Learning Styles: Broscience Or Truth?

The idea that you have a unique learning style of visual, auditory, reading or kinesthetic can be comforting to believe and make you feel like a special individual that requires personal instruction in your particular style. But, it's a myth, or more accurately can be known as a neuromyth.

It is also a very pervasive neuromyth where after taking off in the early '80s and 90's it has remained prevalent maybe because of the hope that many myths can provide. A student can believe they could learn much faster if only it gets tailored to their unique style, and an instructor can reach every student effortlessly as long as they consider that.

Many articles on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instruction will preach about the validity of this neuromyth and recommend that adopting it will make your time spent as a white belt shorter if you can understand more about your particular style.

Sonny Brown

But the scientific consensus has been that no substantial evidence suggests the validity of individual learning styles. A large industry has developed around selling products that incorporate the neuromyth so you will still hear it from many corners as if it's vital knowledge. Still, it's not credible and can be harmful to your growth on the mats.

Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will be a difficult journey, and everyone want's to help streamline the process so it's understandable why the idea can be appealing. As a student, it can take the responsibility off you to pay attention to details or put in any extra effort as you can easily rationalise that your instructor needs to cater towards your learning style. If only it had been, then you wouldn't be experiencing the failure or difficulties that you have encountered.

As an instructor, you can easily rationalise that perhaps the reason students haven't been able to grasp all the techniques from your dull ten-minute monologue must be because they are not auditory learners. Maybe they are kinesthetic and will pick it up in the drilling portion.

Then instead of looking to improve your dry speech by working on vocal tonality and projection, you can leave it unchanged. The auditory learners will still need to hear it spoken, that is their style, so why change anything?

Clinging onto these myths can then lead to stifling your progress instead of helping to expand it. Now, of course, people can still have preferences; people might always prefer drilling over listening to a speech no matter how entertaining. But just because that would be what you like to do does not mean that you are going to retain the information any better.

Despite how a myth might make you feel, I have always thought that one of the appealing aspects of live training on the grappling mats is that it only allows the truth of martial arts. It either works, or it doesn't, the rubber mats become the science lab of techniques that would never allow a false idea to flourish on the road of your BJJ journey.

Learning can be a complicated process, and that shouldn't discourage you, many parts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will require perseverance through difficult struggles, the process of learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Sonny Brown and Courage Team

Knowing that the responsibility doesn't rest on a predetermined limitation in how you learn should be liberating as it opens up your capabilities to understand everything provided you have the motivation and effort to continue to show up and work at the problem until you have it mastered.

Peace, love and raging waters,

Sonny Brown
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt

Photos: Linda Bone Photographer

Sonny Brown