Are Private Lessons Worthwhile for Your BJJ?
There are a few commonly accepted ways to improve your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most involve an overall increase in mat time. These include, attending additional classes, staying after class to do extra live training, drilling or both, attending seminars, investing in BJJ instructional resources like DVD or streaming videos, and taking private sessions. Arguably, taking private lessons will be the most costly option out of that list, so let's take a look at some pros and cons of private lessons. It is the general opinion of this blogger that ANY time on the mats is more valuable than time off the mats, but there are some key considerations that should be made before you decide if private lessons are right for you.
The Downside of Private Lessons
Cost of Private Lessons
In my experience, the average BJJ school or academy can range from a relatively inexpensive $75 per month to $250 per month. This is just a range and a lot of factors go into the overall cost of BJJ lessons. The level or credentials of the instructor and the geographic area where the school is located are typically the biggest determining factors of the cost of tuition. In comparison, in my experience, private lesson prices I have seen have ranged from around $50/hour all the way up to $1000/hour.
While that is quite a range to consider, there are a number of factors to take into account. Many high level competitors make a decent living with seminar tours and often like to supplement the main session with additional private or semi-private sessions. The expense of a private lesson, though daunting, can be much better rationalized when you understand that for a full period of time, usually an hour, you are the sole focus of the instructor. Everything shared is directly meant to impact your personal game. Though general class is always going to be beneficial for your development, that direct attention increases the overall intensity and impact of the lesson. You are also doing a great deal to help support the grappler or competitor that you are taking the lesson from by engaging them in a private lesson. The BJJ economy is something that is growing much slower than in other sports, so look at it as supporting it's athletes.
Accessibility of Private Lessons
Some instructors or academies don't offer private lessons, or they may not have instructors that want to teach them. Or if you are looking to learn from some of the high level jiu jitsu athletes out there, you may need to travel to them or wait for them to conduct a seminar tour and come your way. For this reason, the overall availability of private lessons may be a challenge.
The Upside of Private Lessons
Personalization of Private Lessons
One of the biggest upsides to a private lesson is the undivided attention that you and your BJJ development will receive. Whereas in a general class, your instructor and coaches may be able to help guide and direct you. During a private, you will be able to ask specific questions that relate to your game, your goals and your development. In a typical, one hour private, your instructor may be able to clear up or fix 3-4 "holes" or areas of concern.
You should have a few areas or questions to guide the instructor on how to help you. In some cases, the instructor may 'roll' with you to perform and more hands on assessment of where they might be able to help you.
Focus of Private Lessons
In a general class, with a mixed variety of belt levels in the class, it is important for the instructor to create an environment that is able to engage everyone, from the white belt to the highest level in the class. In a private session, you will be able to dig deeper into the nuances of a technique or position and explore variations that there may not be time for in the general class. As your instructor of the private lesson begins addressing some of your questions, you may be pleasantly surprised to end up going down a rabbit hole and deep dive into aspects of a position or technique that could impact the development of your game forever.
Specialization of Private Lessons
Private lessons allow you to seek out positional specialists and give you an opportunity to pick their brains and learn from the best in their particular area of specialization. If leg locks are something you are looking to learn more about, you might seek out a member of the Danaher Death Squad, Dean Lister or perhaps Craig Jones, the Australian breakout star.
If you were looking to improve your half guard game, you might seek out world champion competitors like Tom DeBlass or Bernardo Faria. In either case, both of these athletes are known for these particular positions and can help distill years of work into your lesson to get you on the right path.
Private lessons can be a valuable addition to your BJJ training and development. They are not inexpensive, but what price do you put on the development of your BJJ game? A one hour private lesson can give you tips and techniques that could hockey stick your development and save you months or years of trial and error. Are they absolutely necessary? Absolutely not. One can become an excellent practitioner through diligent class attendance, drilling and lots of live training. There is also an element of celebrity involved in private lessons with a favorite grappler and competitor. What price do you put on the opportunity to learn and train with someone you've looked up to or emulated? Reach out to them via social media or via their management and set something up and be prepared for a game changing hour.
Sometimes the next best thing to private lessons is seeking out instructional materials like DVD and On Demand streaming videos. There in the privacy of your home, you can view and review the techniques and positions and then bring them to the mats to practice with your training partners. If you want to learn more about the sweep game of Leonardo "Cascao" Saggioro, you can check out his "Sweep the World" series on sale now at BJJ Fanatics and available here!