7 May 2017

Borehamwood BJJ - One Year Old today!

Exactly one year ago today I launched Borehamwood BJJ. How time flies! At the time, I did not have any long term goal or plan other than to simply initiate a little training group here in my home town. Looking at the members I have with me today, I’m incredibly proud of their progress, dedication and commitment to the art - many of them were there with me on that very first day.

Nurturing the club this past year has been a very interesting learning curve for me. My initial plan was to simply teach each class to a mixed ability group. The first 6-7 months this plan seemed fine, I would run through my curriculum of positions and techniques and teach them to my group as if it was their first time. The problem I found was that as these beginners became more experienced, I was moving on and teaching them techniques that matched their understanding level, which at the same time left raw newcomers a little lost.

In order to give the newcomers a little boost and get then up to speed with the rest of the group, I have just introduced a 5-week beginners' course. See here for details.

Another aspect I knew I wanted to instill from the very beginning was for everyone to spar early on. Crucially however, much of that sparring was to begin from set-positions, often based around the topic of that class. I actually used to hate set-position sparring back in the day because I would always lose badly from not being able to play my small repertoire of favourite positions. However I knew this meant I would be forced to get better at my less favoured positions. This style of sparring I think also helps ease complete beginners into the mix. Usually I will eliminate submissions when they do this. It seems to work and as they grow in confidence, I open up the rule sets and allow them to play with submissions and begin free-sparring.

Kids class.
For kids, I realized very quickly that the adult approach to teaching was never going to work. I had to take the complete opposite approach and simplify things considerably and make the sub sections within the class shorter. A typical 45 minute kids class for example will now break down as: 10 minute warm up and breakfalls, 20 min technique and 10 minutes sparring. Originally I had a section for kids games, like bulldog, tag or dodgeball. But I eliminated this completely (apart from one or two very special occasions).

Removing the end of class games was risky as some of the kids may have missed them, but my experience was that it was the complete opposite. None of the kids missed these games and that meant more time for technique drilling and more time for sparring. The reaction has been super positive with the parents telling me the kids love these sessions.

Another crucial addition to the kids class was the help given to me by Sandeep, who is a purple belt under Kevin Capel (RGA Bucks). With his help we've been able to partition and monitor all the kids together. Prior to each class we message each other to discuss techniques, drills, student progress and other aspects to make sure we're doing our best for the kids class.

Club growth
There were some things that I didn’t originally anticipate a year ago. When I began it was only a once a week class. I quickly realised I needed to expand but the local leisure centre had no other slots I could afford to hire during the week (weekday hire was at premium hourly rate compared to weekend usage). I really wanted a Sunday class because Saturdays (which was the only weekend slot available at the leisure centre) tended to be so busy for both me, my family and my prospective students. I also wanted a mid-week class. Luckily I found another venue, my current place now, that gave me everything I needed.

On some days, the studio space can get a little cramped, one day we may need to find a bigger venue, but for now, it serves our purposes perfectly.

Another small concern was that teaching classes twice a week ate up into my own training time. Prior to opening Borehamwood BJJ, I was training up to four sessions a week at Mill Hill BJJ. That now is reduced to twice a week. The solution however has been to extend my Thursday night sessions with an additional half an hour of pure drilling and sparring with some of my students. It’s also worth stating, the very act of teaching has helped my own BJJ understanding and development enormously, so overall, I’ve definitely benefited from running classes.

Looking ahead, I’m really excited about the growth and development of my club. Already, some of members have decided to enter tournaments and fly the club flag (Borehamwood BJJ is affiliated to Mill Hill BJJ). I hope more members enter competitions, not because I have a desire to raise my club profile, far from it, but I do believe every student should compete at least once for their own growth and development. As the club itself grows, I may need to look into expanding. Maybe find a larger space or adding an extra session. But for now, I’m happy with the ways things are. Here’s to another year of Borehamwood BJJ!

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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