BJJ Poll: What is Your School’s Stance on Students Teaching Students?

This poll idea recently came our way in a note from overseas:

Hello Caleb,

Just another one of the Mighty 600,000 here. Thanks for your podcasts (you too Dan). Keep up the great work.

Thought I’d throw you something that may be a worthwhile discussion.

I’m relatively new to BJJ (6 months of training), but not to sport or fitness. I have a background in coaching sports. I also have done a bit of personal training with athletes looking to improve their games. Point being: I know how to study, apply, and communicate that knowledge to others.

My BJJ academy has quite a lot of white belt students. It’s a young school that’s run by quite a competent purple belt. The topic I’d like to throw out there is that of students teaching other students, and what that might look like at other schools. A poll could look something like this:

What is your school’s stance on students teaching students?
– At my school only the official instructor teaches
– At my school training partners are encouraged to teach each other, no matter what the rank
– At my school you can only teach if you’re blue belt or above

Or something along those lines.

What makes me bring this up is that there are a few guys at my academy that seem to think it’s their job to teach any lower rank (like a 1 stripe teaching a no-stripe). Now, I understand sport. I know how to critique my own game, see holes, and can figure out where to get quality information to fill those wholes. I know how to adjust, train, and apply. What quickly happened is that I was recognizing wrong instruction from this “seasoned” white belt. He was simply teaching wrong BJJ. As I’ve sparred with more and more guys, I’ve come across more and more “teaching”. One guy stops you in mid-roll to talk you through things that are all feel. What he’s not realizing is that in BJJ 98% of the feel he’s trying to teach can only be taught “at pace”.

It would be interesting to hear what others think about white belts trying to teach, even other new white belts. Surely, we just haven’t seen enough BJJ to be able to teach.

What do you think? Is it alright for white belts to be teaching others? How about blue belts? Does it all depend on the mix of experience in the room?

Let us know your thoughts by voting and feel free to add a comment as well!

7 Replies to “BJJ Poll: What is Your School’s Stance on Students Teaching Students?”

  1. At my school people help each other. Sometimes I see a big difference between helping and teaching. For example, as a white belt, if I have done an armbar warmup so many times and I’ve paid attention to the instructor’s ONE TWO THREE, and am even able to quote them, if my brand newbie partner is getting things confused should I just sit there or ask someone else if I know what he’s supposed to do?

    As a teacher I HAVE had students tutor each other incorrectly, or incorrectly “fix” someone’s grammar from correct to a mistake, so I have seen that happen.

    Mostly at my school we grab an upper belt, but I personally don’t think it’s wrong for partners to help each other. I’ve even given people the same advice I was given, for example, don’t lay your legs flat on the ground when someone has you in side mount. I’m definitely not inventing anything new.

    At the same time, if a white belt instructs a white belt wrong, there is ample time for it to be fixed, so it’s not like we’re teaching them how to make a bomb and the wrong move could blow them up.

    I can see several points of view on this. I’d love to hear other opinions. Hmmm. Perhaps I’ll post something about this on my blog.

  2. you’re either a teacher or a student. in class, when you black belt is there you’re a student. got a question, ask him. that is what you’re paying him for, right?

    whites teach whites is ridiculous.

    i have no problem helping a partner to do the drill correctly, but that isn’t teaching.

    let your teacher be the teacher and you focus on being the learner. higher belt or not.

  3. As a white belt I help my fellow students if I know how to do something and they are doing it wrong and vice versa, but the real teaching is done by bluebelts and up.

  4. On my first day at my new school I witnessed a white belt teaching a bunch of blue belts, purple belts and a brown belt a half guard sweep. I was impressed. The upper belts humbled themselves to learn.

    Besides, this guy was nailing everyone with his technique. EVERYONE….

    I hadn’t seen this before in my previous six years of training. I knew that I would like this place immediately.

  5. I had the privilege of attending a Rickson Gracie seminar and was unclear about one of the concepts that he was going over. When we broke off to train it, I had asked Donald Park, an amazing Royler Gracie black belt, for some clarification. His answer was something to the effect of, ‘I’ll help you this time, but there’s Rickson Gracie! If he’s in the room, I’d take the opportunity to ask him.’

    Donald is a super cool guy and always eager to help students learn, but what struck me about that was that he acknowledged that there was a unique resource available to me and encouraged me to seek him out rather than jumping at the opportunity to amaze me with his vast knowledge.

    I love showing newer guys stuff if I can, it helps me and I like to think it helps them. But I also try to remember that sometimes there are others better equipped to answer a question and know when to point a student in their direction if possible.

  6. Our rule is purple belt or above to teach. White and blue belts are beginners, therefore should not be instructing. Why wouldn’t you ask the most qualified person in the room to help you if you have a problem or a question?

  7. I like what Julia said about there being a difference between helping and teaching. That’s a great point. I, as a white belt, have helped people before. So much of it has been very generic. Something like, “If I have mount, don’t just push up on my chest. That’s why I keep catching the arm-bar.” But, I’ll only say that to the guy that keeps getting arm-barred. When the person asks what to do with the arms I would pass that on to the higher belts. Or I would say, “Well, this is what I do. But you should ask so and so (a higher belt).”

    When I think about it I tend to think, “If I was running a school what would I do if I knew there was bad help being given?”. The line between passing on quotes from the instructor, and teaching your own Jiu-Jitsu is very blurry with some people.

    This also could bring up a discussion about different learning styles. I know that I learn a lot more from a guy ripping me apart than from someone letting me get an arm-bar. But, that’s because I go away and analize everything that happened. Not everyone does that. So, what do others need in order to learn? And, can white belts hinder those needs, or actually help?

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