At some point in your grappling journey, you'll encounter the white belt or beginner coach.
It is quite the sight to behold, the wheel turning while they try and fumble through the finish line explaining a technique they realised they don't fully comprehend only moments after opening their mouth.
We have a list of reasons beginners shouldn't instruct as the role of a coach is a highly respected and trusted one to hold.
Sure there are white belt "helpers" that aid coaches in classes and are valuable to the learning process of many. They're probably a fair bit deeper into the grappling journey than most others and will provide an effective job of reciting what coach said during instructions.
This blog is about the renegades.
The ones who go out of their way to prove to themselves and others they are a little higher than the bottom rung.
Remember, people are entrusting coaches with their money, time and even their lives should they need to defend themselves. But we'll get into detail about that below.
WHY DO BEGINNERS TRY AND COACH?
What is it about instructing others that calls to beginner grapplers?
Putting it plainly, it is a way of separating oneself from the other white belts and establishing an ego satisfying hierarchy.
Animals, humans included, fight in a pecking order at a primitive level.
While no one will readily admit it is primal, grappling is a form of combat which roots in survival and instinct.
Ego, status, and a projection of authority are tantalising to someone who has trained an extra few months than the newcomer to the mats.
So, it makes sense that no one wants to be the bottom rung on the ladder, but here's why you shouldn't leverage a small advantage into a huge role.
TECHNIQUE IS EVERYTHING
The most glaring reason that white belts shouldn't coach is the lack of time on the mats to really understand techniques and have a certain perception of jiu-jitsu.
You can know three or so chunks of a technique, but what does it feel like when it goes right, or wrong?
Where are the most common mistakes made?
How do you prevent or nullify them?
What is the most readily counter for your opponent and how do you counter-the-counter?
It takes some getting used to, but time on the mat is the great teacher that instils an innate understanding of BJJ.
Say there's a purple belt with a 'black belt level' guillotine that could coach at that level of the technique. This comes from intimately knowing that particular technique and navigating it through hours and hours of drilling and rolling.
How could a white belt possibly have that intimate knowledge of a technique without sandbagging or never having ranked accordingly? I've never encountered a case where this is true.
White belts simply don't understand the subtleties of the technique or the scenario of what you're doing and why. If certain things change, you need to adapt the technique or abandon it completely depending.
If you can't understand this for yourself to a certain degree of competency, how can you instruct someone to the same degree?
THE NATURE OF TRAINING
The whole idea of training is to hone your craft, therefore, the cardinal sin is improper training taking you further from your potential.
This is what happens when beginners regurgitate techniques and concepts without a thorough enough understanding to create a sense of competency in the learner.
White belts have to understand that the only thing worse than bad technique is passing off bad technique as gospel because practise never makes perfect, practice makes permanent.
The key ingredient for perfection is perfect practice, a burden too heavy for a white belt to bear for themselves let alone communicate to others.
If you cannot instil on another the perfection that the technique demands to work, then you are underqualified to do so.
Grappling is a competitive sport that demands finesse and attention to detail to succeed, especially in a competitive context where every advantage is fought over. If you coach someone in a way that harbours negative outcomes for them, like poor technique, you are setting them up for competitive failure.
Essentially, you're helping their opponent...
When coaching someone you have a responsibility to show them something that is true to life. Jiu-Jitsu is grounded in self-defence, an art that lets the smaller person overcome the physical barriers in defeating someone larger.
Teaching someone a technique or concept you don't fully grasp can have dire consequences should that person need to use it in a life or death situation.
When fists and weapons are at play, pulling guard or playing from the bottom isn't such an option unless it is forced upon you.
Self-defence demands the utmost detail and understanding and with BJJ's close roots to it, the person learning deserves to have it explained effectively.
Without it, you are relying on false truth in your technique.
If white belts start congregating and talking over technique this is fine. However, when white belts sell things to one another as absolute the slope becomes slippery.
As white belts, you should discuss grappling openly, with no agenda to be right with fear of being wrong. This is a hurdle you will need to overcome to develop your game and let go of your stifling ego.
The culture of your gym will suffer if the authority of a coach is undermined and false techniques and concepts are allowed to run loose.
This can create a negative culture of those white belts trying to coach and so on.
If this spreads to the children's classes those little sponges could be getting off on the wrong foot with improper practice.
If you are a coach or higher belt who has their thoughts on white belt learning or coaching in general, feel free to drop and comment or share to spread Aussie grappling!
Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life.