The Question BJJ Instructors Hate


I hear this specific topic come up often when talking about beginner’s BJJ classes. An instructor outside of class will confess there is one question that drives him crazy.

“Yeah, but what if my opponent does this?”

Why does this “grind the gears” of so many BJJ instructors?

I think there are a few reasons.

1) There is no move that is 100% effective. If there were an unstoppable move that had no counters, the instructor would only teach that move! That would be a pretty short class and everyone could go home after.

Truth is, every move has a counter, a counter to the counter…and so on.

2) Not every move works in every situation. A different technique may be a more effective tool for a different situation or reaction by the opponent.

3) Just because you have seen the move in class previously (or on YouTube) does not mean that you understand the details and points that enable you to actually pull the move off in live rolling.

The old “Yeah, yeah I’ve seen that move before” is the wrong attitude. It can take years before a solid understanding of even basic techniques is achieved.

Don’t be in a hurry to jump onto the next technique in the sequence before drilling the initial movement. Don’t perform a few half-hearted repetitions of the movement and then sit bored waiting for the next new move. Drill that move continuously until the instructor calls stop.

I was teaching a class of complete beginners and demonstrated a choke that I am certain most of them had never seen before. One student interrupted the demonstration and asked the dreaded question. Now, I knew that the specific student had maybe three total classes behind him. I doubted that he could even remember the initial basic choke.

My response was polite but firm: “Let me see you get the original move down first before we start going down all of the different other possibilities.”

An instructor must be careful not to discourage students’ curiosity and questions. Asking questions shows that the student is interested in BJJ and is thinking critically about the positions.

However, before the student starts going down the road of “But what if my opponent does this?” they should be able to demonstrate some basic competence with the initial technique.

One step at a time, Grasshopper!

The same question is received much differently by an instructor if the student drilled the move for more than 3-5 repetitions, tried it in sparring, then came back and said “I tried the move we learned in class, but my opponent did this?” Now we are working from a position of basic competence and can progress.

The takeaway? Before you ask “Yeah,..but what if my opponent does this,”make sure you have adequately drilled and understand the original technique!

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