The 3 Es of BJJ Progression are not equal

Efficiency, Effectiveness and Economy are known as the 3Es in economics. The 3Es are a framework used to maximise value and are highly useful to any performance athlete, from the leisure player to the professional. I see its usefulness all the time in both training and coaching.

I am contacted daily by people interested in training BJJ, Mixed Martial Arts, or some combination of the “Alive Arts” (BJJ, Sambo, Judo, Wrestling, Thaiboxing, Boxing). Its always beginners who want to discuss the optimal balance of different approaches and the notion of being “rounded”. Effectiveness could be expressed in its various guises as simply “does this work?”. Once the student comes down to train their focus quickly turns to Efficiency i.e. “am I doing this right?”. As their journey progresses, the student typically comes to revisit Effectiveness once again when they start watching BJJ instructional videos and tournament footage from competitions. Seeing that their favourite competitor favours a particular style, certain positions like worm guards or 50:50 or “moves” such as Twisters or Berimbolos, they quickly seek to master these moves. The logic is obvious but flawed. Copy the champions who are winning, and I will progress more quickly. Thus a loop continues where the student interchanges between adding new moves based on what is popular in competition circles and refining them. The fundamental issue of why it is flawed isn’t down to a lack of mastery of the basics and fundamentals; these are actually the effects of their failure to consider the third E, the ‘Economy’ of top class competitors compared to their own.

Economy is simply “how many units can I put in?” in a given time period. The difference between being “great” and “good”, and “good” and “average” is far more determined by Economy (how many units you put in) rather than Efficiency or Effectiveness. This isn’t to say efficiency or effectiveness are not important, but if we were to look at where the average student can make the largest gains (of course assuming they are training an alive art in an alive manner) its mainly determined by units of hours spent.

This article shows how important units in each week builds up. So how does training 3x per week for 2 hours (pretty serious) compares to 5 days per week for 6 hours (professional)? Over 3 years the leisure player amounts just 936 hours vs 4680 hours of mat time for a professional. Therefore, the professional not only has more time to work on the fundamentals (those movements occurring in every match) and basics, but also greater opportunities to develop their own style and even consider defensive moves to specific games of their rivals. And its the one “E” that often isn’t considered that much in my experience until the coach raises it. Quite often students who train just one or two hours per week will spend time asking their coaches about low percentage contribution to performance nuances i.e When one person in class is trying to Berimbolo, Twister me, what….?. The coach really should redirect the student to focus their energies more productively given the student’s time constraints rather than indulge them in answering their question, UNLESS of course it is regularly occurring on the mat. And by having greater Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness will improve as well.

Economy is the fundamental building block. Student should look to eliminate non-value add activities in your life rather than trying to constantly add more Efficiency and Effectiveness into a small economy. The former is much easier in most cases. The key constraint to most players games is therefore economy and not Efficiency nor Effectiveness. If you turn up more (more units), the rest will come. Keep turning up and everything else looks after itself.

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