The Art of Teaching BJJ

BJJ, english, Me and my Partner | 0 comments



September 1, 2017

by Prof. Martin Guggi


Teaching is an Art. Knowing what you know and breaking it down into pieces, concentration on the key points and making the move useful for somebody else is not easy. We always think that everybody who is good at Jiu Jitsu must be a good teacher as well. I do not think so. Do you know the Coach of Mike Tyson? No – almost nobody does but he was the mentor of one of the best boxers of all time. You don’t even need to be the best on your sport to become a successful instructor.

I have seen blue belts teaching much better then black belts because they understood the need of their white belts much better than a black belt who is sometimes too far, advanced and cannot understand the basic questions of beginners anymore. If you are a white belt and think you cannot start a group and start to teach your friends – then start thinking again. A lot of famous coaches today started to teach already with their blue belt around their hip – because there was nobody else to teach.

Of course – too much teaching will not help you to improve in your own game – but teaching helps you so much to understand the move. If you cannot put the move in words, then you probably did not understand it yet. It happened to me a lot of times that I started to teach a new move and in the middle of the explanation I realized that this move does not make any sense…. What I said did not even make sense to me anymore…. But exactly this moments give you the right push to start searching deeper for more details and understanding of the technique. If you made a mistake go back home and start searching on the internet again to find more info about the move. Start drilling it and next time you will explain it much better to your students. Be honest to them and tell them that last time there were some details missing and now you want to correct your instructions. Nobody is mad because you are also involving as an instructor. I have never seen any person who got a world champion in one class – so making a mistake in teaching cannot ruin the development of your students even if there was some missing information in the instruction.

Even today when I have taught an armbar for a couple of times already I still try to find better explanations and words to explain my moves to students. Your students are growing and evolving but we are also evolving as an instructor, as a person or as a friend.


“If you think you are somebody you stopped to become somebody!” Sokrates


Being a teacher not only for BJJ but also in High School for Physical Education and Religion I have attended a couple of classes about the Art of Teaching. Today I want to address 4 main goals about teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which I think are the most important aspects:

  1. 70/30

 When we teach, we need to make your homework first. Having a curriculum helps a lot. But you also need to prepare the class you want to teach. What is the goal of this class today? Do I want to teach a new move, do I want to focus on one or two details, do I want them to get as many repetitions as possible…? We need to be prepared before we step on the mat. In the beginning this can take a lot time. Searching in books, internet, online training …. And later on you do not even have to write anything down anymore and your classes are going to be amazing. But this needs time and personal for me: I good class is on paper first!!!

What we sometimes forget is not the “What” we teach but the “How”! I remember learning at the university that 70% is how you teach, how you treat them, how you are standing in front of your students, how you are as a person and not what you teach. This means that you can teach the best Armbar in the world but if the students do not like you as a person then you cannot convince them. Only 30% is about skills and what we teach – people remember much more how you teach, how your attitude is and what kind of person you are.

I want to give an example: “I was teaching next to a friend. This guy is an amazing BJJ athlete but he sometimes is a little bit cocky about his abilities. I do not remember what he taught, but he was telling the students that the way they are doing the move is wrong. The way they have been taught about the move is not the best way to do it….. I still remember their faces listening to his voice. The techniques he showed where fist class, but the students were not convinced about him as a person. What is this Professor telling me? That everything I learned in the past was wrong? That our Professor at home was teaching me something wrong? If you cannot convince students that you want to bring out the best in them, then your class can be amazing, but you cannot reach the students. First they have to like you, they have to trust you, and they have to feel that you respect their roots, their teacher …. This has nothing to do with what you teach. It is a matter of your personality.

Today I think that if you are a good athlete, friend, family father or teacher you have to be a good person as well. Yes, you have to be a role model 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. If you are not, you can be the best in what you do, but nobody is going to listen to you for a long time. As a teacher you are in front of people the whole time. If they can only learn techniques from you but nothing more then there is a lack in your personal development. Today I even do not want to learn anymore from someone who is not also a nice person with a good heart. He can be a world champion but if he is an asshole I do not care about his amazing techniques at all. I remember what my Professor told me once: “If you reach your black belt one day but you are an asshole, what did you do last couple of years? What kind of team would you have around you if everyone is like this?”


