Drilling. How To Do It Right

“Want to drill?”
The students will move to the edge of the mat during rolling, to “drill” their techniques.

It quickly devolves from executing repetitions of an arm lock to rambling discussions of moves they say on YouTube that went “something like this”.

While there is benefit to students deconstructing techniques to learn the ‘how’ and ‘why’ it works, that isn’t the real purpose of drilling.

I recently read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography titled “Total Recall”. In the book, Arnold relates his secret to success in all things: “Sets and reps”.

Arnold was not only talking about bench presses! He was referring to his learning of English as a new immigrant, his acting exercises and even speech-giving as a politician.

So how does this apply to bjj drilling?


You need more than one method of training to improve your bjj. Not only free rolling – although that is beyond debate in its importance.

Especially at the earlier stages of bjj, you need to perform repetitions with a partner to burn those grooves into your mind and body on how to execute the mechanics of your techniques.

After each set of repetitions, your body moves a little more easily into the position.

You stop tensing muscles that stiffen your body and the movement is more fluid.

You learn (both consciously and unconsciously) where to apply your bodyweight in order to move more efficiently.


This is not accomplished by performing ten reps on either side and wiping your hands and announcing “Ok, got it!”

Behind every black belt with a razor sharp arm lock from the guard or lightning fast double leg takedowns are thousands of repetitions.

Want to get the most out of your drilling? (Especially in the earliest stages of learning a new technique!)


Resolve to perform 100 reps of your technique with a partner. You may in turn, offer to “dummy” for him so he can perform reps of his own technique.

Sets of 10 to 20 reps before switching.

It may not be as fun as rolling, but if you want to get a new technique into your body and muscle memory as fast as possible it must be “sets and reps”!

read also: Top 4 Things In Your First Year of Training

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