Be Coachable!

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Teaching at multiple BJJ academies in different cities and countries, I encounter many different personality types and levels of experience.

The majority of students are both enthusiastic and receptive to technical information.

But not everyone is open to coaching. I call these personality types “uncoachable”.

They are commonly of a modest skill level and know enough jiu-jitsu to be able to dominate smaller and less experienced opponents. Often, they are stronger or more flexible than the average student and rely heavily on those athletic factors to “win” matches.

They also tend to be far more interested in advanced positions like berimbolo, 50/50 guard, and advanced sweeps than basics like passing guard and controlling mount.

Their game is characterized by a handful of more advanced moves, but at the expense of sound fundamentals. They have a few tricks (performed at 100% speed and explosiveness) that are successful against opponents who are smaller and don’t know much.

Their absence of fundamentals becomes glaringly apparent when they are matched with someone of similar size and training experience. When their limited arsenal of fancy tricks is identified and shut down by an opponent with a solid base and posture, they lose their effectiveness and are quickly dominated.

Yet they resist the feedback to develop a more fundamentals-centered game. You can see the skepticism in their eyes as a coach answers their question. It is not the answer they want to hear.

Despite how ineffective their game is against opponents of a similar experience level, they are convinced that they need another advanced variation that few people have seen executed even faster and more explosively than before.

Roger Gracie and Rickson Gracie are both names that you will hear in discussions of who has the greatest jiu-jitsu of all time, and both have relatively basic and effective games.

Yet the uncoachable student fails to grasp this.

World class athletes like George St. Pierre are especially notable for their open attitude in dealing with their coaches. And yet a white belt is resisting advice from a black belt because the information is not as spectacular as a demonstration of Granby rolling on a competition highlight video that they saw on Instagram.

I remember a martial arts parable about a kung fu student who was resisting the advice of his old master one day. The old master called a halt to the lesson and invited the student to join him for a cup of tea.

Chatting, the master poured the tea into the cup of the student until the cup was full and then overflowing. The master continued to pour the tea until the student stopped him and asked him why he did that.

The master replied that it was to illustrate to the student that the student’s mind was full and had no room for further information.

To receive information from a coach and be coachable one must “empty their cup” first.

Always maintain an open, receptive attitude and be coachable.


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