There will always be one or two athletes in any class no matter how terrible the Instructor is, who will get better using the material presented. I would offer that these individuals get better despite the Instruction, and certainly not due to it.
At the very least I think we can confidently say that given a more proper teaching method, not only do all the students on the mat get better, poor athletes and good athletes the same, but so do the natural ‘star’ students. As JFK said, “a rising tide raises all boats”. If the whole group is getting better, then every individual athletes game evolves as well. As such, I am always focusing on the best ways to teach the majority, not just the already gifted minority.
This brings me to another point, I am always using the example of brand new students when talking about these teaching methods. I am assuming in these examples a group of people who have had no prior BJJ or grappling experience. Again, if you are working with a room full of solid blue belts, everything becomes much easier. The points I made above, may in this case seem far less critical. However, common sense again tells us that if the suggestions above make a big difference when working with brand new people (and I assure you from 18 Years of fulltime teaching, day in and day out that they do), then they will also help more advanced athletes, blues, purples, brown belts as well.
When I am teaching my Instructor courses for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu BJJ, and Mixed Martial Arts MMA, and the lowest skill level of the students is at least high blue or purple, I still follow the same progressions I listed above. I still teach things in the order they arise on the mat, in the order in which I want them used (habits), and I don’t create problems that have not arisen yet.
Often times this means that I begin a class that I am teaching to purple belts (as an example) with a ten or fifteen minute review of the fundamentals of any given position or posture. After the review I get into the newer material I am interested in working with them. This helps make sure all my advanced belts always stay sharp on the fundamentals of each position themselves, and it also helps remind them of what I want them to do when they are teaching brand new people. And on a side note, it helps keep my own game sharper as well.
It’s easy for a purple or brown belt that is teaching a group of beginners to forget all the things that made a huge difference to him/her when they first started and jump right into a cool submission or counter-movement that they themselves are working on. This often leaves new white belts lost in translation.
By always reviewing the fundamentals in every class, you keep your upper belts reminded of the key points they may otherwise occasionally forget to pass on.
So this is the Introduction stage.
Some key points:
1- Use little to no resistance when introducing the move.
2- Encourage verbal communication between training partners at this stage.
3- Make sure the movement can be done properly without resistance before. proceeding to the drill stage, which for us (SBGi) always incorporates resistance.
Some key points on the material you introduce:
1- Stick the fundamentals of the delivery system being taught.
2- Make sure all the students can perform the move before proceeding, if this process takes more then about 15-20 minutes then the movements are probably to complex at this stage for the level of the group.
3- Introduce the movements in the order in which they occur in an Alive roll.
4- Remember the habits you want your students to develop, and emphasize these points by organizing the order in which you introduce the material, and the amount of time you spend on each piece.
5- Don’t create problems for your students before they arise naturally on the mat.
At SBGi the Introduction stage is always followed by the Isolation stage.
Of everything mentioned above, none of it is actually drilling yet. What we do not want to do is introduce a few new movements/techniques to students, repeat them in some form of dead pattern or repetition, and then roll. That exactly what I am not advocating.
This example of bad teaching is the often known coaching method of “here are a few random movements I just pulled out of my ass, they may, or may not even be related, lets do them a few times without resistance, okay now lets roll”. I have seen far too many teachers run classes this way.
A few final points before we leave the introduction stage.
There are two good ways to know as the teacher when it’s time to move forward into the drilling stage. The first is to look around the room and observe if everyone in the class has the movement. And the second is to listen.
Because we place a lot of emphasis on helping your training partner out at my Gym, and because we encourage verbal communication during the introduction stage, the room is filled with conversations about the movements we are working. Everyone on the mat actively helps his or her partners. This is a great plus for new people, who find themselves in a welcoming environment where students go out of their way to help newcomers. But it also has the added benefit of allowing a smart teacher one more method of telling when it’s time to drill.
By keeping your ears open to the conversations occurring on the mat, you will easily be able to notice if the group as a whole has the movements figured out up to this stage, or if some still need a bit more time. It’s always worth taking the time to walk around the mat and listen to the conversations.
Finally, I usually end the introduction portion of the class with a question and answer period that is related to the material we just worked.
This does two things. One, it allows any final questions to be asked before we enter the drill stage. And two, it lets everyone know in the class that the time for conversation is now ending. We are now moving forward into the timing stage. The part of the class where it’s time to let the body do its thing, and give the mouth a rest.
Between working the technique without resistance (introduction), and rolling live at the end (integration), exists the extremely important drill stage (isolation), and this stage is the key linking point between the techniques/positions/movements introduced to the student in the class, and the entire game (rolling) that occurs at the end of class. And this is the stage I will talk about in our next entry.