There’s one common thing when people learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Whether they choose to go to class, learn from DVDs and drill with friends, or just feed off YouTube, there’s one parameter they can’t skip. Everyone needs someone to learn from. Whether it is the person teaching classes in your academy, or your favorite fighter’s DVD, you need someone to guide you. The need for instructors is the one key variable in all grappling martial arts. Without BJJ instructors, nobody can actually learn BJJ.
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As you can see, BJJ instructors have a big role and even bigger responsibility in the sport. They’re not only in charge of the class, but they need to also have great teaching skills. They need to know what to demonstrate, how to do it and how to make it clear for all kinds of personalities. They also need to know how to guide students towards the right answers instead of only providing short and incoherent ones. BJJ Instructors have the added responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of everyone on the mats. It is not a job anyone can do. For those that have set out on that path, we bring you the top tips to help you become the one of the very best in the sport!
Pristine Class Structure
During a class, no time should be wasted. Classroom teachers seek to eliminate downtime as much as possible. This, however, requires an incredibly attentive teacher to make sure that when students are finished they are able to move on. This does not mean that there should be no time set aside for discussion or questions and answers. It is actually quite the opposite. Time for these tasks is valuable and should be scheduled just like drilling, new learning, and sparring.
Using a round timer or a stopwatch works best when drilling or practicing technique. Although some BJJ instructors favor using a set number of reps, timers are better because the entire class works together. It is actually quite easy to schedule your class if you’ve planned ahead and set a timer.
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Failing to plan is planning to fail. Sure, you can always improvise for a class or two. However, the most effective BJJ instructors plan ahead and set specific objectives and so should you. When you don’t have a lesson plan, you plan to do the easiest thing possible. The result is standard and boring classes. This does not mean you must blindly stick to the curriculum. The best teachers also know how and when to adapt their curriculum to fit the needs of their students. A lesson plan will allow you meet objectives, keep students on task, and help you with structure too.
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Never forget the basics. Whenever you teach to make sure new students have the pprtunity to learn the basics. At the same time, more experienced students are going to benefit from the repetitions. So, make sure you incorporate drills into your curriculum. That does not mean that the entire class should be spent teaching a student one move only. It does, however, mean that every single class should include a serious review of basic fundamentals. Students of every level should review basic positioning, escapes, and submissions. Teaching to the lowest level student in the class is going to ensure that the student is getting something from the class It is also going to have the student leave believing that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is for them. That’s how BJJ instructors can change lives.
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After every class, you should consider reviewing your own actions. How did your plan work out? Did you accomplish your goal for the class? Was what you taught important to your students? How does this lesson connect to the previous and next one? Could you make better use of the resources at your disposal? What are your strengths/weaknesses as an instructor? What is something you could improve upon?
Also, establish what makes a student successful at each belt level. Things like competition, time spent training, technical knowledge, lifestyle, etc. all matter a lot. Base your overall assessment of a student on that criteria. Don’t get caught in the pitfall of relying heavily on anecdotal evidence (like competition only). Many competitions are won or lost on strength and conditioning, especially at lower belt levels. Ultimately, basing all of your assessment of a student on one competition can be dangerous.
Creating A Team Environment
Don’t look at coaching as a business transaction. This is a common mistake that many BJJ instructors are making. Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care. By arriving to class early, greeting students at the door or as they come in, and talking to them about their lives outside of the academy, you will start to build a quality relationship. Sucha realtionship with your students that will not only make them want to return for another class, but will cause them to believe in the importance of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They’ll hold themselves to higher standards, and cause them to want to continually improve on their training. The connection between you and your students should be respectful and follow the standards of the academy. Remember, the more you get to know your students, the easier they will be to teach them.
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The ultimate goal of a BJJ instructor is to progressively de-emphasize their role and give their students the gift of taking on a greater role in their own learning. Developing good habits is a big step in that process. In those terms, try not to use phrases like ‘always’ and ‘never’. When you speak in absolutes, you tend to close your mind to what your students can teach you about your art. Also, you close their mind to possibilities. For example, if you teach your students to never cross their feet while controlling the back, you will hinder their development. However, teaching them why crossing their feet can be dangerous builds a habit. This habit will allow them to learn when they can and can’t cross their feet.
Never Stop Learning
BJJ instructors should regularly attend BJJ seminars and workshops given by other instructors. This is a great way to not only learn new techniques, but teaching styles as well. The largest part is giving back to the greater BJJ community. Post a few of your unique techniques on YouTube or on social media. Start a blog for your academy and interact with your students as oten as possible. Even when they cannot make it to class. Make sure to constantly improve yourself as a professional BJJ instructor.