Finding the right Jiu-Jitsu instructor and academy is extremely important. It can make or break your Jiu-Jitsu journey. If you are lucky enough to find the right one, you will learn how to defend yourself, increase self confidence, make new friends, change your eating habits, compete, and improve you whole life.
Check out our article on 10 Warning Signs of a Destructive & Negative Jiu-Jitsu Academy to avoid falling into the trap.
A BJJ instructor will often dictate how an academy is run. A BJJ instructor should be a natural leader, charismatic, courteous, inspire, and be a role model.
Here are the most important signs to look for in a BJJ instructor:
1. Are they qualified to teach?
In a time when BJJ is getting more popular worldwide, you will often have a lot of choice when choosing an instructor. The first criteria should be level of experience and track record. The problem is that many BJJ players start their teaching prematurely. They should not start teaching if they still do not have the required experience which is needed in order to effectively transmit the knowledge acquired through years of hard training. Let’s take two instructors, one is a blue belt (yes it happens in areas where BJJ is not so popular) who has been training for 2 years and the other is a black belt with 10+ years. The difference in the teaching level when it comes to explaining details/ concepts will be huge. A blue belt barely understands Jiu-Jitsu. Some people are grappling geniuses (Gracie Barra’s Ze Radiola started teaching as a blue belt and was able to form champions like Braulio Estima or Otavio Sousa) and can understand from an early stage but it’s rare to find someone like that. Nothing beats experience.
I personally only started teaching (to help out my instructor) when I was a brown belt and only opened my own school a year and a half after being a black belt, after 14 years of BJJ, 50+ competitions worldwide and three years working as a bouncer where I was able to apply Jiu-Jitsu as self defense. The main reason is that I wanted to get as much experience as possible before transmitting the knowledge to others. On the other hand, some world champions are awful teachers who don’t know how to explain a technique properly or don’t take an interest in their students. In that case, it’s better to learn from a less experienced teacher who is more focused on you.
Instructor’s qualifications, belt level and years of experience are just initial criteria. It shouldn’t always be the deciding factor.
2. The students
They are a direct reflection of the instructor’s work. A good instructor pays attention to students and recognizes problems effectively. An effective way to evaluate an instructor is to watch or talk to their students. Watch how they roll and how they behave themselves. The instructor will educate the students in the Jiu-Jitsu ways, teach them mat etiquette, respect of training partners, opponents etc. When you talk to students, they can tell you if training is engaging, and how much they learn. Competition results also speak for themselves.
3. Ability to make students reach their goals
People train Jiu-Jitsu for various reasons. Everybody has personal goals. Some want to be a competitor, some want to learn how to defend themselves, some do it to stay in shape etc… If you want to be a world champion, can your instructor take you there? If you want to learn self defense, can your instructor teach you based on experience? A good instructor will take an interest in why you joined their academy and will work to help you achieve those goals
4. Personality/ Attitude
You want to find an instructor who is enthusiastic about Jiu-Jitsu and transmitting the knowledge. Someone who will inspire you and will lead by example. Also it’s important that the instructor is always present and doesn’t just have the upper belts teaching all the time.
Find the right Jiu-Jitsu instructor with the right attitude and you’ll love Jiu-Jitsu. You’ll leave every training session with a smile.
5. Class syllabus
Does the instructor follow a syllabus? Students will learn better when they follow a plan.
I focus on 1 position for the whole week. For example: the mount. Students will see all the options when defending and attacking the mount. All specific exercise and rolls will start from the mount. By the end of the week, their mount has vastly improved and we can go the next position.
Take your time when choosing the right instructor and academy. Take trial sessions in all BJJ academies around you and then make a calculated decision.