Ecological Dynamics - The New Scientific Method Of Coaching Touches Grappling

Surprised I couldn’t find anything on this so far, but then again, I keep getting reminded that this is no longer a martial arts related site and hasn’t been since whenever I don’t care. Or you cunts can’t spell.

Ecological Dynamics. It’s a psychological framework of skill acquisition backed by science and you’ll see me write in an academic manner like this from now on because I am fuckin academic, ya heard.

Anyway, a few months back my coach says to me he’s been looking at this Ecological Dynamics approach to coaching and that he’s been trying to implement it in his lesson plans - at the time I was on this trek through tutorials and seminars of some of the best there is, Danaher seminar, Jones seminar, Ryan tutorials, fucking BJJ Fanatics made a small fortune off me, if a small fortune was a couple of hundred dollars and the links to pirated versions of videos in my Drive were bond back derivatives and now I have no idea what I’m on about.

Essentially what I am saying is I looked at coach like he was this:

“Games? But coach, I’m 100% sure I am on a roll here (see what I did there) and am putting shit together with this systematic approach to learning that has elevated my game for suuuuure!!! Games is for kids.”

A couple of months after, as I’ve intimated in another post, I was overlooked for my brown belt. I was a little pissed, considering I had gone hell for leather on learning and had even asked on several occasions if there was anything I should be focussed on and was told, “nope, keep doing what you’re doing” which in some ways I saw as tacit approval that I would be ranked up.

I’ve done some reflecting on the non-brown belt during which I reviewed my injury prevention, strength training, mobility, all sorts of things, and over time I started to watch/listen to podcast after podcast after podcast about BJJ. Something I’d done more for fun in the past, but now I was honed in.

I was searching because I was pissed off and this time it was looking inwardly.

Why are there friends who started well after me getting their black belts well before I was even halfway through purple? It didn’t make sense. There is no chance they train more than me, I’m doing 4-8 sessions of BJJ a week. It could be burnout, but the end of the week is open mats, I cruise on those. It’s not like I’m a fucking idiot, either, I consistently ranked in the top 1 percentile of all Aussie uni students for engineering and the top 10th for English. I wondered if I had lost the ability to learn? But that also didn’t make sense, as much, because I’m in a constantly evolving digital sector.

Over the past few years there’s been a couple of stand out things that have been said that rang true in my head, but I didn’t really pay attention to how they could be implemented:

  • John Danaher talking about how Gary Tonon would put himself in fully sunk in chokes and work to get out.
  • Kit Dale talking about his “entirely different approach to grappling that made him a black belt in 3 years”
  • Some big dude named Josh I think advertising fuck out of my social media of a new approach to learning BJJ to go from white to purple quicker.

It became apparent that maybe there was a different way to learn and thus I returned to coach and asked for the links to this guy, Greg Souders, the guy who was disseminating the Ecological Dynamic approach to the BJJ community, for free, with a seeming metric shit tonne of backlash, more than a little bit of dismissal, and the occasional brash talk about how black belts weren’t even in his blue belt territory.

I started listening and within a week I was this guy:

Going fucking hard in the paint for this methodology. It made sense, it connected with a number of other strategies that I had already been finding success with, and more importantly IMMEDIATELY improved how I roll and perceive rolling in general.

The effect on my game cannot be understated - I am doing things that I was mentally punishing myself for not being able to achieve just two or three months ago. I’m in the zone, running rampant with whatever I want to do. I know what I need to work on because it is like a glitch in the matrix, it’s like my brain engages while rolling and goes, “there, you just got stuck, how do I know you got stuck, cause you’re talking to me” and I’m like, “check” then back into the matrix.

Now, it is a coaching methodology and this is what intrigued me the most. Around this time last year I realised that the only way I was going to make a mark on the world was to be the best coach I could be, so over the past year I have been consuming sports psychology and methodology, plus a raft of other information regarding prehab, rehab, strength, mobility, etc. I even have a certificate for one of them with a couple more on the way.

So when I heard this Greg Souders say that he “wants to be the best coach” he can be, it was a factor in my being intrigued.

After probably 10 or so podcasts with Greg Souders as a guest, some mildly combative, I realised he was on to something big. I started implementing “games” in my classes with my students and immediately saw what he was seeing, students self-organising around the task assigned. Literally doing shit that me and my assistant coaches had been saying for years but it never seemed to stick.

I was no longer “teaching”, I was facilitating learning. The hardest part is the “practice design”, I’ve probably been too careful in my approach, being that I am still relatively new to the more advanced level and coaching in general. However, I had already been using a concept-based approach to coaching over a pure step-by-step approach.

My coach also had this concept based approach, whereby we would look at the mechanics of what we are trying to achieve as the basis for the lesson, then do the steps. I used to look at it like:

  • What are we trying to achieve and how? The concept
  • Three steps to do it (they’d go away and try it)
  • Three details to help it work (go away and try it)

This was a good approach and I stopped trying to teach multiple techniques in a class, tried boiling it down to one or one and a close variation. My students were learning fast, each grading they were levelling up and all the night time students would always compliment me on how fast they were learning. Life was good.

I was still listening to podcasts and finding a couple of people implementing the Ecological approach, some seemed to do so after they interviewed Greg. Greg also was interviewed by the doctor at the cutting edge of the approach, Dr Rob Gray, and this lead me to devouring both his books on the subject in record time.

So far the two things that I believe have made it effective, for me, at least:

  • The reframing of language around outcomes, not steps.
  • The Constraints Led approach to games reducing the overwhelming-ness of an entire roll.

