Anyone who knows anything about jiu-jitsu has heard of Robson “Robinho” Moura. He was able to dominate his division for the better part of an entire decade. His first world title came in 1996 as a purple belt and in 1997 he won his first world title at black belt. Since then, the Nova Uniao phenom was able to capture world titles in the super featherweight division another four times, with his last win coming ten years later, in 2007. There is no mystery to how a champion is created: a combination of hard work, talent and dedication. However, if you attend any of Robson’s classes or seminars, you will see that there is one standout reccurring theme - drilling. This is something that Robson touts as an essential part of any athlete’s success in BJJ.
“I like to drill before and after my training. I usually try to perform a drill sequence for about ten minutes because that’s the duration of a black belt match”, states Robson. And so it follows that each belt level should drill for the duration of the matches in their respective belt categories. White belts should drill for at least five minutes, six minutes for blue belts, seven minutes for purple belts and eight minutes for brown belts.
There are many benefits to drilling but there is one factor for Robinho that really stands out; “Drilling is about timing. When drilling, you have a chance to simulate the position in real time, while breaking the movements down at a pace that’s slow enough to make corrections. This way you improve every time you practice.” With every drilling session, your body builds automation in terms of when to make a particular movement and with what pressure and speed. Ultimately, this is where technical improvements come, more so than from actually rolling with your opponent at random. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily drill more than you roll or vice versa, but there should be a good balance between the two different types of activities, as one is really completed by the other.
“Back in the day, at the original Nova Uniao academy, we didn’t drill as much as today, and the actual training was harder than what we are now used to. But I do believe it’s best to keep a balance.”
It’s all too common for competitors, especially inexperienced ones, to get nervous during their matches and freeze up with ‘technique amnesia’. Robinho feels that drilling in planned technique sequences will help prepare for and avoid this anxiety. “I drill techniques in these connected sequences because this offers a flow that is as close as you can get to a real tournament match. This also helps the body to get used to that kind of time pressure.” The real secret behind Robinho’s success in drilling lies here, in his sequential flows; he strings related techniques together in ways that he expects positions to naturally shift from one to the next, and focuses the drilling efforts on the transitions between those positions. These transitional moments are the key to truly linking each technique so that we can convert the training into muscle memory and develop the ability to pull off the movements in a tournament setting even when we freeze up. Drilling is all about making the correct movements second-nature so that we eliminate the margin for error.
Robinho still remembers moments when his drilling preparation really kicked in during sticky situations. “I remember one time during the Brazilian team championships when I fought Muzio de Angelo from Alliance. Back then I had been doing a ton of back-take drills. He controlled the fight until the very end, but then I was able to take the back last-minute and finish the fight. Going home that night, I thought to myself, ‘all those back-taking drills saved me today.’” The memory still makes the champion chuckle and continues to remind him of the importance of drilling - something that was passed to Robinho by his teachers and something that he will continue to pass on to his own students.
“Besides Andre Pederneiras and Wendell Alexander, my first teacher Jucão was a great influence in my life as a competitor and as a person. So I hope to follow in their footsteps and prepare my students in the best way possible for their challenges.”