The first time I tried drilling something, it was doing reps of a triangle choke entry from a random Open Guard position. Pretty pathetic, but goes to show ‘drilling’ can be as empty as any other approach without a supportive thought process.
Have since written extensively about reps and drilling, but nowadays the bigger questions are:
Pre-Training: What do I want to get done? How am I going to get it done? (this is where method, i.e. reps, drilling, sparring, workshopping come in) How do said objectives fit into growing my Jiu-Jitsu as a whole?
Post-Training: What actually got done? How effective was the session? (evaluation of method effectiveness relative to objectives) What can I do differently next time to be more productive?
While this is common sense in retrospect, old school training was primarily about beating the piss out of white belts to the degree one was gentle with knowledge gap advantages:
Some of the smarter people (not me!) came to sparring with the intent of working a specific position, but that’s about it as far as a planning and evaluative skill-sets. In our defense that’s just how things were culturally at the time, with Rickson probably being the biggest pioneer of limiting himself during training to grow different aspects of his game:
To take this full-circle what we DID get done back then is answered through studying what free sparring DOES give us…
…provided we aren’t super tight, open sparring facilitates connecting positions together to build transitional timing, an awareness of holes in understanding both small and massive (read: quick tap), in addition to finding and honing our strengths which evolve into a personal approach and style over time.
Further, free sparring might help us deal with the psychological pressure of rolling, but if the coaching staff is doing their job right, sparring should be a safe and progressive process that is fun with fear being largely unnecessary.
Going back in the day again, the old school mentality was sparring helped people ‘confront the ego’ which upon reflection was patting ourselves on the back for kicking the crap out of some willing to put up with bullying long enough to become a bully themselves.
To finish, smart people expect to be taught something and know the difference between that and being a grappling dummy. Call this sociological intelligence, which is exactly what you want to nurture in a group setting, not run off! =)