Class Of Beginners

I follow a lot of BJJ schools on Facebook and via their blogs.  Most of them are large prestigious schools with their schedule divided up in to classes for kids, beginners (white belts), Blue belts and above, Brown and Black belts only, and/or competition training, or and combination of the preceding.  That sounds really great.  Many people have the chance to train twice a day, 5 or 6 days a week, for up to 2-3 hours at a time.

In a small school like ours, we don’t have that luxury.  We have BJJ 5 nights a week, but it’s come one, come all.  I don’t mind that at all.  Lately it seems, we’ve been having one or two new people a month show up.  Some stick with it, and some don’t.  We (the vets of the club), spend a significant amount of time teaching basic technique.  I find it very helpful to my game.  Taking the old basic stuff that maybe we don’t talk too much about anymore, breaking it down, and drilling it back in to my head.

As I’ve spent years teaching skiing and Muay Thai, I am comfortable with a pedagogacal approach to teaching BJJ; being able to explain steps in an easy to understand way.  I feel that something as simple as explaining how the technique of a triangle choke causes unconsciousness, helps the new student learn it more quickly, rather than just showing the mechanical formation of the technique and telling them to practice it.  That’s just my opinion though.  I always like to know how things work.  I was one of those kids who took my toys apart to see how everything fit together.  Let’s just say it’s my learning style.

When it comes to rolling, a lot of higher belts don’t like to engage the newbs.  I don’t mind it at all.  I look at it in these terms.  I’ll work on my basics by guiding you in to a position of advantage, then work my way out.  When I get out, I may go for a submission, or I may guide you back to a different position and start over.  Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to submit me, but people learn best when they feel they have accomplished something.

As far as submitting newbs… I also think it’s very important that they feel the submission working.  I don’t go for as many submissions as I can in the 5 min roll.  Maybe 2 different ones.  As we all know, a new BJJ student will tap thousands of times in their career if they stick with it.  It’s important that they learn that from the get go.

I also like to give a little feedback.  Not “You should do this, this, and this”, but more along the lines of, “You did a really good job hanging in there.  I know you had a feeling of helplessness in this position.  Trust me, you’ll feel more comfortable with practice.  Don’t be afraid to loosen your grips and move around.  Eventually you will learn when to hold on tight. Don’t worry about being forced to tap.  Just try to relax.”

The name of the game is improving our BJJ.  We can’t always have top players to sharpen our skills.  I think that if you look at training and rolling with new members as a way to sharpen your basic skills, your overall game will only benefit. 🙂

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5 comments on “Class Of Beginners

  1. As a white belt my frustrations with BJJ come from a lack of guidance when learning technique (just being shown it and expected to practise it with a partner with no critique given) and sparring with people that don’t think about a mutually beneficial learning experience, they just want to get me to tap as much as possible before the round is over. Sure I could learn that way, over time, with determination. But I think I’d be better off with more training partners with your attitude!

  2. I never heard of BJJ before your blog, but I still identified with this post. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon-Do, and I know when I was moving up the belts, I enjoyed nothing more than sparring with lower belts. You can still learn, you can improve your own skills whilst helping to improve theirs. Nice post!

  3. I wish more people would approach training in this way. A lot of people let their ego’s get in the way of an opportunity to review and perfect fundamental techniques with beginners. And it provides a great opportunity to improve yourself as a teacher – something I think is far more difficult to perfect in the long-run than just learning how to do a triangle choke. Great post.

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