YouTube and BJJ – Friends or Foes?


Why YouTube Gets a Bad Reputation

Everyone’s always heard about how BJJ instructors hate it when one of their students comes to the academy and wants to try “this really cool submission” they saw on YouTube last night. It’s come to a point where there is a kind of “anti-YouTube” movement in the BJJ community and I’d like to do something a little different this week on the blog and talk about why it’s valid, but ONLY because some people misuse YouTube.

The main reason instructors usually get agitated by this sort of behavior isn’t because they feel threatened, but because they feel like the student is wasting their own time by either practicing a technique that’s not applicable and doesn’t mesh into their game, but “looks cool” or by practicing a technique that’s not suitable for their current skill level. Good instructors have a passion for teaching and they take the time and effort to set up curriculums for their students that they feel will help them systematically progress in the best way possible. When a student decides to practice an entirely unrelated and different technique every day it becomes a mess and leaves gaping holes in his game. This is especially crucial in the beginning stages when students still have very bare “BJJ trees”. Another big problem with YouTube is that it can feed into our hunger of wanting to leapfrog little steps and get ahead quickly. People inadvertently try to take shortcuts in their Jiu Jitsu journeys and what ends up happening is that they come to the gym and attempt what would be the equivalent of trying to learn how to drift a race car before even knowing how to corner their family sedan. They’re getting way ahead of themselves.

I was very blessed to learn the base of my Jiu Jitsu and the base of HOW to learn Jiu Jitsu from Ricardio Vieira, a coach who has produced world champions. At his gym beginner classes would be mainly concept oriented and would focus on giving the student knowledge and conceptual understanding of a position/principal instead of specific moves. At the advanced classes he would show moves because he knew that all of his students in those classes understood what was going on, why it was happening and how to improvise properly if things all of a sudden go hay wire in the middle of the sequence.

The most cliché example of the downfall and lack of practicality of studying moves from YouTube at the beginner level is the white belt who can show you a silky smooth Berimbolo when drilling, but gets his guard smashed when sparring. The moment his training partner moves a little bit out of the course of what he drilled he’ll get completely lost and lose the position. In this case it is clear that the student has no idea WHY he’s going upside down and what action-reaction he’s trying to achieve. This student usually has little to no understanding of what the De La Riva guard is and how through its original defenses the Berimbolo came about. The end result is a lot of hours drilling one move which he can’t actually pull off during sparring because he doesn’t have the base or conceptual understanding of the position and therefor has no idea how to improvise. This is obviously very inefficient.

Now that’s where the majority of the YouTube hate comes from in my opinion and justifiably so.

Why YouTube is Our Friend?

YouTube should be your friend mainly due to the fact that if you choose to only learn Jiu Jitsu within the walls of your academy you’ll limit your resources and by thus limit your progress. No way around that. It can also be used as a great motivational/inspirational tool, but for now lets look at why it’s crucial from an educational standpoint.

These are the 3 main reasons that seeking an outside resource is a must:

1)      No one instructor knows everything. While there are some black belt word champions who are extremely well rounded there will always be someone out there who knows something better than they do and with more detail.

2)      The game is evolving and new things are discovered every day. If you don’t keep up with what’s going on and the new positions out there you won’t be able to at the very least defend them in competition.

3)      Chances are that what the instructor plans to teach this week won’t cover that exact detail from spider/lasso guard that you lack and could’ve used last night during sparring before getting your guard passed. Sometimes for various reasons the instructor won’t be there to help you out and this is where it’s up to you to help yourself learn and progress.

How to Properly Use YouTube

Basically, you will find success through YouTube when you are mission oriented (just like most things in life). You must first have something in mind that you want to accomplish/learn and then start searching. Don’t just browse for a random technique that looks cool and ends up wasting your time.

Here are examples of how to use YouTube listed in order of efficiency.

Problem Solving Through Instructionals

This is more for when something specific isn’t clicking while rolling. A personal example of this was that a guy from the gym kept passing my spider/RDLR guard by knee slicing really aggressively. I knew that Micheal Langhi is a world champion who has great success from that position so I decided to look through YouTube/his instructional DVD’s and try to see what I can learn from him about the position. It’s important to note that I wasn’t looking for a singular sweep/sub, but I was trying to figure out the key points that make the position strong. In the entry to his DVD he points out the importance of tucking your bottom elbow under your RDLR knee and balling up so that your opponent won’t be able to knee slide through. Implementing this was an immediate game changer!

*Strive to try to understand the position/transition from a conceptual and structural standpoint. Figure out what will give you proper leverage instead of trying to learn one possible route to sweep/pass. It’ll pay off in the long run!

*If you don’t have a specific fighter in mind you want to research, but are just looking for a specific technique be aware of who the instructional is done by. There is a lot of crap out there on YouTube (especially no Gi).

Problem solving through fight footage “God Is In the Details!”

Sometimes you don’t find that instructional that will help you out or you don’t want to purchase that DVD right now. In this case analyzing fight footage is a great method to learn. Using the RDLR example from earlier, when I started having problems chaining the (separate) moves I learned from the DVD together I looked at Langhi’s fights on YouTube in an attempt to learn the timing of how and when he chained things together. Seeing how he used the tool belt of techniques he had in real action-reaction sparring tremendously helped me understand when and how to implement those moves. This works for every technique. Look for the way the elite fighters open/close/maintain distance, their pressure, balance, head positioning etc. Lots to learn there.

*BJJ Scout is an amazing example of someone breaking things down like that and putting them together.

Disclaimer: It’s important to say that if you’re a white belt or a beginner blue there’s a chance you won’t find this resource as helpful as quite a lot of the elite black belt matches might seem a little confusing.

Expanding Your Game

Sometimes you don’t have something specific you feel needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t mean that contention should creep in!

After a while we all develop a style with favorite moves and chains. A great way to take our games up is to watch random footage of a fighter who we have a similar game to and just observe and take notes. You can end up picking up a lot of good stuff by accident! Look for those little details you can add to your game. If you’re a bullfighter check out some videos of Leandro Lo and you might find some details that can make a huge difference, if Omopolatas naturally come easy to you maybe it’s worth looking at some film of Clark Gracie to learn some new tricks and so on and so on.

Another method of expanding your game is trying to break down a sequence you’ve never seen before and understand why and how it works.

*“Ostap analysis” is worth checking out as he gives a great example on how to break down film!


To summarize YouTube can be a big waste of time if you misuse it, but also a great learning tool if used properly. Like most things in life it’s up to you how much you’ll get out of it.

Hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful! Please like, share, let me know what you think about it and most importantly feel free to comment and chip in if you feel like there’s more to say!


YouTube and BJJ - Friends or Foes?

YouTube and BJJ – Friends or Foes?

2 thoughts on “YouTube and BJJ – Friends or Foes?

  1. Good article. I just “figured” this out last month. Watching various technique without really searching for one particular thing from rolling as a lesson learnt. Having realised this it makes Youtube a great resource & not an overwhelming vault of techniques that you get lost looking at.
    Also I started taking notes after each class on my phone now. Techniques taught plus notes from rolling where I lost position or failed to transition should a sub fail. Quick review before class to refresh the mind & it helps. Feels like I’m more on to something now.

    Keep doing your thing mate!
    Enjoyed that second semi final match.

    All the best

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