  1. Conviction

Teaching the best techniques to your student is very good start. But if you cannot convince your students that these techniques work for them, that these techniques can save their lives one day, that these techniques can win a competition – then you waste your energy. But how to we convince someone?

If they do not trust your words then you cannot convince them. Remember what I said in the 1. topic. 70% is not what you teach but how, only 30% is about the technique. Conviction starts when you greet someone. Be the first do welcome them to the mat, be the first to smile. Be first to work harder than everybody else on the mat. Be the one you want to look up too. And if you teach a technique to not forget to talk about how helpful this move can be in a certain situation.

At one of your BJJ intensive Camps I was assistant a Professor who is really a smart guy and knows how to convince people. After teaching back defense principles he told the students: “When someone is on your back remember me and what I showed you today. Remember what we did today and if you can follow the principle I showed you today it will be much harder to submit you from the back!” He convinced them, he convinced me that this principle works. And to be honest when I do the move is really hear him in my ears tell me … “remember what I showed you”. This principle will always be in my head and I also will never forget who taught it to me!

Guess who got a lot of seminars after the camp!?


To convince people that what we teach them is really like “gold” is very important and as a teacher we have to use this skill of teaching!!! Conviction!!!


  1. Smile, Sweat and Technique

 In every class I try to focus on these three aspects:

  1. Fun

They need to have fun in the class. This can be with a stupid joke or playing a game as a warmup …. But if your class is only about getting better and there is no laugh in it then you should only train competitors and nobody else. The problem is that you cannot live from teaching competitors alone, you need happy athletes and also people who will never train for a competition.


  1. Technique

Learning something new is very important. You do not need to make a new class all the time. Sometimes it is good to repeat the last class exactly how it was, but give them one or two more details in this class. Imagine Rickson Gracie explaining the Armbar to you, even if you have seen it for 100 of times already you better listen to him because there are details you properly have never heard before and if technique conquers all then it comes down to small details to be successful or not.


  1. Let them sweat

When we train and only concentrate about the smallest detail then your techniques will be on a very high level. But a lot of people also want to go home feeling that they did something today. They were sitting in the office the whole day and now they have to follow your detailed explanations again. Keep the small details for advanced students and let beginners feel the move. The better they are the more details they can concentrate on. But do not give them all in the first class. Teach 3 moves and then let them do technical sparring. Let them sweat and let them work. You cannot do the sparring for them and if they want more details they will come to you anyway!


You need to be a coach who can be a drill instructor, a motivator and a library in one person.  Most of the time you need to be all three in one class. Think on what kind of students you will have if you are only the drill instructor or only the fun motivator all the time….


  1. Give them more than BJJ!

I think that over the time your students get very close to us and that some of them are becoming friends. Perhaps you also realized that the longer you train the less friends you have outside of BJJ…. J
Some instructors see this differently than I see it but I like to give more than just techniques. These instructors say that they come to you to teach BJJ and that’s it. But I think like this: You spent so much time with them on the mat and if you are not beneficial for their lives outside of BJJ then I think you miss something as well. Teach them the best BJJ you can but if you cannot help them to grow as a human being then I think you miss the point. We are all here on this planet to learn, to grow and to have a happy live. To grow as a person BJJ techniques will not help you a lot and if you are a black belt one day but still an asshole then your belt is worthless in my eyes.
Do not bring your problems to your students, but if they need someone to talk to, be the listener. You are their teacher, for some a friend but for all someone to look up to. As a teacher, you are role model and a leader so everything you do affects your students.
When you visit a new academy, you feel the vibes of the people and the place right when you enter. They can be very tough on the mat but how they treat you as a foreigner when you enter the gym tells a lot about the people who train there. I want to have a school where people are welcome, but on the mat, I want them to feel the power of our BJJ as well. That’s why it is so important that you as the teacher set the direction and your students will follow.

For me there is no better profession than being a teacher. But to be a good teacher you need to be harder to yourself than everybody else. If you do not train or drill as teacher you will not improve and then your students can not grow as well. But never forget to grow in both directions as a teacher and as person! The time to start is now!!!!



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