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Is Coaching Fellow Students Ever A Good Idea?

Is Coaching Fellow Students Ever A Good Idea?


Ideas on giving advice on the mats...

There is nothing worse than seeing two white belts coaching each other on technique. Yet, there is nothing better than receiving a pointer from someone who you respect; feedback from higher belts has been huge in fixing holes in my game. Certainly feedback is a key component to growth. Many of us have not yet reached the rank of black belt but are past white belt. Where do you draw the line on what is in good taste and what is embarrassing when offering advice for those of us between black and white belts?

The first thing to be wary of is giving unsolicited advice. If someone sees that you can offer value they will generally ask you a question. There is nothing worse than being about to finish a submission and someone stops to tell you how to finish the submission that you caught them in. I train at a bigger school that is primarily nogi. I say nothing with feedback unless asked. Even if I feel I could add value I do not want to make the mistake of coaching an upper belt or giving information to a lower belt that does not want to hear it. I am always happy to help someone but want to be mindful of the value that I can deliver.

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The second thing to be wary of is timing. It is never appropriate to give advice while your instructor is teaching.  It is disrespectful to the instructor and fellow students. Another component of timing may be when training at another school. I was visiting a sister school one time and after class a couple other students kept asking me questions about techniques. My response was, “I am sure your coach has a way better answer but this is something that has worked for me.” Simply put, you may have the best value in the world to provide but if it is done in a disrespectful manner then that is a mistake.

Third, it is just as important on how you say something as what you say. Perhaps you genuinely feel someone is coming to you for help and the time is appropriate. There is no need to be a tool about it. Jiu jitsu is a brotherhood. Be the kind of brother you would want to have. Just as every move is carefully considered, our words should be the same.

Fourth, if someone violates this etiquette with you, there is no need to scold them or remind them of your many grappling accomplishments. Just let the roll speak for you. If someone feels the need to help you through class because they understand the moves of the day better than you even though you have not seen them in 3 years then you should smile and say nothing.  Inevitably, when it is time to roll, your skills will do the talking.

Giving advice on the mats, like life, is a nuanced situation. Jiu Jitsu is a brotherhood. We all want the best for our training partners. However, if etiquette is not followed it can be disrespectful and embarrassing.  Help your fellow training partners. Yet make sure there is value to be delivered in the appropriate time with a good natured manner.

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