Congratulations, you’ve found a location, mats, and people to train with. What now?
Running jiu-jitsu club can be broken down into two parts:
Training & Instruction
Administration & Management
Training & Instruction
As I mentioned in my previous article you have be honest with your partners about the level of instruction and training you can offer. Most of us are, for lack of better word, hobbyists. We do not train professionally or full time. That said you need to agree on a few things.
How often you are going to meet?
Who is doing what in terms of running the session?
Who is taking care of the money side of things?
In our case we had an extremely capable blue belt (if I remember correctly he received his purple 1 month after our group started) leading most of our sessions. He had actually written out a syllabus, a code of conduct and ran a blog detailing the stuff he had just shown us. He planned every session in advance. I mostly just helped with the warm ups and helped keep an on eye on the class while we were drilling.
Before I continue, I must emphasise that teaching is a skill and must be treated as such. Being able to teach jiu-jitsu well is a skill that has to be developed and honed. It’s cliché, but having great mat skills does not mean you will be a great instructor.
Even with the syllabus, many times our classes didn’t go according to plan. (If you are looking for a syllabus there are numerous choices available, a couple being Stephen Kesting’s Roadmap and the Gracie Combatives.) If class seems to get off track, remember that the syllabus is just a guide. The big adventures in training sometimes happen from these tangents. This can either be because the ability of the guys you are training with won’t allow them to go down the path of techniques you want to show, or maybe because of a sudden epiphany one of your group has that he needs to share, or because it becomes obvious you need to go back and cover some previous lessons.
Our sessions were 90 minutes and were generally broken down as follows:
10-15 minutes of warm ups – running, pushups, etc.
10-15 minutes of movement drills – shrimping etc.
15-25 minutes of technique instruction
35-55 minutes of sparring
We would limit the number of techniques shown to three. More often than not we would show only two.
Now I could write an entire article about how to teach jiu-jitsu and my teaching ability is modest at best. I find it fascinating that for all the instructionals out there, that there isn’t an instructional book on how to instruct. One of the good things about coming from a traditional jiu jitsu back ground was that I was forced to take a instructors course that showed me the basics of how people learn. As far as I’m aware a similar course does not exist for BJJ.
It’s obvious but I’ll say it anyway, don’t teach what you don’t know and don’t teach techniques you have not practiced in a while. One of my most embarrassing moments was trying to teach armbar/sweep combo that I had not done in a few years. After several times attempting unsuccessfully to pull off the combo with a fully co-operative partner I sheepishly admitted defeat. It was only a week later I remembered the crucial detail I was missing.
This is perhaps the best thing about teaching or leading a session. It really makes you think about your understanding of a technique. You think “How the hell do I teach this?” This often improves your understanding but in my case actually improved the way I executed techniques in sparring. Teaching if you do it right will improve your BJJ. I’ll repeat this though - you need to stick to what you know.
Now this is not to say you can’t sit down and breakdown tech’s you have seen on YouTube or at the last UFC. That’s fine, but make sure when you do this that it is a discussion of what happened and let people brainstorm, don’t try to pretend that that a slick BJ Penn back take is one of your bread and butter moves if it isn’t.
For those of you who have no experience in teaching I’ll give you a few helpful hints (like I said this could be an article in itself). People tend to learn in three ways:
So make sure you when you demo a technique you let them see from lots of angles and avoid using phrases like “grab here” instead be specific e.g. “grab the material on the inside of the knee on the leg that he is posting on”. You also have to give students a chance to mess up and figure things out for themselves without letting them develop bad habits. Watching people butcher a basic armbar from guard can be frustrating, but you have to balance them learning it on their own. Piping in every time you see a small detail on a technique being done incorrectly doesn’t really help. That said you can’t allow them to develop muscle memory for bad techniques either.
Administration & Management
Administration is time consuming, boring, and is often not appreciated. It is a thankless task. People only notice when you have messed up. You have to keep in mind why you are doing it. It is so you and your friends can train. That said I won’t lie, it can suck a lot of the enjoyment out it and if you let it, it can become stressful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if it gets too much and don’t be afraid to delegate.
If you are an instructor you absolutely need insurance and basic first aid training. This is to protect yourself, even if you are just training with mates. Some insurers offer coverage for all club members if you need and can afford this option. Having a first aid kit on hand is a must.
The Grappling Arts Association offers great coverage and we are currently with them for our club insurance. Both I and the head instructor also have separate instructors insurance through TL Risk Solutions.
You also have to make sure that everyone is safe to train. That means checking for injuries at the start of the class and asking new students/training partners if they have conditions like epilepsy or asthma. Checking for jewellery and long nails on partners is also important. Long, gnarly toe nails are a pet peeve of mine, cut your damn toe nails before you step onto my mat butthead!
Someone has to keep track of the money you collect from fees, and how much money has been paid out in rent, insurance, mats, and other expenses. Keeping a ledger of receipts and payments may seem obvious but it needs to be mentioned as it will help you avoid a lot of arguments.
You need to be prepared to dig into your own pocket to cover any shortfall. For example this past August half our guys didn’t train due to Ramadan and the other half didn’t train because they were away for holidays. Little money came in and our instructor had to pay some expenses out of his own pocket. This happens more often than you might think at small clubs and schools everywhere.
Organising training means you need to have everyone’s contact details and make sure they turn up on time. You’ll be responsible for informing them about visiting instructors, tournaments and seminars (often you have to help organise transport for these). You basically have to be the club’s diary. It means answering emails from enquires. Little things like organising team meetings if you need to discuss the future of the club or getting people to arrive early to fix up the mats can take a lot of effort especially when you don’t get RSVPs. Email groups (e.g. yahoo groups) and Facebook are great tools to help you get info out BUT people are busy and often ignore these, so remember to announce before or at the end of the sessions and get people to confirm if they can make it on the spot.
Dealing with your training partners concerns is also a huge part of this. Whether it is because they are nervous about competing or worried about the direction their training is going in at the club. Any group of people will have their difference and arguments happen. Don’t take it personally.
Hopefully my sage words of advice have been helpful.