Andre Galvao vs Romalo BarralIn the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the debate about technique versus concepts, drilling versus rolling has raised its head again. Champions like André Galvão advocate drilling for expert BJJ performance while others, such as Kit Dale, argue that it isn’t necessary, favoring rolling instead. So who is right?

As is often the case, both approaches may be useful. Between my job as university education adviser and my sport psychology training, I’m really interested in how people learn. And my passion for BJJ means I’m always thinking about how it works in jiu jitsu too. Understanding learning theory and sport psychology can help us to make good, informed choices when it comes to improving BJJ. Here comes the science…

Drill until it’s automatic

The idea of drilling a technique over and over is that you learn it so well that you don’t even have to consciously think about it. This is supported by Fitts and Posners’ three stages of motor learning: Cognitive, Associative and Autonomous.

Cognitive stage: When we first start to learn a physical skill like BJJ, all of our attention is given over to simply executing the movement.

Associative stage: After a while, we begin to transfer what to do into how to do it. Our movements are still under conscious control. We still have to think about the technique but start making adjustments and stringing parts together into larger chunks.

Autonomous stage: Finally after many hours of practice, the skills are refined and seemingly automatic. As we transition through the stages, our technique becomes more efficient and we expend less physical and mental energy to achieve the same results.

BJJ TriangleTake the triangle, for example. In the cognitive stage, we would normally start with a few crude movements and try to replicate what we’ve seen and heard from other people. In the associative stage, we might pay more attention to details like the angle of our leg across our opponent’s shoulders or how we break their posture. In the autonomous stage, we don’t have to consciously concentrate on each aspect of the triangle to successfully pull off the submission.

Reaching the autonomous stage can be beneficial because it reduces cognitive demands and lets you focus on other aspects of performance (e.g., what your opponent is doing, your game plan). When high-level athletes encourage drilling, it’s because it can help you reach this autonomous stage of skill acquisition.

Explicit versus Implicit Learning

In his article ‘Why Concepts Are Better Than Techniques in BJJ’, Kit Dale argues that the traditional approach to teaching jiu jitsu is outdated. I’m not so sure about that. Instruction can help to give some direction about what you should be doing. It would be hard for a beginner to execute a triangle without ever having seen it before. And valuable feedback from an instructor can help to focus your effort and accelerate your learning.

Traditional martial arts teaching (i.e., a physical demonstration accompanied by verbal explanation) involves an explicit approach to learning. It gives students specific information about how to perform a skill. It can be very helpful, especially for a beginner, to consciously take on board important elements.

But this type of instruction can also be problematic. In a classic piece of research with golfers, Professor Richard Masters found that novice players who learned a golf putt through typical instruction were more susceptible to choking under pressure. In contrast, players who learned the golf putt implicitly (i.e., without formal instruction) did not suffer the same performance decrements.

When we learn skills explicitly, by having particular aspects pointed out to us, we tend to fall back on these specific rules when stressed. We try to consciously control movements which would normally be automatic. In short, we experience ‘paralysis by analysis’. On the other hand, when we learn skills implicitly via subconscious processes, we don’t have any specific instructions to rely on. We are less likely to consciously control a skill because we are not fully aware of how we do it in the first place.

It seems that the Australian black belt does have a point. By encouraging rolling over drilling, Kit Dale is effectively supporting an implicit learning process which reduces the likelihood of crumbling in stressful situations.

Designing an implicit learning environment is a tricky business, however. Rather than coaching their students to replicate precise techniques, great BJJ teachers scaffold environments to guide their students. It’s not about leaving students to their own devices, but about nudging them in the right direction and encouraging them to take ownership of their own learning.

So what’s the ‘take home’ message? If you’ve read this far, you’ll realise that learning is a complex business, especially in an art as multifaceted as BJJ. Drilling has its uses, so does rolling. No single approach is perfect. Use them as you see fit.

About Dr. Rebecca Hill:
Rebecca Hill BJJDr Rebecca Hill is a Sport and Exercise Psychologist chartered by the British Psychological Society. She is passionate about helping martial artists and combat athletes reach their performance potential through mental skills development.

She is also a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt competitor under world champion Victor Estima, and current European Champion.

