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Old 12-18-2010, 03:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Would you trust this gym?

My son has turned five, and REALLY wants to take Jiu Jitsu. There's a really good gym not far away, and while the instructor definitely knows his jitz... I don't get the impression that he really "gets" kids that well.

Last night I found a closer gym, with good pricing. I talked with the instructor for a while, he seemed intelligent, knowledgeable, and very understanding of teaching kids. He's a black belt under Flavio Behring, and also has a black belt in Judo. In addition to two jitz classes each week, once a week, he also teaches the kids about things like "stranger danger", how to handle adult attackers and abductors, stuff like that.

Now, here are the two things that make me pause: First, the instructor is close to 400 pounds, if not OVER it. He seems to have what it takes to be a good instructor, but that does make me question his activity.

Second, his daughter teaches the women's class. And his daughter is... a blue belt. I asked "You have a blue belt teaching the class?", to which he responded "She has over ten years of mat experience, rolling and striking." I've never had a class taught by anything but a black belt.

So... you guys, tell me your thoughts. I see green flags and red flags, and I'm torn.
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If you are curious you could go to a class and after the night is done ask some of the participants what the feel.

If this isn't good form for this sort of thing then I am not sure.
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If someone is a good teacher, they're a good teacher despite their body type....

And it doesn't matter what the daughter has in terms of belts, because she won't be teaching your kid. But yeah, I've never had someone who wasn't at least a brown belt teach my class.
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yeah, what Luger said. If you haven't watched a class yourself yet, do it. If they don't let you watch the class, forget it right there, if you ask me.

As for the instructor's weight; Sometimes people don't have the talent to do something themselves, but have the understanding to teach it and to teach it well. His weight is definitely a legit concern, but I wouldn't rule him or his school out because of that. Just pay attention when you watch a class, and really study the instruction he gives. If the instruction is there and the guy can turn out strong grapplers, then his own weight is irrelevant. If the instruction isn't there, then the school may not be worth your interest.

As for a blue belt teaching a class; Belt rankings in any martial art are to be taken with a grain of salt, if you ask me. Consider them, respect them, but keep in the back of your mind that a belt can lie as much as the person wearing it. An illustration: I could outfight some of the far higher ranked guys in my gung fu class, because I could better put into application the basics than they could. But because I couldn't perform some of the more advanced techniques that they could, I didn't have their rank. Not to mention, I didn't pursue rank like some people did/do. It's very possible the girl didn't care much for rank and only started after it after she had been training for some time. I'm not trying to entirely stick up for this blue belt teaching a class though - because just as much as belts can lie about someone's fighting prowess, fighting prowess can lie about someone's teaching ability. Just saying, consider both sides, if you haven't already.

I don't know of that guys' teacher as I'm really not knowledgable about submissions/notable BJJ guys. Sorry I can't be of more help though.

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Old 12-19-2010, 05:08 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gluteal Cleft View Post
My son has turned five, and REALLY wants to take Jiu Jitsu. There's a really good gym not far away, and while the instructor definitely knows his jitz... I don't get the impression that he really "gets" kids that well.
That's always a serious problem with kids programs. I tell people to avoid programs for kids that aren't run by people who have real experience working with kids. Those programs devolve pretty quickly, and it really is a totally different type of teaching.

Quote:
Last night I found a closer gym, with good pricing. I talked with the instructor for a while, he seemed intelligent, knowledgeable, and very understanding of teaching kids. He's a black belt under Flavio Behring, and also has a black belt in Judo. In addition to two jitz classes each week, once a week, he also teaches the kids about things like "stranger danger", how to handle adult attackers and abductors, stuff like that.
There are plenty of great blackbelts in BJJ who are much heavier, especially as they get older and stop competing. Carlos Valente (who I personally regard as one of the best living authorities outside of the Gracie family when it comes to jiu-jitsu) is older and heavier now. He doesn't compete and you'd probably mistake him for a flabby old man on the street. He's still an incredible instructor. I've worked with instructors who no longer seem to be in great shape. That doesn't diminish their ability as instructors.

There are some guys who keep the weight off just as a function of metabolism. My judo coach is in his 80s, doesn't run or do uchi komi or sparring anymore because of his bad knees and back, but he manages to stay under 180 pounds easily. Not everyone is able to do that. Not everyone stays as slim as Helio Gracie their whole life. It's really not a big deal.

Also, the guy sounds like a really good instructor for kids.


Now, here are the two things that make me pause: First, the instructor is close to 400 pounds, if not OVER it. He seems to have what it takes to be a good instructor, but that does make me question his activity.

Quote:
Second, his daughter teaches the women's class. And his daughter is... a blue belt. I asked "You have a blue belt teaching the class?", to which he responded "She has over ten years of mat experience, rolling and striking." I've never had a class taught by anything but a black belt.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are a ton of classes taught by non-blackbelt students. I would hazard to guess that, outside of Brazil, the majority of basics classes are taught by non-blackbelts, especially in areas of the world (and even of the United States) that haven't really seen a blackbelt at all yet.

