Have You Thought About Starting Your Own, Small BJJ Training Group?

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is such a popular martial art that schools are found almost everywhere. “Almost everywhere” isn’t going to be much consolation to someone who lives in an area without any nearby schools.

Not every square inch of the world has a BJJ school in the neighborhood. Maybe you learned this the hard way after moving away from a previous location that afforded access to a popular school. After relocating, you just happen to be the only person in the area with any real knowledge and ranking in the art. The closest schools are 100+ miles.

Don’t get too down on the situation. How does the saying go? If you can’t find a way, make one. Find a few interested people and begin a training group. For the entrepreneurial, a nice business opportunity emerges here – you can run reasonably-priced small classes at a local gym, in a garage, a karate studio, or wherever. Yes, even a basement will do. (Just be sure to buy mats)

An issue of concern does arise here. You are “only” a decent, mostly-hobbyist blue belt. Can you be successful teaching while holding a lower belt rank?

Yes. Through following a proper roadmap, you should have trouble serving as a solid trainer to a small-sized group. Here’s a few things that might help the cause:

Establish a Training Group

Hobbyist, not-to-athletic blue belts are not going to have a very high skill level. Having a perfect night out while teaching or rolling is not going to happen each and every session. Setting up a training group – at least initially – establishes a moderated, non-ego driven joint learning experience. A training group is a lot less stressful to run than formal classes. The focus is mostly on having fun and, maybe, picking up a few dollars for your time and effort. Just try and pull in a few people with an interest in BJJ and the training group should turn out fine.

This does not mean the training group is going to be a pure rolling session. As the person running the training group, you must take on the role of the main instructor. Newbies are going to want (and need) instruction. The training sessions cannot be a free-for-all either. For proper learning and safety, some structure is going to be necessary.

Affiliate with a Higher-Ranked Instructor

Affiliating with a known (or even not-so-well known) instructor or organization does help those who are not at black belt level draw in students and training partners. Prospective members may be more willing to join a training group run by someone with a lower belt rank when he/she is affiliated with an established and experienced instructor.

Even if you only want to train small numbers, the training group still needs to pick up new members. People do come and go. They move. Their schedules change. The ability to draw in new people becomes a priority for those who want a training group to be successful. Affiliations help with this goal.

A point has to be noted. Do not just affiliate solely for marketing. Affiliate as a way to continue your own path of study. The person you affiliate under can provide guidance to you and the training group.

Stay True To What You Know

What about actually teaching during the training sessions?

For the most part, avoid spending too much time teaching moves learned from DVDs or on YouTube. You may be able to mimic what you see, but can you correct mistakes or answer follow-up questions? If not, then you really shouldn’t be making this material the focus of the training sessions. Sticking true to the basics and teaching those things unique to your own game in which you possess solid skill is advisable. In addition to being better able to help found a good skill foundation in newbies, the sessions allow you to review the basics and refine your own game.

Does this mean material from DVDs or the internet is verboten? Not necessarily. You just have to know how to weave in new material into the training session.

Be Upfront About Material You Lack Familiarity

Honesty takes you far. When you are trying moves out you never previously practiced, let the members of the training group know this. If you point out you “saw something new” and want to work on it, botching a move isn’t going to be embarrassing. Taking the attitude you “know” something and stumbling while instructing the material is going to make you look pretty bad. Keeping your training group together is going to be really tough if you are whiffing moves left and right.

Practicing moves from the internet helps keep you up to date on new developments in the art. Repping the material with the members of the training group keeps sessions from being boring. You just do not want material you are unfamiliar with to become the focus of an entire class.

(Side point: avoid this approach with dangerous moves such as neck cranks, kneelocks, etc.)

Invest a Lot of Time Drilling and Isolation Sparring

Rather than trying to turn the class into a demo of techniques, focus on drilling isolated techniques against resistance. This puts the “training” into “training group” and makes the sessions easier to organize and, honestly, more productive for everyone.

Something as basic as escaping the side control position could be put into a very simple drill. No submissions are allowed from either person. The player on top has to hold down the person on the bottom and the person on the bottom has to reverse the position or go to guard.

The rules can be changed during the second round. The person on top is allowed to use submissions, but not the guy on the bottom. Switch to the player on the bottom may use submissions but not the person on top. Then, both may use submissions. Keep changing things up. The player on the bottom is not considered out when he puts the other person in the guard. he has to sweep or submit in 15 seconds or he has to go right back to the pin position.

These drills are dynamic and can be performed by anyone at any skill level and it allows the blue belt to run a training session that, once again, focuses on productively reviewing the basics.

Keep Your Cardio Up

You might not have access to your own high-level instructor, but you can hit the local gym. Increasing your cardio and strength gives both performance and teaching a boost. While you might not have a tremendous technical edge, improved conditioning will make you sharper when demonstrating or rolling.

Poor conditioning and diminished strength are not impressive. Being out of shape makes it harder to run a training group. How can anyone effectively run a training group when struggling to make it through an hour of training?

In Closing

Of course, these are just a few ideas to think about when weighing plans to start up a training group. A million different people will have a million different approaches to running one. Ultimately, the ones that are successful are going to be those who run safe, well-organized, professional, and enjoyable training sessions.

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