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Taking "Secret" Training Sessions to Progress Faster?

Ill keep this short:

  • Im a white belt BJJ student that has been doing the art for about 12 months. My dojo is a small class of 10-15 that train 2-3 times a week for 2 hours.

  • Im competitive. I want to get better quicker. My rate of improvement is not happening at a satisfactory rate in my opinion. I respect my black belt instructor, although I feel his teaching methods do not really suit my style of learning.

  • Would it be wrong if I take up secret private lessons (when I travel to my home town one a month for a few days) in the attempt to get better quicker and also to have a different perspective/experience in training? Is there any martial arts code/rule that says I need to run this by my usual black belt instructor?


If you dont like your instructors methods move on.
who cares what anyone thinks if you are taking extra training classes whilst at home
Its your life

If you are not taking a martial art in an Asian country then you are showing no disrepect to your trainer for simply improving yourself.

good luck

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I was in martial arts for twenty years. Since these two schools are in different towns, there’s no reason to fret about it. The teachers aren’t competing for the same market share, after all.

However, martial arts is a discipline that is built on reflexes. If you have two instructors that teach differently, those reflexes can run interference against each other. I had an aikido instructor who told his students that if they want to take two martial arts at the same time, they should be a hard style (Tae Kwon Do, karate) and a soft style (judo, aikido) rather than two soft styles or two hard styles.

Having said all that, I’m sure not why you remain in a school you are uncomfortable in. It’s not like there aren’t too many martial arts schools out there already.

No reason whatsoever to worry about it. Study in martial arts is YOUR journey, not someone else’s. This means that the only concern you need to have is getting better (by, of course, working hard).

People switch instructors all the time–or include multiple instructors–even when their instructor is good. Could be travel, schedule problems, personality not quite what you want, whatever. None of that has anything to do with whether they know the art well or can teach it. Sometimes it just means you don’t feel like you mesh personality wise.

That’s fine.

That being said, make sure you’re switching or adding for the right reasons. You’ve been around for a while so I am not going to presume, but it is possible for lower level belts to have an exaggerated sense of how rapidly they should advance or learn. So just beware that you’re not fooling yourself.

Our gym has a lot of guys stuck at mid belts who have beaten other higher ranking belts in tournaments. That’s because belt tests are strict, rigorous, and rare. And because we have a lot of cross pollination of ideas and training, different perspectives and styles (that’s really good, and comes from having a stable of competitive fighters).

It could also be you just need some more 1 on 1 personal attention than class offers. Or that you just need more repetition to remember things, so more than 2/3x a week is warranted. YMMV

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First, I agree that due to the two schools being in different cities that there is no issue with training at both and any reasonable instructor should have no problem with you doing so.

Regarding improving and your instructor’s teaching style:

First, have you tried talking to your instructor about the class structure/teaching style? It’s definitely possible that he/she might be receptive to your suggestions should you know your own learning style and can offer suggestions on how they can adjust their teaching style to better help you learn. I know that there is a perception that Martial Arts instructors are some sort of “gurus” who are dogmatic and/or too prideful to accept change or constructive criticism from newbies. But, as an instructor myself I know that most are actually extremely dedicated and passionate about helping their students to improve and would much prefer an honest attempt by a student who was struggling to improve the class than to have them just disappear without any attempt. If the instructor is unreceptive, or refuses to accommodate your learning troubles, then leave.

Second, as Paules said above, skill in Martial Arts is about creating the correct response to the appropriate stimulus, often within a very slim time margin and fairly unforgiving mechanical/technical limits/demands. While a different instructor may well be capable of showing you different variations on (or entirely new) techniques, just “knowing” how to do something isn’t enough. As frustrating as it may be, it’s going to take time and hundreds if not thousands of repetitions for your neuromuscular system to both recognize those stimuli and be able to execute the correct technique with precision.

If your instructor is legit, then there is no doubt that they are teaching you potentially effective techniques. If you want to progress faster then it is not a bunch of new “secret” techniques that you need but instead just more repetitions of the ones you already have and opportunities to gain experience having opportunities to apply them. My suggestion would be to talk to your fellow classmates and see if you can get any to agree to meet on off days and drill the techniques that you are learning in class. Just either pick a few and have you all drill the heck out of them, or each pick a few that you as individuals want to work on and drill the heck out of them. The more realistic the drilling, the more it will carry over to your training. Personally I’m a big fan of “positional sparring” as well to give you more opportunities to hit techniques than a normal roll will afford (unless you can manipulate position at will).