That said, bluebelt is a little bit low, in my opinion. Teaching classes as a bluebelt is precarious because it generally indicates a lack of competition experience. The purple and brownbelt levels are where it becomes pretty common to see people teaching classes. I'd watch the class and see if its something that you want to get involved in.

There are great classes taught by lower belts. I see it all the time, so don't let that, by itself, turn you away. But you are right to be wary.
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Old 12-19-2010, 01:46 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gluteal Cleft View Post
My son has turned five, and REALLY wants to take Jiu Jitsu. There's a really good gym not far away, and while the instructor definitely knows his jitz... I don't get the impression that he really "gets" kids that well.

Last night I found a closer gym, with good pricing. I talked with the instructor for a while, he seemed intelligent, knowledgeable, and very understanding of teaching kids. He's a black belt under Flavio Behring, and also has a black belt in Judo. In addition to two jitz classes each week, once a week, he also teaches the kids about things like "stranger danger", how to handle adult attackers and abductors, stuff like that.

Now, here are the two things that make me pause: First, the instructor is close to 400 pounds, if not OVER it. He seems to have what it takes to be a good instructor, but that does make me question his activity.

Second, his daughter teaches the women's class. And his daughter is... a blue belt. I asked "You have a blue belt teaching the class?", to which he responded "She has over ten years of mat experience, rolling and striking." I've never had a class taught by anything but a black belt.

So... you guys, tell me your thoughts. I see green flags and red flags, and I'm torn.
I'm mostly there with North.

First of all, have your kid train there for a couple of sessions with you watching the training. If you have at least some experience in martial arts you should be able to judge the training way better with a life view than we in the forum ever could due to hearsay. Then a good trainer/gym shouldn't be afraid to let your kid train a few times with you watching before asking to make a contract.

Then secondly and maybe even more important. At the age of 5 martial arts is not so much about learning how to fight, if at all. At that age having a kid train in a martial arts gym is more about social contact with other kids, having their natural energy used in a good and fun way, learning respect and responsibility towards other people, becoming disciplined etc. The benefits are mainly in getting or staying fit (preventing health problems, particularly cardiovascular, in the long term by not getting fat), becoming self confident, getting a good body cordination (which is besides getting fat a huge problem for the kids nowadays who are sitting in front of TV and play computer games all day) and learning how to fall properly (probably one of the most useful skills to learn in martial arts).

That "stranger danger" thing sounds good to me as it's probably not so much about physical fighting, but rather making the kids become aware of danger to be able to avoid it.

To that daughter being only a blue belt teaching issue. Generally speaking, belts are there to keep the Gi closed. What does it concern you that much anyway, your son probably won't train in the women's class Then, you don't know what experience she has. Maybe she is a Judo black belt, but has to wear that BJJ blue belt officially in that BJJ class. At least she told you that she has over ten years of experience on the mat. Back in my childhood/adolescent gym for example it was quite common to have intermediate students at least as assistant teachers in the Judo beginner's faction. Did it do anything bad to the learners¿ No, not at all. Sometimes intermediates have a better understanding of beginner's problems because it's not that long ago that they had the same problems to solve themselves. Also in trying and being able to explain things to others oneself learns better later on. Success speaks for my old gym. They were and still are constantly breeding successful fighters for our national Judo league.

So back to your son. Just try it out, bring him there and watch the training. If you feel comfortable with it and if he has fun, that's all you need for the moment. If in a couple of years he wants to become a competitive fighter and you two feel that this gym is not enough for it, there is still time to adjust.
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Old 12-19-2010, 11:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks again to all of the terrific responses. They put me a lot more at ease.

One more thing I like about the gym is that when a new kid signs up, he'll spend three sessions one-on-one with the kid to get him up to speed on falls and stuff before throwing him in with the rest of the class.

I'll have to go watch a class this week...
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The gym sounds okay. Most gyms give a free trial class, does this gym offer a trail? If so, then try out both and see what is best.
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Old 01-05-2011, 07:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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So... reviving the dead. I think that my initial suspicions were on the money.

The gym with the obese instructor was a real dive. When it was time for class to start, the instructor hadn't even put on his gi, and he just told the kids to go warm up, while he talked on his cell phone. Eventually, he got around to putting on a gi and walking his butt over to the matt.

Now he was awfully understanding and cool with the kids. But the class was more like supervised play time than actual instrution, and it showed... none of the kids seemed to really know much. None of the kids seemed to take it seriously, either... it almost seemed like their parents had dropped them off there as a day-care.

Going to the second gym... I get there 15 minutes early. Kids are already there, and are warming up and practicing on their own. And doing some pretty cool stuff. Oh, and they have three instructors for the class, and break the kids into groups based on age and skill.

I guess, at least in this case, that big, gnarly cauliflower ears are a better sign of a good dojo than an enormous gut.
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Old 01-05-2011, 07:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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my instructor is a blue belt and hes a badass. All that tells me is it isnt a buy a belt program.
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