If you're thinking about becoming a BJJ instructor, or are just curious about what makes a good one, you're in the right place.
In this blog post, we will discuss 12 traits of great coaches that will help you become an excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu professor and what to look for if you are searching for a home on the mats.
First and foremost, safety must be a top priority for BJJ professors. They should always strive to create an environment where students feel safe and supported, both physically and emotionally.
Whether it be overly aggressive students or simply those with a lack of knowledge, BJJ instructors must be able to recognize and manage potential risks. Harassment of any kind should never be tolerated. Not only is it illegal, but it could also put students in a dangerous situation.
Now that we got the obvious thing out of the way, let's get into the nitty-gritty of BJJ instruction. Make sure to read until the end because we share one bonus character trait as well as information on what to look out for in a bad BJJ teacher. But first, here are the 12 character traits of a good BJJ instructor:
Character Trait #1 ~ Patience
The first trait of a great BJJ coach is the ability to be patient. BJJ is a complex sport, and it can take students a while to learn the techniques. A good instructor is patient with their students and takes the time to explain things clearly.
White belts entering into the gym for the first time may accidently break some customs and mannerisms by mistake. Troubles with basic movements should be expected. Don't be upset if they are not shrimping fast enough!
What it looks like: A BJJ instructor who is patient can explain techniques multiple times and in different ways. They understand that not everyone learns at the same pace, and are willing to adjust their teaching style to fit each student's needs.
What it doesn't look like: An impatient coach will get frustrated with students easily. They may rush through explanations or be short with their answers. This can create a negative environment for learning.
Character Trait #2 ~ Passionate
A great martial arts coach is passionate about the sport and loves sharing their knowledge with others. They want their students to succeed and are always looking for ways to help them improve.
What it looks like: A BJJ coach who is passionate and cares deeply about their student's development. They are always looking for new ways to help them learn and grow. They are also excited to share their knowledge with others.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ coach who is not passionate about the sport will not be as invested in their students' success. They may be more likely to give up on students who are struggling, or they may not be as willing to share their knowledge.
Character Trait #3 ~ Leadership
The third trait of a great BJJ coach is leadership. This doesn't mean that they have to be bossy or demanding, but they should be able to lead by example and set the tone for the class. They should be able to motivate their students and keep them on track.
What it looks like: A BJJ instructor with leadership skills is someone who can take charge when needed, but also knows when to let their students lead. They can be assertive and clear with their expectations, while still being supportive and encouraging.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ instructor who is a dictator. They may be demanding and have high standards, but they should never put their students down or make them feel inferior. Personal remarks and unnecessary criticism should be avoided.
Character Trait #4 ~ Knowledge
The fourth trait of a great BJJ coach is knowledge. This one goes without saying - a good BJJ instructor needs to be knowledgeable about the sport and the techniques. They should also be up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in BJJ.
What it looks like: A BJJ instructor who is a great coach is someone who can break down complex techniques and concepts into manageable chunks for their students. They understand that not everyone learns in the same way, and are patient with students who need extra time to grasp a concept.
Great BJJ instructors also have a deep understanding of the BJJ game. They know how to put their students in positions to succeed, and can quickly adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of each individual student.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ instructor who is not knowledgeable about the sport or the techniques. They may be able to get by with a few basics, but they will not be able to teach their students anything beyond that.
Character Trait #5 ~ Compassion
Another important trait is compassion. A good BJJ coach understands that not everyone is at the same level, and they are willing to help anyone who wants to learn. They are supportive and encouraging, even when things get tough.
What it looks like: An example of a scenario where a BJJ instructor can be compassionate is if a student is having trouble with a technique. The instructor can be patient and offer different ways to help the student understand. They can also give praise when the student finally gets it.
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who are not compassionate will not be as understanding of their student's struggles. They may get frustrated easily, or they may give up on students who are struggling.
Character Trait #6 ~ Charisma
Another important trait of a great BJJ coach is charisma. This may seem like an odd one, but it's actually quite important. A coach with charisma can make the class enjoyable for everyone, even when things are tough. They have a way of making people feel comfortable and keeping them engaged in the class.
What it looks like: A BJJ instructor with charisma is someone energetic and enthusiastic. They are passionate about the sport, and it shows in their teaching. They make the class fun and exciting, while still maintaining a high level of discipline.
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who lack charisma can be dull. They may not be interested in the sport, and this will show in their teaching. They may also be strict and unyielding, which can make the class uncomfortable for students.
Character Trait #7 ~ Discipline
The seventh trait of a great BJJ coach is discipline. This doesn't just mean being strict with the students but also being disciplined in their own training. A good BJJ coach is always working to improve their own skills so that they can be a better teacher.
What it looks like: BJJ instructors who are disciplined in their own training are always learning and expanding their knowledge of the sport. They are constantly looking for new techniques to add to their arsenal, and they are willing to experiment with different styles.
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who lack discipline in their own training are not always interested in learning more about the sport. They may be content with the techniques they know, and they may not be willing to experiment with new styles. Showing up late for class and canceling for no reasonable reason are also signs of a BJJ instructor who lacks discipline.
Character Trait #8 ~ Communication
The eighth trait of a great BJJ coach is communication. They should be able to communicate effectively with their students, both verbally and nonverbally. They should be able to explain techniques clearly and make sure everyone understands what's going on.
What it looks like: BJJ instructors who are good communicators can keep everyone on the same page. They make sure that everyone understands the techniques, and they are quick to answer any questions that students may have. Perhaps analogies, visuals, and even demonstrations at different paces can be used to explain the techniques.
