June 13, 2011

The Art of Teaching

Martial arts can be clearly divided into two eras: pre-UFC and post-UFC. In 1993 when it was announced that The Ultimate Fighting Championship would be a combat sport where There Are No Rules people took notice. Millions watched and were shocked as two men were placed in a cage, with no gloves, no rounds, no time limits and were allowed to use any means necessary to be victorious. Perhaps even more shocking was the dominating superiority of Gracie Jiu Jitsu over all other martial arts; a martial art that allowed the “Davids” to beat the “Goliaths”. People clamored to find out where they could learn this amazing martial art known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu and still search today for qualified instructors.

There now is the subject of this article. For the issue has become not who can teach jiu jitsu, but who can teach itproperly. Many people can execute a technique but executing a technique and teaching it to another are two entirely different things. Performing a technique does not qualify an individual to be able to teach it. A good athlete can often perform a technique easily. But does he understand it? A tough guy can often force an escape. But does he understand it? These people are not necessarily good teachers. Rarely will you find they have a curriculum that addresses anything beyond a patchwork of disparate techniques. They themselves lack an understanding of the overall strategy of jiu jitsu and the intimate knowledge of creating leverage, therefore how could their curriculum be any different?

Another natural consequence of the popularity of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the increased number of sporting events. Highly structured, timed, and rule heavy events that have subsequently bastardized the original concept of a “martial art” by creating techniques designed to score points and “win” the match. Often times when an individual performs well at a tournament he automatically considers himself an instructor. Unfortunately unlike a doctor, lawyer, or school teacher that must pass a board exam to become a qualified instructor the jiu jitsu practitioner has no such regulation. One can simply throw down some mats and proclaim to be an instructor.

Today, jiu jitsu schools are in most cases only a breeding ground trying to produce “tournament champions” thus creating a snowball effect where a tough guy student becomes a champion and opens a school. This tough guy student gets 50 students and finds 1 tough guy student in the bunch who he then trains with “his style” to be a tournament champion. What of the other 49 students? Now this new tough guy opens a school and follows the same formula, and so on and so forth until over time the technique being taught is so diluted it isn’t even recognizable anymore. Little by little the important elements of jiu jitsu are lost as are the students of the self anointed instructor.

Thankfully at Scranton MMA things are much different! Having been tutored in the Gracie Jiu Jitsu system by the Gracie Family our instructors were taught not only the purest jiu jitsu but also how to be instructors. Royce Gracie not only passed on his father’s pure techniques to our instructors but also passed on Helio’s greatest teaching assets: tolerance, courage, hygiene, manners, integrity, honesty, punctuality, commitment, and loyalty. Only after exhibiting a deep understanding of all these elements of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is one anointed with the mantle of instructor. At Scranton MMA the realism that is the essence of jiu jitsu will never be compromised nor forgotten.