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Should only black belts lead BJJ classes?

Welcome back to white belt talk on NYCTalking. An old man white belt perspective on all thing Brazilian Jiujitsu.

So as I just stated, I’m a Brazilian Jiujitsu white belt, under no circumstances am I an expert or authority on BJJ. I’m a beginner and basically, I ain’t shit. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t or cant have an opinion on matters of the sport and martial art.

I’m a beginner, but I’m still able to see what’s going on. Furthermore, I won’t be a white belt beginner forever, and like everything else I do, I will be documenting this journey via my opinions and thoughts. Cause you know that if there is one thing I have a lot of, it’s opinions!

So let’s discuss this thing that some top level BJJ guys have been debating. The question being whether or not lower belts should be allowed to teach Brazilian Jiujitsu classes at their schools.

Personally, I have trained at places that didn’t have a black belt instructor before. As I was a true beginner, the gap between myself and my then coaches was quite significant. It was enough of a gap that I managed to learn a lot from them.

I remember in one school, we didn’t even have a ranked blue belt present. However, they’d been training for a while and one in particular knew quite a good deal of nogi bjj and MMA techniques. But no one there was officially ranked or officially qualified to provide BJJ instruction. But at my level, I was able to learn quite a bit there. I was learning purple belt level techniques at a very beginner level. I even pulled off a flying armbar once. LOL.

That being said, I’ve also trained at schools that were led and operated by legit, ranked black belts. When I joined a proper bjj school, I learned so much more than I did at the other schools which didn’t have a black belt instructor. The level of knowledge was obviously significantly higher, the talent pool was way higher, and even my peers knew as much or more than my prior coaches did. There is no comparison when training at a legitimate Brazilian Jiujitsu school. Though I think this is obvious, it’s worth stating for the purposes of this piece.

When I occasionally returned to train with my former partners, I gave them a very hard time. My ground game was definitely better, and one could argue that in terms of sheer basic BJJ knowledge, I may have already surpassed my first time coaches at the time.

All that being said, I think its good and seems to be the standard protocol that schools will allow their Purple and Brown Belts to lead a beginner and even an advanced class. At that level, they are starting to reach a point where they can start learning to teach properly. They become assistant coaches and I think that they have enough knowledge to lead a class. I know some purple and definitely brown belts who are extremely qualified to be coaches.

On the mats, even high white belts and blue belts are extremely helpful to your growth and learning. Actually, they are very important to it as they are the ones you are sweating and bleeding with. They can tell you what you did wrong as you sparred, drilled, etc. That “talent pool” I mentioned before is important.

With the exception of Brown belts, I don’t think anyone below a black belt should open a school or lead the program. There should be a black belt presence or more on the roster to oversee the coaching and teach classes. As a beginner, I definitely felt the difference in instruction during my very short first attempt at BJJ 13 years ago.

In my opinion, I think that I can learn from nearly anyone. However, to lead a proper class at a school, I’d say that purple and above can probably lead most white belt classes. If you are the top person at your school, then I believe you should be at a minimum a brown belt. I do know a few brown belts who run schools and are pretty damn good at teaching. I don’t agree with this article stating that only a black belt can teach.


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Angel Rodriguez

Angel covers fitness, social issues, reviews, news & more! He's a veteran, tech and fitness pro which has been featured on Huffpo, NatGeo, NPR, NY1, HLN, Men's Fitness, MTV, & other major platforms. Angel is also Brazilian Jiujitsu White belt.
Angel Rodriguez

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