Are BJJ Privates Worth It? | Lessons Examined

Many people training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are searching for an edge and want to get better as fast as possible, which includes getting private BJJ lessons from instructors. I was one of those people who decided to take the plunge into doing private lessons and wanted to share my personal experience with it.

BJJ private lessons are immensely helpful if you have the resources to do so. Personal attention from your instructor or other highly experienced BJJ athletes can rapidly accelerate your jiu-jitsu growth. Private lessons are great for perfecting techniques as well as addressing weaknesses in your game.

I have some information and actionable strategies that I personally found helpful that I am sharing below that you can use to ensure that you get the most value possible out of your investment in BJJ private lessons.

What Do BJJ Private Lessons Typically Cost?

BJJ privates offer an invaluable opportunity to focus and accelerate your learning on the mat but can come with a significant price tag. Typically you will pay between $60 to $200 for a standard one-hour private lesson.

The cost of BJJ privates varies by individual school and geographic region. For example, at Atos Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego, California, a one-hour lesson with a purple belt is $108, and lessons with black belt instructors start at $200. At Gracie Martial Arts in Florida, an hour-long lesson with a purple belt is $80, but you also can train with a blue belt for $60 per hour or a brown belt for $100 per hour.

The instructor’s national or global profile also influences cost; lessons with world-renowned instructors are more expensive than BJJ privates with a less famous coach. At Atos, privates with the multiple-time world champion martial artists Andre and Angelica Galvao start at $350 and $250 per hour, respectively.

Not every studio and instructor puts the cost of BJJ privates online. Whether you want to work with a coach at your gym or train with a master, you may need to contact different studios and professors and price out your options.

I would suggest talking to the instructors at your academy before looking elsewhere since they will have some level of familiarity with your game, which may help the effectiveness of your private lesson overall. Also, I think that if you can get what you need in your home gym it is a good idea to support your academy.

Making Privates More Affordable

There are several ways you can lower the cost of BJJ privates, even if you live in an area where costs are on the high side. You’ll need to do some exploring to determine what’s available at the time and in your area.

If you’re not set on private lessons with a renowned instructor, a lesson with your studio’s instructors or a local, independent instructor is likely to cost significantly less. Also explore what incentives your studio or instructors offer, including holiday promotions, birthday discounts, and the like.

Some BJJ instructors offer their group class students a free or more commonly a discounted private lesson, which gives you a chance to experience what private instruction is like and gauge how you could benefit from it.

You also can try these tips for finding more affordable private lesson options:

Buy Bundled Lessons

You can lower the cost of BJJ privates by buying several lessons at once, usually in blocks of 5, 10, or 20. While an hour lesson with a purple belt is $108 at Atos Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego, it goes down to $95 per lesson if you buy 20. Lessons with black belt instructors at Atos start at $200 per hour when you buy one and go down as low as $176 per hour when you buy 20.

In my personal experience, I found that bundling lessons and setting up a recurring weekly lesson helped me to execute new skills and retain the knowledge I gained in my private lessons. This was especially helpful when I was training for tournaments or really trying to perfect an aspect of my game. I spent 6 private lessons learning guard passing strategies that have become an integral part of my game to the day.

If you opt to purchase a bundle, read the fine print and do the math. The pack of lessons may need to be used before a certain date or be forfeited. You want to ensure that, if you buy a pack of lessons, you’ll be able to use them all rather than paying more for lessons you won’t be able to take.

Lesson Sharing

Some instructors will teach small group private lessons, which means sharing your lesson with one or more other students, and charge only slightly more than the cost of a one-person lesson. Group privates are more affordable; for example, the Galvaos also offer privates for two students for only a bit more than the fee for one. Splitting the cost can help you save on fees.

Another big benefit of this method is that by using a training partner your instructor will be able to more easily visually identify what is going wrong in the technique or see other weaknesses that could be addressed.

