11 Things Your Jiu Jitsu Instructor Won’t Tell You

Instructors are instructors…they’re professional, they teach, they’ll give you attention and hope for the best.  Jiu jitsu instructors are no different…they teach, they’ll give attention and like any other teacher, they’ll get frustrated at times.  We are after all, human.  While I’m absolutely in love with jiu jitsu (shoo-shizzu if you prefer) and love being around my students, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to roll, teach or learn.  That being said, I asked 10 different BJJ instructors from different clubs and different skill levels to tell me things that they normally wouldn’t tell their students (or teachers).  While no disrespect intended on my beloved art, and on the promise of anonymity, here are the top-10 things your jiu jitsu instructor won’t tell you:

DISCLAIMER: These are quotes from various instructors from various gyms with minor adjustments (such as “we” instead of “I”) made for the flow of the article that has been approved by them without disrupting the continuity of the quote.  They’ve all been verified regardless of rank…unlike these guys that keep popping up. They aren’t meant to give the impression that 100% of instructors see eye to eye, and all have been approved for posting by the respective instructor on the condition of anonymity.


“We know it feels weird.  We know the positions are odd and that sometimes you feel a choke isn’t in correctly, but when we tell you to trust the technique instead of your feelings, listen to us.”


“When you first walk into a club looking to take BJJ, we’ll normally ask if you have any experience…what we’re really looking for is if you have any grappling experience.  Karate, Tae-kwon-do, Jeet-kune-do…we don’t really care, and we really don’t want to sit and listen about your karate tournaments, just get on the mat and let’s start.”


“We don’t like teaching armbars over and over, and especially don’t like teaching side control hundreds upon thousands of times.  But like anything you want to be good at, it’s necessary, so please don’t complain that you aren’t learning anything.  We know its repetitive and kind of boring, but we also know that it needs to be perfect.  Plus, we are working on ours at the same time, not just teaching it”


“We paid ours, and you’re going to as well.  We fought tournaments, we roll every class, and we did thousands of positional drills.  All this came with multiple injuries, hundreds of hours as the “choking dummy” and gallons of sweat, blood and mat-burn ointment. So no, we aren’t ‘good’, we are the product of thousands of ass-kickings, and you will be too”


“BJJ is about finesse, combinations and going with the flow.  We understand that up until a certain level your body isn’t trained to relax when it’s in a physical battle.  But we also know when you can relax and just don’t want to, and that causes injuries.  So when you decide to can-opener me and cause me injury, you’ll get a little friendly guidance on the rules of rolling and injuries.  Do it again and we decide to hold onto submissions a little longer and a little harder until you get the point”


“I absolutely love questions and I ask a ton of questions.  If you ask questions, I know that you’re paying attention.  I also know that you want to know why something works and why it doesn’t.  If you ask questions you’re automatically one of my favorites.”


“Unless they’re the gym owner, head instructor or Master, your instructor probably gets very little compensation if any.  We train because we love to train.  We have regular day jobs, families and every day problems like everyone else.  So using your jitz buddies to gripe about life is a great release and great place to get your stresses out for the day so you can go home in a good mood to your family.  But when it’s closing time, don’t forget that we have families we want to see too.”


“We can’t stand when we are going over a technique we’ve gone over hundreds of times (see #9), and while we are teaching, people are talking or working on a move that is completely different.  Don’t forget that every class has new people and it’s distracting and disrespectful to them while they’re trying to learn…after all, they’re paying a lot of money to learn what’s going on.  Not to mention it makes the gym look amateur.”


“We’ve all had that ‘Aha!’moment, where a technique clicks and you finally got a hold of it.  We are absolutely happy and proud that you’ve got it…but unless you’re given permission by the instructor to teach, don’t teach.  The understanding is that we are only permitted to teach techniques that we have a firm grasp on.  For example, we can teach a kimura for short people, tall people, muscular and scrawny.  We can show you the leg position for each body type to make the technique more effective and different positions from where it can be applied.  If someone says it’s not working for them, we can see what’s wrong and fix it….can you?”


“Cockiness and arrogance destroys gyms…it takes away our ‘family’ environment, and it’s a surefire way to get everyone gunning for you.   If we find out you’re using what you learn to bully kids at school, we’ll throw you into the shark tank – I remember a single mom bringing her disruptive teen into our gym.  He called her a ‘bitch’, punked kids at school, kicked people randomly on a whim and referred to himself as ‘God’.  His mom gave the head instructor $50 and told us to show him how badass he isn’t.  He returned her money and made him roll…and he realized really fast that he’s not Bruce Lee.”


