For some reason, everyone wants to “someday teach” Jiu-Jitsu.
We get so many people coming to us as potential new students (who have yet to sign up) saying, “I’d love to learn from Kama Jiu-Jitsu.
Also, I’d like to inquire about your Instructor Training Program (ITP) because I’d like to someday teach Jiu-Jitsu.”
I’m not at all trying to discourage anyone, but I always found it curious why people know at the outset that they want to teach Jiu-Jitsu, of all things.
When I learned math in school, I had (and still have) absolutely no desire to teach math.
But Jiu-Jitsu seems to be different...
So, if teaching Jiu-Jitsu is your jam, let’s go into how you can go about it!
Step 1 - “Get to learning” Jiu-Jitsu first!
I am very familiar with the concept of “First Learn. Then DO. Then Teach.”
The problem with Jiu-Jitsu is that in each of the Learning, Doing, and Teaching, as they have to do with Jiu-Jitsu, are three COMPLETELY different skill sets.
GET A COMMAND OF THE SKILL SETS ONE AT A TIME before trying to move on to the next.
“But Ryan, KJJ has some (junior assistant) instructors that were/are members of your Instructor Training Program.” Yes, that is true.
It was mostly borne as a matter of need years ago and KJJ no longer accepts blue belts into the KJJ ITP, as a general rule.
While we have had great experience with some blue belts teaching classes, that success was largely limited to blue belts who had martial arts teaching experience and have created black belts in their respective art before coming to Kama Jiu-Jitsu or, they were teachers/instructors as part of their regular full-time job.
Teaching something requires a (relatively) deep understanding of the subject at hand.
At blue belt, the practitioner is just one belt color into the rankings (they still have to progress through the stripes in blue, then purple, then brown, then black belts, as well).
If you really think about it, expecting a blue belt to teach an art with as many responsibilities and ramifications as KJJ is like asking a 2nd grader to teach a 1st grader.
Not impossible, but often, skills learned later in life (in the later ranks) provide needed insight when guiding beginners in the most important part of their Jiu-Jitsu journey.
Step 2 - “Get to being GOOD” at Jiu-Jitsu!
Ever hear of the “instructor tap?”
The “instructor tap” is when a more “experienced” practitioner (let’s say a blue belt) in a sparring session with a less seasoned partner (let’s say a white belt) is about to “get caught” in something (choke, arm lock, etc) but at the very last moment, stops his opponent saying...
...“Bro bro bro, you know what? If you shift your weight to the left and put your right foot down on the ground first, you’d have HAD that choke on me so good!”
But in reality, had the blue belt tried to continue to fight to get out, he would have ended up being unsuccessful and would have been “tapped out” by the white belt anyway.
But by stopping the white belt just short, he was able to “save face” by making like he was tapping, but by doing what he suggested, the white belt would have been “more effective.”
Chances are the blue belt in this case has gotten into the lazy mode and hasn’t been training to be good much of late.
Well, at least he can pass on his “knowledge” to the white belts, right?
These type of practitioners are often the ones bypassed in the ranks by newer practitioners and wonder, “what happened?”
Step 3 - Volunteer to do stuff in the studio.
Part of being an effective future instructor is to see the “inner workings” of a studio, or at least as much as the owner/instructor is willing to let you in on.
Come in early to sweep/mop the mats. Volunteer to run the warmups in class (be sure to ask the instructor what exercises/routines to run) and attempt to run them perfectly.
Ask the owner if he needs help as a training dummy in his private sessions (probably the MOST valuable learning tool).
You can even ask if he needs help giving tours in the studio or if you can help answer questions or close sales.
All this stuff helps to broaden your perspective as a practitioner and gain valuable insights on what people need and what their hang ups (issues/injuries, etc) are.
Step 4 - Find and enter a top Instructor Training Program!
Most Jiu-Jitsu instructors today have NO FORMAL TEACHER TRAINING.
How did they get to teaching Jiu-Jitsu?
Easy. One day, his instructor said, “John, you’re a purple belt. Go ahead and teach the classes today. Just teach them how to choke from mount.”
And that was it.
From then on, it became a regular thing.
John was not run through a curriculum and made to rehearse each concept and technique.
He was not taught and quizzed on not only doing the concept, but TEACHING the concept to a “live body.”
He was just thrown into the ocean and told, “Swim back.”
People learn differently from other people.
A trained teacher is trained to teach to multiple “modalities” and combinations of modalities.
Someone just thrown in there is forced to figure things out for himself and learn as he goes along, usually with no guidance on whether he is doing well or doing wrong.
Have you ever wondered why (in one school), you can attend a choke from mount class from 5 different instructors and come away with 5 different ways to execute the concept and having made NO PROGRESS and more confused?
You were the victim of 5 individuals being forced to figure out things on their own and coming up with 5 different solutions.
Step 5 - Practice, practice, practice!
Teaching Jiu-Jitsu is a SKILL. It takes practice.
Now riddle me this, if you’re spending a large portion of your time teaching, how much time are you spending “training?” Yes, to get good at Jiu-Jitsu, you must practice, practice, practice at training Jiu-Jitsu.
Yes, to get good at TEACHING Jiu-Jitsu, you must practice, practice, practice teaching Jiu-Jitsu.
If you’re asking me, to be the best teacher, get good in your Jiu-Jitsu training first, then begin your journey in teaching Jiu-Jitsu. It’ll be long, hard, and challenging, but VERY rewarding.
But if you want to be a mediocre teacher creating mediocre practitioners, try a quicker, easier path.
And be like every other school whose students have no true understanding of Jiu-Jitsu (because their instructor has no understanding, either).
Professor Ryan Youn