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Thanks guys for all of your responses.

I think I have just been frustrated lately as Im not progressing as fast as I want in terms of skills, and not winning when rolling. Admittedly I could be doing a lot more study/research via a journal and on youtube etc.

I suppose I am slightly frustrated with the teaching style, but in a small dojo of 10-15 people I can understand how difficult it would be to teach the class. Its not uncommon for us to have 5 random brand new first timers show up to a class.

For example we had this situation last week. The instructor says “today we will be drilling some takedowns…”, but for the whole class we did “how to break posture 101” in guard. Im not saying I don’t need practice at the basic things, but I just get frustrated when someone says something but we do something else.

This happens a lot, even half way through drills/demonstrations. Its like the instructor easily gets distracted and changes things without explaining his changing the drill/move.

Anyway, Ill stop ranting, and keep rolling.


What is your style of learning?

Does this sudden change in direction occur because someone asked a question? It could be that your instructor is just not a very good one.

In any case, it’s as Sentoguy wrote. Getting better at any martial arts isn’t academic; it’s mostly muscle memory.

I’ve spent months unable to throw brown belts at Judo until one day it happened. And it started happening more and more often.

I didn’t learn anything particularly new; I could do an awesome harai-goshi when my partner and I are just standing still for months before I threw someone with said throw. My body just finally got used to doing it under an actual sparring scenario.

That’s martial arts in a nut-shell. You need to know what the technique entails, and then you just keep trying it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and a thousand times more over.

So, whatever private lesson you take won’t really help all that much in the grand scheme of things (unless the guy you train with refines your technique in an unexpected manner, but I don’t think that’ll happen for a white belt).

Just find a way to train everyday instead of 2-3 times a week =D

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@magick: Thanks mate. Yes, the instructor does change direction often when questioned. And its often the same purpertators asking the often odd and irreverent questions. We have a few “characters” in our dojo.

I did some reading today and I think I need to remember why I started BJJ in the first place. Im not really looking to became the world champion or black belt master. Im doing it more for the challenge of learning a new skill, fitness, and other benefits such as meeting new people and self defence skill.

I just need to concentrate on enjoying the journey. Belt colour will now not be a consideration at all.

And I would like to train more often than 3 times a week, but I live is a small town and thats all that there is available. Not sure if I could fit in much more training considering my other commitments.


Great post by Magick! Great advice and his description of just having that “eureka” moment when suddenly everything just “clicks” and you start to hit something that you had previously been unable to is a phenomenon that I am probably pretty much every other Martial Artist who has been at it for a while has experienced on numerous occasions.

Regarding the “lack of direction” I also agree that the reasoning behind your instructor’s apparent “ADD” is important.

Does he get derailed by students asking questions? I know I’ve got one student who is always asking (often times completely unrelated or at least “tangential”) questions whenever I am demonstrating the skills we are practicing in class. It’s hard sometimes not to let them steer class way off of topic.

Is he taking an inventory of the skill level and needs of the class? Sometimes I might go into a class fully intending to drill a specific technique or flow only to realize after watching them try it and/or having students who do not yet have the requisite control or skill required that those techniques/skills might actually not be appropriate and have had to switch to either the prerequisite skills (which honestly people are often less “enthusiastic” about drills tons of reps on) or completely unrelated but “safer” ones.

I will say in all honesty that I have all of my classes mapped out ahead of time and will make sure that I get the “core” things I want to cover done and only then move on to more advanced drills of those core techniques, or tangential ones time permitting. So I might start with side to side slap outs and get all the way to say setting up a Tai Otoshi utilizing a Ko Uchi Gari from a random dynamic position for the advanced people but only make it to the static Tai O or even a kneeling Tai O for some of the rank beginners or people with special considerations (injuries, age related things, etc…).

I just to just “wing it” and to a degree that can still lead to a good class, but I felt there was less consistent progress across the board and only the “naturals” were really excelling at the rate I wanted and I wasn’t satisfied with some of their grasp on the fundamentals.