Take a Shorter Lesson

Some studios and instructors offer half-hour private lessons. If you’re focused on a specific skill, you may only want or need a half hour. To maximize lesson time, warm up ahead of time, and schedule practice time afterward to work on what you just learned.

Every student is different and, if a half-hour seems short, try one lesson to see how it goes. If it works for you, shorter lessons can reduce the overall cost of privates.

Supplement with Online Learning

Yes, BJJ requires a sparring partner. However, many martial arts studios have had to close during Covid-19 and have taken both group classes and BJJ privates online, which may be less expensive than in-person lessons.

Some studios and instructors also offer free content; while that’s not quite a BJJ private, you may find a focused video that helps you advance a skill you want to work on or approach it in a new way, like this one:

Do You Need To Get BJJ Private Lessons From a Black Belt?

I believe that for BJJ privates, you don’t need to book with a black belt, but should take lessons from somebody with at least one belt rank higher than you. It is more important that your teacher has skills that will help your BJJ growth, which often exists in technically sound blue belts.

Another common situation where you might consider taking private lessons from lower belts is when you are looking at taking lessons from a wrestler or a judoka with a deep well of takedown experience. I compare those two martial arts for adding takedowns to your jiu-jitsu game here.

As BJJ has grown, there are more upper belts in more areas, but your location still may not have any or many black belts, which will limit your options somewhat. This often happens in areas with low population density. In these areas, some head instructors may only have a purple belt themselves. However, hope is not lost, since high-quality helpful lessons can still happen if your instructor has competency with the skills that you want to learn.

Which Instructor Should I Choose for My BJJ Private Lesson?

It is important to choose an instructor you can work well with to guide you toward your goals. While it’s good to take a private lesson with your coach who knows you well, you also might try one with someone totally different to get new insights. However, you should make sure your focus and the instructor’s skill set match up.

Body type and other attributes like height, weight, mobility, and strength will have a considerable impact on what grappling styles will come naturally to you. Due to these factors, it is often prudent to seek an instructor who shares your body type, since they may have keen insights into helping you develop your game.

Selecting an instructor should also take into account your overall goals for jiu-jitsu. An instructor with any background as a bouncer or a police officer would serve you well teaching you self-defense and body control tactics. If you want to be a world champion grappler you will need to seek out people who have competed at a high level themselves.

BJJ Body Types and Natural Tendencies

Let’s talk about body types and how that plays out in BJJ. Body type – ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph – influences everybody’s grappling tendencies. It is a good idea to learn how to maximize your potential by leveraging your natural physical abilities. A good instructor will understand how to help you leverage your body type in jiu-jitsu.

  • Ectomorph: Ectomorphs are generally tall, thin people who may be strong but don’t add muscle or bulk easily. Keenan Cornelius is an example of a person with this body type. Flexible ectomorphs can often use their long limbs to great advantage by creating entanglements and using a variety of triangles and wrapping techniques.
  • Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are in the middle and can often have wide shoulders, narrower hips, and the ability to have good muscle development. Some examples are Rodolfo Vieira and Gordon Ryan. Mesomorphs have a bit more freedom in choosing what type of game they play.
  • Endomorph: Endomorphs are often described as “thick,” with more natural mass than average, whether fat or muscle. Typically they will have shorter arms and legs and wider hips, like Konstantin Konstantinov, Vince Wilfork, and Lee Pierce. Their size tends to help them roll easily and be difficult to pin down and they tend to play games that include a lot of top pressure.

Do Your Research

If you are seeking private lessons within your academy the first stop should be to ask your head instructor for his opinions. You can also ask other students for their experiences and opinions about lessons with specific individuals. In fact, you can sometimes find somebody to split a lesson with this way.

If you are going outside of your academy, research the recommended coaches and speak with them about the techniques they teach, talk to your head coach about jiu-jitsu coaches in the area that might be a good fit for you.

Even if an instructor comes highly recommended or has your body type, you need to ensure that they have the knowledge you want to learn. There should also be a good energy match for you. You need to feel comfortable with them as a person and generally be on the same page. Also, when an instructor is personally invested in your growth they will teach you better.

