Of the numerous BJJ academies I have trained at and visited, only a fraction structured classes according to a set curriculum.
The academies that did use a curriculum — most notably the original Gracie Barra in Rio de Janeiro — had a more thorough approach to teaching a more balanced jiu-jitsu.
At first when I see the structure of a curriculum I think, “Oh that is inflexible. The instructor has no room for creativity!”. Jiu-jitsu is not like memorizing multiplication tables.
That isn’t true. The way the curriculum worked in the advanced classes at Gracie Barra was a week would be “Side Mount Escapes”. Now within those guidelines, the instructor could read the level of the students and teach something appropriate to their experience level.
The real strength of the curriculum is in two often neglected aspects of jiu-jitsu:
1) Giving students goals.
Most of us are goal-oriented people. We set goals based on a vision of where we want to go and step by step work at reaching them. Having no plan (or curriculum) is akin to driving around without a map and hoping that you will arrive somewhere good.
A curriculum is especially helpful for new students to assemble the hundreds of BJJ techniques into an understandable order. The instructor may say, “Just focus on these 20 techniques at this time in your training. Don’t worry about the others for now.”
2) Teaching all of the positions in a progressive methodology.
This is perhaps the most important benefit of a structured curriculum. All of the positions, including self-defense and takedowns, must be covered over the course of a several month training period.
I have seen BJJ classes where the instructor taught what they had seen in a YouTube video or the UFC the night before. While this may be interesting in the short term, it is not the best way to teach a complex skill like jiu-jitsu.
Worse is when the instructor is bored and teaches what he is interested in. The experienced instructor may be in love with berimbolos and want to specialize for the next month, but that is clearly not the best thing for the newer students who need to learn “boring” positions like knee-to-elbow escape from the mount.
A curriculum ensures that an instructor doesn’t fall into the rut of teaching only positions they like.
Here is an example of the 16-week curriculum structure I use that covers all of the major positions in BJJ.
2) Mount Bottom
3) Rear mount
4) Rear mount Bottom
5) Guard Top
6) Guard Bottom
7) Knee on Belly / Knee on Belly Bottom
8) Side control
9) Side control Bottom
10) Half Mount
11) Half Guard Bottom
12) Turtle Top
13) Turtle Bottom
14) Guard Top
15) Guard Bottom
16) Electives (ex. Self defense)
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