Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is an amazing sport. What makes it even more amazing, is when you have a great instructor. But what makes an instructor good in BJJ?
A great BJJ instructor is someone, who has a lot of experience and expertise in BJJ. They are also patient, and they make sure everybody in the class is safe. On top of that, they should also be inspiring and give feedback in a constructive way.
Nobody is perfect for sure. But in this post, we will dive into the different traits of a great BJJ instructor.
1. Experience and expertise
Experience not only in training but also from competitions can do wonders when it comes to BJJ instructors.
Instructors are there to guide you and teach you. The more they have real experience with BJJ, the better they can teach you.
This means having competitions behind them, so they know how they work. They know the most common beginner mistakes in BJJ and things to focus on as you move forward.
There is really nothing that can make up for having a lot of experience from BJJ overall.
Someone that has a ton of experience from competitions and different situations, but who is a brown or even a purple belt, can be a better instructor than someone who has a black belt, but very limited experience from competing.
The belt color is not always the best indicator. On top of real-world experience, the other traits we discuss in this post can also make a huge difference.
When it comes to teaching brand-new BJJ practitioners, patience plays a big role.
It might take really long time for someone new to learn a simple choke. This might be due to their lack of physical capability, or they just have no previous experience in any martial arts.
Whatever the reason, people learn differently. Whether the instructor understands this and has the patience to deal with it or not, can either make the instructor great or not so great.
Having the ability and patience to keep correcting new people who have just joined the gym is a trait of a great BJJ instructor. Not every black belt is blessed with the nerves that it takes to teach new white belts.
Character and personality play a huge role when it comes to social sports such as BJJ. No matter how talented the instructor is, if their personality sucks, it is really challenging for people to like them.
You might think that instructors are not supposed to be liked, they are supposed to be respected. Either way, it is mentally really tough for new white belts to come to the class if the instructor looks down on them and is really unpleasant to be around.
Typically people like this are not teaching new people, due to the lack of their ability to understand people from different starting points.
If the instructor is really likable person, you are more likely to continue coming back to each lesson. Even if you felt like not going, if the instructor has the personality and skills to motivate you, you are more likely to come back.
4. Constructive feedback
A great instructor also knows how to give feedback the right way.
Saying “that is completely wrong and awful to watch, please try harder” is far from constructive. Instead of this, they should try to understand that not everybody is a black belt yet.
Correct the new practitioners and students, until they get it right enough. Nothing has to be perfect at the start, but doing techniques properly enough for them to work goes a long way.
You might think this sounds like a fairy tale, no instructor is this perfect. Maybe nobody is, but a good instructor should at least be able to give feedback in a constructive way, instead of tearing down their student’s self esteems.
Safety is a big thing when it comes to martial arts of any kind. BJJ is no different. It has its own set of risks, but it can be practiced safely.
It is up to the instructor to teach new practitioners from day one, how to train safely. Probably one of the most important things is tapping out. You can find all about tapping out in BJJ in this post.
Making sure each new white belt is doing the techniques slowly enough that they don’t hurt their training partners is really up to the instructor at first.
When I was a white belt, there was a girl in my class that fell. Unfortunately, she broke her arm and the instructor took full responsibility since they had not yet taught her how to fall properly.
Safety is a big thing in BJJ. Making sure the risks are minimized is a good foundation for a great BJJ gym.
6. They are inspiring
Someone who has a lot of competition and potentially even wins behind them is hard not to look up to.
Especially if they are also really likable people and their way of teaching is great.
Being able to inspire new white belts as they first join the gym enough for them to keep coming back is a great trait of an instructor.
If the students can look up to the instructor and respect them, it is a lot easier for them to keep coming back to the gym day after day, week after week.
7. Clear demonstrations
Showing new techniques properly to students is also really important when it comes to training BJJ. Some people might not have ever seen the technique before.
Therefore, it is really important everybody gets a clear view from different viewpoints on how to properly do the technique.
There might be an important detail that can only be seen watching from one direction. Showing new and complicated techniques a few times slowly and clearly is really important.
There is probably not a perfect instructor, but if you can compare them between a few gyms, these are some traits of a good BJJ instructor.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that not everybody likes the same kind of teaching. What I find a good way to learn might not work for everybody else.
Therefore, try to find out what you prefer and look for a BJJ gym that fits your needs the best.
Hopefully this was helpful, have a wonderful day!
Btw, if you want some tips for new BJJ practitioners, I made a post about tips for new white belts.