BJJ primarily focuses on the ground game. An instructor who has trained in other grappling arts, such as wrestling and judo, can help you shore up some complementary skills faster since they will usually have a better stand-up game. I’d recommend taking a look at my post on how wrestling and judo takedowns compare for leveling up your standing game.

Some Questions To Ask

Stephan Kesting, black belt and founder of Grapplearts recommends asking the following questions before committing to a private lesson:

  • Can you observe another group or private class the instructor teaches to get a feel for their instruction technique?
  • In what format will you be taught?
  • Is it a sparring-only class?
  • Will you spar with the instructor?
  • Are there any costs other than the class fee?
  • Are you permitted to video or photograph all or part of the class?
  • Are you permitted to take notes?

Why Should I Take Private Lessons?

The main benefit of BJJ privates is that they help you accelerate your progress because the lesson is 100% trained on your learning, filling gaps, and addressing your questions about positions and techniques. It allows you to have your coach observe you without the distraction of attending a studio full of students at once, and to give you tailored, individual advice.

In my personal experience when I take a private lesson I probably benefit 3 times more from that lesson than I would have in a normal jiu-jitsu class. Sometimes the breakthroughs you find in private lessons can be even more valuable than that.

Remember that if you spar with your instructor during your lesson, make sure to leave your ego at home. This isn’t a chance to prove yourself, but instead a chance to improve yourself. The focus of private lessons is learning. When you get the chance to spar with a coach above your level, you’re not there to show off your techniques, you are there to absorb some of their expertise to up your game.

When Should I Start Taking BJJ Private Lessons?

No one moment in your BJJ development is the “magic” moment to take a private lesson. When you have the resources and can identify one or two specific goals or issues for which you want a coach to give you focused attention and guidance, that is when you should schedule a BJJ private.

Is It a Waste of Money To Take BJJ Private Lessons as a White Belt?

It is not a waste of money to take private lessons as a white belt. White belts certainly can benefit from private lessons to help build a good conceptual foundation of movements. It can help you find your footing quickly, especially if you are in a gym where complex techniques are practiced regularly.

Group classes should be the bread and butter of any jiu-jitsu athlete, but this is even more pronounced for white belts. Much of what you need as a white belt is to drill and roll with as many different partners as you can to get comfortable with all the different aspects of BJJ. The familiarity of the movements comes from time on the mats, and sometimes your training partners will share advice and concepts that will make things click faster.

Your focus should be on the fundamentals. Anybody who is patient and has teaching ability should be able to help you build a foundation. This is a good opportunity to seek blue belts through brown belts that may be less expensive for private lessons.

How Many BJJ Private Lessons Should I Do?

While some recommend taking at least a couple of private lessons per year, there is no set rule regarding how many private lessons you should do.

How many you do primarily depends on your budget. Another factor is strategic: you take privates to build up your game by addressing places where it is lagging. If you find that you repeatedly get stuck in certain positions, you likely need to fix a hole in your game or work on submissions. Once you figure out the issue, you need to identify and implement solutions.

When you are at the point of identifying problems and want to learn about some solutions, a private lesson to fix specifics could be helpful.

You also might take a series of private lessons to prepare for any major tournament, or do them after competing to fix and tweak your game in areas you were weak in the tournament.

When Should I Schedule My BJJ Private Lessons?

You may get the most out of your lesson if you schedule it near or around an open mat class with live grappling. That will allow you to practice and solidify what you just learned in the lesson by drilling it into muscle memory.

Should I Still Do Normal BJJ Classes?

Normal jiu-jitsu lessons are always the primary opportunity to continue learning BJJ skills and techniques and roll with a wide variety of training partners. Even if you are lucky enough to not be constrained by budgetary restrictions you should still attend normal lessons or open mats in order to apply what you learned in your private lessons.

