Learning Speed and Techniques

I have always found throughout my time studying martial arts of any kind that I seek to learn much slower than almost anyone else. The instructor could show the class the technique many times over , for me to pull a complete blank as I try to replicate it on my partner until I am shown how to do the technique step by step as I am doing it. Whereas, my partners seem to know the technique pretty well just after watching the instructor show the group. Does anyone else feel the same? Or have any advice on how to pick things up more quickly?
Many thanks


People learn differently. It’s not necessarily bad. With that said learning is a skill that needs to be learned. Some will be better at it than others, like most things in life. If I could think of one thing to help it would be to focus on the most important elements of a technique being taught so you don’t get lost trying to see everything at once because some elements in a technique are not as important as others. The only way I can think of to do this is to watch how someone like Saulo Ribeiro teaches a move. Rickson Gracie and Pedro Sauer are good also. There are others but I don’t want to give a list unless you want some more examples.

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It sounds to me like you might be more of a kinesthetic learner (learn by doing/feeling the skills) rather than a visual learner.

I’d suggest “running through” the skills in the air as your instructor is teaching them. Try to “feel” what you are supposed to be trying to do with each technique each step of the way. Then try to replicate that “feeling” with your training partner. You will probably still need clarification/correction, but you should have a better head start on how to do the technique.

I would also ask your instructor to give “kinesthetic cues” (what are they “feeling” while they are doing the techniques.

Some examples of kinesthetic cues would be:

Where are they trying to create “connection/disconnection” and how are they using their body to do so?

What “energy”/“pressure” are they feeling from their opponent/training partner during the technique and how are they either redirecting it or overcoming it to make the technique work.

How/where are they shifting their/their opponent’s weight during the skill?

Also, just be patient with your learning of new skills. Once a concept or principle “clicks” in your neuromuscular system it will become much easier for you to then learn other skills which rely on that same concept/principle. Until it “clicks” though it can feel a bit like learning to ride a bike (you may feel kind of “lost” and floundering to gain any noticeable skill). Rest assured though that, just like with riding a bike, your motor cortex will eventually figure things out, and once it does you will be able to much more easily build other skills upon that foundation of motor learning/skill. It just takes accumulating experience and being patient and persistent/consistent.

Hope this helps. Good luck.


Exactly. It’s not an uncommon issue and is nothing to be ashamed about. Some guys see a move on video once and can do it, others need to be talked through it. Helio Gracie believed in private lessons and this is probably one main reason why.

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Thank you very much for the response both of you guys! Really appreciate the information and these ideas. I did actually do a ‘learning type’ test when I did my apprenticeship in mechanics and remember that I scored literally all of the points on the kinestethic learning side so I can see what you guys are getting at. I will check out some of the videos of those instructors for sure and try to focus on the main bits of a technique first before the finer details. Along with ‘air practicing’ them whilst I am being shown them.
Once again I really appreciate both of your input. Fantastic to see other like minded people offering a helping hand.

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My reply above is also to you :slight_smile:

I’ve often wondered why instructors don’t demo techniques while the students are actually attempting to replicate them at the same time. Basically the instructor and partner would be in the middle of the mat with student groups partnered in a circle around him. He does step one of an armbar, and all of the students do step one; he moves on to step two, the students do step two; etc, etc until the move is completed. Then the partners switch and he shows it again step by step with the class following along.

The class could then go on drilling while the instructor walks around and helps as usual.

Does anyone teach this way? Seems like it could really be helpful for white belts.

I will occasionally if people are having trouble with something, but I like your idea of using it as a regular practice. Will try implementing this and see how it goes. Thanks for the idea!

How will the students see what the instructor is showing if they are doing the move at the same time?

Good question. Ultimately I don’t know, because I’ve never seen it done. It’s entirely possible that several instructors have tried and stopped doing it because of one reason or another.

Ideally the students would be positioned in such a way that they can look over to watch the next step. He could also just show the move once or twice beforehand, and then go into what I attempted to describe.

I know this would not have been feasible at the last gym I trained at, both because of class size and the two supporting pillars in the middle of the mats.

It would also somewhat depend on the technique being practiced.

Rear Naked Choke with partner sitting in front of you while you are kneeling? This would work great.

Guillotine Choke Defense from Closed Guard? Probably not a great method to use.

I’m totally the same way. I’ll just be completely lost until I actually try to feel my through the techniques. When I watch, I try to translate what I see into what it will feel like.

One advantage of this learning style is that if you can’t see your opponent, it won’t be as bad for you as many because you learned the technique by feel in the first place.



Skills learned via “feel” are also stored directly into the Motor Cortex. In contrast, those learned by “concept” or verbal instructions which are first stored in the Frontal Cortex and then must be transferred into the Motor Cortex and even then are more susceptible to interference by the Frontal Cortex in the presence of great stress (a phenomenon called “choking”).

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