Performance Objective Coaching

A great fundamental question when thinking about what to teach in BJJ class is ” What should students know or be able to do when they finish my class?” This seems like a no brainer but as coaches we often don’t approach a lesson that way at all. More often than not we approach a lesson plan with thinking about what we want to show or teach. We think “What moves or techniques do I want to show?” This is a very different starting place.

In the world of education right now performance standards are all the rage. I think they are a breath of fresh air and are fundamentally changing the way we teach. I think they could have the same impact in our BJJ classes. If we approach a specific lesson with students by thinking about what performance we’d like to see from them we can be far more specific about what we need to teach. For example if I wanted to do a lesson on mount bottom I can start with a performance objective-

After completing the night’s mount bottom class students will be able toeffectively upa from posture in order to create escape pressure.

This gives me something concrete to work with. It’s a much different starting spot than to start with the idea that I’ll show upa escape from mount bottom. My objective is not that students learn the upa escape. It’s that students upa effectively from posture. Because of this I’ll pay way more attention to posture and pressure.

Now I have to break down the performance standard.

Effectively Upa– What does an effective upa look like? What is the purpose of the upa? How do I know if the upa was effective?

From Posture– What does the posture look like? Where do I put my arms and legs? Why does this posture work? What does poor posture look like?

Escape Pressure– What does the escape pressure look like? How does the pressure create an escape opportunity?

Each of these questions can lead to a drill if necessary. The drills would be a way of determining if the students can meet the performance standard. We may start out by testing the individual pieces of the standard separately before combining them into an integrated whole.

Example Drills:

A good posture drill is to first show students what good mount bottom posture looks like. I’d have them practice it a bit with a partner in intro stage. Then I’d have them drill it in isolation stage. The top guy works on breaking down the posture and the bottom guy works on simply reclaiming their broken posture. This gives me a chance to see if everyone can build the posture under pressure.

A second drill may be to have students start in posture and work to apply upa pressure. The goal is to get the top guy to lunge forward and have to post his hands on the mat in order to prevent getting rolled. If the top guy can maintain his position without having to post with his hands I can tell that the bottom guy isn’t applying an effective upa.

A summative assessment drill would be to simply have the bottom guy attempt to escape the mount using the upa escape and the top guy would work to prevent. A summative assessment takes all the micro skills and applies them in an integrated way. We are working the posture, pressure, and objective (possibilities) all at once.

So, the drills for me are ways of giving students time to test out the postures and pressures against resistance. This causes real learning. It also gives me a chance to test to see whether or not they are getting the material.

This performance based model is great because it really allows me to objectively measure performance gains over the course of one class period. I don’t have to wonder if students are getting the material. I can create a test and see for myself right on the spot. The performance objective gives me the what and the drill gives me the how. In the end I can leave class knowing whether or not I had a successful coaching session.



  1. breaking up mount escape to different stages like that seems like the only way teach beginners. how do you see the method applies to teaching more advanced students?

    at our gym the students range from novices (3 months of experience) to advanced (3+ years of experience). I’m afraid that breaking things into too small parts makes the drills too boring for the advanced students. practicing effective upa allows to only practice upa and reacting to that, practicing mount escape in general allows practicing any kind of mount escape from the bottom and any kind of attack from the top.

    do you advice splitting your class into too groups, novices and advanced?

    • Timo,
      We do it this way with beginners and advanced students alike. I find that even advanced students need the review. There is always something to improve. I’m certain I could line up 5 purple belts and make some small improvements in every one of their upa escapes. I think it takes some re-adjustment in the beginning to get them to buy in to practicing the basics but once they do they will see how much it really improves the game. One thing we stress all the time is that there are no advanced techniques, only fundamentals done with better timing/technique.

      We do have some classes at the gym devoted to advanced students and I usually pair up students by experience level when I can.

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