Reader Question: Should I pick an instructor that is the same size as me?

Reader questions keep Jiu Jitsu Times interesting. They give us an opportunity to give back to the jiu jitsu community by sharing our experiences.  We recently received this question from one of our readers:

“When looking for a gym to train BJJ, should I go with an instructor who is the same size as me since his techniques will work for our physiques?”

I will do my best to answer this question based on my personal experiences in jiu jitsu.

I’ve been training off and on for many years and have trained under different instructors of different sizes and shapes.  My current instructor is  former wrestler who favors wrestling.  I am 6’2 and 205 pounds; he is 5’8 or 5’9 and about 165 pounds.  We have VERY different games

Here’s the thing: he goes out of his way to cater to what I want/need.  He will find techniques to teach me that I have never seen him go for, and that’s because he’s a good coach.  I’d prefer a good coach of a very different body type to a good instructor of the exact same body type.

At the end of the day, you want someone who knows how to connect with you, and physical dimensions don’t necessarily have any bearing on that.

There are however some benefits to having an instructor of the same size, as well as benefits to having one of very different dimensions.

An instructor who is the same size as you is more likely to play and intimately understand a game catered to your body type, so definitely bear that in mind while picking a gym.

An instructor of a vastly different build can also be beneficial, though.  As you spend time on the mat, you will inevitably develop your own game, and having a high level practitioner who favors a game that is completely different than yours will help you get different “looks” while rolling.  It’s all a mixed bag.

Also remember that the smaller and weaker people are, the more likely they are to have developed fantastic technique, something that should be valued in any instructor.  The smaller and weaker your instructor, the more he or she will be able to help you beat people larger and stronger than you, even if you yourself are much bigger and stronger.

My best advice to anyone shopping for a gym is to visit many gyms and instructors before picking one.  See which environment seems to have the best “feel.”  The instructors ultimately should be good leaders, which has nothing to do with their build.

Remember, jiu jitsu is a mental art first. Physicality is an afterthought. Don’t turn a place down just because the instructor is built differently than you.

In jiu jitsu, there are very few absolutes, and certainly there are no rules about body types.

Go with whatever feels right.


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