There’s almost nothing I enjoy doing on a weekend more than attending martial arts
seminars. So it was that yesterday I braved blowing snow and treacherous roads driving to
Valhalla Academy for a 4-hour BJJ seminar with guest instructor Matt Smith. Matt is a
black belt under Jason Keaton. I hadn’t encountered him before, but the price was
reasonable and I trusted the recommendation of Valhalla chief instructor Brian Jones.
Over the last 30 years I’ve attended somewhere around 50-60 seminars in various martial
arts as a supplement to my regular training. In that time, my objectives for attending
have changed. I used to go with the intention of learning new techniques. That aspect is
still fun, but at this point I’ve seen more techniques than I could hope to master in my
lifetime. These days I would rather learn ten new details on one old technique than ten
new techniques. Since most seminar instructors are focusing on showing new techniques, I
just try to pay close attention in the hopes of catching some new detail on the moves I am
already familiar with.
Matt Smith’s teaching was very different from the typical seminar mold. He showed very
few actual techniques – about as many as some instructors go over in a normal 1-hour
class. What he filled the time with was lots and lots of drills and fine details to make
those techniques actually work.
This instructional style could be tailor made for the way I prefer to learn these days. I
can spend all day working on a technique if I can keep learning new nuances about how to
make it work the whole time. The only other seminar instructor I can recall with a
similar attention to detail is Roy Harris.
In addition to demonstrating a wealth of useful information, Matt also shared a cheerful
enthusiasm for jiu-jitsu and did an excellent job of providing feedback and guidance to
each student at the seminar. (Providing that personal attention was probably made easier
by the fact that the winter weather caused lower than anticipated turnout.)
Thanks to Matt Smith for teaching an excellent seminar and to Brian Jones for hosting it.