The Value of Privates

For the first 3 years of my BJJ career I think I had a few private lessons. But I don’t think many of them on purpose. Usually I would be the only one to show up to a particular class.  I didn’t actively resist privates, but I just didn’t think I was ready for them yet.  I likened it to when I played golf. I never bought golf shoes. I decided once I got to the point where I was consistent on the links, and I thought shoes could improve my game, I’d buy shoes. I quit playing golf (and sold my clubs) before I ever bought shoes.

I had been going to class consistently and saw a lot of growth and so I thought I could get enough out of just going to class. Plus, it was a matter of pride. I wanted to be able to say “I did ____ without taking a private.”

But then earlier this year, I sent a text to one of our instructors and told him I wanted to get better at arm bars and we set up some times to do some privates.  It was really inconsistent.  I would go to a private, then be out of town, then we’d have another, then he’d be out of town. I got ringworm that kept me off the mats for about 2-3 weeks. He got staph that did the same.

About a month ago we finally got some consistency going.  We worked on breaking posture and combined it with some arm bar drills.  I hadn’t really sparred much in the past month (opting instead to work late — a dumb choice.)  But this week we did some pass/sweep/submit drills and I was able to see some of the things that we’d worked on. A couple times I was able to break down the posture (something I’ve always struggled with) and a couple other times I missed my opportunity because of timing — but at least I saw it.

Then this Saturday we talked about leverage & space. I was told before the private that it was going to make me mad, because I was going to end up asking “Why are you just teaching me this now?”  While I didn’t have that reaction, I could see why people would.

And that’s when it hit me. The things we’d talked about and worked on in my private lessons weren’t “special knowledge.” Instead, it’s been things that would be really hard to teach a room full of people at the same time.

That’s the value of the private lesson, the attention to detail. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Your guard is like this….My guard is like this…” and I feel the difference between his guard and mine.  There really hasn’t been anything major that I have been doing totally wrong the entire time. Instead there are things that need tweaked that will have a big impact.

Additionally, I don’t feel as if going to privates has ruined me for regular classes, in fact it’s the opposite. I now feel more equipped to observe and see things that the instructor is doing. By focusing on the fundamentals, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to apply those same concepts in class.

I would say that everyone should consider taking privates, but I don’t need you guys getting better just quite yet…let me gain some ground.

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