The 5 Types of BJJ Coaches You May Experience on the Mat
Updated: Jun 19
The coach is the leader of the BJJ gym. But what kind of coach will you encounter?
As I’ve always mentioned, BJJ brings in a lot of people from all over. Your experience at the gym with your training partners shapes how you view jiu-jitsu and may affect your relationships in and out of the gym. But the core, the person who brings it all together are the coaches at your gym. Coaches bring their love and passion for Brazilian jiu-jitsu and try to translate in a way that is understandable to their students. The way that they do this might not be the same across the board. Although the structure of a BJJ class has many similarities no matter where you go, there are always a multitude of different coaches you will experience. Here are 5 types of BJJ coaches that you might experience in your BJJ lifetime.
NOTE: This list is a combination of the coaches I’ve had and met, plus the ones my friends tell me about.
1. The “Kind, Caring, Codling” coach
This is the coach that teaches classes that are super beginner friendly. They make the gym a fun and warm space for all who enters. This coach takes time to make sure that you and the people around you are okay after showing you a move. They set you up with their best student to make sure you learn everything if they can’t come to help you themselves.
They don’t want anyone to hurt you in fear that you might run from the sport. They will often take you aside to show you the technique in detail and tells you it’s okay when there’s a harder move. They just want you to build up that strong fundamental base so you can be the best BJJ person you can be. They speak in a strong yet calming voice to keep you focused on the game.
This is great for new people starting their BJJ journey and want guidance every step of the way. They will get the attention they need in order to get their BJJ at an acceptable level. For the more experienced jiu-jitsu practitioner, this coach’s demeanor might come off as too soft. The coach might also always ask them to help the new person coming to the gym on a day they wanted to drill or train with one of their more advanced training partners. I personally like this kind of coach (but then again, I generally like everyone) and I think even with me being a bit more seasoned in my BJJ journey, this coach is the type of coach I know I can go to, ask questions, and get the attention I need. But sometimes with this coach, I feel that their demeanor towards me is only because I’m a woman and they’re just being this way to undermine my strength and power in the sport. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and they could generally just be this kind of person.
2. The “Cobra Kai, killer” coach
One word describes this type of coach: Hardcore.
Hardcore warmups. Hardcore drills. Hardcore everything. if you don’t spar after every class, they’re gonna judge you and possibly think you’re not taking BJJ seriously. You have to compete in their eyes or you’re wasting their and your time. This coach is the one that is screaming at you to your signature move when you’re competing. If you lose, you’re doing push-ups and you better not complain about it. This coach usually throws beginners to a blue or purple belt, while they teach their A-team of killers, who live by this coach’s every word.
This person might come off has too rough for the casual, “let me get my exercise for the week in and not die after a WAR-m-up” person. For the aspiring sponsored athlete or the jiu-jitsu dude who is trying to go to worlds one day, this is the coach for them. This coach gives them the extra push that they need to be the athlete they want to be.
I think I need this kind of coach sometimes. After getting injured, I’ve definitely slacked off and been coddled a lot. But I definitely need my coach to be on my ass and yelling at me to push myself. Sometimes I want to die when I train, and I think this is this coach’s way of showing that he cares.
3. The “Let me make money off of you” coach
As soon as you come in for a trial class or an open mat, they are trying their best to upsell you on everything.
Private lessons, a new gi, a yearly membership with an accompanying membership for your cousin, mom, future child, grandma, everyone. You gotta respect the hustle and you know that this is this coach’s livelihood but sometimes it gets a bit pushy when they ask you for the 4th time after a class if you wanted to get privates with them to work on your side control. Once you say no, they might try to sell you on a cheaper option like a private with their brown or purple belt or other ways that will get you to finally take out your wallet and sigh as you hand them some cash.
If you like the way the coach teaches, and you got the coin to spend and support the gym, of course this kind of coach won’t bother you. This kind of coach is also good for the person who is really good with their money, super cheap, or can easily say no when someone is being persistent. After a while, they won’t upsell you on anything... unless there’s that new comfy cool sweatshirt with the new and improved logo which will only cost you $5 more than the last one. If you’re not good at saying no, go to the trial class, say no and thank you after you’re done and then keep it pushing to another gym. What usually happens if you’re bad at saying no (like me… I’m learning but it’s hard sometimes) and you keep buying stuff, you’ll feel angry and regret that you spent that money, which will make you resentful at the gym… also not a great feeling.
4. The “You can ask me questions but don’t ask me” coach
This coach is super great at showing the technique for the class and gives quite good commentary when it comes to details about the move, but after that he has said what he has said. Sometimes if you ask for further details, they will answer your question vaguely and will seem quite annoyed with you. It might not be the question itself, but maybe you asked the question right after they mentioned it, or maybe it’s obvious, or maybe you’re just annoying (jokes but it can seem that way in your own mind, right?). Sometimes it seems that maybe it’s better to ask after the class, but the coach has some other things going on and can’t get to you in that moment. Either way it may SEEM that the coach doesn’t want to talk to you or answer your question. Just know that those feelings might be in your own head and he or she just might be busy, have their own thing going or just in a rush.
This kind of coach is best for the person who doesn’t take things personally and knows that their questions are justified in helping them understand and get better at BJJ. But also, it’s okay to read the room and give this kind of coach some space if they need it. Yes, you’re paying for a class. Yes, your question deserves to be answered. But sometimes we forget that these coaches are human too. I hate to feel like I’m bothering someone, so I generally ask once and if the coach seems annoyed, I’ll ask a friend who understands the move better or ask one my other black belt friends. It’s no shade to the coach themselves but it’s always good to know your resources.
5. The “traditionalist” coach
This coach upholds the old school standards of martial arts. You must get to the dojo on time, call him “professor” (if they’re a black belt) and make sure that you call blue, purple or brown belts “coach”. You must line up by belt order and everything is done methodically, as it should be. You saw that cool looking gi on bjjhq.com that’s navy blue with aquamarine stripes and you want to wear it to the gym? Well too bad! White gis only to stay in tradition. They have a long list of dojo rules that is specific to the T, and you must do and respect every step. When you walk into the dojo, you must bow at the mats and at the picture of Helio Gracie that hangs at the front of the room. This coach is not for play play and will have no problem kicking you out of class or the dojo if you can’t follow their rules.
This type of coach is the best type for someone who needs order and methods/steps in their martial arts to really appreciate it. It’s also for people coming in from another martial art that understands the practices upheld by all forms and know that things won’t deviate too far from what they already know. This coach isn’t so great for someone who has a busy lifestyle outside of bjj and can’t really stick to coming in on time every time or likes a little pizzazz in their bjj classes. These kinds of traditions and respect in martial arts is needed of course.
I’m in between when it comes to this kind of coach: I’ve had coaches yell at me for not being on time when I literally couldn’t help but to be late and wouldn’t have trained that day if I skipped out knowing I would be late (even after mentioning I would definitely be late). But I do like knowing what is expected in every class and I know that there is always an order when I go to class.
The coaches you encounter can have an impact on your training. I’ve been lucky enough to have a variety of coaches internationally and learn quite a great deal from all of them. Always go with a coach and environment that is conducive to your BJJ training and gives you longevity. Never ever train with someone or go somewhere that doesn’t make you feel like you’re welcome or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way. This is detrimental to your growth in the sport. But once you find the right coach in the right environment your technique will show that you’ve found your bjj home.
Have you experienced any of these kinds of coaches? Is there a coach you’ve experienced that I missed? Share below and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj