BJJ instruction: Quality can not be faked!

Jiu Jitsu equips us for life.

I recently listened to a brilliant interview with Hollywood actor and BJJ black belt under Sean Patrick Flanery on InsideBJJ where he said that he wouldn't trade the knowledge, confidence and relationships he built on the path to the black belt for a suitcase of 50 million dollars or even more. I am not a BJJ black belt so I can't say I completely know where he's coming from but sometimes things happen in life that give me a glimpse of the inner values of jiu jitsu.

I had a yoga session on Wednesday. Nothing new here, as Wednesday lunch time is the usual time our work gym has yoga on the schedule. The only difference is that our Uber-competent gym manager is leaving for a bigger, more challenging role at another location so after interviews she has handed over the duties to a new gym manager. Today, she was not in and he took all the classes and duties, yoga included.

Within seconds I could sense that this was going to be a very different yoga session. I immediately told myself that different is not necessarily bad so let's rock and roll and see where this is going. Within 10 minutes, however, my suspicions were confirmed and within 20 I was ready to get up and leave (which I didn't by the by, out of politeness). Why do I say that? Because I was still cold yet he was putting me in weird positions with very little in the way of instructions and details that make yoga the magical discipline that it is.

Here are a few tell-tales:

1. His workout music was cheesy and cliché of what a non oriental would associate with the orient. I think that was the first thing that put me off.
2. He closed his eyes a lot. I didn't mind him encouraging US to close our eyes but I don't feel he, as the instructor and the one in charge of our safety and prgoress in yoga, should be closing his eyes!
3. He dragged out the words. A LOT! I kept thinking about Phoebe in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and how sheee would tallllk about the meadowwwwws!
4. He didn't guide and control the room. At one point, I was facing the north, the girl in front me was facing the mirrors while the dude next to me was facing... me! Imagine the confusion when he said "and now we turn our hips to face forward"!
5. He did no warm-up. No sun salutations, no vinyasa...etc. We basically walked in, did a quasi meditative pose for a few breaths then started stretching
6. There was no tangible sequence to his actions. One minute we're on the floor stretching the back, the other we're stretching the calves and then the upper back and chest.
7. Some of the instructions were straight-up flawed and dangerous. I am no yoga expert, but karate and jiu jitsu (and medical school) have taught me one or two things about how the body works.
8. When he said "vertebra (sing.)" he pronounced it "vertebrae (plur.)"! That really bugged me!
9. He wasted a disproportionate amount of time in Shavasana
10. His instructions on most yoga positions were very sketchy
11. Some of the positions were recognisable as yoga postures

I could go on but you get the point.

After the session, I asked some of the participants what they thought. I didn't want to spoil their fun so I didn't just volunteer my opinion but rather just wanted to know what they took out of the session. To my surprise, many of them said they thought it was fine and, as far as they could see, it was no different from the usual yoga session held my our previous gym manager.

Thinking about it, my attention to detail and quality control is something I got from the martial arts. As a beginner, I didn't know the difference between a good technique, a mediocre technique or, to be honest, a crap technique. I did as I was told and didn't know better.

"Why do we stand like this?"
"because it's a stronger stance"

What do I know?!

I know what great jiu jitsu instruction looks like:

With Jiu Jitsu (and at the higher levels, Karate) you quickly realise what's detailed and thorough, quality instruction that stems from years of experience and what has been learned from a book / dvd / YouTube half an hour before the session.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has given me a nice measuring stick I can use to assess the quality of any teacher or instructor and see thru the shut eyes, flowery movements and countless "AOM" chants.



Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

Proudly sponsored by Predator Fightwear: Built for the kill and Brutal TShirt: Made By Grapplers For Fighters

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