Welcome to the first of many Q&A sessions. I’ve added a contact form to the side www.aesopian.com to ask for comments and questions from readers. If you send me a message and it turns into a useful discussion, it will appear on my site, like you see below.

Roy Harris used to be great about answering questions, even boring, basic questions, and I admired that. He had nearly limitless patience for answering questions. Hopefully I can help revive the tradition.

Let me know what you think of these Q&A’s. Most will be written but I’m also filming my replies if your question is lucky enough to deserve it.

Q: We have a small(ish) club at work.  My company employs at my office about 1500 people, and we’re in the midst of creating something on licence from zuffa, so there’s plenty of people becoming interested in bjj.

I’m one of two blue belts, and there’s one purple.  But, me and the other
blue “host” “lessons” on Tu & Th morning to a small group of people,
sometimes only 2, sometimes up to 6.

I am very pro-basics, pro-defense, pro-position.  The other blue is a
little more risque/exotic/avant-garde (e.g. inverted guards, dlr, rubber
etc.).  Which IMO is fine, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, I
just prefer basics.

What does bug me, is when these brand new people want to be shown how to do
a berimbolo, or whatever.  Particularly, before there’s any understanding
of basics, let alone the little bit that I actually know.

How do I/we make it fun and motivating when we just concentrate on basics.
Breaking posture / maintaining posture, holding hips and shoulders flat /
moving out on to your hip, etc.

A: First off, that sounds like a fun company to work at. I’m lucky enough to get free yoga at my office, but I haven’t been able to get HR to okay midday BJJ sessions.

Your issue will be difficult to fix because it’s unlikely the people showing up to an informal training session are very serious about learning BJJ. That’s nothing against them; it’s just normal for people in free grappling clubs. Ask anyone who runs a university club.

As you’ve already seen, your coworkers aren’t there to build a foundation. That’s boring and feels like work. They are showing up because it’s “cool” and they want to see cool moves. In these situations, you’re going to have trouble making people do the “boring” (but important) basic moves. You can’t command the same authority as a black belt in a formal school, and even then, those black belts have trouble keeping white belts from going off into goofy moves.

So without being able to use authority or logic to sway them, what can you do? Teach the basics with great enthusiasm, and make good use of live drills and positional sparring (if you can do that at work).

If you are confident that you are showing them good, solid BJJ, don’t ever apologize for it being basic or act like it’s uncool. When you get a question about advanced or flashy moves, maybe show it briefly, then redirect them with “Hey, you know what would be great for you?” and show them a similar but simpler move.

What else impresses people? Getting beat by simple moves. When they try the fancy moves but aren’t competent enough to succeed, and they are instead defeated by simple moves, they will start giving the basics respect. What’s the safest way to do this? Live training.

Live drilling (also known as isolation training, specific training or positional sparring) is my favorite training tool. Take whatever you worked on that day, make a simple “game” for it (like passing closed guard) and let them do it live. Have them reset whenever someone succeeds or if they go off into positions that aren’t part of the day’s lesson. People love these games, and it makes simple techniques more exciting because they get to do them against resisting opponents. A “boring” drilling session can be saved by making everyone get a good workout in live training.

While I’m big on isolation training, I don’t encourage allowing much free sparring for people this new to BJJ, especially not with each other. Two zero belts (that’s even less than white belt) learn very little from flailing around and headlocking each other, and they have high chances of injuring each other in scrambles. The Fundamentals program at my school Gracie Barra Clearwater is big on specific training for this reason.

Here’s my last bit of advice. Stock up on business cards for your real school and shove those into all of your coworkers’ hands. Your club can encourage their enthusiasm and give them a taste, but you can’t (and shouldn’t expect to) give them everything they need.