Guest post by Henry Akins, the third American to receive a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt from legendary fighter Rickson Gracie. Akins trained under Rickson Gracie for 15 years. Akins became the head instructor or “Professor” at the Rickson Gracie Academy from 2005 to 2008 before resigning due to a back injury.
Akins has recently released an instructional website called Hidden Jiu-Jitsu where for the first time ever, he reveals the secret details that nobody outside of the Gracie family has been taught.
I’ve been teaching jiu-jitsu now for over 17 years. I’m so passionate about jiu-jitsu and the positive effect it has in peoples lives that I’m constantly trying to improve and become a better teacher so I can serve others better. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about teaching so I just wanted to share my thoughts on what I think makes someone a great teacher.
First to define what a teacher is we have to define teaching. Teaching is the ability to transfer ideas and information from one person to another.
A great teacher is someone who can convey their thoughts and information to others in a way where it makes it easy or simple to absorb. There are many people out there who are amazing at jiu-jitsu but do not have the ability to articulate the information in a way so that it becomes clear to others.
A great teacher must posses a wide range and depth of knowledge. For myself as an instructor it is very important for me to not only understand the ground techniques of jiu-jitsu but also the self defense, clinching, take down and fighting techniques and to understand HOW and WHY they work. By understanding HOW and WHY any time there is a question or a problem it can easily be solved or explained.
They must also able to teach a wide range of students. There are 3 different ways people learn information in jiu-jitsu, visually (by seeing), audibly (by hearing) and kinesthetically (by feeling and doing). We all learn using a combination of these but for most of us we have one way that is more dominate then the others. A great teacher is able to teach to all three different types of learners.
A great teacher is also always a student. They must have an open mind and be willing to learn. No one in jiu-jitsu knows everything and everyone has the ability to improve so a great teacher must always be humble and ready to learn.
Most important I feel a great teacher must also be a good role model to his students. It is a huge responsibility being a teacher, the student places trust and respect in the instructor and with that trust and respect the instructor has great influence. Besides just teaching technique we are given the responsibility of guiding the student on a mental physical and spiritual journey. Many lessons in life are learned through the practice of the martial arts and it is the teachers responsibility to help pass on these lessons to their students.