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Rafael Mendes vs Rubens Cobrinha Charles

Since 2006, there have only been three featherweight black belt world champions. Of the 10 titles, 9 are held by Rafael Mendes and Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles (the 10th is held by Augusto Mendes)

This battle between Rafael Mendes vs Rubens Cobrinha Charles is arguably the greatest rivalry in Jiu Jitsu competition history.

In total, the two have faced each other 15 times since 2008 and have produced some of incredibly exciting matches.

Match #1 – Capital Challenge (Jordan) December 2008

Their first match was at the Capital challenge in Jordan. Rafa Mendes was only 19 but he was already an accomplished grappler having won the worlds at every belt level. Cobrinha was had just won become world champion for a thrid year in a row.

The fight is particularly interesting as it shows the origins of Mendes game. He is still using De La Riva, Berimbolo, and 50/50 attacks but if you compare this to their most recent meeting in 2015 you can see how far his game has progressed.

Cobrinha shows his awesome guard passing, balance, and pressure to neutralise Mendes game and secure the pass late in the match to win 3×0

Cobrinha: 1
Rafa: 0

Match #2 – Pan Jiu-jitsu Championship 2009

The next time they would fight was at the 2009 Pan Am Championships in California. This would be Rafael’s debut as a Black Belt in an IBJJF competition.

Mendes and Charles would face each other in the semi-final, but, unfortunately, Rafa got disqualified for reaping Cobrinha’s knee.

Cobrinha would go on to win the featherweight division and place third in the absolute after an amazing performance.

Rafael Mendes vs Cobrinha 2009

Cobrinha: 2
Rafa: 0

Match #3 – Abu Dhabi Pro World Cup 2009

Their third match would take place a few months later at the Abu Dhabi World Pro.

This match was a back and forth battle and a preview of many of their matches to come. Much of the fight being was in the 50/50 position where both fighters attacked with sweeps and submissions.

Rafa Mendes claimed his first victory over Cobrinha after winning the fight with a score of 4×2.

Cobrinha: 2
Rafa: 1

Match #4 – World Championship 2009

The next time they would meet would be in the semi-final of the world championships in Long Beach, California.

Again much of this match would take place in the 50/50 position with both fighters trading sweeps but unable to advance from there.

With the scores tied at 4×4 and level on advantages, Cobrinha was awarded the referee’s decision.

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 1

Match #5 – ADCC 2009

The final time the Mendes and Cobrinha would face each other in 2009 was in the final of the ADCC’s in Barcelona, Spain.

Rafa had destroyed his side of the bracket, submitting all his opponents on the way to the final. On the other side of the bracket Cobrinha had comfortably dispatched his opponents with out much difficulty.

An interesting point about the ADCC’s is the inclusion of Heel Hooks. Up to this point, all of Mendes and Cobrinha’s matches had been played out in the 50/50, which is an excellent place to get heel hooked from.

Many people wondered how this would affect the outcome of this fight and if they would still choose to play this style of Jiu Jitsu.

The fight turned out to be a war of attrition and lasted 40 minutes.

Both Mendes and Cobrinha had moderate success throughout the fight, but it wasn’t until a few moment’s from the end of the second overtime period that either fighter secured anything significant.

In the dying minutes of the contest, Rafa Mendes exectued a beautiful transition from 50/50 to take Cobrinha’s back and secure victory 7×4

There was plenty of action in this fight and neither competitor seemed concerned about using the 50/50 position. Both Cobrinha and Mendes were able to defend the leg attacks and showed it could be an effective postition under any rule set.

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 2

Match #6 – Brasileiro 2010

The first time the Mendes and Charles would meet in 2010 would be at the famed Tijuca Tennis Club in Rio de Janeiro at the Brazilian Nationals (known as the Brasileiro’s).

As with many of their fights, this proved to be a battle from the 50/50 position with both athletes attempting sweeps and foot locks. With a score of 4×2 Mendes was awarded the victory.

Rafael Mendes vs Cobrinha 2010

Cobinha: 3
Rafa: 3

Match #7 – World Championship 2010

The second meeting between Cobrinha and Mendes in 2010 would take place in the final of the World Championships.

Both Cobrinha and Mendes had dominated their previous opponents and the final was set to decide who would be crowned king of the featherweight BJJ world.

After 10 minutes of back and forth action Rafa Mendes would take the victory by 4×4, 5-3 advantages and win his first world title.

