Founder, President, and Head Instructor of the Ronin Training Institute.

Tag: teaching

Teaching Tips: Ways to Improve Your BJJ Instructing Tactics


We’ve all been there. Sitting in that course in college or in that huddle on a sports team. The the teacher, coach or instructor has no idea how to efficiently lead a group of people. Being the most knowledgeable person in the world about a particular subject  only gets you so far. Not having the ability to effectively put in place your knowledge won’t get you anywhere in the teaching realm. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, instructors hold the key to an up and coming practitioner’s success.  Students could have all the natural abilities in the world. If they aren’t taught how to properly channel such skills, their likelihood of success will be rare.


We often find students struggling with their comprehension of a sport. This can be due to the fact that learning abilities across a team can be widespread. As an instructor, it is up to you to create techniques and tactics that are inclusive to all learning styles and capabilities. Sometimes, it can be best to follow the “lowest common denominator” aesthetic. This doesn’t mean that the whole class needs to stay on the same skill until they all achieve it. It more means that that each course you teach should continue to review the most basic moves as a refresher for all. Paying that little bit of extra attention to the lowest level student ensures that they are receiving a quality education.


Communication is an extremely crucial aspect of being an instructor. Adaptation of communication methods goes right along side in importance. If you are unable to teach in a way that most, if not all, of your students can comprehend, they re-evaluating your technique should be a high priority. In BJJ there are many moves that require extreme persistence and practice. Being able to descriptively enlighten your students on safety measures must be done in the clearest way possible. For me it’s always important to make sure I cover, and my students clearly understand, the What, How, Why. This is What we are going to do, this is How we are going to do it and this is Why we are doing it.


One of the final ways that you can be sure your teaching methods are up to high standards is by reflecting on each class that you lead. Ask yourself questions such as; Did everyone seem to see the main takeaways from the course? Were there any students who seemed to not comprehend certain moves or drills? Though you should not get too caught up in any negative aspects of a class, assessing yourself and your style only leaves room for improvement. In any teaching scenario, having the ability to critique yourself and make strategic changes, is what will ultimately get your students further.


What Motivates Us To Continue Learning?

The end of a formal education shouldn’t mean the end of learning. Even if you never plan to set foot in a school or on a college campus again, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to learn.

But as many people as there are that fantasize about studying world history, picking up a new sport, or learning a foreign language, fewer actually do it. When learning isn’t required, it can seem difficult to motivate yourself to do it. So what motivates us to keep learning, and how do we harness that motivation for ourselves?

Extrinsic motivators

Learning after school can seem difficult because of the lack of extrinsic motivators. As a student, you were extrinsically motivated by tests and graded assignments. Even if you had other reasons to learn, such as an interest in the material or a wish to become better at a particular skill, the extrinsic motivations built into schooling were always there to back your other motivations up.

Some people attempting to learn after school try to re-establish artificial extrinsic motivators. But this almost always fails in the long term. Firstly, most people don’t have the discipline to hold themselves to that kind of carrot-or-stick motivation. And secondly, extrinsic motivators don’t work very well anyway. They can create a routine around learning, but unless you have a deeper reason to learn, that learning will never become anything other than a routine.

It’s the same reason why you probably remember almost none of the information you learned in the classes you didn’t care about. If you were studying just to pass the test, you weren’t really taking in the information.


Intrinsic motivators

Whatever you’re trying to learn, ask yourself why. Do you want to understand something more deeply? Do you want to prove your worthiness to someone? By understanding our motivators, we can guess whether they are enough to keep us going long-term, and bolster them as needed.

Intrinsic motivators can be separated into three general categories. If you want to know how to do something on your own–say, changing your oil or repairing your clothes–you are motivated by a desire for autonomy. If you want to get better at something because it’s important to you–say, learning to play an instrument because you love music, or learning about a period of history because it interests you–you are motivated by a desire for mastery. And if you want to learn so you can be a part of something–say, learning coding because you have an idea for a life-changing app, or studying politics so that you can work as an activist for a cause–you are motivated by a desire for purpose.

All of these can be effective intrinsic motivators, although they may need to be adapted overtime, as your needs and interests change. For example, if you began learning how to play soccer because it interested you, and then discovered you could help your community by learning enough to volunteer as a youth coach, you turned your initial desire for mastery into a desire for purpose.


Csikszentmihalyi’s Concept of Flow

Our abilities also determine how successful a learning experience is. Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow demonstrates that how well you learn depends on the balance the challenge of the lesson and your ability to learn it. If your ability is approximately equal to the challenge of the task you are undertaking, conditions are optimal for learning. If the challenge is too great for your ability, you will learn at a much slower pace and become easily frustrated. If the challenge is too small, you will be bored, and learn at a similarly slow pace.

When you are learning on your own, you have the opportunity to match your challenges to your ability exactly. However, many people still under- or overestimate their skills. Maintaining motivation for learning requires a lot of introspection and self-honesty.


What It Takes to be a Good Coach or Instructor

In sports, there is one person who is integral to the athletes successful outcomes. They are the brain and the gears that encourage athletes to perform at their highest potential. They are always finding ways to challenge their players and get the best out of them. They are the coach or instructor. A coach is not always the stereotypical parent volunteer who knows little to nothing about the sport. Many coaches have spent their lives mastering a specific sport. They choose to share their knowledge with athletes willing to better themselves and their understanding of the sport. Not everyone excels at being a coach. It takes a certain type of person with exceptional traits to thrive in the role.




One of the most important attributes a coach must have is patience. There will likely be circumstances where athletes learn certain concepts at different speeds. As a coach, you must have the ability to explain techniques or drills in a way that all team members understand. Not every athlete will develop at the same level, especially children and adolescents. Having the patience to ensure everyone grasps the concepts you teach is an important trait for a successful coach.


Communication Skills


For instructors, having knowledge of the sport is crucial. More important than the knowledge is having the ability to express it through efficient communication. When information is unable to transition from coach’s brain to player’s ears, the relationship and sport become tainted. When communication is effective throughout the team, the environment remains positive. Motivation often stems from powerful pep talks, and the role of a coach requires momentum to come from such discussions. Just as teaching the sport comes with adapting to the individual, communication also requires a level of patience.


Controlling Emotions


Although emotions as a whole is a broad spectrum, those leading in sports must keep them all in check. There are appropriate times for emotions in sporting events and there are inappropriate times. An example is, when a player masters a skill (during a game or match) a coach should absolutely celebrate through happy emotions. But, frantically screaming at a referee because of a bad call, is not encouraged. The athletes look to the coach for advice. As their role model, it is important to distinguish a line of acceptable forms of displaying emotions. Demonstrating passion and enthusiasm in a positive manner sets a great example, especially for the young athletes.


Everyone is not suited to fill the role of coach or instructor. Having an in-depth knowledge of the sport is crucial but many other characteristics come into play. Playing the part of coach entails a great deal of commitment and professionalism. These traits are ones all the great coaches past and present possessed.

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