The typical BJJ class consists of four basic segments. First there is the warm up. Next is the technique portion in which you are shown a move and practice it with a partner in order to learn the mechanics. And at the end there is usually rolling and/or open mat. However the fourth segment is not present in every academy or class. The fourth segment is the drilling segment. In this segment you practice a move over and over on an unresistant opponent in order to ingrain the move into your mind.
People can drill submissions, transitions, back takes, escapes and anything else BJJ related, but the principle is all the same.
Some instructors love the idea of drilling and use it daily; while others such as the famous Kit Dale have stated that drilling is not as useful as you may think.
In the next few segments I will show you why drilling should be part of your daily training and how it can help you in the long run.
Basic Memory –> Muscle Memory
First drilling allows you to train a move that you may already know and make the move a muscle memory situation. You are able to make a move that you could use while having to mentally plan your attack into an automatic motion that your body doesn’t necessarily have to think a lot to accomplish.
New Move —> Basic Memory
However, even if you don’t know a move well drilling is also a useful tool. Drilling can be used to supplement the technique training section of your class. Imagine you just learned how to do a basic triangle from guard. You are starting to understand the positioning and then the class moves on to a new move or variation. If you go back and drill the move with a partner later on you will be much more likely to remember the technique than if you had skipped the drilling section.
Drill and Improvise
Last I would like to address the common anti-drilling attitude. Many people who are against drilling state that drilling works on the principle of ideals. Drilling is only useful in a perfect situation with an unresistant opponent. When an opponent starts to fight back and move all the knowledge you gained drilling is “lost” so to speak. However I believe this attitude is very detrimental to the attitude of any BJJ practitioner. While drilling deals with an ideal situation you learn to move from one ideal situation to another. For instance, say your opponent counters your triangle with good posture, but then leave their arm exposed; in this situation, if you had also drilled arm locks you would quickly switch your plan of attack. I like to use the analogy of a football play. In practice a team may go over a play many, many times (drill), but in the game things change and improvising is sometimes necessary. The very nature of sports and martial arts is that there is no way to predict how your opponent will play their game, but that should not stop you from having a few different plays in your book. (which in BJJ can be created through drilling)
Now go to the academy and drill! drill! drill!