Flipped Classroom Model for Teaching & Learning BJJ

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I bet that most gyms around the world structure their typical BJJ classes as follows:​

  • Students do warmups.​
  • The instructor shows students a few moves.​
  • Students drill these moves.​
  • Students do some specific sparring related to the moves of the day.​
  • Students do a few or more rounds of sparring.​

Is it the best way to structure BJJ classes? I’m not sure, to be honest. The “best” often depends on various factors like what you are after and who it’s for.​

When I teach my regular Saturday classes, I don’t structure them this way exactly. It’s mostly because I only teach Saturday classes, and I don’t want to show different techniques every time. I believe it’s much more effective to work on a few key moves and principles over and over rather than drilling new techniques 10-20 times at each session and never coming back to them again. Unless you are a genius athlete, 99% of people won’t learn techniques that way.​

I don’t have answers, but it would be a good idea to be open-minded about different teaching/learning models for BJJ.​

Lachlan Giles’s post in the BJJ Fanatics Facebook group caught my attention. I’ll cite his full post below:

There are 3 main reasons why I think the flipped classroom model is the best way to approach your training, and it will be the main driver for the massive improvement in jiu jitsu that is, and will occur over the next 5 years. When I think about all of my training partners who excelled fast they were using this approach.

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical approach where instead of learning in class, you do your theory learning at home, and come to class to put that learning into practice, ask questions, and get feedback. Of course the latter is still learning, but the theoretical side can mostly be done outside of class.

The advantages of this model are

1: You can use your in class training time more effectively and get straight to practice

2: You can go at your own pace and make sure you understand the content you are observing

3: You can focus on what is important for your particular problems/game/style, rather than the class theme which may not be relevant to you at this point.

4: You can learn from the best coaches in the world

I have been implementing the flipped classroom over the past 5 years of teaching. All of our intermediate/advanced classes have the option to “work what you want” for both the technical and specific training portions.

More recently I have taken it a step further and have been assigning every student specific study areas that I think will benefit their body type/style. This has now become part of an individualised syllabus that they are assessed on (I’ll talk about this another time).

There are of course some drawbacks, it’s not as simple as having people just show up and tell them to do whatever they want. I still run a structured class syllabus as most people do not do outside of class study, but I try to cater to those who have.

Thanks Matt William for the terminology.

— Lachlan Giles

In this approach, students do theory learning at home unlike in the traditional “classroom” approach. When they show up at classes, they put their theoretical learning into practice, experiment, ask questions, and get feedback.​

Lachlan mentions that he’s been using this model for his intermediate/advanced classes over the past 5 years, though he also runs structured classes.​

Hmm. Interesting. And it makes sense.​

After all, everyone has a different body type & style. One of the best things about BJJ is that you can develop your style according to your physical attributes (including both your strengths and weaknesses). So, while the fundamental principles of BJJ don’t change, how exactly you execute certain techniques may be different from how your coach or other people do the exact same techniques. When I teach my specialities (say, triangle choke & spider guard), I don’t expect everyone to do exactly the same as I do. And indeed, I think it would be an unreasonable expectation to have.​

I suppose there are some practical difficulties in implementing this flipped classroom model, but it might be worth considering if you are in a position to do so.​

On that note… what’s your preferred way of learning BJJ? Do you benefit from watching instructional videos? Do you prefer to drill a lot or spar more? Or do you prefer a classroom style? I’m curious.