Rafael Mendes vs Cobrinha 50/50

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 4

Match #8 – ADCC 2011

In 2011, Cobrinha and Rafa would only fight once. That fight would take place in the finals of the -66kg category at the ADCC in Nottingham, UK.

After a period of feeling each other Cobrinha jumps guard and it hits the ground, almost immediately the inevitable 50/50 battle begins.

Both Cobrinha and Mendes attacked with tight leg locks, but neither fighter was able to secure the submission.

When the 20 minute time period expires the score stands at 0x0, but Mendes is declared the winner due to a negative point Cobrinha scored for jumping guard.

Rafael Mendes vs Cobrinha ADCC 2011

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 5

Match #9 – Pan Ams 2012

The first meeting between the pair in 2012 was at the Pan Ams in California. This would be the only submission victory in all of their matches.

The match starts with Mendes pulling guard and immediately hunting the Berimbolo, Cobrinha defends with his legendary balance, then at around the four-minute mark something dramatic happens.

Rafa Mendes sweeps and immediately starts to pass Cobrinha’s guard. Cobrinha defends but leaves his arm exposed and Mendes pounces attacking with a tight armlock.

The finish comes shortly after and Rafael Mendes becomes the first person to submit Cobrinha in the featherweight division.

(Cobrinha’s only other submission loss as a black belt was against Rodolfo Vieira in 2011)

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 6

Match #10 – World Championship 2012

Just a few short months later, Cobrinha would face Mendes again in the finals of the Mundials (World Championships) in California.

Cobrinha clearly wanted revenge and had made some adjustments to his game. This was an incredibly close match with neither fighter giving an inch.

When the match ended neither fighter had scored a point and it came down to the referee’s to decide the victor.

Rafael Mendes was again crowned black belt featherweight champion of the world.

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 7

Match #11 – Pan Ams 2013

The next time the two would meet would be at the Pan Ams in California. Again this was an incredibly close match with neither competitor achieving any real dominance.

After a hard battle, the score stood at 2×2 and Mendes was again awarded the victory via referee’s decision.

cobrinha vs rafa mendes


Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 8

Match #12 – ADCC 2013

So far the only major title to eluded Cobrinha had been the ADCC crown. On the previous two occasions he had been in the tournament he’d lost to Rafa Mendes in the final.

The -66kg division in the 2013 ADCC was incredibly tough and included almost feature every major featherweight competitor in the world.

This fight turned out to be a war of attrition with much of the fight spent wrestling.

After 40 minutes of action, Cobrinha was awarded the victory via referee’s decision and claimed his first ADCC title.

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 8

Match #13 – World Championship 2014

Cobrinha and Mendes would only face each other once in 2014 and that was in the final of the 2014 World Championships.

This was probably the most back and forth battle of all their matches. Both competitors secured numerous sweeps, but ultimately Mendes won the fight by 10×8.

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 9

Match #14 – World Championship 2015

Their final meeting to date took place at the world championships in 2015 in California.

This match is the most one-sided match between the two, after Mendes submission victory at the Pan Ams in 2012,

Mendes pulled guard and quickly inverted almost taking Cobrinha’s back and passing guard. Cobrinha manages to scramble back to 50/50 but only few moments later Mendes inverts again and takes Cobrinha’s back.

Although Cobrinha does manage to escape towards the end of the match, he’s unable to recover the points and Mendes wins by 6×0

Cobrinha: 3
Rafa: 9

So who was better?

The rivalry between Rafael Mendes and Rubens Cobrinha Charles has been one of the greatest in Jiu Jitsu history. Many of their matches are incredibly close and often won by referee’s decision or a single advantage.

Mendes is already considered one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu athletes ever and at only 26 years old and many people believe he is only just coming into his prime.

At 36 years old many people believe Cobrinha is coming to the end of his career. However, he is still an active competitor and still compete’s at the highest level. Most recently he won -66kg division again at the ADCC 2015.

This rivalry can be seen as a changing of the guard between the old and the new but if both athletes were in their prime some of the results may have been very different.

Mendes sums up the rivalry best in his Facebook post after winning the worlds in 2015.

“Royler inspired me to start my journey & Cobrinha brought the fire in me, because of Cobrinha I became probably ten times better than I would ever be if he was not there, I trained harder every single day.”

