In some academies, the instructor will often pair a new student with a blue belt or student who has been around the mats a while. Especially in larger academies, more experienced students will end up helping the newer students to understand the techniques that the professor demonstrated in class.
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One experienced instructor I spoke with said that he felt it was a duty that each student should have to help the newer students to learn jiu-jitsu.
There are many experienced students who one day show up to the academy expecting to train, and are asked to substitute in for the instructor who is sick or unable to make it into the academy.
They discover that teaching a mat full of beginners is quite a different thing than training themselves. Seemingly simple moves can be baffling to a brand new student and require you to break down the complex movement into simple, understandable steps.
One of the things that anyone who has ever started to teach beginners learns is that ironically, THEY THEMSELVES end up learning more about the techniques!
What does this mean?
Example: You show the students five main points on how to perform a triangle from the guard, then ask them to pair up with their partners and drill the move.
To your surprise, each pair of students does something different!
You realize that you had overlooked something “obvious” in your explanation of the technique. You had omitted a critical point that perhaps you have done automatically all along, but that a “noob” needs to have explicitly explained.
You have just learned the importance of one of the aspects of a basic technique!
Another way that teaching will expose your knowledge of the fine points of a basic technique is walking around the mat after demonstrating the technique to the class and observing the mistakes that each individual student may make.
Some of the errors may catch you entirely by surprise.
As a more experienced practitioner, you instinctively do something like: get your hand DEEP in the collar for a choke or escape your hips before trying to escape.
You did not even consider that detail worth mentioning as you may have considered it obvious to everyone.
When you observe a beginner making such a mistake, you have identified another crucial detail to making the technique work.
Before, you may have thought of the triangle as a basic technique with five steps. After teaching a mat full of beginners, you will have corrected three additional common errors and deepened your own understanding of the triangle to eight steps!
One of the main things that separates the black belt from a skilled purple belt is their deeper understanding of the basic techniques.
Natural athletes can just “do the move” without much analysis about WHY it works.
Coaches must understand each detail and be able to articulate the crucial details that allow the technique to be successfully executed.
Look at teaching a beginner a basic bjj technique as the chance to deepen your own learning of jiu-jitsu, so don’t be afraid to help that new student in the academy. You will likely benefit from it also!
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Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan