Steve O’Keeffe – Is drilling really the best way to learn a technique

Is drilling really the best way to learn a technique We have all heard sayings like “drill a technique 10,000 times and you will master it” or “drill to win”. I would argue that this is not the most effective way to learn. I am not saying that drilling does not have a place at all, just that there are more effective ways to learn.

Basketball players will spend hours on the free throw line before or after practice. This is great and will definitely improve their free throws. When the player is in a game scenario the only other contributing factor is the crowd or pressures of situation. They do not have to worry about the ball being intercepted whilst shooting, just like if they were practicing. Drilling is great if this is the case. If the technique you are drilling is exactly the same as a game scenario. In Jiu Jitsu we have hundreds of possible scenarios, which makes drilling for one particular scenario inefficient.

‘Specific or situational training’ is a much more effective way for your students to learn a technique. I use this most days in all the sports I currently coach; Boxing, MMA, Jiu Jitsu and Judo. The beauty of using this technique is that it can be used at all ability levels in all situations in Jiu Jitsu.


If you are practicing takedowns you could wait until partner A makes a particular grip before partner B executes the takedown. Or, if you are practicing back takes you can start in side control and ask partner A to give the back at randomised times to make it harder for partner B to work on timing. You can make that harder still by asking partner A to defend the back take with 30-40% effort. I find this works really well too. This will also allow space for your students to be innovative in their game and space for the coach to suggest finer details.

To begin with I like to give students in my beginners class as little information about a technique as I can but enough to allow then to get on with it. I constantly encourage questions. I find this an amazing way to learn. If you give your students a platform to ask questions their minds will be fully engaged. Each time we regroup to move on to another technique they will have questions to ask about the previous one. I will open these questions up to the group. If a member of the class can answer, I will ask them to demonstrate it for the group to show what they mean. This is a technique I will always use as it keeps the class engaged. Be sure to also ask questions to the members of your class that might not openly answer. Make everyone feel part of a team. If they think they may be chosen to demonstrate, they will be sure to learn it to the best of their ability.

 Steve O’Keeffe @UKJJF Head of Coach Development