Monday, February 6, 2012

BJJ And The Mentor System

This post is going to tie in somewhat with my previous post about what I value in the various belt levels and will help explain why I have the expectations that I do.

When I first started training jiujitsu I constantly felt lost on the mats. Not just with techniques, but with mat etiquette, and the way the class flow worked. It took weeks to really settle into how things were done and there was still plenty of confusion. Based on all of the posts on JJ Forums and elsewhere from noobs with similar concerns this is a common theme.

When I got my blue belt and a few new students started at the gym I picked a couple of them and helped guide them through the classes, answered their questions, showed them basics, and then continued to help them develop their games. I became the person they could ask questions of when they weren't relevant to the current class. I also had the time to help them go into more detail about their game and how it worked and what they wanted to do. I was there to help them get over rough patches and frustration and to congratulate them on their triumphs. I very much became a BJJ Mentor for a couple of guys. They have since gotten their blue belts and are getting to the point where they will be mentoring people as well.

How does this tie into my previous ramblings about teaching proficiency requirements for belt ranks you may ask? Well, I believe that the mentoring system should be actively developed and encouraged within jiujitsu schools. Each purple or blue belt should have a pair of white belts to help guide through class and to answer very basic questions. Each Brown belt should have 3-5 blue and purple belts that they mentor through developing their game and navigating the pitfalls that come with developing into a complete jiujitsuka.

Putting a mentoring system like this in place helps everyone get the most out of their training. Lower belts get more personally tailored attention, while upper belts get chances to use one of the most powerful learning tools in anyone's arsenal, Teaching. While you are being mentored as a white, blue and purple belt you learn HOW to mentor others. Then when you begin mentoring you get to hone those skills. By the time a brown belt is ready for their black belt teaching has become a natural part of their development.

Having a mentor also removes a lot of the stress and anxiety that many people feel when attending class. The idea that they will do something stupid without knowing it because of ignorance is alleviated when you know someone is standing there to help you through everything and explain things.

Of course it takes balance. If you spend too much time helping your Mentee and not enough time working on your own development then you will lose out. You have to strike the right balance between personal development and Mentoring and it's the responsibility of YOUR Mentor or your coach to help you strike that balance. In this respect having a Mentee can be really handy as well though, you have a ready made training partner to work your developing game on while at the same time helping them to develop.

The entire system is, to me, something that many BJJ schools and students would benefit from, and would lead to better instruction over all.


  1. I agree. Having a buddy system would be great. And if your coach DOES have some sort of teaching requirement (such as Ray Elbe), this could even work for teaching extremely basic jiu jitsu, such as how to do an armbar or guard passing.

    Teaching aside, it works on the level of potentially making someone feel more comfortable - you have someone who is your ally.

    I like it. They did it at my college and I could absolutely see it working in the jiu jitsu context as well.

    Nice post!

  2. I am sooooo thankful this happens. At my school, almost all of the higher belts are helping someone at some point during the class. Many times it is me! lol