I see this question appear on BJJ internet forums all of the time.
“I got a bonus at work and want to book a few privates. But I’m not sure what I should ask?”
“I’m visiting California and going to visit World Champion academy. Should I just ask him what I need to work on?”
If you are spending your hard-earned money on a private lesson, you deserve to get the most benefit possible. Done right, a private can literally change your jiu-jitsu game. Done without thought, it can be an expensive hour where you retain little afterwards.
The instructor likely is sincere about showing you the best techniques that he can, but he needs some direction from you.
Here are some things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your private lesson:
Ask for the instructor’s signature positions.
Most black belts have solid overall knowledge of jiu-jitsu, but they are known for specializing in specific positions more than others.
I attended a seminar with Romulo Barral and was blown away at how comprehensive his explanation of his signature spider guard was. This is his game and he knows it inside and out.
Conversely, a training partner of mine had a private with a high-level black belt on the butterfly guard position. He came away underwhelmed and understanding that not all instructors are expert at all positions.
Before you do a private with an instructor, ask yourself: what is his game?
Go with your strongest positions
This may seem counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you be trying to correct holes in your game?
Yes, but there is the factor of retaining the information. If you spend a private in an unfamiliar position, your ability to remember the important details is lower than if you work a position that you already firmly grasp.
A few details can elevate your already solid butterfly guard up another belt level. There is a much higher chance for you to assimilate the knowledge if you are starting with an existing knowledge base.
The least productive training sessions are when the instructor shows you some complicated sweep that you cannot remember after the session.
Have a direction for your training before you study alone with an instructor.
Do a video.
Doing a few short videos your private session’s best training videos will prove invaluable in retaining what you learned. Spend the few minutes during and after the session to record the best stuff you saw.