I enjoyed reading what Andre had to say about an instructor’s responsibilities, and it reminded me of another piece I had read recently by Cane Prevost of the Straight Blast Gym in Portland, Oregon. He wrote the 8 main points of what he considers responsive coaching. I’m republishing it because I feel others with benefit from reading it.

Responsive Coaching

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about coaching in BJJ. I spend my day teaching High School, so teaching is a huge part of my life. Coaching and teaching has been rewarding to me in so many ways. I’ve been thinking about a way of coaching I call responsive coaching. All stuff that’s been said on here many times before. Don’t know if anyone is interested in this discussion but it is of interest to me and I thought I’d share some conclusions I’ve come to. I’d like to hear any additions people would make to the list.

1. Have a plan.

Make sure you come into the gym with something specific to work. Sometimes you can wing it, but you will be a much better coach with preparation behind you.

2. Throw out your plan.

I’ve found that many times I need to do just that. Responsive Coaching requires that you adapt as necessary on the fly. There have been many times for me that partway through a class I realize I need to head in a different direction. As a coach I realize that I need to have the flexibility to see that and make adjustments as necessary. Last Monday I was working some plata stuff off the rubber guard. I quickly realized that people were doing some weird stuff with the plata. I dropped the rubber guard part and isolated the plata. Still they didn’t get it so I dropped the plata and went to the entry to the plata and the hip movement. We ended up doing a few different versions of a hip movement drill instead of the lesson I had planned. It was cool to be able to do that and it turned out to be a much better lesson than if I had stuck to the game plan.

3. Test everything!

The I method for me is my most important teaching tool. It has a built in bullshit meter. When I go from introduction to isolation with students I know right away if what I showed them works or not. I find this crucial. If I see problems in isolation stage I know that I either didn’t show the technique correctly, students are doing the technique incorrectly, or it is a bogus technique. I’ve had all 3 problems.

4. Don’t have all the answers.

One of the best teaching moments I’ve experienced in the gym was at one of Matt’s BJJ classes. At the end of class a student asked Matt about a new technique he found. He wondered if it was a legit technique. It wasn’t. Instead of telling him that he had the student try the technique over and over on different opponents. After repeated failures he asked the student why the technique didn’t work. The student knew exactly why. Finding teachable moments where it is possible for students to answer their own questions are golden. It creates active rather than passive learners which is huge.

5. Teach things you know differently from things you don’t know well.

I used to thing I had to only teach what I know well. I’m finding out that I can have some good teaching and learning sometimes by working something that is new to me and the students. You just have to do it in the right way. With techniques that I know well and have pulled off countless times I have a good library of do’s and don’ts. I know where someone will try to counter and how they are likely to do it. I can work this in to the lesson and watch for it in isolation stage. With new techniques however I don’t have that experience to rely on. What I find I have to do is show it as best I can in introduction stage and do some pressure testing in isolation. After a couple of rounds of isolation I can start to see some of the ins and outs and begin to draw some conclusions about the technique. I’ll often spend some time asking students what was working and not working for them with the new technique. I get some great insights that way. The point of it is that we are working much more from a collective experience rather than from my collected experiences. Often times I find some great new techniques or new applications that way. Many times I find a new bogus technique. Either way it’s all good.

6. Don’t always be the expert.

Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. I’ve found in my life as a teacher and a BJJ coach that saying I don’t know when I don’t has gained me much more respect than making it up or trying to cover for my lack of knowledge. People spot a bullshit answer right away. Once you break that trust it’s hard to get it back. We need to dispel the myth anyway that the teacher/coach is the person with all the answers. Not knowing the answer can be a great teachable moment and an impetus to find out the answer together.

7. Give away all your best stuff.

All those tricky sweeps and cool submissions that you hit all the time- give them out. Show the counters. I used to be afraid that if I gave out all my good stuff I’d have nothing good left to give out. Or somehow everyone would start killing my game. What I’ve found is that it motivates my game and keeps me from being stagnant. As long as you are actively coaching and learning you won’t run out of stuff. Won’t happen.

8. Roll with everybody.

Tap often. Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t kill the new guys. Demonstrate how to be a good training partner.