jitsu community.

We should always keep in mind, however, the aspects of emulation that we don’t see. We don’t see the amount of time Nicky Ryan spends on the mat each week. We don’t see the amount of strength and conditioning work put in at Atos on a daily basis. We don’t see the systematic approach to learning that Professor Danaher has implemented for years to help his team perfect their craft. So enjoy this amazing new world of instant access to your Jiu Jitsu heroes – but remember that your style will always be based on your attributes, and it will only contain the information that you focus on the most. There is great value and great fun in learning from the best, but remember that the best school is the one you can show up to.

What are some of your favorite instructionals? Who’s style are you enjoying learning from right now?