“No, I don’t know everything for every situation, that’s why your instructors have instructors.  The more experienced your teacher, the more situations they’ve been in, and the more they’ll know.  I know enough to teach, and in doing so, will discover little things that I didn’t know before.  After class, I’ll ask my teachers what to do in that situation and practice it to no end just so I have that knowledge.”

Categories: EVERYTHING (in no particular order), Jiu Jitsu and Judo

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

40 replies

  1. Most of this is good, however, I think knowing other and new students previous martial arts background is a good thing to know as an instructor about your student as it helps to know how they may transition into the grappling arts as well as indicate certain habits they may or may not demonstrate in doing a technique especially if they had learned a different way of applying a similar technique for “X” number of years. Also those trained in Jeet Kune Do concepts should already have some sort grappling knowledge. Of course no one want to hear someone brag of their other martial arts history but, not caring about your students background in a different martial arts can be a major disrespect to them and martial arts as a whole.

  2. Well our instructor is always telling us to help the newer guys. He also tells us that if we want to work on something else to go ahead and do it. S

  3. some of this is good…. some of this is crap

    hope people seek perspective on this

  4. This is perfect, except you should have added that instructors hate when students ask for their belts.

    • I figured that would be the FIRST thing everyone would say…apparently it’s so common that they figured everyone knew that was a main complaint. One guy actually told me that when someone asks it’s an automatic 6-more months haha.

  5. Reblogged this on chokdeenc83's Blog and commented:
    This goes for Muay Thai gyms too

  6. I was an instructor for the Army Combative Program and Instructed youth challenge students in Karate, and now am a student in Jiu Jitsu and teach the kids and pre-teens classes on occasions and this post is spot on. I was in Karate and they transitioned to Jiu-Jitsu and did not tell my instructor that I was a Black Belt in Karate. He know by my actions on the mat and then asked me. So I really understand #10. I also really relate to #11. A second degree judo student came into the class and he would tell me that they would do it this way instead. So I expressed it to the Master instructor after class and he instructed me to show his fast and hard that it will work to get the doubt out of his head. Not I am 175Lb and this guy is about 240Lb. So I did the move and not he is a somewhat better student. I don’t like students that bost what they did in there other style. I Hate arrogance. And when I say Hate I mean HATE!!! it. We need to humble our selves to other styles that we do not know. I love this post. I just wish that today’s students could read this and understand.
    P.S. I am just a Orange Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and a Black Belt in Karate and a level 3 Army Combative’s Instructor. But now I am just a student learning Jiu-Jitsu, but I can relate to every one.

  7. Good list of things. I wish we hear more from our trainers and ALSO from students

    student perspective

    1) warm ups shouldn’t be boring and no longer than 20 minutes (my own safety is my responsibility)
    2) I am not japanese and I dont understand sensei, coach I do. Master .. ? …. dont think so…
    3) The format of classes should be based on the student’s game not the trainers knowledge or agenda.
    4) No I dont think you are god or a super hero, sorry. I only piss you off cos you trying to be one???
    5) I want to learn BJJ and not politics, dischord between affiliations or club is bad history I want to concentrate in making new history.
    6) I will respect who teaches me BUT I will follow someone that encourages me.
    7) If I am injured dont play like is nothing, I wont sue you I promise :) and it hurts a lot cos I am human.
    8) In tournaments I trust you with all I have, if you make a bad call dont blame me. You need to know what I can do and what I cannot do.
    9) Roll with me and teach me to grow, I can tell when you are not helping. if you cannot roll due to injuries accumulated over years be patient, you sound like a grumpy old man. I love you but …

    Not directed to particular individuals, who can kick my arse only to weak ones.

    • Miguel this reads like the perspective of a young, new student. Like with most topics, would you want the opinion of someone with a decade of research and experience in a field or 6 months? I’d like to provide some feedback on these without it being taken as a personal attack on your post.

