Train With Old Master or Young Phenom Competitor?

There was an interesting topic on a bjj internet forum where the question posed was:
“If you could choose between 2 different bjj schools…”

School A – The head instructor was an older master. Over 45 or 50 years of age (think Relson Gracie or Pedro Sauer).
More “old school” style of jiu-jitsu with a greater focus on the basic techniques (with advanced details) and self defence styled curriculum.
Instructor is older and doesn’t roll much with the students due to age and accumulated injuries.
Instructor is a virtual encyclopedia of jiu-jitsu knowledge.

School B – The head instructor is a younger , elite competitor in his 20s, possibly a well known name on the world championship level.
Still training and actively competing (think Andre Galvao or the Mendes brothers).
The school is filled with like minded young competitors with emphasis on sports bjj techniques and positions.
Techniques are “state of the art”, cutting edge new Bjj 2.0 and successful in competition.
The head instructor rolls with everyone and can tap everyone in the room.

Given the hypothetical choice, which school would you choose?

The answers on the bjj forum were decidedly slanted in favour of instructor A – the old school instructor.
Most of the reasons centred around the student being more interested in how the instructor could help their own jiu-jitsu learning and were less concerned with the titles the instructor had previously won.
Most expressed the opinion that older instructors were likely better teachers and could explain the techniques and concepts better.

Out of curiosity I asked the students on the mat one day at bjj class: Can you name the competitor who won the Absolute division at the Mundials last week?
Nobody knew the answer. Few of the students followed sport bjj.

Rener Gracie had a great quote:
“It doesn’t matter what the instructor can do TO you. It matters what the instructor can do FOR you.”

Now, it is a mistake to assume that because an instructor is younger that he can not teach well.
I have observed younger competitors explain positions with impressive detail and clarity.

I have trained at both types of schools and both have produced great students.

Training with the younger, competitor I had the opportunity to roll with him as often as I wanted.
I learned things about bjj from feeling and directly experiencing them (some painfully!).

Jiu-jitsu is an art that is FEEL oriented. I could feel his pressure, weight distribution and how effective grips and hooks were.
These are subtleties that are difficult to communicate through direct instruction.
I could say after the roll while gasping to regain my breath “I felt you do this when you had side control. Why did you do that?” and learn through what happened in the rolls.

While I didn’t roll with the older master, he was able to distill the complex into the simple.
He had the ability to both make the complex simple (“the secret of the choke is to put his shoulder ON the GROUND!”) and also give many details on how precisely to execute a technique.

Which type of instructor would you prefer to train under?

read also: “How hard should a student roll with his professor?


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