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Thursday, June 09, 2016

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Sin2K

Something you didn't cover here, which tends to be a big factor in my opinion is attendance. I've seen plenty of people start at the same time, but their paths diverge after long periods of training. Because of this, it's hard to simply compare one student's training to another, even if they started at the same time.

Additionally, I don't think students are usually "punished" by asking why someone got promoted just once. In my experience it is the persistence in asking, and the attitude they ask the question with.

Thomas Nadelhoffer

I agree completely that I should have included attendance or frequency of training!

As for your second point, I think lots of students are indeed punished for this behavior. Here is a direct quote from one GB black belt:

"When a student asks about, or even worse, for a promotion it is a sign of disrespect to the instructor. It is a sign that the student doesn't trust the instructor, and thinks that he/she knows better. This sign of disrespect is view by the instructor as immaturity. The instructor sees it as a sign that the student clearly needs more time to mature before he/she is ready for promotion. Promotion is a matter for the instructor to handle. Training and learning are matters for the student."

This is the attitude I was questioning. Either way, thanks for reading!

Anonymous

As an adjunct-professor-turned-BJJ-practitioner, I could not agree more with this thoughtful piece. BJJ is like any academic pursuit. It involves attending class and acquiring knowledge from an instructor, studying at home (watching videos, reading books and blogs, etc.), and then taking quizzes (rolling in class) and curved tests (competing in tournaments or just rolling in class with the professor watching).

The fundamental difference between BJJ and traditional academic pursuits is the frequent lack of any formal lesson plan and the corresponding lack of clarity (and discouragement of even asking) about what it takes to be promoted. Indeed, most BJJ instructors are impressive martial artists who don't know the first thing about teaching.

How disheartening is it to be passed up for promotion while simultaneously being discouraged from asking why? As this piece points out, it would be like a college student asking why they got a bad grade and being told to just trust the instructor. It's a bad way to teach and a good way to lose students who get discouraged.

Of course, there are many schools out there that use a formal lesson plan and have somewhat transparent promotion requirements (either formal tests, clear expectations of what moves must be mastered for each level, or an expectation to win tournaments). However, these schools are few and far betwee, and often inaccessible to people who live outside of BJJ hubs like Manhattan.

When your school is the only show in town, students have to make the best of it. And if you read many other blog posts about BJJ promotions, the often read like advice columns about making the best of a situation that is out of your control. Until gym-owners learn how to be teachers (I'm not holding my breath), this state of affairs is unlikely to change.

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