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 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 bucks 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

30 replies

  1. 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

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

    hope people seek perspective on this

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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..

  9. true,true and very true

  10. Cool article posted already

  11. 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”.

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

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

  14. 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.

  15. Love this!
    Thanks Sensei for reporting this article

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

  17. 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.

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

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

  20. 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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