Does your instructor teach for themselves?
I can’t resist visiting Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools wherever I am traveling. I just love being around gyms and love the types of people that are into BJJ. The majority of the instructors are teaching because they love jiu-jitsu and decided to make their lives involved in BJJ.
Sadly, I also sometimes see schools where the instructors are teaching what I would bluntly describe as bad classes. They are not serving the best interests of their students, but it isn’t because they are bad people or don’t know jiu-jitsu.
It is because the instructor is bored.
Allow me to give a few examples to illustrate what I am trying to say here.
A blue belt student came to train at my school. I inquired why he had decided to switch schools from his previous school. “I didn’t feel like I was improving.” He added sheepishly, not wishing to say anything critical of his former instructor “He was always showing advanced moves passing the lapel and fancy sweeps. He taught the worm guard at last class.”
“Two new girl students showed up for their first ever jiu-jitsu class and he had them learning Worm guard?” He didn’t think they got much of use out of the class and never saw them again.
I offered the explanation that the instructor was a young competitor and likely working on positions that he was trying to develop in his own game. Unfortunately, this was not what the students needed most and evidently not what the recreational blue belt was looking for in his jiu-jitsu training.
Several years ago another student joined my club. He had been training for over a year at a different BJJ school in the city. I knew the instructor at the other school and had a high opinion of his technical knowledge and considered him a cool guy. I would have no reservations about recommending his school.
The student had some good movement and was technical when I watched him roll, but when I asked him about the basic elbow to knee escape from mount he shook his head. He had not heard the term before, nor did he understand the details. Hmmmm..this is something you learn in your first month of jiu-jitsu.
After a month of classes under my curriculum, I asked what the student felt was the biggest difference between the two schools?
He said, “At this school, the moves are more simple and seem like they would really work. The other instructor was good but he was teaching really complicated stuff that I couldn’t get to work for me. Maybe those techniques were more suitable for purple belts?”
I understood. The instructor teaching the advanced, complicated moves was teaching stuff that HE was interested in, NOT what was best for the students. He was on the mats 6 days a week and wanted to further his own training.
If you get enough coconut waters into a BJJ instructor, they will secretly admit that they get bored teaching the hip escape yet again to a beginner. They may have lost their enthusiasm for teaching how to replace the guard from under side control for the 200th time to a group of new whitebelts.
But…that is exactly what that group of students need and deserve.
This can be especially tough for the instructor who is an active competitor and badly wants to get their own training in on more advanced (and fun!) positions, but it is not the best thing for their students. The instructor can either choose to ignore this reality and teach what HE wants to work on, or he can do what is best for his students and teach something useful and for the class level.
Have you ever attended a seminar or BJJ class where the positions were not appropriate for the level of the students there?