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who are poor communicators can be difficult to understand. They may not explain things clearly, or they may be slow to answer questions. This can lead to confusion and frustration among the students. They may skip some minor details while explaining a technique because they know it so well but this can also lead to confusion.
Character Trait #9 ~ Dedication
Dedication is also important. They are passionate about BJJ and are dedicated to helping their students reach their goals. They put in the time and effort necessary to become an excellent instructor.
What it looks like: BJJ instructors who are dedicated to their students are always available to help. They make themselves available for private lessons, and they are always willing to offer advice. Teaching can be demanding and students should be aware of this but if a full-time career is not possible, BJJ instructors should still be dedicated to their students by offering extra help (when they can).
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who lack dedication may not be as available to their students. They may not be interested in helping them reach their goals, and they may not be willing to put in the extra time and effort required.
Character Trait #10 ~ Encouragement
Another important trait of a BJJ coach is the ability to encourage their students. BJJ can be a challenging sport, and instructors need to give their students the motivation to keep going. A good coach will praise their students for their accomplishments, both big and small.
What it looks like: A BJJ coach who encourages their students will give them regular feedback on their progress. They will also celebrate milestones with them, such as earning a new belt or winning a competition. A little encouragement can go a long way. BJJ can change lives for the better and some people may just need a little push to keep going.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ coach who doesn't encourage their students may not give them much feedback at all. They may also be critical of their progress, which can discourage students from continuing to train. Being honest is important, but BJJ instructors should also be mindful of their words and make sure that they are not discouraging their students.
Character Trait #11 ~ Organized
A great BJJ coach is organized and prepared for each class. They have a plan for what they want to teach, and they make sure that all of their materials are ready ahead of time. This helps their classes run smoothly and allows them to focus on teaching instead of scrambling to get things together.
What it looks like: A BJJ coach who is organized will have a well-planned lesson for each class. They will also have all of their materials ready to go so that they can focus on teaching instead of setting up. They are confident in their plan and can adjust on the fly if needed. There's a purpose to what is being taught in the bigger picture of the class's overall development.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ coach who isn't organized may not have a plan for each class. They may also be constantly looking for their materials, which can disrupt the flow of the class. Not planning class ahead of time can also be discouraging for students who are eager to learn.
Character Trait #12 ~ Humility
Finally, the last trait on this list is humility. This doesn't mean that they are weak or insecure the opposite, actually). It means they are willing to learn and listen to others. They understand that they don't know everything and are always looking to improve their skills.
What it looks like: BJJ instructors who are humble are always willing to learn from others. They will take feedback from their students and use it to improve their teaching. They are also open to trying new things, even if they don't think they will work. Openness is a personality trait that not everyone has but it can go a long way in BJJ. This combat sport teaches humility throughout the journey and BJJ instructors should use it as a tool to help them become better coaches.
What it doesn't look like: BJJ instructors who lack humility may think that they know everything. They may be resistant to feedback and new ideas, which can limit their growth as an instructor. If a BJJ champion applies expertise in an untouched field, instead of being intimidated or opposed to novel ideas, a humble instructor will use this chance as an opportunity for growth and understanding.
What Makes A Good BJJ Instructor? (summary)
Of course, a great Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach can have more positive character traits than are listed in this article. And yes, if a professor doesn't have all of these traits, they can still be a great BJJ instructor. But having these 12 traits is a good start to becoming a BJJ coach that students can look up to and learn from.
BJJ is a fun sport and it takes hard work and dedication to become an excellent coach. If you're interested in becoming an instructor, these are some character traits to develop.
All of these traits are important and can work together to make a great BJJ coach. Here is the summary of the 12 character traits that makes a good Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor:
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a challenging and rewarding sport. With the right coaching, you can excel as a BJJ athlete or help your students achieve their own goals. Keep these traits in mind the next time you're looking for a BJJ coach or if you are looking to become one yourself.
Is there anything else we missed on this list?
Let us know in the comments below! And if you're not sure if you are training in a safe environment, check out the interview with McDojo life where we dive deeper into the BJJ teaching culture. Going through that article will help you identify 'red flags' when it comes to dangerous gyms and bad instructors.
Bonus Character Trait of a Good BJJ Professor ~ Fun
Last, but certainly not least, a trait of a great BJJ coach is that they know how to have fun. BJJ is a tough sport, and it can be easy to get bogged down in the details. A good BJJ instructor knows how to lighten the mood and keep things fun.
What it looks like: A BJJ instructor who knows how to have fun is someone who can make the learning process enjoyable. They may use humor or games to keep their students engaged, and they understand that not every minute of BJJ training needs to be serious.
What it doesn't look like: A BJJ instructor who is all business all the time. They may be serious and intense, but they should never make their students feel like they are not enjoying themselves.
Submission Shark Deep Dive
As a BJJ student, I know that having a great instructor is important. A good BJJ instructor can make the difference between enjoying BJJ and quitting because it's too difficult or just not fun anymore.
I'm grateful to have BJJ instructors who are patient with me. They understand that I'm learning a new skill and that it takes time to master the techniques. They don't get frustrated with me when I make mistakes, but instead help me correct them so that I can improve.
I'm also passionate about BJJ and my coaches help me learn more about this martial art. My BJJ instructors are dedicated to helping their students reach their goals. They lead by example and are always pushing themselves to be better so that they can help their students reach their potential.