I remember many years ago when I was looking for a solid martial arts school. I knew I wanted grappling and was fairly certain I wanted jiu-jitsu. This was around 1997-1998 when the UFC had some popularity and some people were starting to say they offered “jiu-jitsu”. I went and searched for many schools and even spent some time at other jiu-jitsu schools before finally finding Kobukai Ju-Jitsu and then Best Way jiu-Jitsu years later.
For me, there were key elements that aided my in my decision to train at these schools….
- Did the school offer what I was looking for?
I was looking for a solid COMBAT martial art that not only had ground grappling, but incorporated throws and takedowns as well. Being an ex-wrestler I recognized the importance of throws and takedowns in a real fight, as well as a sporting event. Kobukai Ju-Jitsu incorporated throws, takedowns, ground grappling, as well as weapon’s defense. It was a complete package.
- Was the teacher competent?
I had been to many other jiu-jitsu and grappling schools, and had been around martial arts long enough beforehand to know when a teacher is not as “knowledgeable” as he thinks he is – so when I started training with Sensei St. Hilaire and Luigi Mondelli, I was instantly impressed with their depth of knowledge and understanding. The biggest thing you want from your teacher is honestly. Your teachers should be able to answer and provide you with answers to 90-95% of your questions and be able to solve your martial arts problems. For the questions they don’t know, they should be able to provide you a path to the answer, or find the answer for you. The teacher should not give you some BS answer that will just get you hurt and/or disillusioned into thinking you are learning good technique.
- How does the teacher interact with his students?
Jiu-Jitsu is in the details and in the basics. In order to be proficient at jiu-jitsu, you need to have solid basics and you need to understand the details of the techniques. So when you watch or participate in a class, does your teacher provide the details? If he focusing on basic techniques (for new students) or is he giving you some elaborate technique that he can’t even pull off? Students need to start from the bottom up. One of the most frustrating things for a new student is being presented with techniques and information that doesn’t even make sense. In Kobukai, we follow a chart system that allows you to progressively build upon a core set of base techniques that allow you to progress and grow into more advanced ones.
- What are the students like?
Students are a direct reflection of their teacher. Observe the students – how are their attitudes, how is their technique, how do they treat other students? I remember when I first watched a Kobukai Ju-Jitsu class, I saw Sempai Kenny and Sempai Steve training as white belts (now two of my closest training partners) and was amazed at their technique and attitudes. I had spent 2-3 years in other grappling martial arts beforehand, and my depth of knowledge was no where near close to theirs.
- Respect, Respect, Respect.
Martial arts training is essentially fight training. You are working with a partner to increase your ability to fight. An intricate part of jiu-jitsu is what we call “rolling” or grappling sparring. This allows us to test and enhance the skills we’ve been learning. When you are learning with your partner or sparring with your partner, you need to respect each other and remember that this is a training environment. I’ve seen too many schools and heard too many stories of students going into other schools and getting pummeled and “beaten up” by fellow students and the teacher. What is accomplished by this…? How are you benefiting the new student? How is this benefiting your reputation?
In our school respect for each other as well as “no egos” are vitally important. Disrespect, cocky attitudes, and trying to deliberately hurt your training partner is not accepted.
- Can I train here?
You will be spending a lot of time in your training with the teacher and the students. They can and eventually may become some of your closest friends. Some of the best friends I have are the ones I train with and my teacher(s). If you get along with these people and “had a good time” during your lesson. Then it is probably a good place for you