Gracie Barra Novi, MIGracie Barra Novi, MI

Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone

Being a Good Student

I don’t know of any martial arts school that doesn’t have challenges with members from time to time.  Sometimes there are financial issues, other times there are attitude issues, or motivational issues, or goal issues.  Each scenario will probably require an individual approach with the specific person, but the most important aspect in addressing an issue is to address it IMMEDIATELY.  I have had to learn this lesson many times on my own, be it within the confines of the school, or more often with family and friends.  I often have preconceived ideas of how terrible the confrontation will be, when in actuality it is normally much less stressful than I anticipated.  We will get to specific examples in a minute, but I wanted to share with you the traits we expect from a good student.

1) Be a decent human being.  Above all else, good students are cordial, friendly and genuine.  They will welcome new students, help when asked, and provide positive motivation in class.  Poor students will complain and try to bring down the attitude of the entire class.  A negative attitude is like a cancer that must be eradicated before it spreads to other students.  For the health of the entire gym, it should be the responsibility of every student to bring forth any issues they see for the instructors to deal with as soon as possible.

2) Be Consistent:  As instructors, we really want one thing from our students, that they dedicate themselves to the program that they have chosen so our efforts will show in their progress.  There is nothing more frustrating than working with a student who is so inconsistent that they require constant review on the same topics.  As instructors, we pour our hearts into the teaching process to provide the best product possible.  When student progress is hampered due to inconsistent attendance, it is very difficult to provide the same high level of enthusiasm.  You chose your class, now it’s time to commit yourself.

3) Be Loyal:  Loyalty goes both ways.  Instructors need to be loyal and committed to their students, but students must also be loyal to their school.  We have seen more than our fair share of students who want to hop from gym, to gym, to gym, thinking they will learn more because they get perspective from a number of different instructors.  The reality is that you will not learn as much since your practice will be inconsistent, and will certainly not be given the same amount of individual attention since your instructor will be well aware that you will not only not be around for very long, but will most likely take the knowledge provided by us and share it with a competing school.  At our Gracie Barra MI schools, we will not train the gym hoppers.

4) Pay Your Bills:  While this should be quite obvious, it has always amazed me at how many students do not feel any sense of obligation to the contracts they have signed.  We understand that from time to time, situations occur where students really do run into financial hardships, but those situations are the exception, and we are always willing to work with students that have honest issues.  More times that not, however, students who miss payments simply want to spend their money on something else, ignoring their obligation.  Contracts with service organizations (gyms) are no different than mortgage contracts.  No one would expect to simply stop paying their mortgage with no ramifications.  Students must understand that gyms are a business, and as a business WE have bills, and the livelihood of the business requires that those bills get paid as well through the payment of student memberships.  Many students do not realize that they are only one of about 10% of the membership base that are constantly trying to negotiate their membership payments, or simply trying to default on their obligation.  This can cost gym owners thousands of dollars per month, along with significant amounts of time away from focusing on what is really important: developing people.

So what are some ways to address issues when they come up?

One of the most important lessons I had learned in my time in the Michigan Junior Chamber was this:  Praise down and complain up.  It is the responsibility of any leader (instructor) to praise the people that work for them (students), and only bring up issues to their superiors.  Do not, as an instructor, break rule #1 yourself.

A corollary to that first rule is to praise in public, correct in private.  Rarely is there a circumstance where an instructor should call out and scold a student in front of the rest of the class.  This will only breed contempt from the student being corrected, but also erode the relationship with the other students.  No one likes to be scolded in front of a group.

Situations may require creative thinking when addressing an issue, but the most important aspect is to address the situation IMMEDIATELY.   The longer the problem persists, the worse it will get, I guarantee it.  Take the bull by the horns every time, and fix your problems quick.  Your peace of mind and the health of your school will be all the better for it.


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