Portland SBG training methodology #2 sequence matters

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In our last post we talked about how the SBG emphasis on fundamentals that we apply here at the Portland Oregon Academy, create the environment that provides the space and freedom for individuals to develop their own, unique, “styles” of play.

Now let’s get into specifics regarding actual methodology.

The starting point for understanding the SBGi teaching model we use at the Portland Gym is the “I” method.

The “I”method is a simple 3-step process. You begin with introduction, the starting point for any class. Proceed directly into isolation, which is the drill stage, and consequently the stage I will be discussing the most in this article. And you finish with the integration stage. I call this the context stage, it’s the point where you take that class and work it back into the big picture of whatever game you are working on, BJJ, MMA, self defense, etc.

‘I’ Method:

Step #1 = Introduction

Step #2 = Isolation

Step #3 = Integration

Here is a practical example for using the “I” method.

The Introduction stage

Let’s say you are working on escapes from mount position from BJJ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You begin by introducing the core escapes to the class. For sake of example lets say that is an elbow escape, and an upa (bridge & roll). During the intro stage students are encouraged to talk to each other, switch back and forth and work the material without using any resistance right now. If there is a place for repetition in training, this is it.

The objective for the Coach is two fold, first everyone in class should be able to demonstrate and work the movement in a manner that is technically correct when no resistance is being applied.

And second, every student should understand why/ how the movement is meant to work.

This process usually takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes. If it takes more time then that then you may be teaching something that the class is not ready for, i.e. a triangle escape in a class of people who may not know how to do a triangle yet.

The biggest factor in time for the introduction stage is usually just class size.

As a teacher I like to make sure everyone on the mat gets it when no resistance is applied; and I have yet to meet a student who was not able to get it at the intro stage, provided you are patient in communicating with them. However, obviously class size will affect the time this process takes.

An important point here regarding the I-ntroduction stage is the proper method for correcting students. There are good ways and bad ways to do this.

As an example, one of our coaches attended a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminar awhile ago at another gym that was taught by a former world champion. This champion is well known in the BJJ community, and widely considered an expert “teacher” as well. What method did he use often for instruction? The answer is ridicule, and that alone should give you a clue as to exactly why being a world champion has absolutely nothing to do with being a good, or even decent teacher.

What this instructor would do is call up people from the audience and ask them to demonstrate a particular BJJ move. Then once they finished, he would immeadiately say something along the lines of, “Oh no,
that was all wrong
”, and then proceed to show the “right” way to do it, inevitably making some changes on however it was taught by the person previous to him.

Our own SBG coach didn’t jump into the nonsense of this scene, but observed it from the sidelines. It should go without saying why this should never be your teaching model; unless of course you want to be known as a dick.


When teaching well, as we do at SBG, you want to encourage the students progress, not ridicule them, or make them feel small. If you notice during the introduction phase that they are doing something incorrectly, praise them for what they are doing well, even if it’s just for honestly trying, then correct them with kindness, and then finally, praise them again should they follow your guideince. The acronym we use for this method is PCP, or praise, correct, praise, and it’s important to remember if you actually care about the students you are coaching.

Another key factor about the introduction stage is how the curriculum itself is introduced to the student. And this brings me to a major point as it relates to teaching:

The order in which you introduce things can determine the habits your students develop.

This point really can’t be emphasized enough. Here is a concrete example. If I begin a BJJ lesson with a‘darce choke’ (as one of infinite examples), and these are individuals who are just starting out in BJJ (first few lessons), then I may in fact be helping them to develop habits which will be counter-productive to their game.


Because we have skipped quite a few steps, which in an alive roll occur prior to the choke arising.

In this example, we have not yet taught them about the importance of maintaining the far side underhook, we have not taught them the first thing to do when your opponent re-pummels and gets the underhook from crossides bottom, we have not yet taught them how to do a proper whizzer, in fact, there are at least five steps that occur between the time your opponent gets the underhook on bottom and the point at which you are in a position to do something like a darce choke.

So the question is, do you really want your students giving away the far side underhook, and then skipping all the steps needed to re-pummel and keep their opponent on his/her back?

Because if you don’t teach them the material in order, then most students will automatically let all that go, and just attempt to jump into the darce choke. Why wouldn’t they, if at this point it’s all you have taught them?

Now you might say so what, won’t we get around to working the rest of the material as well at some point anyway?

The problem with that theory is that in BJJ everyone starts developing habits on day one; and again, the order in which you introduce material to new students will have a direct effect on the habits those new students develop on the mat.

This is why we pay so much attention to those little details in curriculum at the Portland Gym.

That of course does not mean that a student should not be introduced to a darce choke. To the contrary, what it means is that there is a better way to work the student towards acquiring that choke in a live roll.


You might want to first start with emphasizing the importance of not giving away the far side underhook to begin with. After that, you might want to work re-pummeling right away if that underhook is lost.

Finally, a good movement to follow that, is a counter series for when the opponent (bottom person) gets the far side underhook. At the Portland Gym we start with the “diaper check”, which is placing the hand inside the bottom persons thigh so that they cannot gain any leverage with their underhook, and then re-pummeling.

After all that I would probably follow with the use of a proper whizzer (overhook) position from top. Something that is pretty detailed within itself. And from that whizzer position many submissions and movements open themselves up, one being the darce choke.


Again you can see one of the key teaching principles of SBG being applied above, Posture – Pressure – Possibilities.

By learning the proper posture, and the appropriate pressure to apply from that posture, the possibilities, in this case a choke, present themselves.

Skip the above step and jump straight to the possibilities, and you short change the student, and leave out the heart and soul of what makes BJJ work.

As a Coach who cares a lot about helping my students be as good as they can be, I know what habits I would like them to acquire once they get crossides top. And because I want them to develop those habits, I teach them in the order in which they arise naturally in a competitive roll. Only after I see that they have learned one set (with resistance) do I move on to the next series, not because we are looking to slow down their progress, but rather, because we are looking to speed it up.

In our next entry I’ll get into a very simple three step rule of thumb that will help provide you as a teacher or student with the best order, the most appropriate sequence, to place your curriculum in.