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  • Writer's pictureBJJ Report | Matthew Tropp

Are all Black Belts Good Teachers?

BJJ Teacher
Should all black belts be good at teaching Jiu Jitsu?

When searching for Jiu Jitsu academies, you’ll often see a list of medals and accolades front and center on all the academy’s promotional material and website home page. You will even see a display somewhere in the academy. Understandably so, you want to make sure that you’re going to be training with someone that has tested their Jiu Jitsu effectively weather in fighting or tournaments.

If your Professor can beat other world class Black Belts, that should mean his technique is solid, right?

The interesting thing is, none of those medals are given for the ability to teach well or explain technique. You don’t hit the podium at ADCC or IBJJF Worlds by being the best teacher, you get those medals by beating other highly skilled athletes. Even when you earn any belt above White, is it possible that your Professor is looking at how long you have been training, who you’re tapping and who you’re getting tapped by, not how you’re adopting his or her's knowledge? Maybe...

Who teaches them how to teach and what makes a good teacher? Is it possible that some people simply are not good at explaining technique? Is there a better way? In all fairness, it is also safe to assume that everyone sings to a different tune and one persons teaching style may be better than another. Its wise to think that everyone learns different, correct? This is debatable.

Time on the mat doesn’t equate to teaching ability. Most competitive Black Belts rose up through the ranks by beating others in competition, not necessarily by teaching others. Just because the head Professor of a prospective academy you’re looking at has a laundry list of first place finishes, doesn’t mean he/she will be the best person to cultivate your skills as a Jiu Jitsu athlete. Just sayin. Most of the time these Professors have engaged in an in depth study of techniques that work for them, but how many of them have actually spent any time learning the best way to become a teacher? Is there a way to do this? Is Jiu Jitsu too young to have teaching requirements?

How many of them REALLY know the science behind skill acquisition and mastery, and the shortest path to go from novice to master? Most Professors will just show their students a technique out of their "A game" and expect students to pick it up just by watching them drill against a non-resisting opponent. When faced with students that can’t learn in that particular way, most Professors will just keep repeating the ‘show and do’ until the allotted drilling time runs out. Most Professors may be able to show you 5 different heel hook variations, but not how to apply the entry from a variety of scenarios. Now, can a Professor be a good teacher without being an accomplished athlete themselves? YES!

If you look at John Danaher and the obvious rise of the DDS (Danaher Death Squad), you will see this. Danaher himself has never competed and even admits that in a competitive situation, he will be tapped out by other Black Belts due to a variety of issues. If you look at the squad he has cultivated and the way he teaches, it is apparent that not only does he know the techniques of Jiu Jitsu very well, but also has a solid teaching strategy that he implements with all his students. The results speak for themselves as his athletes dominate the no gi grappling scene, using almost the exact same game plan. Its safe to say that someone that’s a killer, won’t necessarily create other killers.

BJJ Report
We must carefully choose where we train!

As consumers, we may have to look past the accolades of our potential teachers and instead focus on how they teach and cultivate the skills of their student base. How can we do this with only one "free class"?

Out of 100 students at least 5-10 will be killers just due to the law of averages (of course I am speculating and have no data on this). On the flipside, there will be 5 students that are utterly untalented with almost no foundation. The 5 worst students are the true test of an academy’s tutelage. Are the 5 worst students killers in their own right, or at least competent practitioners? If so, it means that the instructors are able to adapt their teaching style to squeeze the potential out of untalented students. On the other hand, if the 5 worst students are utterly lacking even basic fundamentals and are overlooked by the instructors… maybe it’s a good idea to consider other candidates as better places to train.

To Professors, maybe it’s also a good time to look up some books or podcasts on how to teach and acquire skills. If you spent 10 years practicing Jiu Jitsu, but have only really been studying how to teach at the end of those 10 years… you may be a white belt at teaching with all due respect.

Train Safe & Train Often,

Matthew Tropp | BJJ Report

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