How Smart Students Use Their Instructors

The majority of classes in bjj academies around the world are structured the same way: warmup, technique instruction and then positional sparring or free rolling. But this is not the only way for the student to learn from their instructor.


My first bjj instructor was well known for being willing to share all of the information that the student was willing to absorb.  Some other instructors I have heard rumoured to purposely withhold certain information from students, but this instructor was the proverbial “open vault”.

fundamentals1One of the students asked if taking privates was the way for him to progress the fastest. The instructor answered “No need to take privates. Just come to the classes, I’ll answer any questions that you have.” And some of us did! I learned as much from my separate questions as I did from the lessons in class themselves.

Yet, when at a seminar or training session and an instructor asks “Does anyone have any questions?” the majority of the students scratch their heads and look uncomfortably at the ground. I ask as many questions as time allows! After the seminar / class, one of the other students would say to me “That was a good question that you asked.”

I would respond “Why didn’t you ask any questions? The instructor was right there willing to answer anything.” They shrug sheepishly “I couldn’t think of anything to ask.”

I counter by asking rhetorically: 

fundamentals“Did you get tapped out the last time you rolled?”
“Did all of your submissions and sweeps work perfectly? Ask those specific questions! That is how you learn!”

I never understood why students would fail to take full advantage of their instructors knowledge to improve their personal bjj games. When you arrive for training, tell your instructor that you have a specific problem that you encountered in your last rolling session and ask if he could spend a few minutes with you finding a solution.

Now, don’t wait until your instructor is turning out the lights at the end of the night’s training and loading his gym bag into his car before bringing your question. Many instructors are so willing to help and share their knowledge that they will often drop their gym bag on the spot and show you right then and there.

fundametals 3The next time you roll, you will get some immediate feedback about what is working well and what didn’t go so well. Bring that question to your instructor and piece by piece you can fill the holes in your personal game and get the absolute most out of your relationship with your instructor!

Credits: Mark Mullen 
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