by Prof. Martin Guggi
I am writing from the USA. Traveling around California and visiting different schools – I see a lot of different forms of running a BJJ academy. Every school is different but for me there are always the same attributes to make a school successful.
What is success? Everyone has a different definition of being successful. This could mean having a lot of students, earning a lot of money or just be happy to have a live based on Brasilian Jiu Jitsu. I do not know what is success for you… but here is a nice definition from Earl Nightingale: “Succsess is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal!”
For me having a successful BJJ School means growing a number of students and having a good influence on their lives. I do not care so much about competitors because it is difficult to have a school only based on competitors. In my experience only 20% of your students are going to compete the rest trains Jiu Jitsu because of the joy of the art, passion, fitness, self-defense, distraction and having a great time with friends in their free time. If some want to compete I am really happy to help them too, but it is not the first goal for my school.
The main reason to make a school a success is having a good structure at your academy.
- Start and end your classes on time;
- Do not teach any technique that comes to your mind – plan your technique blocks and have a curriculum for the longtime development of your students;
- Do not mix newcomers with more experienced students. Beginners need a special intro class to learn the first steps. Later on they can jump in the regular class, but give them some time to adjust their body and their mind to the training.
- Do not let beginners spar right away. Resistance Training is only fighting for some positions or using only a few moves to concentrate on … but it is not a free roll. If beginners start the free sparring to soon they chances of getting hurt is too big. Injuries are still the number one reason why students quit!!!
- If students do not come to class you need to get in contact with them and make them stay connected to the training, their goals, the academy….
- Competitors need a special competition training with more sparring and drilling. Beginners and people who do not like to compete should not be allowed in the competition classes. If you do not have the attitude for this kind of training then you should not stop others who have this attitude!!!
- Kids classes need even more structure than adult classes! Discipline and respect should be taught together. This does not mean you have to be like a military bootcamp – but to be consequent with your words.
- Good instructors
- Not everyone is a good instructor! Instructors care at the time they are teaching more about their students than themselves.
- Instructors love to train for themselves – if you need to make your instructors go train then he will not be an instructor for a long time….
- Being able to break the techniques into parts and let the students drill different aspects of the position or technique is something you need to look at your instructor. How you explain, how you methodically build a technique or a block of techniques up is not something you get when you have your black belt – sometimes blue belts with the right attitude are better coaches than black belts!!! The main reason a lot of beginners start to teach is because they want to get training partners for themselves and not primary to start their own academy.
- Do not teach what you know best – you need to teach what your students need to learn. You cannot learn a berimbolo if you do not know the de la riva guard…. Basics first! The instructors should always have the white belt attitude – never stop learing!!!
- I want my students to improve in the techniques which are good for their anatomy and not in the moves I know best…. This means that sometimes I have to teach techniques which are not my favorite techniques just to give my students some ideas where to work on…. You never go wrong sticking to the basics!!
- Clean school
- Cleaning your school should be part of your regular day;
- Having a clean school and being proud of it means also being able to show the school to the parents and new students.
- Clean Gi and Uniform is a form of respect to your students and your respect of teaching your art to the next generation.
- If your school grows you should think about separating the business of your school form the teachings. Instructors should not deal with the memberships of their students. But only if you have someone you can trust – if not do it yourself!!!
- be responsible for everything
- If it is your goal to run an academy you have to be responsible for everything!!! This does not mean you have to do everything by yourself – but you need to take care of everything.
- You only get out of it what you but into it. If you want to train for yourself – than do it – but do not be irritated if you do not get a lot of students. Like always you have to pay a price! A lot of good Bjj-players would love to have a successful school but they only know how to train. To make business, marketing and getting students to your school is something complete different. No gold medal is going to help you with it.
- Do not fool yourself and get affilated to anybody out there. You are not getting any more students because your name is this or that! Stick with your Professor whom you now for a lot of years. Who believed in you, who taught you the first steps in bjj and who cares not only about your money but also about you as a person. People are coming to your school only because you teach them something for live, they are going to come because they like the structure of your school and that the instructors care about them as a person and not because you have tons of medals at home or your school is named after someone…. Later on your Professor is going to become a close friend and your mentor and you will get much more out of this relationship than just another stripe on your belt. Stick to someone who has the same mindest as you and whom you can look up to as a person!
If you want to run a school, start with your friends and step by step start to structure the gym. I know from me how difficult this could be and that it is a struggle too. You will have to try out something new and then rethink it again… Always be honest to yourself what you really want – do you want to improve in Bjj, do you want to run a school, do you need to make money for your living or is money not important for you…. How much time do you have, how much time do you want to invest in your school, in your own training and in your business….. Do not fool yourself!!!! And always ask yourself what is success for me!? And then concentrate on yourself and your school – a lot of people know how to do it and will give you their advises but you are the one you is doing it – listen to all but do not care to much about others who never tried it themselves. It is going to be your school, so impliment what you think is usefull… if it was not succesful than change it but make your own mistakes, it is only going to be your success too one day and nobodies else if you stick to it!!!