Anastasia Woolmer's method for memorizing movement

Just ran across this. I’m going to dig in further, as see if it helps for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


The only thing I might add to this is a mnemonic to remember the different points of understanding a movement. That would help you to remember how to analyze a movement when you are in the moment.

I’ve been studying something called “Laban Movement Analysis” for a bit but haven’t gotten to putting it into a memory palace yet (might be my next memory palace project). They use similar language and concepts for analyzing movement as described in the linked post. Since that’s something I have previous experience with I might substitute her questions for understanding movement for the ones asked in LMA. If you don’t have any previous experience analyzing movement Woolmer’s points will suit you well.

An addition that I would have to use for BJJ would be recognizing what parts of my body are in contact with my opponents body.


The use of imagery is pretty similar to what I have been doing, I think.

For example, in BJJ we do something called “sweeps” which is when you are on the ground on your back or butt and your opponent is standing or kneeling above/in front of you. A sweep is when you make them fall over from this position.

So for this one particular sweep, imagery related to felling a tree came to mind. One action of the sweep calls for you to pull on a persons jacket lapel while at the same time using your knee behind them to knock them over. I imagine that my arm pulling is like people who have tied a rope to a tree and are pulling it down. The knee action has a similar motion as a windshield wiper so I imagine that a car with it’s windshield wipers on is running into the tree from behind.


If we are talking about taekwondo. I can say a lot about this. So there are many associations whose sequence can be remembered. So when hitting dollyo chagie. You have to take a careful step. You can imagine a futuristic walking tank. Then take the leg straight, the tank raises the leg and falls. Then move on to the next lock, where you present a jig that Bruce Lee knocks down with his nunchakus, which symbolizes a key phase - a kick. The leg must work like a nunchaku to transmit maximum kinetics. In the following lock, you can imagine a person pulling his hand away from a hot pan, this shows how important it is to put your foot in the starting position.

This already solves most problems, because many people find it difficult to remember the sequence of these actions and the nuances. If you did it in seconds. You save a lot of time to work on your muscle memory.

Besides. In the study of complex strokes and combinations, the formation of mental patterns plays a huge role, as in chess and anything else.
Now I am mastering the hitting cheat 540. This is a useless but very beautiful kick that requires brilliant coordination and technique.

You can study this kick step by step. But you are wasting a lot of time.
This kick starts like a tornado kick.
I imagine Dizzy Devil who almost stepped on a snake that bites its own tail (Oroborus is a symbol of completeness). It will always remind me that this kick starts out like a tornado, but instead of throwing the other leg out, you make a full turn. After the turn, you hook kick with the same foot. At the next location, I see Edson Barboza, famous for this kick.


My big question when reading this was: Why?

Why would someone go to the trouble of traditional association techniques used in memory to remember information and try to use them to remember movement?

We already have an excellent system for learning and movement called the kinesthetic system, which we use to learn and remember all physical movement and skills quite well (such as riding a bike).

Adding memory palaces or whatever, seems to needlessly complicate AND interfere with an already efficient system, much the way an accomplished pianist’s movements is interfered with if they think about what they are doing.

‘But it could help you learn the movement initially’, may be the reply. But I don’t think so. Certainly not as efficiently and well as actually doing the physical movements while being observed and corrected by skilled practitioners.

Imagery based mnemonics and practicing the movement with coaching corrections isn’t mutually exclusive.

I think it could definitely help learn the movement faster initially, especially if the movement has a lot of details. People often forget the details and having mnemonics could alleviate that. Your coach can’t watch you every second, especially in a group setting, or if you are practicing outside of class.

The mnemonic would eventually be dropped as the details are programmed into muscle memory. You wouldn’t think about them in your own performance of the movement, but you might remember them as examples for your own coaching of the movement.


I believe this falls under my ‘But it could help you learn the movement initially’ objection.

I still don’t think it can. The kinesthetic system has evolved over eons to handle this specific kind of information and I don’t believe that mnemonics could offer anything to improve this process. One learns to do movement based skills such as playing the piano, dancing, etc., by actually performing the movement.

I’m not saying one cannot force mnemonics on this type of learning (they are obviously not mutually exclusive), but to me it makes as much sense as implementing so called ‘learning styles’, such as learning algebra by smell. Perhaps it could be done, but, like a pencil with an eraser on each end, it is rather pointless.

1 Like

Have you tried it?

Some skills it seems like it wouldn’t be helpful for, like if you were teaching an adult to ride a bike. Maybe piano falls under this, but I don’t know enough about piano . Other skills essentially have a “check list” of items that are required for good performance. Items that people often forget.

Dancers already use imagery for memorizing routines (e.g. story method). Are you a dancer? If not, how do you know better than dancers?


What kinds of movement practice do you do, Celtic?

I think it’s actually irrelevant what types of movements I may or may not practice as it would add nothing.

I could be wrong, but from most of what I’ve read in this post, what is actually being discussed is remembering a sequence of movements in a routine (e.g. a gymnastics routine, or a figure skating routine) that one already knows how to do, and not memorizing complex movement itself through mnemonics. I view these two things as quite distinct.

Memorizing a routine is simply remembering a sequence of labels for what to perform next. With that I believe that mnemonics could be useful. But I don’t believe mnemonics are useful for learning and memorizing complex movement, otherwise the neocortex could be used and we wouldn’t need a cerebellum.

1 Like

If you have little experience in movement, or none in a discipline where mnemonics could be helpful, it could help explain to yourself why you can’t see another perspective.