Does your instructor have a curriculum? For instance, you need to know “x skills for your first stripe,” and “y skills for your second stripe,” and so on? Or, if it’s a little more open it might be “1 sweep from closed guard, 1 escape from side control, and 1 submission from back” or something along those lines?

I understand the issues of time commitments and/or lack of “grappling/BJJ friendly” space for off hours training; those are pretty common issues IME.

Even though it’s not an equal substitution, you could consider “shadow” grappling (just as boxers do “shadow boxing”) as a way to at least get in some more reps of your skills and practice “chaining” them together. I would generally suggest premapping out some skills you want to chain together working through either common “bad” situations you encounter or offensive skills leading to a submission. Eventually you can let your imagination go and actually “flow” but that’s a more advanced variation.

To give you a few examples of what this might look like off the top of my head:


  1. Forward rolling breakfall (simulating getting thrown)
  2. Coffee Grinder/Hitchhiker escape from armbar attempt (unsuccessful pass, opponent Granby rolls/inverts and regains their closed guard)
  3. Knee on butt closed guard break into Knee slice pass to side control
  4. Reverse sit out transition to Mount
  5. Opponent “Upa” Escapes and you wind up in closed Guard
  6. Flower/Pendulum Sweep to mount


  1. Ouchi Gari attempt (unsuccessful, opponent steps out of it)
  2. Transition to Osoto Gari (successful)
  3. Knee Fold Armbar attempt (unsuccessful, opponent defends with coffee grinder/hitchhiker escape)
  4. You transition to Omoplata before opponent can full pass your guard (opponent attempts to roll out)
  5. You follow and transition to mount (biceps slicer is also there if those are allowed)
  6. Opponent attempts to Knee and Elbow escape and you counter by transitioning to Technical/Side Mount, grab the collar and execute a Bow and Arrow Choke to finish

Again, these are just random chains of techniques that I put together off the top of my head that create the feel of a “flow roll” and can help you to recognize and possibly catch someone in something with a greater success rate. If these were two long for you, then you could always shorten it to 3, 4, or however many techniques you feel like you are capable/know of. They can also by any string of techniques starting from any position or situation that you know of.

At first you will probably feel a little silly/self conscious rolling around by yourself just as people usually do while shadow boxing. Eventually though that self consciousness goes away though and you will be better able to “let go” and be in the moment doing your shadow grappling.

Good luck, hope this helps.

@Sentoguy: Thanks for the detailed response mate.

I think that me and my instructors personalities just don’t match. I like things to be black and white. No if’s, but’s, maybe’s or depends. But I suppose in BJJ there is always more than one answer to a question.

Im not sure how he plans sessions. We don’t do gradings for belts. He just stripes us or presents us with a new belt when we have demonstrated whatever we need to demonstrate on the mat.

Saying all that I respect him and his skills. I am enjoying the experience. And what would I know? Im only a white belt.


The issue is that most instructors never really got taught how to teach. They’re just doing their own thing.

Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean that you’ll be an effective teacher and all that.

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True Magick, sometimes the best practitioners make horrible coaches/teachers and some of the best coaches are not great practitioners. That’s not to say the two are mutually exclusive though, just, that they are separate skillsets.

Off topic: there is a guy in a class (the same guy who asks questions), that passes wind whenever any pressure is put onto his gut, or if he does a backward roll. He farts at least 3 times a session.

Im new to the art, but is there some unwritten rule where it says one must “work themselves out” if they choose to partake in the art. For example, making sure you stop eating for 2 hours before class to make sure you don’t have any digestion issues while rolling. I can understand it happening occasionally, but not every single session.


Lol! Those guys aren’t rare IME. So much so that we nicknamed farting “the grappler’s Kiai.”

We’ve had a few who have been asked to step outside/off the mat if they were especially gassy and/or “offensive.”

That being said, I would say that if it happens every time someone does a back roll or gets pressure put on their abdomen that they probably are eating too close to class or have gastrointestinal issues and should be advised to alter their behavior or get checked out by a Dr.

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You know, I think most instructors would actually be pretty pleased if you attended extra sessions elsewhere. I can’t think why he would have a problem with it.