I have also started on the book, The Constraints Led Approach - Principles For Sports Coaching and Practice Design.

Now, this has really invigorated my learning and teaching, I have never ever been as excited about the direction of my life as I am now. Yes, not just my martial arts journey, but my life. Through this I have limited outside noise in a way that I have never experienced, I am zoned in.


This is interesting can you post some links to good content on it?

I’ve mentioned a few of the people to look up, but this video is probably the most succinct at describing it that I have heard so far. The fact that this guy has been implementing it for over 2 years (clearly longer than the video has been up) is why he is able to explain it so simply.

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Also, I want to stay as far ahead of the curve as I can so do your own research hahahaha

If you want to follow my journey through Ecological Dynamics and the Constraints Led Approach:

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This has been one tool in the toolbox of coaching for a long time. I first learned it in the Judo Canada coaching education program. In fact, as I recall, I first heard about it in the 90s from one particular judo coach. Wait, maybe it was in one or more of Geoff Gleason’s books on coaching Judo…

Anyway, I’m glad you found something that works for you and your students.

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Yeah @BKR is back! Your lucky you came back in time so you didn’t have to experience the @A11 grappling fiasco.

Yep. It has been around for several decades, I’ve stopped claiming it is something new the more I research. BJJ in particular has shown resistance to it, but I may have interchanged “grappling” in my wording, where I have done so then I apologise.

Wrestling has been using it for ages too, I’m glad to hear it was through judo as well. In fact, Gant Grimes was on Kabir Bath’s podcast I listened to recently and he said the same thing, that he came across it in a judo gathering.

One of the things that I think has me so excited about it is that there are many in the BJJ community wholly resistant to it, seemingly because they appear to want to hold on to their label of being “the source” of knowledge.

I got into BJJ because it appeared to be an ever evolving delivery system that was regularly tested - and yet I find that there is an old guard that wants to teach in a dogmatic, almost kata-like, dead patterned, unevolved pedagogy.

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It’s the way of all commoditized MAs. You put a quarter in the machine.

You keep more students longer when they’re not actually beating on each other. This is how TKD schools thrive, and why good kung fu schools are hard to find.

The signal to noise ratio of people willing to combate, vs. show up in costume, is very low.

Some of us actually prefer to show up and spar and not pay any more money.

yeah, Judo had/has that problem still. Not generally at higher levels, but, it’s a thing. When I started Judo it was… not good…, in the USA particularly.

There was a “vanguard” of who called themselves “modernists” (Geoff Gleason was one of them), and some guys in the US read his books (I have), and tried to do as he did.

As a long time Judo coach, I never converted over to pure modernist. I found them as dogmatic as old school “purists”, so to speak. I think coaching is more complex an endeavor than adopting one pure end-member model.

A lot depends on the age of who is training why training (for kids it should be for fun, health). Judo Canada has the entire sports for life program, you can google that easily (hint, it’s on the Judo Canada website).

Keep up the good work , and keep learning!

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well, we had (and have that) in Judo, and as you know, Judo was never really about making money.

Unlike BJJ/GJJ (no offense intended, btw).

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This video is 10 minutes long so I don’t know if you want to watch all of it but it reminded me of your comments.

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That’s what I like about judo. The club owner and instructors have jobs and judo isn’t a source of revenue for them. The tomiki style is like that too. My aikido club charges 30 dollars a month and the aikido school around the corner from me charges 120 a month. I didn’t challenge them but the aikido place around the corner’s instructor said that I couldn’t counter his techniques and I proved him wrong.

Lol 10 minutes is only 5 minutes when you 2x the speed.

Look, I agree with him, but I am not a fan of the faux-40s radio presenter voice.

I’ve been implementing this ED/CLA thing for some time as BJJ coach.

It works pretty well but it puts a lot of work on the coach, it’s not for everyone and you’ll probably find a lot of resistance from people who is stuck in the old ways of teaching Jits.

I’d recommend giving it a try.

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So how do you recommend someone get started? I occasionally teach BJJ, and would be curious to try this. However, I don’t know where to begin.

“What is a ‘constraints led approach’? – drowningintheshallow” What is a ‘constraints led approach’? – drowningintheshallow

Start with this.

This video is worth watching.

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DCS I tried to send you a dm but I’m unsure how the message system on this site works. Did you get it?

That’s great stuff.

As soon as I saw the triangle…an old Bullshido classic popped into my head.

Seriously, what do you think about just 3 sub classes? There’s something to be said about the whole intrinsic, extrinsic, systematic value system (Hartmann et al.) but the whole argument of that system is that anywhere humans are involved, the cardinality is transfinite (2^n-1), and limitations in real world applications often defy lower order classification attempts, and especially the illusion of an equilateral triangulation.

Short short version, there are a lot more things, scenarios, ideas to play with. The triangle is not the best model.

For example, where do other players fall into the mix. where does psychological manipulation (a key sport skill) fall, is that Performer or Environmental? What happens when one Performer limitation meets another?

The is “how will you handle my war face”. Ever growled into someone’s face in BJJ. It is effective, and it is not in the book anywhere.

I think the real answer is mu. This isn’t some dumbass answer, I calculated it. Pretty sure I can prove with math that Performer limitations dominate, blowing away environmental and systemtic ones.

The pushback you get from “old timers” is probably because of the whole attempt at quantifying things. To those people BJJ is more “feel” and less physics. The trouble is, that’s no way to keep a martial art alive.