5 Tips for New Instructors

While at the BJJ Globetrotters USA Camp in Maine this past weekend, I talked with a brown belt who was anxious about teaching at a school he was going to visit as he continued his trip through America. He had only taught a handful of classes before, so he was not sure what he would do yet. Should you find yourself in a similar predicament, here is the same advice I gave him:

Stick to the basics.

You do not need to impress students with how many cool or strange techniques you know. You just need to make them better at grappling. The basics will get you far. Even the advanced students who may be tired of practicing the fundamentals will still benefit.

Speak loudly and confidently.

Students respond to instructors who are engaging and seem to know what they are talking about. If you mumble and act uncomfortable in the spotlight, students will zone out or not take you seriously. Develop a convincing “I know what I’m talking about” voice. Even if you’re not that confident, fake it til you make it.

Do not over-explain or show too much.

Similar to not teaching anything too fancy, do not try to be “too smart” when explaining your techniques. Of course you should be detailed, but most students reach information saturation. It’s better to show the move briefly and highlight the key points first, then come back to it in more depth after your students have had a chance to practice it.

Copy lessons by your favorite instructors.

You can get overwhelmed by the prospect of coming up with a good class if you have not had to make one from scratch before. Instead of stressing over how to be entirely original, just recall your favorite lessons by your instructors and copy those. There is no shame in copying a good thing here.

End with live training and people will forget your minor mistakes.

As long as you make people break a sweat and put in some good rounds of rolling, most students will forgive minor mistakes. Keep an eye on who is partnered with who if you have any concerns about safety.

As you can probably tell, the trick to starting as a new instructor is the same as it is with anything: start simple, don’t overcomplicate it, and copy someone who knows better when you’re unsure what to do.