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The Importance Of Checklists

Posted by Matthew Chapman on

At a recent BJJ seminar with the excellent John Will, he said something that stuck with me:

"The person with the longest checklist usually wins"

I believe he meant the person who mentally checked off all the steps to a technique was less likely to make a mistake, leave fewer openings and move more purposefully. I know I've often been guilty of rushing through techniques (especially when grappling).

Of course, grappling (especially in a Gi) gives you more time to run through a mental checklist because it's slower but checklists are also useful in striking arts as well.

For example, when teaching a student to jab I usually start with a checklist of three to five items I ask the student to repeat in their head as they jab. Once they master these key elements I add more. 

And as I walk around the class I'm constantly shouting out the checklists I want the students to internalise.

The eventual goal is to run the checklist so many times that it becomes automatic. As grappling great Roger Gracie said:

"Don't train a movement till you can do it right, train it till you cant do it wrong!"

So, here's my checklist for a "simple" boxing jab (and who I got each concept from)

  • Start in a stable balanced stance
  • Rear heel up (thanks Anton St James)
  • Lead foot pointed at target
  • Both hands up level with cheekbones
  • Elbows lightly pressed down 
  • Lead hand extended slightly
  • Lead hand moving slightly (thanks Bill Wallace)
  • Lead shoulder on the 12 (thanks Bob Breen)
  • Chin tucked to lead collar bone (thanks Master Chai)
  • Non- Telegrahpic Motion (thanks Bruce Lee)
  • Hand moves before foot (thanks Joe Lewis)
  • Head off centerline (thanks Phil Norman)
  • Explosively snap your jab, don't push it 
  • Strike with your two big knuckles (thanks Bob Breen)
  • Retract quickly on the same line (thanks Erik Paulson)
  • Recover to a balanced stable stance

These are my most common checklist items for a Jab. I will empathise different items on the checklist depending on who I'm working with, but the eventual goal is to make the entire checklist happen automatically in a split second.

Try to create your own checklists for every technique you use. It will make you a better fighter and coach

Mittmaster Matt

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