Teaching – I Feel Like I Suck At It

Long story, but the result is that I was teaching last night. I feel like I still suck at teaching.

When I’m 1-on-1 with someone I can tailor the lesson/details to their experience and questions. I can feel them perform the technique so I can know what they need to tighten up and help advise with that in mind. I can also elaborate on more points progressively based on what they need to work on.

When I’m in front of a mixed group – ranging in experience from first week to four-stripe blue belt – I just don’t even know where to start. If I show the technique with too many details, won’t the new students be overwhelmed? If I show the technique without enough details, is it really worth the advanced students time? I feel like for most of the students, I didn’t provide enough details. I realized after class a ton of information I should have shared with them, but didn’t – for example, why you turn the leg you do for S-mount and how to use it to keep pressure.

When doing warm-ups, I tried to help one of the students learn them, but I flubbed it. He was able to do what I had described, but my description was clearly lacking. Andrew and Todd helped out by explaining what they think of. The amalgam of explanations wasn’t perfect, but at least he was able to do a couple of correct repetitions before we moved on to the next exercise. I think my solution will be to just do that kind of a warm-up solely for experienced students, and if it’s a mixed group instead jump into technique reps, then do a situational flow drill to address the need to warm-up before we roll.

I think I’d be fine to teach with someone more experienced to be there to fill in the details about what to show. I’m always fine showing a variation in class. I just don’t think I have the confidence or experience yet for teaching on my own.


Purple Belts Quit Because Their Heart Gets Broken

Watching some Chris Haueter videos today, and this stood out to me:

“Blue belts quit because life happens. They get a new job, they move, they get married, whatever it is. Purple belts quit because their heart gets broken – about jits. Somehow… it’s the obstacle belt. It’s the belt where it just doesn’t seem like you’re getting any better…”

There’s a lot of nuggets of wisdom in this video if you start from the beginning. I like his overview of what each belt is about. I disagree with his implication that judo focuses on strength rather than efficiency – sport judo does, but the art of judo doesn’t (judo very much has street, sport, and art components too). Still, overall it’s an excellent video.

To the note of why people quit, I think that’s pretty profound. It’s pretty often that life comes up, gets in the way. You move, you get a new job, you get married, you have a kid. Life is constantly vying for your time. I know I personally have to keep re-evaluating my schedule. How do I get to BJJ and judo enough to progress in each, while still being at home enough to actually see my family? Getting to purple belt takes commitment. By the time you get it, you’ve determined that BJJ is important enough that you’ll make time for it. You’ve probably sacrificed another hobby, hanging out with friends, or even some family events. Training means keeping a schedule.

I’m kind of afraid of having my heart broken. I’ve had a ton of injuries. I remember other times where I desperately cared about the recognition of a rank, or where rank would matter for what I could or couldn’t do. I can’t increase in judo referee rank without getting two more ranks in judo; including learning/performing kata and all the throws of the shodan test, but now having to do so modified for all of my permanent and semi-permanent injuries. Honestly, it’s pretty frustrating. I know that had I delayed the break for the wedding by a couple weeks I’d already by ikkyu rather than nikkyu since so much of it comes down to time in rank. I also know that most of my time away from judo or BJJ has been of my own volition. The clubs have been around – I’ve been the one that’s absent. Still, it’s been awhile since I hit that wall, and I’m pretty sure hitting it after eight years of BJJ would suck so much worse than hitting it after just a couple years.

In Defense of The IJF

It’s easy to bash the IJF. It’s easy to be upset about the rule changes. Still, there are a couple of things which are important to note. First, the IJF does a lot of good and we should give credit where it’s due. Second, the IJF isn’t some cabal of guys hanging out in an underground bunker in Europe – it’s a federation with member organizations which themselves are comprised of clubs and individual members (which probably includes you).

Overall, I think we’d all agree the national governing bodies and the IJF do more good than harm. The IJF is a non-profit organization. They’re not fleecing us out of money for a couple guys to get rich (that I know of). It streams the major judo events for free. In the US, USJI provides insurance to judo and jujitsu clubs, helps pay for athletes as able, and helps connect judoka together. Keeping records of ranks, running tournaments, training referees, and setting guidelines keep us honest about what we’re teaching and learning. Popularizing the sport keeps new people coming in to the club to keep the lights on.

Remember that you as a judoka are (probably) a member of the IJF in some fashion. As you grow in judo you have the option to take on as major or minor a role in the direction of the sport as you’re willing to. You can learn to referee. You can help run tournaments. If you have a regional or local body you can participate in the equivalent of local government and vote on topics and representatives. If you want to help determine the direction of the rules you can work hard at refereeing and eventually get to a place where you’ll probably know the right people to talk with regards to influencing that kind of change. And even if you don’t do that, you can still help determine how your club trains by working hard and becoming an instructor.

I’ll still complain here and there, mind you. The rules tend to drive how clubs practice so losing leg grabs and the lowered emphasis on ground work are things that I think we can point to the IJF for being responsible for. However, sport rules shouldn’t really determine how a club trains, and if you want to train something that’s not competition legal it’s not like the IJF is coming to your club to stop you.