How I Measure Student’s Abilities…The 3 C’s

  1. Comprehension
  2. Cooperation
  3. Competition

The Lab

The jiu-jitsu mats are my laboratory. It is where I grow as an instructor and forever remain a student. It is where I pass on knowledge acquired through almost two decades of practice. It is where I experiment and develop to insure students learn efficiently, quickly, and become the best they can be.

I believe instructors must have a continuously open mind in order to learn, to change, and to grow. Complacency usually leads to failure and I intend to use “The BJJ Lab”as a place where knowledge and goal achieving is accomplished.

The Belts

The belts of jiu-jitsu have always had a mystique. For so long, there were few that could provide answers as to what each belt meant. Over time, some common grounds were met and there seems to be a general understanding or feel of what each belt encompasses.

I believe there is always room for improvement on the instructor side. I hold myself to the highest standards and place “deadlines” on my student’s progression. I refuse to allow myself to become complacent. I do not believe in testing. Testing forces students to prepare for the test. To be externally motivated. It’s okay, but their improvement of skill, comprehension, and retention, may not be up to standard. They performed and executed the test, but may not have connected the circuits for the long term. The test is every day in practice. I believe that a student’s full potential and growth can only be met if I do the job I am supposed to.

For the past few years, I have evolved as a teacher. I have matured and developed new ideas and a new outlook on life and BJJ. I realized that for so long, I was grading my students poorly, and perhaps, slowing their progression by not having a “perfect” evaluation standard. Each person is different, so each evaluation, must be different.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Einstein

The THREE C’s: Comprehension

As the student evolves, I start to look at the following for “Comprehension” assessment:

  1. Efficiency of movement – Slowly, you will become more in tune and aware of your movement. Graceful, precise, accurate, and composed.
  2. Verbal understanding – When I say “Omoplata” do you go for a foot lock? As you learn more, you learn what is what, who is who, and how things are happening. The language of jiu-jitsu and the awareness of its terminology will help coagulate your techniques and progression.
  3. Training ethics – Your understanding of the art has very much to do with how you conduct yourself on and off the mats. When you understand jiu-jitsu, you understand how to train, how to drill for improvement, and how to work harder or smarter. Also, your comprehension is shown through your ability to “step on the gas or step on the break.” As you get better, you get hurt less, you have less negligence, and you are not the root of accidental injuries. You just get it.
  4. Rolling – I base rolling performance on multiple factors: age, size, years training, and physical handicaps. A 20-year-old, 235 lb, former wrestler, with a year of training is vastly different from a 50-year-old, overweight, individual working her butt off with one year of training. Their rolling performance will differ, and their “comprehension” will also differ. Rolling performance is looked upon from an individual standpoint. I am not only grading the person on her improving dominance on the mat, but also, on her personal and individual growth.

The THREE C’s: Cooperation

Your ability to work with partners, re-teach students,  and share information is crucial to development. If you are constantly basing your skill set off of your “grappling performance and tap ratios,” you are missing some important lessons.

When it comes to increasing knowledge, improving yourself, and becoming the best version of “you”, cooperation is crucial. Teamwork is essential.

Imagine a team environment that bases its grading solely off of winning and losing. This environment will slowly become one of keeping secrets, withholding information, and hoping that your practice partners get worse so you can continue to “win”. The problem is nobody wins. This has happened quite often in the BJJ community and happens in every art and sport and every part of life.

An environment, where people are motivated to improve themselves but understand the need for others to improve in order for that to happen, is the most successful. Everybody wins. I care about your rolling and “tap ratio” and love to see you submitting your training partners. But it really is only a small piece of the giant puzzle.

I want people to be intrinsically motivated. Motivated by the desire to grow to become better at the art. Motivation externally, by reward (belt, tapping others) is okay, but it plays a small role in how I view progression.

You might be able to submit people, but lack understanding.

You are getting better, but nobody wants to train with you.

You are strong, but not smooth.

The moral is: worry about being better than the day before and much better than the day you walked in. The rest will fall into place. Your partners will improve and their growth will keep you climbing the mountain and avoid plateauing.

The THREE C’s: Competition

Do you compete a lot? Are you 18-30. Want to be a world champ? If that is the case, then you will be evaluated on competitive performance a bit more. You should be in a challenging but correct division in each tournament.

As a competitor, you must be placed in the ideal divisions. If you are a purple belt with brown belt comprehension and cooperation, but you  cannot come close to catching a brown belt in a match, you might get held back.

Essentially, a coach needs to help the sport competitor win. The coach must place more assessment on grappling and competing  performance, more than he or she does with others.


There are so many factors that go into measuring a students abilities. A tough, challenging, and empowering art like jiu-jitsu leaves a lot of room for emotions and disappointments. Most of these hardships are due to people comparing themselves to others. You could believe that you are better because you tapped a higher rank. Some might even feel undeserving of their rank.

Don’t let this be you.

  • Keep improving yourself.
  • Keep a reminder as to who you were when you started.
  • Become the best training partner in the room and cooperate to learn more effectively.
  • Compete with yourself to do better. It’s lifelong journey.
  • It will always be there for you.
  • Don’t let the ego control you. Keep going!


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