Look up any heroic tale—a popular book or famous Hollywood movie—and you’ll almost always find a master with a young apprentice by their side.
In Jiu Jitsu, that same journey typically begins by becoming the person chosen by professor for demonstrating the techniques of the day, and it’s a perfect opportunity for anyone in their twenties, usually somewhere in the blue belt spectrum.
(Age is only a factor due to the sometimes rough nature of the position on days where you learn various collar chokes or extremely uncomfortable guard passes. It can be a hard-knock life for the professor’s training partner in class.)
The benefits of becoming an apprentice to your professor will supercharge your game in ways that nothing else in Jiu Jitsu can.
Everyone has heard the expression a picture is worth a thousand words, but on the mat having your professor demonstrate a technique on you for the class to see will reveal details and insight to techniques that simply can not be seen or explained with words. Even if it is a technique you have been struggling with your entire Jiu Jitsu career, one demonstration done properly will turn on thousands of light bulbs in your head and leave you pondering deeper and further in to the technique to places you never even knew existed.
I’m not talking about being the ‘dummy’ one time here or there on a random night. Of course this too can shed some much-needed light, however if you become said dummy on a regular basis it will begin to link what appears to be countless techniques or moves into one fantastic, comprehensive system. Every young passionate Jiu Jitsu student loves their art so much they want to soak it all up and learn it as fast as humanly possible.
I’m not sure a faster teaching tool exists in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
One way to know if you are the perfect fit for the apprentice role is to know that one day you too would love to teach and possibly own your own academy. The apprentice also receives the benefit of learning how to teach the art. By participating actively in the academy’s nightly lessons along with your own at the same time, you are building a strong foundation for that goal. You will quickly see that spreading this magnificent art stems far beyond just knowing it well. Teaching is a skill set in itself and can be honed and sharpened through practice. You will also likely receive insight into the business aspect of how the academy runs and how much dedication will be required and gain a deeper relationship and friendship with your Professor. In my opinion the most important part about embracing your role as a young apprentice is you truly are having a positive impact on your academy as a whole and can go home every night knowing you are helping your master change people’s lives. There are few things in this world as rewarding as that very feeling.
Patrick Applegate is a Gracie Barra blackbelt and has been teaching since 2006.