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Teaching Style in BJJ Schools? Classes Rarely Taught by Professor

BJJ newb here…

Is it normal for the Professor to hardly ever teach or attend classes? All the adult classes are being taught by blue and purple belts. I the only classes I have seen him teach are the kids classes.

I have taken Karate and Tae Kwon Do and this would never occur in these systems.

I wouldn’t say it is abnormal, but it’s never been the norm anywhere I’ve trained. For a period we were having an open mat that was led by a purple belt. Occasionally our instructor was out and a blue or purple might teach the class.

Belts are somewhat arbitrary on their own. Their significance depends on who gives them out and why. I’d have no problems paying for a class from more than a few purples I know. Others, not so much. I know black belts who could probably learn a thing or two from the best purples I know.

Keep in mind the differences between TKD, Karate and BJJ. A purple belt at a reputable school is a 4-6 year training path for most. Can you learn something from someone who has done something 4 years longer than you have? Probably.

Just like black belts, much depends on their coaching skills and your ability and willingness to learn.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the best teachers are not always the best practitioners. I was teaching beginners to box within a couple of years of learning. I was never an athletic freak, my strength was always that I was extremely calm and a thoughtful fighter. I had pretty decent success as an amateur boxer, won some pretty high level stuff, but I was a far better coach than I ever was a fighter.

If you are new, and a blue belt has a gift for teaching, then you can probably learn from him for a good year, maybe longer. He has to have got his blue belt from somewhere, so presumably the professor is teaching higher belts separately. A few places, with enough members, do do that I’ve found. As long as the gym is producing good fighters, that’s really the measure. If you’re getting good instruction from a good fighter and good coach, and you still don’t really know any techniques, then I would personally suggest it is worth sticking with.

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There’s something off about that. The typical scenario is a lower belt teaching the kids and the black belt teaches the adults.

Is this a case where it’s a black belt who runs several schools and divides his time between them all? Does he roll with students? That’s another thing to take note of.

I just got back from class and something dawned on me.

One of my instructors and my other instructor’s instructor both ran their own gyms as purple belts, long before I ever stepped on the mat. At the time there were so few people training in my area that it was almost their only way to train as purple belts in the circumstances they found themselves in. Both went on to become black belts and one of those guys was Amal Easton’s first black belt and now run’s my area’s most successful gym.

If it was that guy teaching as a purple belt, I’m listening no matter what I have tied around my waist.


When I started it was like that too. A blue belt ran the affiliate where I started training. Purple belts were regarded with awe they were so rare.

Things have changed and if I trained somewhere with a BB instructor, as I do now, I would expect him to run most of the classes. I certainly wouldn’t expect to pay the same amount for a school run by purple belts as I would a school run by a black belt. If Marcelo Garcia can run a good number of classes then there is no excuse for a BB school owner to not do the same. And Marcelo has a BB like Paul Schreiner to run classes that he doesn’t.

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@dirtbag I suppose I haven’t given you a clear answer yet, so here is my best shot at that.

In the situation you describe, I would share the same concern you do. I would first check out any other schools that are accessible to you. First class is almost always free, so take advantage of that. Show up and see what it’s like.

If you still find yourself training where you’re at, well, I’d say keep training. Learning Jiu Jitsu is a long-term process. There’s no secret sauce that the black belt is keeping from you. There are no unbeatable moves you’re missing out on. There is only the house that you build brick by brick. You’ll know when you’re happy with your house and when you are not by how you perform on the mats and possibly off the mats. I’m certainly not happy with mine.

Unless you’re unlucky enough to find yourself at a complete farce of a gym, all you need to do is shut up, listen, and then try to apply the information being imparted to you. It will almost certainly get you ahead of where you are at right now. The concepts you need to learn right now can be easily imparted to you by a purple belt with average coaching skills.

That’s the best answer I can give you with the information known to me.

Good luck my dude!

I don’t know really what to make of it. The purple belts are good. Just not at teaching. I find I leave classes more confused then taught. When I ask for clarification, they(purple and blue belts) don’t have time to address it. For example. Triangles with thick legs. My legs are big from tons of squats and deads. I can’t apply one, the head and arm will not fit without hurting my ligaments. When I ask how can I do this, I get brushed off with you will get it in time. I know what a triangle is. I used to use them in Kempo Karate. I am at a cross roads. I really don’t know what to do. If I want one on one help its more $$$. Cause its a private lesson. I feel 90$ a month is a lot and I am not getting my money’s worth for training.

