As students, we all develop a natural fondness for our senseis. It is expected. However, not all teachers’ intentions are in the interest of the school and the students. Unfortunately this can discourage many students from sticking to a journey that is actually right for them, if they only had a different academy with instructors who cared. Here are some things I would consider to be red flags at a BJJ academy:
1. Only the head instructors teach – Great teachers know, one of the best ways to learn is to teach. The sport of BJJ does not offer many opportunities for money so it is important for the academy’s competitors to improve their teachings skills as well as their grappling ability. For hobbyists, teaching beginners is a great way to learn and improve their own Jiu Jitsu as well as pass on the instruction they have received. This also frees up the head instructors to grow their academy and improve their program. Not all instructors keep their students from teaching out of malevolence but often ignorance.
2. The instructors never lose to their students – God forbid the students ever one day submit the teacher, that would discredit the teacher from anything they have ever done or taught. Wrong. While you look for your teachers to have abilities that surpass yours here are some considerations. One, if the teachers design their practices to be hard, they may lose and get tapped in weak areas of theirs that may be another students’ strength. Second, when training your weak areas, it’s natural to lose to your higher level students. That’s the point. Third, the lower belts often need to know what victory means, sometimes walking them through the steps with resistance is the best way.
3. Only the teachers have accomplishments – As a student under Xande and Saulo Ribeiro, it is unlikely I will ever come close to their accomplishments in the sport of BJJ or MMA. Nonetheless, the work of their students such as Rafael Lovato Jr and Victor Hugo and the continuous growth and success of their student body shows how much they care and dedicate themselves to the growth of their students.
The reason this message is important to me, is in order to help further the growth of BJJ our aim must be to encourage students who may be thinking about quitting to keep going and consider the possibility of another BJJ academy. While Jiu Jitsu has a pretty good track record of weeding out the douchebags, it is not perfect and sometimes your struggle is related to those who are responsible for guiding you and fostering an environment for you to grow.