Should You Pay Assistant Instructors in Jiu-Jitsu?

Right now the academy does not have much disposable income but their assistants have been volunteering for a while now and are asking to be paid.
This is a common question I get asked a lot so I decided to clear the air on exactly how to build a payment program for martial arts assistants…

Don’t Pay Assistants

Yes, that is the first and easiest step. And before I get a bunch of hate mail let me explain to you… I was once a blue belt that volunteered for the better part of 5 years. I too felt like I should be paid for my time. I did not and I was wrong.
Not only did I not get paid but I did not receive a discount on my membership. I literally had to scrape change and work odd jobs for the gas to get to practice…. and it was the best decision I ever made.
The turning point was reading a book by Napoleon Hill Think Big and Grow Rich. One of the chapters in the book is along the lines of “Always work for more than you are paid for.”
To be frank I quit bitching about being paid and started doubling down on my volunteer work. I literally volunteered every class I wasn’t already training in. Kids, Fundamentals, Womens, etc.
Fast forward to now, everything I have in my life, from teaching at the GB Headquarters, to owning a financial firm, to having the experience to write this article, is a direct result of the experience I gained being a long-time volunteer.
For more on how to make more money teaching martial arts, click here.

Start With Parents of Students

The majority of my assistants are the parents of students in the class I’m teaching. They are waiting for their class anyway… why not bring them on the mat. Trust me, it’s an honor for them to help out in the class.
That said, relying on an assistant to show up on any given day can be a pain (whether you pay them or not). That is why it is crucial to structure your class in a way that it is efficient enough to run by yourself or with one assistant.
Another option is to incorporate students from the more senior classes to help out. In every class we run we have 1 or 2 students from the next class helping out. They are often here anyway waiting for either there siblings or parents to get done training so why not help out.
And what better form of leadership development than being able to say you could lead an entire class as a teenager.
It can be tough to get people to show up at first but if you stick to your guns before you know it you will have more volunteers than you know what to do with.
We are at the point now where you have to be a senior student or at least a Blue Belt adult to help out in our class.

Be Upfront from the Start

The problem that some instructors have is that they give the impression that there will be a paid gig available to them in the future instead of explaining the value of being a volunteer.
I have been a part of paying assistants in the past and I can honestly say that it creates more problems than it fixes. Now that we just have a couple dedicated volunteers the classes have never ran smoother.
Be clear to the students from the get-go what the value in being an assistant is. Create structure that allows for continued growth and increased responsibility over time.
Example of Simple Assistant Instructor Progression:
  1. Get the class down
  2. Run the warmup
  3. Teach a class element
  4. Run the sparring
  5. Run a class
  6. Teach one day/week
  7. Welcome new students
  8. Run an intro class
  9. Learn the sales process
An assistant should feel a constant sense of progression no different from their own training that facilitates their hunger for knowledge.
$10/hr, $15/hr, $20/hr is nothing compared to the true experience you can offer someone by creating a dynamic volunteering program.
I might not be an advocate for paying an assistant but I want to give them so much knowledge that they could leave tomorrow and start their own academy, but know they won’t because of the atmosphere you’ve created.

When to Pay

While fundamentally I do not think it is necessary to pay an assistant instructor there are times when it makes sense.
If the disposable income is available and you have a kid that is grinding his way through college… throw him a bone.
Charity is one thing but just remember what I said: paying instructors can create more problems than they solve. We all know the adage about how money ruines relationships.. well it can be no different in running a Jiu-Jitsu academy.
When money gets involved problems tend to arise, feelings get hurt, and people who otherwise would have been life-long evangelists.
For more information on building out a strong community at your academy and creating a massive referral network, check out my latest article here. 

Class Management

Often times instructors and school owners think they need assistant instructors when in reality what they need is a more efficient class structure.
I put together an article and video to go along with this post to go more in depth on how to structure an efficient class so you won’t need a bunch of assistants.

For more on:

  • Building a budget
  • Saving strategies
  • Debt reduction
  • Common financial blunders
  • What the wealthy do differently
  • And much more

Download my Master Your Money Training Manual. It’s an easy read and if you follow the link you’ll get it for FREE.




  1. Illegal practices dressed up in moralistic self righteousness. BJJ is the new MLM. Master has got to get income streams going to support the lifestyle. Fairly typical reasoning from people in the Irvine area. Lots of shady financial types, hangovers from the MBS era, all looking for the next fad to exploit. BJJ is on the menu.


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