Teaching: It’s All in the Timing

Photo by Duy Takes


If one of your BJJ goals is to become a great BJJ instructor, it can be hard to know where to start, much less how to improve. However, there’s one skill I learned as a classroom teacher that I’ve transferred to the mats, helping me feel at ease and confident in my path to improving as an instructor.

Importance of class time management

Let’s be honest: One of the main reasons folks come to BJJ class is to roll. Not having enough time to roll is the number one thing students complain about, and the fastest way that students start to doubt the instructor’s ability to conduct a “good” class. The best way to maintain – and improve – students’ trust in you as an instructor is to focus on time management, particularly in making sure there’s ample time for rolling.

Additionally, mastering time management unlocks unique opportunities to develop as an instructor. Make a schedule and stick to it.This can lead you to work on skills like succinctly explaining concepts or redirecting questions or discussions in a way that allows the class to flow smoothly.

Improving your class time management 

Just like starting anything new in BJJ, it will take time to get used to things, both for you and students.  The sign-in system, the paperwork, actually standing in front of the class are just a few things that will feel awkward, especially if you first started at your gym as a regular student.

To ease the transition and help you focus on time management, start with simply maintaining the status quo.  Keep the same class structure and the same curriculum.  In fact, repeat something that was already taught before.  Reviewing a past lesson is a win-win situation for everyone: You get to teach something you’re familiar with, those who’ve never learned it get exposure, and those who’ve already learned it get to learn it anew through you. 

Using the existing class structure also makes it easy to focus on class time management. The key is identifying the most important part of class and protecting it as best you can. In the case of a BJJ class, rolling is the most important event. Everything else – warm ups, drills, etc. – must be managed in a way that protects that time.

Assessing your time management in terms of how well you are protecting rolling time can lead to self-improvement as an instructor. Let’s say you had a class where you cut ten minutes into sparring time. Perhaps teaching the technique of the day took longer than expected. Why? Were you rambling on because you were nervous? Because you didn’t quite understand the technique? This kind of questioning can unlock the underlying areas for you to improve. For example, you could look into developing your public-speaking skills or deepening your BJJ knowledge in that particular technique.

 If you were able to stick to your schedule, ask yourself, “Where can I shave 1 minute off and add it to sparring? What would need to change to shave that 1 minute?”  Do you cut one of the exercises or warm ups? How do you choose which warm up to cut?  This can lead you to focusing on lesson design and even curriculum planning.  If you want to go a step further, you can even film yourself and review the footage to identify other opportunities for improvement.

Teaching yourself to teach

It is challenging for instructors to know how they can improve. However, by focusing on class time management, you can uncover your specific strengths and weaknesses and work towards a teaching style that is not only unique to you, but also shares your joy of BJJ..




Jess Bertubin

Staff Writer

About the author: Jess is a light feather purple belt based in Brooklyn, NY.  More thoughts on BJJ, including her Training Without A Gym technique series, can be found on her blog Rolling With the Big Boys


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