BJJ isn’t easy. And poor instruction only makes it that much more difficult.

After training for almost 14 years, there are times when I wonder how anyone gets good at jiu-jitsu.

If circumstances aren’t likely to change (new instructor, new school), I can give you some tips on what’s worked for me - and what seems to help the white belts I work with at my school (GB Seattle).

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@dirtbag I hear you. I’m a big dude at 6’00 and 270. Way bigger than most on the mats. I also did tons of squats and deads prior to immersing myself in jiu jitsu. I don’t think anyone I’ve ever trained jits with is within 100 lbs of what I can deadlift casually. I also struggle with applying triangle chokes with my legs. I find that my moment has usually passed when I recognize their availability, and I struggle with getting into the right position to apply them in the first place because I’m a big fucking goon, just like you.

So be it. I’m not going to give up on learning how to triangle reliably with my legs, but I’m also not going to beat myself up about being unable to do it in a roll. I will build that part of the house later on. There is plenty of other foundation that needs to be laid. It is here where your attention should be.

You’re a big strong dude, so you might end up having more success with arm triangles instead of leg triangles. If you continue to show up to class, you will eventually run into techniques that will work for your body type. You will discover what you can apply and what you cannot. I don’t know what you want to get out of jiu jitsu, but as long as you do your part and give it your best shot, you will most likely come out ahead in some shape or form.

I don’t think it is unusual at all for anyone to leave class confused, regardless of body type. Getting man-handled in ways you are completely unfamiliar with is, after all, quite confusing. The only remedy is to shut up and listen to the people who just man-handled you.

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@twojarslave I am 250 so you you know what I am talking about.

I remember doing ground training in another system. I had questions and the answers were given freely. I just think either they are milking it or just don’t know how to address BJJ questions for someone not in their body type. That is what it feels like. If feels like something is off.

Don’t get me wrong I love doing it. I find its good to be humbled. But with education behind it. I don’t think this is something I will ever give up. Unless I am seriously injured.

Werdum is a big guy and he was able to triangle no neck Fedor. The idea that you would be told to take a private to learn a move that should be taught in a regular class is ridiculous.

If your knee hurts when doing it, it’s probably because of two things you are doing wrong. One is you don’t have the proper angle which brings up the second problem of using the wrong mechanics when you try and tighten it.

Take a look at this:

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Something may be off, but let me ask you something.

Can these guys tap you out reliably? In my opinion any normal-sized purple belt should be able to find an answer to a strong 250 lb-er with no grappling training. Are they able to demonstrate their jiu jitsu on you in live rolling, where you’re actively trying to stop them?

If so, I would give the guys the benefit of the doubt to be honest. I’d also advise you not to get too hung up on body type. There’s no 250 lb guy cheat codes you’re really missing out on at this stage. I’m sure the best heavyweight instructors could give you all kinds of adjustments that might help, but you still have to make the triangle. It’s still the same basic motion, and just doing your best for now will get you plenty far. Drill it as best you can. Take your time and do it as close to right as you can, and over time you’ll find yourself improving.

The triangle is a motion you’re training for a very specific situation, just like everything else in jiu jitsu. You’ll be better able to adjust for your body type after you understand the basic concept of a triangle and it’s application in the jiu jitsu landscape that becomes increasingly broader for you as you continue to train.

You’ll figure out what works best for your body type in different situations by learning the entire suite of techniques being taught and then trying to apply them in live training. There is no secret sauce for big guys, you have to walk the same path everyone else does in training.

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From one big fella to another, here’s a shameless plug of my best action shot in a live roll. I only have 3 such pictures, but this is the one that came out good. Fast armbar from open guard. I think I was a 2 stripe white belt here, 285 lbs or so going against a new 230 lb-er.

I earned a third stripe on my white belt later, but that was at an actual school. I’ve spent most of my mat time at the place you see here. Home training is gnarly as fuck when hosted and instructed by one of the best players in the area. If such opportunities exist for you, you may want to check it out.

For contextual purposes I wanted to make sure you know that I’m only a big guy who is a few years ahead of you. I’m a three stripe white belt with equivalent mat time under a much better instructor where belts are not being awarded to anyone. We just train, which makes me… a three stripe white belt.

Learn to get those mighty hips of yours up into the air!

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@twojarslave That is a cool pic.

Thank you for your advise I think you are right. Maybe more time is needed.

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Try loosening up your periformis.


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@FlatsFarmer I started doing yoga to loosen up. Its going to be a long fun road LOL