I have personally encountered people who do 2-3 private lessons a week exclusively for months at a time without attending normal classes that just did not have the ability to execute techniques against different body types in rolls against other students. You need stress inoculation and exposure to many scenarios that might not happen if you only roll with your instructor during private lessons.

How To Prepare for Your BJJ Private Lesson

You should go into your private lesson prepared to learn, with a warmed-up body, and an open mind. 

Have Clear Goals   

You booked your lesson for a reason. You want to go into it with this same focus on what you want to learn. For example, you may want to focus on a specific technique. If you’re having trouble getting smashed in side control, then you may want to work on escapes with your instructor.

I personally had a lot of issues learning how to exert control in transitional positions and frequently ended up in needless scrambles. I went in with this concept in mind with one of my instructors and in four lessons and we built the framework for how I like to move in top position.

You also can go into the lesson seeking information on several topics. If this is your approach, it may be best to make a list of your questions before the lesson, so you don’t lose track. Keep in mind that you will have time constraints so don’t go overboard here.

Establish Clear Communication With Your Instructor

Communicating clearly with your instructor is key to ensuring they focus on what you want to learn. When you’re booking it or at the beginning of the lesson, tell your instructor what skills you want to develop.

If there are particular aspects of that skill, explain what aspects are and talk with the instructor about approaches they can teach you. The more specific you can be, the better your instructor will be able to guide you.

One word of advice is to identify your goals but not the answers or path to get there. Your instructor is there for a reason, so open yourself up to their approach. If you have a preconceived idea of what their approach should be, you may miss out on an opportunity to learn a new way of approaching a skill.

Bring Questions

You should go into your lesson with prepared questions. For example, if you are getting smashed in bottom half guard, you can work on principles to improve that position with your instructor. Ask about a specific element of techniques if you find that you aren’t executing them effectively.

If you have a wider focus, write down the specific information you want to learn, Stephan Kesting explains how he used wide-ranging questions in a private with Erik Paulson to get his take on “different leglocks, the application details of the rear-naked choke, setting up shoots, etc.” to get answers to several questions that had been perplexing him for some time.

Bring a Notebook or Camera

Bring a notebook to write down what you are learning. If you don’t have a BJJ notebook, here are some tips on how to keep one. Another alternative is to have a friend or training partner film the lesson (if the instructor allows it) to memorialize what you learned and be able to return to review and practice it.

Unless you’re sharing your private lesson with your training partner, be sure that they’re there to help you and that the instructor and lesson remain focused only on you.

How To Reflect on Your BJJ Private Lessons To Keep Learning

When you do a private lesson you should not stop thinking about the concepts and skills that you learned after the lesson is over. You need to find time to think about and reflect on what happened. Being focused and intentional when you are learning will make you more effective at retaining information, this goes for both jiu-jitsu and learning in general.

You need to create a reference tool that will help you retain your lesson. This can be a simple video recording of the lesson or an outline of everything you learned within a notebook. You need to be able to accurately recall details about what you have learned so don’t be lazy when you take your notes. If you learned something foundational about a hand position you better have written it down or you might lose it!

Try to meaningfully apply what you learned in your BJJ privates by attending normal classes and open mats with a focus in mind. Maximize your opportunity for growth at every stage of your development by implementing what you learned immediately after the lesson if possible. Refer back to your notes and try to ensure that the knowledge you paid for sticks!

Final Thoughts

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu private lessons are incredibly helpful tools that can be a part of your growth in the art. I have found them quite meaningful in my own experiences, though they are not strictly necessary. They can accelerate your growth if you are thoughtful about selecting the right instructor for you, have a strong purpose for your lessons, and have a plan to retain and apply what you have learned.

I have found private lessons to be great for progressing my jiu-jitsu and hope that some of the tips and tricks that we discussed can help you get the most out of any private lessons that you decide to do for yourself.

If you want to level up your takedown game with private lessons from a wrestler or a judoka take a look at Should I Learn Judo or Wrestling Takedowns for BJJ to decide which supplemental martial art to pick up.

Andre

Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

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