I used to assume that the students from any BJJ academy would have a game very similar to their head instructor. Little “mini-me’s” in terms of games and strong positions.
Informally polling the other purple, brown, and black belts in my academy I asked, “What percentage of your jiu-jitsu game would you attribute to your head instructor?”
I was surprised to hear that none of them answered more than 50%! They explained that they had started training with different instructors who had set their styles in the early years of their training. The rest of their games were an amalgamation of various influences.
I was different. I spent my first five years of jiu-jitsu with a Brazilian instructor who had a physical type very similar to my own makeup. The game he taught was a very good fit for my attributes and I stayed close to what he taught.
I started training with my second instructor when I relocated to another city, and I stayed with his school for more than ten years and his best techniques and jiu-jitsu philosophy are heavily imprinted on my own jiu-jitsu.
Most BJJ students have not stayed with their original instructor throughout their involvement, so it should not be surprising that most students will list multiple different influences.
Another significant factor that would account for a student having a very different game than their primary instructor is simply having very different body types. It is reasonable to think that we will mimic the style of a black belt who has a similar somatotype to our own. I have always wondered how instructors who were built much bigger or smaller than the average student were able to teach those whose physical reality was so much different.
Perhaps the clearest way to see this question is if we look to our instructor to provide a framework and solid fundamentals underlying our game. From that foundation, we build our own style according to our preferences and strengths.
My two main instructors were not heavily involved in directly suggesting what my game should be. They would certainly answer my technical questions, but didn’t try to steer my game development directly, as in “I think you should be an open guard player.”
Most advanced belts (after purple belt for example ) I’ve met develop their own games with occasional advice and feedback from their head instructors.
How about you? What percentage of your BJJ game would you attribute to the influence of your current head instructor?