Talented individuals versus a squad

So often in jiu jitsu we see the emergence of extremely talented individuals who for a time dominate their division. It is natural to ask how they came to acquire their world conquering skills and try to learn from them. As impressive as the emergence of great individuals may be, much more impressive is the emergence of a talented GROUP of individuals. Some people have such special characteristics that their success may be due to them as individuals rather than the program in which they developed. When you see a gym put out a team of talent, clearly something special is happening.

The Gracie Barra headquarters in Rio of the early 1990's is a great example. So many fine athletes and instructors came out of that environment that it is very clear that the program was of the very first quality. Thus when I asses the health of a given training program, I do not do so on the basis of its best individual, but on the average level of its people, particularly the emerging kohai (junior) students. This is particularly true when I look at the skills emphasized by a given team. Sometimes an athlete will emerge from a given school with an outstanding technique, say a juji gatame armbar. If no one else in the gym has an impressive juji, one could surmise that the athlete learned it in an idiosyncratic fashion as an individual, rather than in a SYSTEMATIC fashion as a SQUAD. THE CLEAREST EVIDENCE OF A SYSTEMS BASED APPROACH TO LEARNING AND TEACHING IS REPLICATION - can many athletes across skill level, weight division, age, sex etc utilize the skills to attain victory. The emergence of a talented individual exhibiting skills can be explained by idiosyncratic elements, but not a group of people all exhibiting similar skills - in that case there is most like an effective system at work embedded in a sound training program.

When I construct and implement a training program this is always the sign that I look for. Here, squad kohai Danny Hernandez, a very talented athlete training under my very good friend and team mate Doug Pelinkovic, gets success with our leg lock system in competition, showing its effectiveness for so many team members.

John Danaher