That is why rivalries like this take great fighters to exceptional and beyond.

Without a doubt both Mendes and Cobrinha will be remembered as two of the greatest Jiu Jitsu competitors of all time.

World champion Caio Terra rose through the ranks of jiu-jitsu at an incredible rate, achieving his black belt in just over three years.

The outspoken rooster-weight champion is known for his incredible technical knowledge and proficiency.

In this interview from BJJ Hacks, Caio gives some invaluable advice on how to become successful in Jiu Jitsu and life.

Caio Terra: The Keys to Success in Jiu-Jitsu

Julio Cesar Pereira is a 6th degree Black Belt and a founding member of Grappling Fight Team (better known as GF Team) in Rio de Janeiro.

Unlike many of Jiu Jitsu players, his lineage does not come from the Gracies. Instead, Pereira’s routes come directly from Oswaldo Fadda.

He is an accomplished competitor in his own right and is responsible for developing some of the top Jiu Jitsu competitors in the world today, such as Rodolfo Vieira, Denilson Pimenta, and Vitor Oliveira.

Check out this short highlight video to learn more about Julio Cesar Pereira and his history in Jiu Jitsu.

Julio Cesar Pereira Highlight


 *NEW* Cross Collar Killer Technique Video #1:  Grip Setup From Guard


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The Perfect Offense (and the DANGER of going to the Mount)


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Become feared and respected with offense.

Offense is often the best defense in Jiu Jitsu. By attacking my opponent it eliminates their ability to defend. For many years, I focused on securing the position before I attacked with a submission.

However, this strategy lead to many years of frustration. I was so focused on securing the position my opponents would easily escape because they only had to focus on defending one thing. After a while (and a lot of frustration), I discovered the best way to counter this was by attacking.

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In his new NOGI Attacks and Passing DVD Rodolfo shares the techniques he used to DOMINATE the best in the World last weekend to become a 2015 ADCC World Champion!



The X-Guard is a powerful position that is very popular in Jiu Jitsu today. Many people have trouble getting into the position and knowing what to do from there can be confusing.

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Master Jiu-Jitsu Expert and Super Global Strategist, Dustin Denes Shows How To Stop Someone’s Heart:


Dustin Denes is black belt 4th degree in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, master instructor and World Class competitor supreme.

He is accomplished competitor and an excellent example of an old school Jiu Jitsu fighter.

He started Jiu-Jitsu with Marcus and Marcelo Silveira at Carlson Gracie Miami in 1997. In 1999, Dustin traveled Brazil with his friend and mentor Antônio Rodrigo [Minotauro] Nogueira.

He soon after moved to Rio de Janeiro to maximize his progress in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu further under the legendary Carlson Gracie and Ricardo De La Riva.

Dustin spent two years as a brown belt with the Brazilian Top Team, competing against and beating the best in Brazil.

He became the Brazilian Champion in 2000 by defeating and choking Marcelo Garcia in the finals and went on to achieved the rank of Black Belt in the fall of 2001. He then pursued a professional career defending the flag of Jiu Jitsu in the global arena of Mixed Martial Arts.

Dustin believes in sacrifice and that winning is not everything, but the only thing.

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What happens if love Jiu Jitsu but keep getting terrible competition results? That’s exactly what happened to Felipe Costa.

Instead of walking away he refused to quit, went back to the drawing board and became a world champion.

In this interview from BJJ Hacks, Felipe talks about the obstacles he had to overcome and the methods he used to rise to the top.

He also describes the sports psychology tricks he applied to win tournaments and explains how he approaches his training as a smaller jiu-jitsu player.

You’ll also see rolling footage from his ‘light guys only’ training sessions, reserved for jiu-jitsu players under 73kg.

Felipe Costa: Jiu Jitsu for Small Guys & Winning Mindset For Competition

Denilson Pimenta is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under the famous instructor Julio Cesar, of the Grappling Fight Team (GFTeam) and is regarded as one of the top featherweight competitors of his generation.

Among his many achievements are Masters World Champion, European Champion, and Pan Am Champion. He is also one of the main coaches at GF Team in Rio.

Denilson Pimenta Highlight

Both Rodolfo Vieira and Denilson Pimenta are top tier competitors and members of GF Team in Rio.

Even though there is a significant size difference between the two, this is a fantastic roll full of exciting exchanges.

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