I’ve mainly been discussing the learning of individual techniques.

I don’t know what you mean. The neocortex is involved in motor learning. The motor cortex is part of the neocortex.

1 Like

I think the main problem with using imagery based mnemonics for motor learning (in disciplines where it’s appropriate) is that imagery based mnemonics is so foreign a concept for most people. They might not “get it” because they don’t understand the idea in general. If you already know about them you’re good.


Sure, everyone can misunderstand, just as everyone can miscommunicate sometimes.

To help me understand, perhaps you can give an example of a complex movement where every angle of every joint, every position of every limb, the angle of the head and torso, the pressure applied by every body part, the resultant movement of the body and the correction of all of those things from the beginning of the movement to the end using mnemonics.

The kinesthetic system learns and remembers all of that, I’m curios to know how a mnemonic system can help someone learn and remember all of that

1 Like

You’re building a straw man. No one is saying every little process of what is happening needs a mnemonic attached to it. I already gave an example of how I remembered the main actions of a particular sweep in an above post.

1 Like

You are right QiJitsu, not every process need a mnemonic attached to it. As mentioned with your sweeps, a simple image acts as a hook. That is a good one.

The 1 to 11 questions where I ask myself about the move are just a guide to first establish:
-I understand what I am supposed to be doing,
-to help me ‘brainstorm’ an image that serves as a hook to remembering it again the next time I see it.

These questions tell me a great deal about what I don’t fully know (and therefore where to really pay attention or ask questions in class) It is just a cognitive process with the aim to understand better and produce an image that helps me, when it is first learned.

Celtic, they don’t replace muscle memory and need to repeat the movements over to perfect, they just help the information be learned faster in the first place - like most mnemonics.

The article I wrote by no means has the most exciting visual image (with the rulers) but I was looking for one of my own examples that was easy to explain. Using mnemonics like this really often about what personal associations spring to mind (so sometimes they can be hard to describe to others)
But AttiLa-24 I like your futuristic tank :slight_smile: My dollyo chagie has me seeing myself do the move but I am kicking a doll, which is yours (to you). To get it at just the right angle my hips must turn, and to kick it far enough, the whole thing is done in a joking manner which makes me flick my leg back (like when you flick someone jokingly with a tea towel) lol A simple image (to me) which helped me remember the move when I first learned it.

From being a professional dancer I of course now pick up movement ‘naturally’ quickly, without mnemonic aid. But when ever I struggle with some unusual sequence or new coordination, I like to use imagery to assist me. I did this a bit before I knew about mnemonic techniques (as you mentioned dancers are kind of trained to do this already), and more so now that I know how to use them easily.

And I nearly always use mnemonics to help me learn new terminology associated with a move. The move is then the memory palace and the image represents the terminology. That is simple mnemonics and a no brainer for saving time.


As I suspected. You just don’t understand what movement actually means, and your mnemonic for your “movement” example, is as I already claimed: it’s a series of labels the kind of which occurs in a routine, and does not constitute a mnemonic for movement at all. It’s simply a series of reminders for movements you already know how to do.

As you have already agreed, mnemonics simply cannot compete with the kinesthetic system which does the real learning and remembering of physical movements.

Although I do find it difficult to believe that you need a series of mnemonic images to remember such a simple technique as a ‘sweep’.

Related to this, Dominic O’Brien has a chapter in one of his books about how memory can improve your golf swing. The idea is to use memory techniques for “declarative memory”, such as a list of things your coach tells you to keep an eye on during your swing, then practice turns the “declarative memory” into “reflexive memory”, when the actions become automatic.


Thanks you so much :grin:.
I used a tank because dollyo chagie is very different, for example, from Thai tae tad or mawashi geri from kyokushin kaikan, first of all in that you need to extend your foot the same way we do it when we kick ap chagie and only after that does rotation … I totally agree with you. It takes 10,000 reps before this hit is really good.
And you need to feel good about your body.

But the more often I sparred, the more I saw the theoretical errors of my opponents. You should start practicing any kick or movement the first time, given a list of ten points.
Beginners lose them from memory and start working out the movement incorrectly. Sooner or later, the coach corrects them, but they forget other things.
So the lack of declarative memory does not allow our muscle memory to work at full strength.
I’m going to upload a video on YouTube about this topic.

Besides, I make money with MMA predictions. And I often have to memorize the key moments of different fights step by step. I haven’t found anything better how to assign number images to each stroke and some combinations.


1 Like

Don’t tell Celtic. :wink:


In jiu-jitsu techniques have a lot details that people forget, especially beginners. It’s not uncommon to teach people a technique, have them do a bunch of repetitions, but then next week they’ve forgotten half the details.

Imagery makes things that are less memorable into something more memorable.

Take the example of the Americana/Key Lock:

I won’t go into a full description of the technique but some points that need to be remembered would be using thumb on top grip (monkey grip), flexing wrist (like starting motorcycle), and pulling the elbow down to ribs and raise the elbow up (paint brush motion).

Teach someone this for the first time and often a week later they’ll remember the general motion but forget the details.

So, what I would do if I were learning an americana for the first time is imagine someone mounted doing an americana. This person is… A MONKEY! The monkey reminds me to use a monkey grip. This monkey is also also wearing… MOTORCYCLE APPAREL like a leather vest and chaps. The motorcycle apparel reminds me to flex my wrist. Also, instead of the opponents arm looking like an arm its actually… A PAINTBRUSH. The hand is the brush and the forearm is the handle. The paintbrush reminds me to use a paintbrush motion.