      1)The warm up is important and that becomes more obvious as age and injuries accumulate. If you(keep in mind this is the generic student “you”, not you personally) do not like the warm up enough that you feel it wastes your time, address that to the instructor. Most like feedback. Sometimes that long warm up is actually conditioning the instructor feels is important.
      2)Jiu Jitsu comes from Judo, and is a martial art of it’s own. Different instructors have different relationships with bjj history and many feel it’s important to know where you come from. If your instructor puts too much of an emphasis on it for your liking, find another instructor.
      3)A student-instructor relationship is a lot about trust. Trust your instructor to know what you need to be learning or find one you do trust. A functioning school will have all body types and all skill levels. An instructor’s promise to his student is to provide as complete an education as possible. If you are never exposed to a situation or move you will not know how to react to it. Also understand that your instructor has his/her own style too. They are likely to favor what works for them as they can more confidently explain it.
      4)If your instructor is good enough to teach he will be confident. If he is hiding behind a veil of being untouchable he may actually be hiding a lack of skill. Sadly, with the popularity of jiu jitsu there are fake instructors out there. Again, we’re looking for someone we can trust with our valuable time.
      5)We are studying an art based on Brazilian culture too. Some affiliations take it more seriously than others. Shop around. If you don’t have choices because of limited programs in the area remember, you choose how or if you participate in those politics. If an instructor tells you are not allowed to train in the rival school up the street you are choosing to be there… and choosing to accept responsibility if you ignore that policy. Many of those rivalries have been in place for decades and are a part of the culture.
      6)A good instructor will accept that as part of the deal with a good student.
      7)BJJ is as much if not more about personal development than it is physical development. Sometimes your instructor is trying to teach you that you can overcome weakness. There are so many different perspectives on what instruction is “best” you may come across those who will ignore your cues. If the instruction is too intense find another school. At the end of the day you are paying for a service and choosing to be there. Some people want to be pushed that hard.
      8)Tournaments are another tool to help us get better. If you want to compete at the top you need a relationship with a coach who will work with you and thus know how to coach you. Many bjj instructors see sport jiu jitsu as a tool only and are not willing to put that much focus on it. Ultimately it is still up to the student to find an instructor they connect with and agree on this subject.
      9)Injuries are a sacrifice we make for the art. With a little travel you will meet instructors at all levels in all conditions. If you’ve been training for more than 10yrs. and don’t have a couple of aches and pains I can confidently say you’re doing something wrong. Respect your instructor’s injuries like you’d respect your training partner’s injuries, like you hope they’d respect yours. One more time, if you have one of those instructors who just never rolls. You’ve never seen him roll, and can’t find anyone who has, it’s time again to question the instruction you’re getting.

      Ultimately the relationship of the student/instructor includes the fact that the student is a consumer. The instructor is offering a service, as the consumer the student has the right to stay or leave as he/she sees fit. Choose the one that works for you and grow with it, but remember the student is the one with limited knowledge of what it “should” be coming in. BJJ is constantly growing and changing, but the foundations of training offered by your instructor are what got them to an advanced belt in the first place.

  8. Good list. My only exception to this, is if you don’t know how to deal with a can opener, A. I won’t train with you because B. you shouldn’t be teaching then.

  9. Its nice and conventional to think this way but it isn’t completely the truth….is it. Drilling is good for honing technique….but nothing in a BJJ match is ever static. Sometimes, no matter how hard I drill a technique doesn’t mean it will be match worthy for my individual game. Drills that encourage the practitioner to develop natural responses instead of a fixed course of action yield better results. They develop timing…feel. Dynamic drills, where you cultivate movement and reaction in real time, can be repeated ad nauseum yet are never boring and tend to push a steeper learning curve. Allow room for creativity….BJJ is not a doctrine..

  10. true,true and very true

  11. Cool article posted already

  12. This is all very good, some good points were made, but Jiu Jitsu is included in Jeet Kune Do. JKD isn’t just one single style. Food for thought for those out there who dis on JKD.

    • Nobody was dissing JKD in the article when they said they don’t count that as experience. Its just that there is only a tiny fraction of BJJ included in JKD, so you cant really count that as “experience”.

  13. applys equally as well to all martial arts instruction.good stuff.

  14. Great article, it reminds me why I love BJJ as much as I do.

  15. kinda of sounds like you guys don’t really like to teach with a lot of these. maybe just be a student its probably better in the end for you and your “students”.

    • I’m not sure you read the disclaimer…this is from many gyms and many instructors. Not just one.

    • Actually, I too am an instructor, although in judo, not jui jitsu. I can relate to each one of these and if I were to compile my own list, it would look quite similar. However, in no way, do I dislike teaching. Based on your comment, you might be a student? I can tell you that after years of teaching, every teacher develops pet peeves. Until you have walked in the shoes of an instructor for several years, you can’t judge one. This list is spot on.

  16. Love this!
    Thanks Sensei for reporting this article

  17. I don’t know anything about it. At all.

  18. That was pretty clever and very wise. I’ve seen 39203402 of those in the flesh, and been guilty of a few myself. We train in totally different systems but it’s funny how students are the same in any style.

  19. Always savor the schadenfreude on those intermittent occasions when you get to watch #2 go down on the mats.

  20. Nice article. Shared. Keep doing good things.

  21. I love this article. A few if not all hit home. It seems like I’m always starting over teaching the same stuff over and over. Would it be ok if I share this article with my students on my blog?


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