Q: How involved do most instructors get in providing feedback and helping to map out development plans for their students? I mean, in providing constructive feedback like “I think you should work on [insert position/guard/movement] for the next two months.” I understand that I need to take a certain amount of ownership over my training, but am just looking for some guidance.

I got to a large school that has many class time options and pretty much a different instructor for each class, so I’m not sure that I have a single instructor that really “knows my game” well enough that they feel comfortable in trying to shape my development plan. If I ask something like “what are some good breaks/passes for me to focus on” I’ll get a decent answer, but I’m looking at something more big picture.

I could probably get some ideas from competing, but I feel like I have to work on pretty much everything. Any tips for how to get some better constructive feedback in order to focus my training? I’m fine with paying for privates (either with my instructor or another) but from reading forums it seems like most players recommend that privates be used once you already know what it is that you want to improve.

A: The depth of guidance you’re seeking is hard for a coach to give without spending a lot of one-on-one time with you. That attention is usually reserved for their promising competitors or private lesson clients, unless you have an overeager instructors with a lot of free time.

If you have an instructor you trust, you could try telling them what you told me. They’re more likely to have insights into your game than I am, and even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You may have even better luck finding a purple or brown belt to act as your mentor. They may not have the most prestigious rank, but they often make up for it by having the time to give you attention, especially if you can be a consistent and dedicated training partner.

Being told “only work on this” is something I usually see in the later belts (mid purple and brown) because the lower belts are about building broader skills. Specialization comes after you have a foundation to fall back on.

Like you said, competing will sharpen your focus and highlight what you need to work on. Don’t get overwhelmed by feeling you need to work on everything. Make a list to prioritize if you need to. Pick out a the main techniques, positions and strategies you want to work on. Put in the extra drilling, study instructionals and tournament footage, try to use it in sparring, and ask for feedback from training partners and instructors.

The frustration you feel is common, so don’t be discouraged. Even with private lessons and personalized coaching, you will always need to evaluate your own game. Don’t be afraid of asking others for help, but know that most of the answers you are looking for come from personal experience and trial and error.